BUSTI - A lot of uncertainty surrounded Stateline Speedway's future after it became public knowledge that Jennifer Seamens, current operator of the track, would be selling it. However, Bill Catania Jr., a Westfield native, has confirmed he is in negotiations for the purchase of the track.
Catania said he submitted a formal offer in writing last Friday. He is hopeful that within the next couple of weeks the sale can move forward. While he declined to comment on how much he offered for the speedway, he said he would invest tremendous amounts of money into the race track over the next couple of years. Once purchased, he would love to see the track open in July, but noted there are a lot of variables out of his control which could delay this process. Catania will make improvements before he would open, though.
"I want to make sure I make enough improvements before we open it for (the fans) to feel like we've done a good job," he said. Catania wants to improve the grandstand and the bathrooms to make it more comfortable for fans. "Trying to put our best foot forward there and provide the best product we can. ... I am optimistic we can make the improvements in a matter of weeks because we are going to have a lot of people working. We are not going to have one or two people, we are going to have tons of people working on it night and day for weeks."
He wants to bring Stateline Speedway back to its former glory of being the premier race track of the region, he said. He hopes to run the track in a way which would make the founders and the previous owners proud.
Catania, who owns Catania Racing in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a third-generation racer whose family dates back to 1960 racing at Stateline Speedway.
"My grandfather, Marion, and a guy named Carl Larson, owned cars in 1960-62. My father started racing at Stateline in 1974, and I started racing there in 1997. It means a lot to me emotionally to see the race track survive, but it also has to be a good business decision," he said. "So, I'm very optimistic. Not only am I excited about it for all the people who feel like I do about it, you know, where it has meant a lot to them, but I also think the track can be very successful."
Stateline Speedway opened on July 21, 1956, through the efforts of Len Briggs, Lloyd Williams, Marv Thorpe, Don Frank and Jerry Frank. Mother Nature had pushed the opening back two weeks, and even though rain had cast a shadow over that day as well, the sun came out in the end and the race was on. A total of 1,700 spectators showed up to watch 22 racers compete for a guaranteed purse of $1,500 with $300 to go to the winner. Emory Mahan, of Warren, Pa., driving a 1955 Chevy won that first race.
Fritz Seamens bought Stateline Speedway in 1984 when his race car class was eliminated before proceeding to make it into the highest-attended weekly speedway in the entire area. He did this with low prices and a high payout, paying some of the best purses for weekly racing ever. Stateline also has the highest number of cars competing on a weekly basis of any track in the area. He died on Sept. 17, 2010, due to health problems.
Catania will be administering surveys once he purchases the track to fans, drivers and sponsors. He wants to know where people want the track to head in the future and how to bring Stateline Speedway into the next generation.
Stateline Speedway can be found at 4510 Kortwright Road in Busti.