Column By: NICHOLAS FILLMAN / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Saturday night, the Orange County Fair Speedway celebrated the history at the famed 5/8ths mile oval with Nostalgia Night. The mood and energy of the entire event was very much focused on the things that lie ahead for one of the most famed dirt tracks on the east coast.
Saturday marked my first ever visit to the “House of Power” after years of reading racing paper articles, seeing videos, and pictures that left me wanting to attend an event at the speedway for many years. This night proved to be the best possible combination for my visit to the track, as the excitement following a two-week break for severe renovations and the anticipation of the legendary drivers in attendance.
Greeted by a small drive through Middletown, we stumbled upon a legendary facility, with a covered grandstands, and a quickly-filling parking lot of fans, and a rapidly-filling pit area of race cars for the nights event. The excitement was sky high with legendary drivers such as Gary Balough and Buzzie Reutimann in attendance coupled with a great regular program of racing events.
In addition to the awesome weekly field of drivers in the Modified ranks at OCFS, a number of drivers who may not normally call the track their weekly home were in attendance to take part in the exciting event. The likes of crowd favorite Stewart Friesen, Rick Laubach, Brian Krummel, Danny Creeden and a handful of others where there. In addition to the great 30+ field of Modifieds, over 50 Sportsman jammed the pit area for the event.
The layout of the spectator area is one of the better I’ve personally been to for a race, featuring clean and level paved walk ways, easily accessible food options from cheese steaks and sausage with peppers, to Maxwell’s London-broil sandwich trailer which had previously been a staple at the New Egypt Speedway.
One of the biggest improvements that has been made to the speedway is the new opening of the 3/4 covered bleachers. While its a bit difficult to maneuver through the aisle ways due to the backs to the new seating, they were quite comfortable compared to some other tracks seating. Brand new bathrooms are also on the way for the Orange County oval, but for now, very clean and easily accessible portable bathrooms have been brought to the speedway for the time being.
While the surface was brand new for the track, the racing, and the track itself held up fairly well. The surface was being asked a lot after only being laid down a week prior to Saturdays events. Partner an early afternoon start with sunny skies and high winds, the feature event provided at least two grooves of racing with some passing. The surface was a bit rough in a couple of areas, but that is to be expected with a brand new surface. The racing will only improve as the weeks go by and the track settles in. Oh, and by the way, a guy named Stewart Friesen took home the big Modified win.
The highlight of the evening for many fans, myself included, was seeing Buzzie Reutimann and his son David make the trip from Florida state. Both were there with Buzzie making laps with his UMP Modified around the legendary oval to the loud applause and cheers from the crowd of fans, both young and old.
Overall, there is a certain feel about this legendary track that only a few speedways will have. The coupling of old-school looks and feels with the excitement of new upgrades lead to a fantastic atmosphere and myself, immensely looking forward to the next time I can make my way to the “House of Power.”