Over the winter many area dirt track racing fans were wondering if they had seen the last laps turned at Stateline Speedway.
The Busti-based track, which has run racing each season since 1956, fell into legal problems during the 2013 campaign and was in danger of closing for good.
However, Western New York native, businessman and racer Bill Catania Jr. has thrown the track a lifeline.
Catania announced he has reached a lease-to-own option to purchase the track from the previous owners and could close on a complete ownership deal as early as September.
Stateline, after what will be some major revamping to its physical structure by Catania, is set to reopen July 5 and race each Saturday thereafter through October featuring the same weekly classes run there the last few seasons.
“I am leasing right now but I am in full pursuit of purchasing Stateline,” said Catania, who currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C. “I want to stress that even though I don’t actually own Stateline quite yet, I’m investing in the speedway as if I already own it.
“Right now we are going to replace the entire frontstretch grandstand, put a new” public address system” in place, put a fresh coat of paint on everything, groom the track surface and remove the rocks with the idea of probably putting a complete new surface down in 2015.
“I also am revamping the menu items in the concession stands and including products from both local and regional food vendors. A new kid’s zone area that will feature a playground is also in the works.”
Catania has hired Bill Catania Sr., his father and a former racer, as the track’s new general manager. Stateline opened in 1956 and in 1984 was purchased by the late Fran Seamens, who died in 2010. Since then the track was operated by his widow, Jenifer. In recent months the track’s future was left in doubt due to legal issues within the Seamens family.
The deal for Catania to take over at Stateline came together very quickly.
Catania explained that he contacted Stateline about a month ago after learning a judge was getting ready to set a purchase price for the track.
Catania, a Westfield native, graduated from Cornell in 2000 and started a motorsports website, Racefan, and since then has greatly expanded his career in motorsports marketing and promotions.
He also started a data software company in 2006 called M-Dot, which he sold in 2011 to the Inmar organization. Catania went to work for Inmar, moving from Erie, Pa., to Winston-Salem in 2011 and when Inmar was recently sold Catania left the organization.
Catania’s race driving career began in the Street Stocks in 1993 at Erie Speedway and he moved the next season to Limited Late Models. In 1997 he started racing at Stateline.
He later switched to asphalt Late Models with career highlights including both the Holland Motorsports Complex Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Driver awards in 2003, the Howard Boundy Award for Most Accumulated points combined between Holland and Lake Erie Speedway and in 2005 he captured the Wyoming County International Speedway Late Model championship.
He currently drives Late Models in the southern United States, including occasional races with the ARCA series.
“I believe that for motorsports to be successful in 2014 and beyond, you have to be very savvy at combining cutting edge motorsports marketing and technology to make it exciting for everyone,” Catania said. “ There has been a decline in grassroots racing in both drivers and fans. I go to about between 20 to 30 tracks a year and see both the best and the worst practices. I will draw from these experiences and hit the reset button to rebuild Stateline.
“There is 59 years of racing history at Stateline and my whole family has been involved from the beginning. My grandfather Marion Catania owned a jalopy car there in 1960 driven by Don Strain. I need to keep the dream going at Stateline.”
During the running of the Sportsman 50 on May 10 at Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster, the Rutherford Racing Team and driver Kirk Totten were assessed a penalty for a tire change executed during a 10-minute competition yellow on lap 40, which is not allowed by the rule book.
This past week team representative Dean Kroll wanted to clarify that the tire change was made due to what he said was a flat tire, and in no way an attempt to circumvent that rule.