Column By: LAURIE FALLIS / RPW – BROOKFIELD, NY – The Madison County Fair will be having something that doesn’t take place in the racing world to much these days, You could actually say it’s a rarity….the re-opening of a Speedway that has been silent for many years…twenty-four to be exact!
Stock Car Racing is back! On Thursday, July 11th, the Brookfield Speedway will once again be back in action on the quarter-mile race track. The roar of the engines will rumble in front of the historical grandstands again.
Racing will start at 7pm on as their main attraction that evening. On the card will be 602 Sportsman, Pro Stocks / Street Stocks (unless enough cars show up to run separate races for each class) and 4-cylinders wrapping up the show.
Josh Walker and the Madison County Fair Board had made the decision to bring back stock car racing as part of their Fair’s entertainment. With hard work and dedication getting the facility back up to racing & safety standards, not to mention dusting away the cobwebs, the green flag will drop Thursday for the first time since 1995.
There has been some Midstate Antique Club holding races and exhibitions sporadically throughout the years.
For those not familiar with the track, Brookfield held it’s first motorized race with sprint cars in 1935. The first weekly racing started in 1950 with a front gate admission set at just $1.50. In those early years, you could say Brookfield Speedway was the roaring 50’s with the pits loaded to capacity.
The track continued until it closed in 1961. but did reopen in 1977 for a short time until closing again in 1981.
Then came 1995. That’s when Mike Budka Jr. and Fred Bagley brought a new class to the Speedway…Sportsman along with the traditional Late Models and Street Stocks.
I was able to talk to Budka Jr., the promoter at the time, and asked him what was his inspiration on awakening the track?
“I took a ride to the track where I had many memories of watching my father’s car race,” Budka said. “It was driven by Jay Bleser in 1979 and 1980. He won races and Championships there in the Late Model division.”
That got the juices flowing.
“So I had this ideal,” he said. “Let’s see about getting the track back open again. I went to the fair board and they gave me a one-year lease. Fred (Bagley) came on as my partner.”
Bagley also raced in the Sportsman class.
“We brought in the Sportsman class as our premiere division, thinking it would be feasible. We started out on Sunday’s but ended up switching over to Fridays.”
Drivers racing that year included CD Coville, Bob Savoie, Doug Mathewson, Bob Vedder and Harry Shaffer. These are just a few of the drivers that raced at the then 1/4-mile track that season, which back in its earlier years was a half-mile.
I asked Doug Mathewson what was it like racing at Brookfield. Mathewson captured his first career victory at the track after some 18 years of trying.
“It was a track where you were always up on the steering wheel all the way around the track,” Mathewson said. “It reminded me of a miniature Fonda Speedway with the way the layout, the grandstands and the tower on the inside of the track. It’s just great to see in this day-in-age a track opening back up after all this time.”
Halfway through the ’95 season, Bagley stepped away, leaving Budka solo for the remainder of the season. When it came time to renew the lease with the Fair board, certain things made it impossible, and Budka walked away leaving his passion and equipment behind.
The Speedway, once again, would shut down the power of engines at the end of that season with Bob Vedder capturing the Sportsman track title. Twenty-four years later, the track will be having Stock Car Racing!
Congratulations to all involved in bringing back the smell of race fuel and roar of high-power engines to this historic track After all, it’s great to see a track coming back alive with many dying off, being forgotten and turned into housing developments or shopping malls.
Make sure you get out to the Madison County Fair and support the rebirth of the Brookfield Speedway.
Best Of Luck!