Ovens: 1-on-1 with Chemung Speedrome’s John White

Steven Ovens Asphalt Modifieds, Featured, NASCAR, New England, Northeast, Touring Series 0 Comments

Chemung Speedrome fans take in the sights and sounds of the Race of Champions Modified visit to ‘The Drome’ in 2017. (Chemung Speedrome photo)

(CHEMUNG, N.Y.) – In what has been a bitterly cold off-season from racing, the racing community surrounding the pavement racing scene in the Twin Tiers has been swirling. Opinions regarding schedules and a nearby track discussing re-opening seems to have been the biggest buzz.

One of the players in the pavement racing scene is John White, owner and promoter at the Chemung Speedrome.  White released their season schedule several weeks ago, with many expressing their displeasure for a schedule that will not begin until Saturday June 2.

For White though, the answer for the later start was simple.

“May is always a tough month and we have fought it for years,” White explained.

“What happens is the grounds don’t dry up, the access roads and parking areas being grass (doesn’t dry up).”

But it’s not just the grounds that cause concern for the track with the wet Spring time weather.  That track can also be a major concern when dealing with wet weather.

“If you get any kind of moisture you don’t have enough heat in the surface to dry it off for safe racing. If you get a day in July where there is already heat built up in the track, it dries off much quicker. We’ve watched it for the past several seasons and May is always a tough month for us.”

White spoke about the track schedule for the impending 2018 season and noted that the track’s test and tune session is slated for Saturday May 26 at 5:00.  Prior to that time, the track is available for anyone that wishes to rent the facility for a paid private practice session.  Racers wishing to get that time are encouraged to call White by phone at (631) 745-9805.

The first race on the Chemung schedule is set for Saturday June 2, as Whelen Engineering will host the Sunoco Modifieds (40 laps), Super Stocks (25 laps), 4-Cylinders (20 laps), INEX Legends (20 laps) and the Bandoleros (8 laps).

The track’s five divisions are all sanctioned either through the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series or the INEX sanction.  Drivers in the NASCAR sanctioned divisions (Modifieds, Street Stocks, 4-Cylinders) all have the opportunity to compete for New York State, regional and national championships based on their performances at Chemung and other NASCAR sanctioned ‘Home Tracks.’

Referring back to the issue of weather White noted, “it can be difficult for guys to get enough races in up here in the Northeast to compete for those regional and national titles.”

Chemung response to Shangri-La 2 promoter’s comments

In a recent edition of the Morning Times, Shangri-La 2 owner and promoter George Swansbrough had some sharply worded comments regarding his track’s return to the racing scene in the Twin Tiers.

“We are running Saturday nights in 2018 and 2019,” said Swansbrough when speaking to the Morning Times after an informational meeting was held in Sayre on Thursday March 8.

“We will run three Saturdays this season and probably at least ten next year and as far as (other tracks) are concerned, we’re not at all worried about it.”

Swansbrough spoke to a bitter relationship between the two tracks and named several off-the-record incidents that have taken place that have built such a divide between the facilities located less than thirty minutes apart down Interstate 86. When asked on March 8, Swansbrough admitted that he had never met White face-to-face.

White echoed that sentiment.

“George has said in public that we have never met and that is absolutely true- I have never met the man,” White agreed.

“I’ve been involved with Chemung for going on my thirteenth season. When George was building his track in the beginning he never returned my calls. That’s where it’s at, never met the man and have never spoke to him.”

Just because the two have never met, coupled with Swansbrough’s recent comments doesn’t mean White has written off potential meetings or communications to discuss what will best help the local racing community.

“I’m willing to talk with anybody. I’ve spoken with every other track owner in the area as we also own Spencer Speedway.  Every other promoter except for George and he’s the closest one to me. It seems as though George doesn’t want to talk and that’s his decision.”

Though both tracks plan to race on Saturdays in 2018, the initial planning of schedules doesn’t seem to create any scheduling conflicts.

“My understanding is only by word of mouth from other people- (Shang 2) are doing a show before we start racing (at Chemung), a race during the Summer and the last race being after our season is over.  I don’t think that will really affect us much.”

But the question that remains to be answered is would a full schedule of Saturday nights in 2019 at Shangri-La 2 cause White and his staff to rethink their schedule for next year?  Would a return to Friday night racing at “The Drome” be on the table?

“As far as what is going to happen in 2019 for our schedule, it’s too early to think about that. Shangri-La 2 is close, only by about twenty-one miles. I would have no problem working with them to see what they would be looking to do for next year.”


Credit: Originally appeared in the Tuesday April 3 edition of the Morning Times in Sayre, PA


About the Writer

steveSteven Ovens is the Northeast Dirt Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and the creator and host of the Turn 5 Live dirt track racing radio show, part of the Performance Motorsports Network.

Ovens has spent his lifetime in the sport of dirt track racing, growing up in the garages of the Kerrick and Ovens families. He spent 11 years behind the wheel between go-karts and 4 Cylinder Mini Stocks which brings a unique perspective to his dirt track editorials.

The 31-year-old has a career in the growing health care business world, and is also entering his third season as the full-time announcer and media director for Woodhull Raceway in Woodhull, N.Y.

In addition, Ovens was formerly the announcer and media director for Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., serving in that capacity in both 2015 and 2016.

Email Steve at: turn5podcast@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @StevenOvens

Email Race Chaser Online: news@racechaseronline.com

Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *