There’s nothing worse than an inside joke that has to be explained, but here goes, anyway.
Question: Why should A.J. Romano’s race cars be nicknamed NYRA?
Answer: Because they’re most productive in July and August.
For those scratching their heads, NYRA is the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga Race Course. Saratoga, which opens today and runs through Labor Day, is its biggest moneymaker.
And for some reason, Romano seems to hit his stride about the same time Saratoga opens.
He won his first modified feature of the season at Fonda Speedway last Saturday, coming off the front row and leading flag-to-flag. His last win prior to that came on July 16, 2011.
“It probably means that by July and August, I finally get my act together,” he said after Saturday’s win.
But he also had another explanation.
“It seems that whenever I have to go to a birthday party on a Sunday, I either win the the night before, or the week after,” he said
That would coincide with the birthdays of his two children, one in mid-July and one in mid-August.
But there’s still one more factor in Romano’s first win. He finally got the rear suspension figured out.
Romano admitted after his win that he has been running the wrong birdcage in the rear end of his race cars for almost four years. Whenever he got a new chassis, he would just switch the birdcage, which attaches to the rear axle and the torsion arm, and controls how much the car “rolls” through the corners.
Three weeks ago, Romano debutted a new Troyer chassis, purchased by Butchie Washburn of Washburn’s Ice Cream, but the car still didn’t handle right.
“I said something to A.J. two weeks ago,” said Romano’s brother, Mike, a Hall of Fame racer who is also a chassis distributor. “I stood in the third turn and watched him, and I said, ‘This car looks just like the other car when it goes through the corners.’ A.J. called [Troyer engineer] Billy Colton and Colton said his scales must be off, because the car shouldn’t be doing that.”
“I didn’t realize [he had the wrong birdcage] until we put this car together,” A.J. Romano said. “The radius rods didn’t fit right, and it made the car way too soft.”
When they finally figured out the problem, they couldn’t find the right birdcage, so Colton suggested stiffening up the rear of the car as much as possible. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough for Romano to hold off Bobby Varin to get his first win.
“When you come out and the car feels so good on the first lap, you know it isn’t going to stay that way,” Romano said. “I knew it was going to get loose, and by the end, I was just hanging on.
“I know we weren’t good enough tonight to drive to the front, so it was good to start on the front row. I’ve made a lot of progress with this car, but I also know I have to get better.”
Varin made a good run at Romano in the closing laps and actually had the lead for a couple of seconds when he and Romano went through the short chute between turns three and four together. But when Varin drifted just a bit, Romano turned hard to keep the lead, and then “I just tried to make the track as wide as I could,” he said.
Feast or famine
Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a great week to be a race fan or a tough week for the wallet.
The rash of big races began Thursday night, with Fonda Speedway hosting the O’Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions 410 sprints. The general admission for that race was $30, even before it was announced that defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart would be racing his sprint car at the Track of Champions.
After a normal weekend of racing at Albany-Saratoga, Fonda, Lebanon Valley and The Ridge, the World of Outlaws will make their annual stop at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Sunday night. Adult general admission to the Outlaws’ show is $25.
Then, next Thursday, the Lucas Oil World of Outlaws late models
swing into Fonda Speedway. Although nothing has been posted on the track website yet, that’s probably another $25-30 ticket.
If these races were spread out throughout the season, area fans wouldn’t be forced to pick and choose where they want to go. With two big midweek shows, I’d wager that the Saturday crowd at Fonda is going to be down considerably.
While Mike Romano and Jake Spraker, co-promoters at The Ridge, have made it clear that they won’t be back next year, just the opposite is taking place at Fonda.
Promoter Ric Lucia confirmed Saturday night that he has two more years on his contract with the Montgomery County Fair Board, and he also has two more option years after that. As long as he stays healthy and his specialized hauling business continues to do OK, he plans to keep promoting races at Fonda.
He will be losing general manager Marty Beberwyk after the 2013 season, however. I talked with Beberwyk at Brett Hearn’s “Big Show 4” at Albany-Saratoga, and he said he’ll stay for one more season, which will give him 50 years as an official.
Here’s a thought. It’s no secret that BBL Motorsports put in a bid on Albany-Saratoga Speedway last year and is interested in running Fonda. If that’s the case, they should make a deal with Romano and Spraker to take over The Ridge, which would give them a couple of seasons of speedway management under their belts before they start bidding for Fonda.
Tribute to C.J.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway will be holding the first C.J. Richards Memorial, a 67-lap race for modifieds, tonight. Richards, the founder of the Champlain Valley Racing Association who built Devil’s Bowl, died in February.
The double-point Midseason Championships at the Bowl last week changed the battle for the track title quite a bit. Defending champion Ron Proctor went into the night with a 17-point lead, but now leads Vince Quenneville Jr. by just three points. Points were counted in both the heats and the feature last Friday, and Proctor only finished seventh in the feature after having problems during his qualifying race, as well.
Alex Bell got his second win of the year in the modified feature, and Jamie Proctor of Schuylerville had a career-best second. But he needed a lot of help, as all of the Proctors helped rebuild the front suspension after a heat-race wreck.
Around the tracks
u Albany-Saratoga will be offering $3,000 to win for the modifieds tonight.
u Dustin Delaney, who’s back racing after missing a couple of weeks after wrecking his car at The Ridge, had a lost weekend. He finished 25th at Albany-Saratoga on Friday, and then loaded up after damaging his engine during warmups at Fonda on Saturday.
u Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often — both Hearn and Ken Tremont Jr. failed to finish last Saturday’s modified feature at Lebanon Valley. Tremont pulled in on the 12th lap with electrical issues in his car, and Hearn was the victim of engine problems on lap 20. Hearn finished 18th, and Tremont was 19th in the final rundown. The night wasn’t a total loss for Hearn, as he won the 358 modified feature.
u John Scarborough couldn’t lose at Fonda. During intermission, he proposed to his girlfriend in victory lane, and a little while later, he was back on the checkerboard square after winning the 602 sportsman feature.
“I probably should have waited until now to propose, but you can’t ever guarantee a win,” said Scarborough on his second trip to victory lane.
u Also during intermission, Jack Johnson, Dave Cruickshank and the late Jack Blackwood were inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in a special in-season ceremoney.
NYSSCA will be holding another in-season induction at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Aug. 17, honoring the late Mike Ronca, Gibby Fountain and Bill Brooking.