CARS HOMES JOBS

Area stock car racing: The Ridge won't be the same without Romano, Spraker

Friday, August 31, 2012
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There’s no truth to the rumor that Mike Romano and Jake Spraker are going to bring in a plus-sized opera singer for Saturday night’s show at The Ridge.

They don’t need a fat lady to sing to know that the 2012 season, and their promoting careers, are over.

However, there might be champagne.

“The drivers think it’s for them,” said Romano earlier this week.

“Actually, it’s for Jake and I.”

Although some people like to go out with a bang, Romano and Spraker are taking a quiet exit. Their final show is nothing fancy, just a regular gig with 305 sprint cars thrown in. They’ll pay the point funds and hand out trophies after the races, close the gates for a final time, and head home.

“I think we got a lot of valuable experience,” said Romano, a Hall of Fame driver who also operates Andy’s Speed Shop. “We learned a lot up there while investing very little. When you look at what it would cost to take over tracks like Utica-Rome, Malta, even Fonda, to lose at one of those deals would have cost us a lot more.”

Romano and Spraker, who has already gotten himself in knee-deep once again as a car owner, turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Trust me, I know. During the spring of 2009, a couple of months before Romano and Spraker took over, I took a ride up to what was then Glen Ridge Motorsports Park with Albany-Saratoga promoter Bruce Richards because, at the time, he and his father, C.J., had talked about buying the track.

My first impression of the facility was that it was an eyesore, and needed a lot of work, and the Richards family must have thought the same, because they stopped talking about taking over the track shortly there after.

Romano admits he also had some doubts about getting into the promoting end of the business.

“Truthfully, I looked at Jake and said, ‘What did we do?’ We were used to racing at places like Fonda, Granby. The Ridge, back then, was far from what it is today, and we weren’t exactly experienced promoters.”

But they learned as they went along and turned the Ridge into a very entertaining facility. Heck, they even managed to get Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart to show up for a sprint car race last season.

The Ridge cashed in big when Albany-Saratoga ran as an asphalt track in 2010 and 2011, but when Lebanon Valley promoter Howie Commander took over the Malta track this year and went back to dirt, The Ridge lost cars and fans alike. Even a switch from Friday racing to Sunday couldn’t save the track.

“There’s nothing we could do,” said Romano. “Albany-Saratoga has it all, and one of us was going to lose, and it wasn’t going to be them.”

So, on Saturday night, the fat lady will sing, or maybe Spraker will put on a dress and belt out a couple verses of “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy. Either way, the promoting team will be defunct.

Maybe.

What will happen when Ric Lucia’s lease runs out at Fonda Speedway in a couple of years?

“I think after we step away and regroup for a while, that might be something we’d consider,” said Romano.

Double for Hearn

This weekend will bring points races at the area tracks to a close, and Brett Hearn will walk off with two championships — in the mod­ified divisions at Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley.

Hearn has an insurmountable 74-point lead over Ken Tremont Jr. at Albany-Saratoga, and leads Donnie Corellis by 35 points at the Valley.

Bobby Varin probably lose the track championship at The Ridge last Saturday when he was involved in an eight-car wreck on the first lap of the feature.

That allowed Jeremy Wilder to take the points lead, and he has a 21-point advantage over Varin going into Saturday night’s finale. He needs to finish ninth or better to win his first track champ­ionship.

One is the lonliest

I was wondering this week if anyone has won features in the three premier classes (modified, sportsman and pro stock/late models) at Albany-Saratoga, and I came up with an elite list of one.

Dave Manny of Glens Falls won a pro stock race in 1987, won four sportsman features from 1996-1998 and won two modified features on the asphalt surface.

Around the tracks

Ron Proctor picked up his third modified win of the season at Devil’s Bowl last Friday and opened up a 28-point lead over Vince Quenneville Jr. with two points races left on the schedule.

Proctor, the defending NASCAR Whelan Modified champion at the Bowl, was battling for the lead with Joe Williams on lap 19 when the two cars made contact, resulting in Williams’ breaking a suspension part.

At about the same time, Quenne­ville lost a motor while running third.

Mike Perrotte, a Friday night regular at Albany-Saratoga, has landed a ride for Monday’s ARCA race at the dirt track at the DuQuoin State Fairgroiunds in Duqoin, Ill.

Talk about stirring up the hornet’s nest. Albany-Saratoga has been having problems with its pro-stock division all season, with off-track incidents and suspensions, so what do they do? Put $1,000 on the line to win tonight. Yeah, that should cure aggressive driving.

Like Sonny and Cher said, the beat goes on. Jack Swinton became the 17th different winner in the budget sportsman division at Albany-Saratoga last weekend, and the victory saved his car from going to the junk heap.

“The car has been fighting us all year, and this was actually going to be its last race. If it didn’t do something, it was done,” he said after the victory. “So I guess we’ll have to try it again anoher week.”

Scott Duell picked up his first career budget sportsman victory at Lebanon Valley last Saturday night. He took the lead on lap four, and never looked back.

 
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