GM: Claremont's Twin State Speedway Progressing With Revival
Craig Smith, of Newport, N.H., sits above his driver's seat while his father Dean Smith works on the car's sway bar during open practice at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on April 19, 2014. Smith will compete in the Super Street division at the track. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Wildcat division drivers Kodi Sabins, right, of Windsor, Vt., and Josh Rondeau, left, of Charlestown, N.H., work on a car they built that is driven by their friend Adam Kimball of Newport, N.H., during open practice at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on April 19, 2014. "It's going to be a big learning curve," said Kimball, who has raced on dirt but is going to be racing on asphalt for the first time this season. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — When Jimmy Zullo agreed to become general manager of Twin State Speedway, he knew there would be huge challenges to the task. After all, the Claremont oval — known for decades as the Claremont Speedway — has a long and checkered history, alternating between the good, the bad and the ugly.
Some of the older auto racing enthusiasts can recall decades of Saturday nights when the stands were full and the pit bursting with machines and mechanics as the coupes squirmed their way along the dusty, dirt track. As the years moved on, the track was paved but the enthusiasm for the sport started to wane as car counts tumbled and fans began finding other activities to spend their entertainment dollars.
There was a spell when the track, while still owned by the Fleury family, was operated by the competitors and car owners. That lasted for a short time before owner Eugene “Sonny” Fleury took charge of the facility.
Upon Sonny’s death his daughter, Sherry, was the proprietor until hard times forced her to sell to cousin Dennis Fleury. The hard times continued through the summers of 2012 and 2013, forcing the Twin State Speedway to put up a for-sale sign on the track’s website. While that for sale sign is still posted, there is racing going on at the Thrasher Road facility this season.
That came out of a meeting at the end of the 2013 season when Fleury asked Zullo — director of the Outlaw Series (racing with limited rules) — if he thought the track had a future. “I told him I felt pretty good about the chances of success,” said Zullo.
That apparently was good enough for Fleury who named Zullo the general manager.
With the 2014 season about at the halfway point, Zullo remains optimistic about what is happening now and what the future holds.
“We are absolutely going to be around for a while,” he said. “Are things perfect? Of course not. But we have 40-50 cars in the pits and 800-1,000 fans in the stands on Saturday nights”
According to Zullo, the key to getting fan support is eliminating the lengthy delays between races that cropped up in years past. “We keep things moving and we have everybody on their way home before 9 p.m.,” he said. “We knew we had to do that.”
The Late Models are the feature cars at the Speedway, but Zullo was worried before the season about the car count in that division. His fears were unfounded.
“We’re getting 12-15 cars in that division,” he said. “So we’re seeing some good racing.”
In addition to the Late Models on Saturday nights, there are also Super Street, Wildcat and Limited Sportsman racing. The Outlaws race on some Sundays, and this weekend will feature regular-card racing on Friday night and monster truck racing plus a demolition derby on Saturday afternoon.
But while Zullo has made alterations to improve action at the Speedway, there is still one factor he cannot control: The weather.
This season’s rains have raised havoc with the schedule. Another negative has been the lack of racers from the former Canaan Fair Speedway, drivers who might have turned to Claremont after their facility closed last season.
“We got some cars and fans, but I think most of the Canaan racers headed toward White Mountain (Motorsports Park),” said Zullo.
Still, Zullo is pleased with the way the season is going and appreciative of those who have come out, recognizing there is not a lot of extra dollars to spend on luxuries these days.
“We know we have to put on a good show in order to get them to come back and tell their co-workers and friends about the Twin State Speedway,” Zullo said. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement.”
Looking to the future, Zullo said there is no doubt that Twin State Speedway will be operating again next year.
“Sometimes you have to crawl before you walk,” he noted, “but we’re absolutely going to be around for next year.”