Speedway revival

Photo courtesy Sweetberry Pics.

Photo courtesy Sweetberry Pics.

Kayla May

On any given Saturday afternoon from April through October, a steady hum pulses in and out of Mountain View Speedway. Fans work their way through the crowd and the stands, and clay dust breathes off the track surface as the race cars drift around each left turn at the quarter mile long dirt track.

This track hasn’t always been so alive. The track located at High Country Fairgrounds has been closed for the past 18 years, opening only a few times in 2011 for lawnmower races. But in spring 2015, Mountain View Speedway reopened for stock car racing for the first time since 1997.

Cyndi Budka and Mike Budka Jr. are the owners and operators of Mountain View Speedway. They saw the track for the first time in January 2015, contracted a deal with the owner of High Country Fairgrounds and put forth all of their efforts to reopen it by April of that same year. They decided to reopen the track in hopes of having grassroots racing back in the High Country.

“Our operation here isn’t NASCAR, it isn’t redneck racing, this right here is what we like to call grassroots racing,” Budka Jr. said. “This is where every NASCAR driver starts their career, on a small local track usually with a team made up of family and friends.”

Budka Jr. got involved in the dirt track industry at a young age. His father fueled his passion for the sport and it became a family affair.

“My dad was an auto mechanic for many years, then he opened his own business: B&H Automotive Service,” Budka Jr. said. “He was the past president of the New York Stock Car Association and he had championship cars in the North East for many years. When I was old enough I started racing, I’ve been around it my whole life. I think I was the youngest person in all of New York that was that highly involved in the industry. This is my passion.”

Mike Budka Sr. passed away in August 2015 in the middle of the racing season due to cancer, but he continues to fuel Mike Budka Jr.’s passion and work today.

“When I look in the stands and see all of the kids and families having a good time, I know that he would be proud of me. If it wasn’t for him I would have never gotten involved in racing. I am following my dream, just like he followed his,” Budka Jr. said.

It is not uncommon for dirt track racing to run in the family. Some drivers from the 1986-1997 seasons continue to race at Mountain View Speedway. In some cases these drivers race along side of their own children or help with the mechanics of their children’s cars.

“I’ve done [racing] through my whole life. Grandpa, my dad, and now myself, we do it mainly for these kids. The kids is what is coming up to make the future here,” driver Chris Stowe said. “We try to do all we can do with them. Other than that we do it to have a good time, enjoy ourselves and enjoy our families.”

Mountain View Speedway is geared towards affordable, family-fun entertainment. The track offers many outlets for the children to get involved with and meet the drivers, including candy giveaways at intermission where the children can walk down on the track and the drivers’ hand out candy next to their cars. They also offer children rides in the race cars.

“The family atmosphere and the number of kids here are really amazing.  I remember the first time I saw them do kiddie rides and being in the press box thinking to myself ‘wow!’ It is like The Dukes of Hazzard seeing these kids riding on the window frames of the cars,” Kenneth Reece, Mountain View Speedway’s announcer said. “There will be five or ten kids on each car. I have announced a lot of sports in my time and you would never see that in NASCAR or any other traditional sport that I’ve covered like football or baseball and that’s what’s really special about this track.”

The track wants the spectators to have fun and become passionate about this sport. During some intermissions they allow two people at a time to race their own car around the track. The winner of the spectator race wins money and a trophy similar to trophies given to winners of the feature races.

This past weekend was the season opener for Mountain View Speedway. There were five classes of cars racing including: Stock 4, Limited Sportsman, Outlaw 4, Stock 8 and UCAR. Despite the high wind, warning races continued and fans continued to bear the elements.

“There were few fans that left, if any, until the race was over. You see that in football sometimes too but not to this degree,” Reece said. “A football game is about three hours long but these fans were out there for around five or six hours on Saturday sitting in the wind and the cold for that whole time. You don’t see that fan dedication and loyalty in every sport, that’s for sure.”

The volunteers and fans are not the only people dedicated to this sport. The drivers inside the car are also very dedicated getting their cars prepared for Saturday afternoon races.

“Cars are a lot like you and me, they have a heart and they have passion and they have an intensity inside of them that keeps them going and keeps running,” Richard Butler, a Mountain View Speedway volunteer, said. “These people that race on Saturday’s don’t just work on their car that day or for a few hours a day, these people come home from a hard days work and head straight to their car to work on it throughout the night. They are more than willing to spend their hard earned dollars to race on the weekend.”