This Track in ACT History: Plattsburgh Airborne Speedway


Location: Plattsburgh

Track: ½-mile semi-banked oval

Opened: 1954

Also Known As: Airborne Park Speedway, Airborne International Raceway, Airborne Speedway, Adirondack Park, Plattsburgh International Raceway

# of ACT Races Held: 73

ACT Pro Stock Tour/NASCAR North – 25

Sunoco Regional Series Region 3 - 1

ACT Late Model Tour – 47

Série ACT – 3 (combo events with ACT Late Model Tour)

Most Wins:

ACT Pro Stock Tour/NASCAR North – Brad Leighton, 5

Regional Series – Donald Forte, 1

ACT Late Model Tour – Brian Hoar, 9

Série ACT – Joey Polewarczyk Jr., - 2


A Brief History of Airborne

Airborne has been a hotspot for both dirt and asphalt racing over its 65-year history – but the track itself owes an assist to the air. Built in the Adirondack Park region of Northern New York, the track got its name from the Strategic Air Command Department of Defense/Air Force base that was located just a few miles down the road. Founder Maurice Broderick opened the clay ½-mile in 1954 with the hopes of drawing top competitors from New York, Vermont, and Canada. Its location speaks to this goal – Airborne is within 2 hours of numerous notable cities and towns in the region, including Montreal, QC; Burlington, VT; Lake Placid, NY; Cornwall, ON; Albany, NY; and Rutland, VT.

In this regard, Broderick’s track was successful in this regard. Airborne burst onto the scene by hosting a 200-lap NASCAR Grand National Series event in 1955 which was won by Lee Petty. It was also part of the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Championship from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s and part of the NASCAR Modified National Championship from 1966 to 1971. This made regional household names out of drivers such as Don MacTavish, Ernie Reid, Bob Bruno, Buck Holliday, and Dick Nephew, the last of whom was the 1961 NASCAR National Sportsman Co-Champion.  Airborne was also part of the legendary 5-track Northern NASCAR Circuit in the early 1970s.

But change has been has been the one constant at Airborne, as witnessed by the fact that it has now had at least six different names throughout its history. The track sported an asphalt coat beginning with the 1961 season. By the 1970s, this surface had fallen into such serious disrepair that pulling chunks of asphalt out of a driver’s car was considered standard postrace maintenance. Perhaps not surprisingly, NASCAR pulled its sanction following the 1975 season. After sputtering on for two years with a Can-Am sanction and three more as an “open” track, Airborne sat dormant in 1981 – incidentally, the same year that Vermont’s Thunder Road was also idle.

The next year, Airborne was reborne as a CVRA-sanctioned 4/10-mile dirt track run by Devil’s Bowl Speedway (VT) founder C.J. Richards. With the Modifieds holding center court, the track was back in business, welcoming new champions such as Charlie Wilbur, Don Ackner, C.D. Coville, and Mike Perrotte (you’ll hear more about him later). However, CVRA and Richards left following 1987, and after two more “open” years, change was in the air again as American-Canadian Tour owner Tom Curley purchased the track. Curley rebuilt the ½-mile oval, repaved it, and made it a sister track to Thunder Road with the same divisions and many of the same drivers.

Curley ran Airborne from 1990 through 2004, when he finally tired of problems caused in part by the inability of the Vermont drivers and the locals to get along. Enter Mike Perrotte once again. The former champion and local hero had been part of two exhibition 358 Modified events in 2004, and thought so highly of their potential on the track that he leased the facility, assumed the promoter role, and made the 358s the headline division. Under his stewardship and the new progressive banking introduced in 2006, Airborne was wildly successful throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s – and in 2009, it became the rare asphalt track to be sanctioned by DIRTcar.

