As Little Valley Speedway prepares for its season opener next Sunday, many fans are already looking ahead to what will be the track's biggest event since it reopened for auto racing competition in 1997, when the World of Outlaws (WOO) Late Models visit there on Aug. 29.
Anticipation has been high from local fans since the announcement was made a few weeks ago.
Last season, the appearance of the Outlaws at McKean County Raceway brought a huge sellout crowd to the East Smethport, Pa., facility. When McKean officials opted not to run the WOO this season, Little Valley was offered the opportunity to book the very popular traveling Super Late Model series.
Little Valley Speedway is a large one-half-mile track located on the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds.
"We have thought in the past about trying to bring the World of Outlaws to Little Valley and last fall we put some feelers out there that we were interested," said John Charlesworth, president of the Cattaraugus County Fair Board. "When McKean decided not to run the WOO this season, the Outlaws called us and we jumped at the chance to host them."
The World of Outlaws event commands a $50,000 purse and more money will be spent that evening on the purses for the supporting 360 Late Models and the E-Mods, which will also be on the card. The WOO winner will receive a handsome $10,000 payout for 50 laps of work. Charlesworth is not concerned about the large purse.
"I understand that $50,000 is a lot of money but we feel the show will make money for us," said Charlesworth. "There have been a few nights here the last couple years where when we have a big doubleheader for our regular races like when we have the Super Late Models and the Sprint Cars on the same night that our purse is $30,000. So this is just $20,000 more and that's very manageable."
Charlesworth and the fair board are making 4,000 seats available for the event, which will encompass the covered main grandstand plus some temporary auxiliary grandstands.
Advance tickets for the World of Outlaws race will be available tentatively on Sunday during Little Valley's season opener as well as at the next race, June 8. After that, tickets will be available through the track website (for credit card orders) or by mail (check, money order) tentatively starting July 2.
The WOO race represents Little Valley management taking its track to a higher level as far as big race shows are concerned. Besides the WOO event and the first two races, other Little Valley race dates for 2012 are July 3, July 13 and Sept. 15. Charlesworth says that Little Valley is holding its own as far as the track's health of their race programs.
"As far as car counts are concerned, they're fine but our crowds have been off just a little bit the last two seasons or so," Charlesworth said. "Don't get me wrong, we still get good crowds here but now I find that at many shows lately the grandstand is about three-quarters full where they were always standing room only.
"What you've got to remember is that our main drawing area is from here in Cattaraugus County and right now the economy is tough and a lot of people here are out of work. But again, even with that we never have had a year where we didn't make money."
Several Western New Yorkers traveled to the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen on Saturday to hear about the history of Daytona International Speedway in a talk delivered by noted motor racing author J.J. O'Malley. Williamsville's Paul Henderson was one of the local enthusiasts who attended the talk.
"We've been part of a contingent that has come down to Watkins Glen for many years," said Henderson who is an official of the Northeast Division National Racing of the Sports Car Club of America. "My wife and I both worked at the track now for many years. I've been a Western New York region member for over 55 years and I've been coming to the track since 1959 and in the more recent years to this research center. I'll be here for the races this season."
J.C. Argetsinger, whose father -- the late Cameron Argetsinger -- brought racing to the streets of Watkins Glen in 1948, is the current president of the research center. The research center, located in the village of Watkins Glen opened in 1999 and is devoted to preserving motorsports history of all genres and venues.
Watkins Glen International is currently seeking volunteers who wish to work this season at the track's events. Positions needed are flagging/communications, fire/rescue, race medical, course marshal, grid, pits, paddock and support workers. Contact Race Services Inc. for more information at RSI Inc., P.O. Box 84, Watkins Glen, N.Y. 14891.