PLATTSBURGH — More than 80 race cars, street rods, restored classics, go-karts and vendors were on hand at the Champlain Valley Mike Watts Sr. Motorsports Show at the Crete Memorial Civic Center Friday.
The two-day event is dedicated in memory of Mike Watts Sr., a longtime track photographer at Airborne Park Speedway and Mohawk International Raceway in Hogansburg, N.Y.
Stock car racing enthusiasts from around the region were able to get a close look at race cars from each of Airborne’s six divisions before the green flag drops at the half-mile track May 3.
Cars and competitors from the 358 DIRTcar Modifieds, Sportsman Modifieds, American-Canadian Tour-type Late Models, Renegades, Mini-Modifieds and Strictly 6 divisions were in attendance.
“The thing that we do different than most shows is we don’t put ropes around the cars,” Andy Watts said. “You can walk up to it; you can stick your head inside, look at it and touch it.
“Usually, when you see a race car, you’re behind a fence and a wall. Here, you can walk up to it, look at it, see what it actually looks like and how big it is. You get a sense how thick the tires really are.”
With race fans of all ages wandering the facility, drivers offered hats, t-shirts, pictures and stickers associated with their race team.
“Most shows, the drivers drop their cars off and they leave,” Mike Watts Jr. said. “Here, the drivers normally stay for the completion of the show. You know, even the drivers tell me they enjoy the contact with the fans and making new fans.”
Nick Heywood, a Plattsburgh native who claimed the 2013 Sportsman Modified track championship at Airborne, showcased his Plattsburgh Distributing/Warren Tire Service Center No. 29.
“We’re definitely itching to get going,” Heywood said. “We’ve got a new car this year, so we’re ready to get out there, test it and see what it’s going to do.
“The show is great for the kids to see who’s actually behind the helmet. We have some pictures, and we’re doing some signings for some kids. It’s good to see all the fans from a driver’s point of view.”
Airborne, a four-tenths mile track now in its 61st season of operation, announced its new affiliation with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in October 2013.
The addition of Airborne increases the number of NASCAR-sanctioned tracks to five in New York State.
“We’re anxious and nervous all at the same time,” Airborne owner Jamie Atkins said. “There’s a lot of brand new stuff going on and a lot to get our arms around, but there’s a lot of enthusiasm and an incredible amount of support from the racers and fans. I just think it’s going to be a fantastic year.”
Atkins is a proponent of motorsports expos, which he said builds fan interest, helps teams create relationships with potential sponsors and helps people get involved in the racing community.
“It’s great what the Watts family does,” Atkins said. “Mike Watts Sr. was always a great friend of all the racers in the racing community and Airborne specifically. This is a wonderful tribute to him and an opportunity for the fans to begin to interact with the drivers and teams.”
The two-day event will continue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Adult general admission is $7, while kids 12 and under are $2.
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