But the mid-2010s would see more constant changes in ownership, management, and sanctioning bodies – including a two-year stint where Airborne was a sister track to Devil’s Bowl Speedway with both running under the NASCAR banner. (Mike Bruno held ownership stakes in both tracks during this time.) Longtime racing official John Walker ran the facility from 2016 to 2018, and following his first year in charge, Airborne began its third go-round as a dirt track and second under DIRTcar santioning. After a wildly successful 2017, the track stumbled a bit in 2018, in part due to the weather cancellation of a planned World of Outlaws Sprint Car debut. Former track media director Robby Knowles has been named the promoter for 2019, and everyone involved has high hopes for the newly-renamed Plattsburgh Airborne Speedway as it enters its 66th season.

Random Track Fact: One of the most unique events in the track’s early history was The World Championship Ice Race, better known as “The Great Ice Race”. Held in the winter of both 1958 and 1960, it featured drivers racing on the frozen-over dirt race, and was a forerunner to present-day winter Enduros. George Bridges and Dick Nephew were the two winners. You can read more about them here:

ACT at Airborne

For a time, it looked like ACT’s tenure at Airborne would be a short one. Airborne hosted two events in each of the first two NASCAR North seasons in 1979 and 1980. (Beaver Dragon won three of the four events.) With the track then going dormant in 1981 and dirt for the rest of the 1980s, the roar of Late Models and Pro Stocks was the farthest thing from Northern New York minds.

But with Tom Curley taking charge in 1990, you knew that his ACT Pro Stock Tour would play a big role at Airborne going forward. Sure enough, the track hosted 23 Pro Stock Tour events over the next seven years. This included taking on events such as the Spring Green and Fall Foliage 300 that had previously been held at Catamount Stadium before its closure. Brad Leighton eventually emerged as the top ACT driver at the speedway – all five of his wins came during the 1994 and 1995 seasons, including a 3-event clean sweep in 1995 en route to the Tour championship. When the ACT Late Model Tour (née Late Model Sportsman International Series) was formed in 1992, it received a yearly date at Airborne. The track also hosted a Region 3 event in 1994 for the ACT Sunoco Regional Series.

The Late Models had an even bigger presence at Airborne after the Pro Stock Tour was shut down, as they inherited the Spring Green and Fall Foliage events. This meant as many as four stop a year at Airborne for the ACT Late Model Tour up through the early 2000s. After ACT dropped its sanction of weekly racing, the Tour made just one stop for the Fall Foliage 150 in 2005, and didn’t go to Airborne at all in 2006. But the Spring Green returned to ACT hands in 2007, and the Fall Foliage event did as well two years later. Several visits in the 2010s were combination events with Série ACT, luring the top Quebec drivers to the track as well. From 2013 to 2015, Airborne also hosted the ACT International, a long-distance special event featuring stars from both sides of the border.

The year 2016 would end up being the end of ACT’s tenure at Airborne. The Spring Green was the only visit that year as the Fall Foliage event was moved to Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Clay was then put down following the season, rendering the track unusable for pavement Late Models. With that, ACT’s visit to the Adirondack Park region came to a halt for the foreseeable future.

Random ACT Fact: 14 different drivers earned their first ACT touring series win at Airborne. In chronological order, they are:

Brian Hoar (5/23/1992)

Dennis Demers (6/12/1993)

Donald Forte (10/1/1994)*

Richard Buzzi (9/30/1995)*

Pete Fecteau (6/23/1996)

Steve Renaudette (5/11/1997)*

Chris Fisher (5/23/1998)

Mark Lamberton (6/26/1999)

Jamie Fisher (8/7/1999)

Patrick Laperle (9/12/1999)

Todd Stone (5/13/2001)

Jacob McGrath (5/11/2002)*

Ryan Nolin (5/12/2007)*

Ray Parent (5/17/2014)*

*Denotes only ACT point-counting win

ACT’s Future at Airborne

Ironically, whether ACT returns to Airborne depends in large part on how the new management team fares, as it is highly unlikely that the Late Models will visit the track in its current dirt configuration. That being said, ACT certainly wishes Robby Knowles and the rest of the Airborne staff all the best in their efforts. We understand a thriving race track is good for the industry as a whole even if ACT isn’t on the schedule.