Area stock car racing: Small-block motor makes Romano competitive again

Some people can’t wait for the opening day of trout season; others look forward to the first day of

Some people can’t wait for the opening day of trout season; others look forward to the first day of deer season.

But in A.J. Romano’s case, he’s glad small-block season has finally arrived.

After spending the first two months of the racing season struggling to get his big block hooked up at Fonda Speedway, Romano finally dropped a small block into his 2012 Troyer chassis and had his best finish of the year — a second — in the modified feature at the Track of Champions Saturday night.

In hindsight, Romano wishes the small block had been put in sooner, but he said he was just sticking to crew chief Gavin Ragusa’s master plan.

“Gavin had it all mapped out,” Romano said Thursday. “He said if we put the small block in for June 8, the big block would have so many laps on it, and by the end of the season, the small block would have X amount of laps on it and would be ready to be freshened. Gavin has had it figured out since April.

“The car drove a lot better with the small block. The track was fast Saturday and was probably more conducive to a big block, but with the small block, I could put the car where I wanted it to go. The manueveribility was incredible.”

In the first six races of the season, Romano didn’t even have a top-five finish with the big block.

“Even Stewie [defending track champion Stewart Friesen] was coming over to us and saying, ‘Get that big block out of there. It’s killing you.’ I had four or five cruddy races, and it’s easy to blame the big block. There’s no reason for me to be running ninth or 10th. I knew once I put the small block in, it would be better.”

Better, yes, but still not good enough to beat Friesen.

Romano had a comfortable lead midway through the feature, but with three laps to go, Friesen finally got around Romano, forcing the Johnstown driver to settle for second.

“I was feeling pretty comfortable,” admitted Romano. “You know when your car is good, and I felt like if I didn’t make a mistake or mess up, there was a good chance I’d win. Obviously, with Stewie, you know he’ll be coming. But I didn’t mess up, and I still didn’t win.

“I was pretty discouraged that night, but when you look at the big picture, there had been weeks where I ran awful. At least the car is going good again.”

Romano should’t feel bad about losing to Friesen. The Canadian native also won last Wednesday’s Super DIRTCar Series opener at Rolling Wheels, and also used a late caution to pass Ronnie Johnson and pick up his third win of the week at Utica-Rome on Sunday.

According to Romano, there’s no secret to Friesen’s success.

“He’s 29 years old,” Romano said. “Figure that into the equation. That’s huge. When you’re that age and have good equipment, it makes a huge difference.”

While Romano is still looking for his first win of the year, his son, Adam, recorded his first career go-kart win a couple of weeks ago at Caroga Creek Raceway.

Late models at Fonda

The first big mid-week show of the season will take place Wednesday, when the World of Outlaws late models roll into Fonda Speedway.

Two drivers who have raced modifieds at Fonda — Tim McCreadie and Tim Fuller — are following the World of Outlaws

series. McCreadie has a pair of wins, while Fuller is still looking for his first victory, but is fifth in points. Fuller struggled for years from a financial aspect on the series, but this year, landed a ride with Kennedy Motorsports, which also fields a car for Shane Clanton, who has four wins and is second in points.

Josh Richards rolls into Fonda as the point leader. Richards is a two-time series champion (2009, 2010), but took last year off to compete on the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He ran 14 races in that series, but couldn’t find a full-time ride and returned to the World of Outlaws.

The modifieds will also be on Wednesday’s card. Racing begins at 7 p.m.

Racing seminar

The Saratoga Automobile Museum will be holding a “Road Racing 101” seminar on June 23 at 1 p.m. Greg Rickes, Lime Rock Park’s veteran announcer, will help newcomers to the sport understand the various classes, formulas and sanctioning bodies that make up the road racing world, discuss the hot topics of the moment for veteran enthusiasts and field questions on all aspects of the sports car world from the audience.

The program will also include Jeff Grossbard of Lime Rock Park’s public relations staff. He’ll be available to answer questions on the famed Connecticut road course and its 2013 schedule, as well as present a $50 ticket, good for use at LRP’s highly regarded Historic Festival on Aug. 31 or Sept. 2, to all attendees.

The seminar, which does not require pre-registration, will take place in the museum’s Orientation Theatre. More information on the Saratoga Automobile Museum is available online at

Around the tracks

Pro stocks will make a return to Glen Ridge Motorsports Park tonight. With fabricator and pro stock driver Nick Stone pulling some strings, there should be a decent field of cars. The pro stocks ran at the Ridge on a regular basis during 2010, and usually had 10 to 12 cars each night. Rocky Warner won the division championship that year.

Because of last week’s rain, the Mike Ronca Memorial will be held tonight at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. A $100 bonus will be given to the leader of lap seven in all div­isions, while the sportsman will race for $700 to win.

Andy Bachetti drove to his third straight modified win at Leb­anon Valley Saturday and took home $3,000 in the first annual J.C. Flach Memorial. First, Brett Hearn won four in a row. Now, Bachetti has won three straight. If I’m promoter Howie Commander, I’d pay Friesen some good money to skip Fonda, put him with Hearn and

Bachetti somewhere around 15th, 16th and 17th in the starting lineup, and sit back and enjoy the show.

Pete Broderson got his third pro stock win of the year Saturday night at Fonda, but he probably won’t be back in victory lane again this year. “We were hoping to go out with a bang,” he said after the race. “I have to have shoulder surgery this week and may not be back for the rest of the year.”

As Cher would say, Drew Fallis nearly turned back time Saturday when he finished second in the 602 sportsman feature Saturday at Fonda. The veteran driver had the lead on lap 16 of the 20-lapper, but a restart allowed Chris Shaffer to get by and become the seventh different winner in as many weeks in that division.

Fallis has five career wins at Fonda, but hasn’t been to victory lane since May 11, 2002. Fallis’ T31 has been a fixture at Fonda since the mid-1990s. The number comes from Gibby Fountain’s 31 (Fallis bought his first car from Fountain) and the T is to honor his late father, Ted.

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