Stock car racing: Trombley’s struggles seem to be over

After winning the modified feat­ure event at Fonda Speedway a couple of weeks ago, Jeff Trombley sto

After winning the modified feat­ure event at Fonda Speedway a couple of weeks ago, Jeff Trombley stood in victory lane with one hand in a clinched fist and the checkered flag in the other after getting back on track with help from a couple of close friends and some fresh equipment.

For Trombley, it was his first win at Fonda in almost five years, but the winless streak didn’t occur because Trombley forgot how to drive. Blame it on equipment.

“It has been a tough struggle for us the last couple of years,” Trombley said on the night of his win. “We have been behind the eight-ball, and I have to thank Jack and Ronnie Johnson, who have helped us out a lot. We have a John Grant small block under the hood of the car now, and the car was real good tonight. Like I said, it has been a tough last couple of years, but we just kept plugging along.”

The win moved Trombley into a tie with A.J. Romano for ninth place on the all-time Fonda Speedway modified win list with 33 victories.

After spending two seasons at Lebanon Valley Speedway in 2008 and 2009, Trombley returned to Fonda as a regular last season, but found it different from when he left. The track was slippery and tough to pass on and required a different setup on the car than what he was using before he left for Lebanon Valley.

“The setups that we used at Fonda before we went to the Valley weren’t working at all,” Trombley said. “On top of that, we had our old Syracuse big-block motor in the car, and it is the worse slippery-track motor that I have ever owned.”

Over the winter before the start of the 2011 season, Trombley upgraded his equipment by purchasing a new Teo car, along with a fresh small-block motor from Grant.

“It is tough to run at Fonda because everybody has good stuff, and it isn’t easy to run in the top five every week,” Trombley said. “The track is real slippery, and in my opinion, the hour later starting time hasn’t helped to improve that. The night that we won we ran right after track prep, so there was a little extra moisture to work with.”

Trombley was also quick to credit Ronnie and Jack Johnson for their help with the setup of his car.

“Ronnie and I always talk setups and doing different stuff to the car because we like the same things in our race cars,” Trombley said. “Then, Jack sits us down and tells us what really works. I was really struggling, and Jack told me to bring the car over to the shop so we could put it on the scales and maybe find something. We are a lot closer now to finding the right setup.”

On May 28, 2005, Trombley was involved in an accident at Fonda while leading a qualifying heat race. He hit the wall in turn four resulting in an injury to his neck and back. He was in a neck-and-back brace for four months before Ronnie Johnson talked him into getting back in a race car in September that year.

“While I was out with the injury, I got to spend a lot more time with Jack and Ronnie, but I never thought about not racing again after the accident,” Trombley said. “Ronnie got me back into a car late that season and we did very well, finishing second in one feature event at Fonda. Unfortunately, I ran out of fuel in the season-ending McDonald’s 100 while leading with only five laps to go, and finished eighth.”

For the 2008 season, Trombley decided to call Lebanon Valley home and had a lot of success there, despite the fact that it was his first time running on the high banks on a weekly basis. In the two years that he spent at the Valley, he had three feature wins and considered the move a success.

“Lebanon Valley treated me very well, and I enjoyed racing there,” he said.

The move to the Valley was made because Trombley’s long-time sponsor, Frank Freihofer, wanted him to race there.

“Frank always wanted to go down there to race, so we did that. I like doing different things, anyway,” Trombley said.

Freihofer was a sponsor on Trombley’s car since 1988 under both the Altair Audio and FAF Racing name which appeared on the rear quarter panel of Trombley’s car up until Frank’s death a couple of years ago.

“Losing Frank was a devastating hit to our racing team. He wasn’t only a sponsor, but he was a good friend,” Trombley said. “When we lost Frank, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to keep racing or not.”

Trombley decided to soldier on and keep racing, but falling behind on motors was a big setback.

“The John Grant small block that we have in the car now is the first fresh motor that we have had in the car since Frank passed away,” Trombley said. “Now, we race one night a week and do what we can afford.”

Without a lot of sponsorship help, Trombley and his crew — consisting of Pep and Joe Corradi, Dan Santabarbara, Dan Hanson and Trombley’s brother Ken — manage to keep busy and still have fun.

“Pep and Dan are both racing now, and with Pep’s car being kept at my house, it keeps me busy. I have mine to work on, along with his, and we also help Dan out with his car, too,” Trombley said. “Right now, we are having fun racing one night a week, and the win really helps too.”

Trombley has no plans to race anywhere other than Fond Speedway at this point. He and his wife, Serena, recently took up another hobby which keeps them busy on Sundays.

“We bought a couple of Harley motorcycles and we ride those on Sundays now,” he said.

This week’s schedule

Tonight at Albany-Saratoga Speedway will be the Family Fun Super Soaker 100-lap enduro, along with all other divisions, beginning at 7.

Also tonight, Glen Ridge Mot­orsports Park will have a regular show in all divisions, along with the Empire Lightning Sprints with a starting time of 7:30.

On Saturday, Fonda Speedway will be in action with a regular show in all divisions, along with the 10th Annual Jack Lockhart Mem­orial Dash for Cash for non-winners in the 602 sportsman division who are in the top 20 in points as of July 30. Starting time will be 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, Fonda will be back in action with a mid-week show consisting of a 60-lap Thunder on the Thruway Modified Series fesature, along with a 602 sportsman feature and a 30-lap modified event that was curfew- delayed on June 8. Starting time will be 7 p.m.

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