The 4th Turn: July 8, 2021

~ By Tom Boggie

I admit that I had heard some rumors about a tire shortage in recent weeks, but really didn’t pay much attention to them. But over the weekend, two things happened that made me take it a little more seriously.

First, Bridgeport Speedway canceled its All American 40, a major race for 602 crates that was scheduled to pay $4,000 to win on July 3, because the track didn’t have enough right rear American Racer tires to accommodate a large field of 602s, as well as a regular modified field.

Then, on Sunday, I dropped in at Fonda Speedway for the Firecracker 50, and promoter Brett Deyo stated at the pit meeting that officials at American Racer suggested that he close both Fonda and Utica-Rome for the rest of the season because they weren’t going to be able to supply him with enough tires to finish the year.

Deyo said that he’s going to go for as long as he can with whatever American Racer can ship to him.

So on Tuesday, I called Mike Romano, who runs Andy’s Speed Shop in Johnstown and who is a distributor of both Hoosiers and American Racers. I was actually more interested to find out if there is a problem with Hoosiers, because that’s the tire used at Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley, as well as on the Super DIRTcar Series.

“With the Hoosiers, certain ones are in the process of being built,” he said. “Guys are going to have struggle with what they have for another week.”

The Hoosiers that are most scarce are the right rears, the 300 and 400 talls, according to Romano. But while he waits for a delivery, he came up with another method to find tires.

“I talked to Keith Hoffman (the track director at Bridgeport) and I’m going there tomorrow (Wednesday),” Romano said. “He’s got a lot of 300 and 400 talls left over from his Super DIRT Series race, and I bought all that he had left over. That’s American Racer country, so he really doesn’t need the Hoosiers sitting around.”

Romano, who supplies tires for both Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley as a weekly vendor at the tracks, admitted that the situation is more dire for the American Racer brand.

“Right now, I’ve got no 50s, no 48s, no 53s, basically no right rears at all,” he said. “For this week, drivers have got what they’ve got. But the 50s, which is normally a Fonda tire, should be sent next week.”

That also lines up with Deyo’s prediction that he’ll be getting another 50 tires by mid-July.

The tire shortage is being blamed on a number of things, including reduced shipments of nylon from overseas, to the harsh winter in Texas which cut into the production of petroleum-based products, to a shortage of truck drivers for deliveries, to a shortage of warehouse workers to keep up with demand.

“I think after last year (when many race tracks ran limited schedules or shut down entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic), a lot of companies didn’t expect this type of demand for tires,” said Romano. “It’s just snowballed.”

Romano has seen the effects first-hand.

“I know what I use at Malta every week,” he said. “When I heard rumors that there was going to be a shortage, I jammed as many tires as I could into the trailer, and that night, I went home empty. I sold every one of them. As soon as people hear the word shortage, they panic.

“This is just like the toilet paper shortage. In a couple of weeks, it will all be over. I know promoters don’t want to hear this, but everyone could use some rainouts, so drivers can save their tires for a week or so.”

The Super DIRTcar Series was back in action Tuesday with the Summer Nationals at Ransomville. Matt Sheppard got the win, with Peter Britten second, Stewart Friesen third, and defending Albany-Saratoga Speedway champion Mike Mahaney fourth.

Derrick McGrew Jr. was one of the Albany-Saratoga regulars who made the long haul to Ransomville and the 14-year-old came away with a 14th place finish. He won one of the consolation races and started 21st in the field.

The next stop on the series will be the previously rained out Horse Power 100 at Albany-Saratoga on Tuesday, July 13. This one should be interesting. Sheppard has emerged as the favorite to win the Super DIRTcar Series championship, which would be his eighth crown overall, but he’s also had his share of bad luck at Malta. Remember when he had a sure win until he got spun around by the lapped car of Willy Decker with five laps to go? Then there’s the fact that Friesen will be making just his second appearance of the season at the track. He finished seventh in the “Hell or High Water” opener, but hasn’t been back since. How will he adapt to the ever-changing surface at Albany-Saratoga?

The Buff brothers continued their domination at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park on Sunday, with Andrew recording his fourth 602 crate victory and younger brother Zach chalking up his fifth limited sportsman win. Andrew Buff also made a trip to Fulton on Saturday night and picked up a win there.

Also at Glen Ridge, Adam Fusco recorded his first career slingshot win. Adam is the son of the late Andy Fusco, the former chief legal counsel for DIRT who I grew up with in Johnstown. When I was doing some television work for DIRT, I would stay at Andy’s house in Auburn during Super DIRT Week, and we put down a lot of beers together.

Adam has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a lawyer. He relocated to Johnstown and is living in the house that his father grew up in. In fact, behind that house is where Adam’s grandfather carved out a small dirt go-kart track for young Andy, who was fascinated with racing.

Friesen picked up the top prize of $10,000 from the Firecracker 50 on Sunday at Fonda, but I was more impressed by the performance of Andy Bachetti. Bachetti had to qualify through one of the consolation races and started 27th in the 30-car field, but finished seventh, earning the Hard Charger bonus of $250.

Albany-Saratoga points leader Anthony Perrego also put on a show, finishing sixth after qualifying through the second consolation race. In 34 total starts this season, the 27-year-old Perrego has an amazing 20 top-five finishes, including four wins. But as aggressive and as consistent as he’s been, he’s yet to win a race at a track north of Exit 19 on the New York State Thruway. He’s got one win at New Egypt Speedway in New Jersey, two at Orange County Speedway in Middletown and one at Accord Speedway.

Friesen’s win at Fonda was his eighth of the year and if I’m not mistaken, he’s only made nine starts because of commitments to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and DIRTcar’s weekend in Bristol. The only race he showed up for and didn’t win was on June 19, when he finished third behind Rocky Warner and Ronnie Johnson. He also had eight wins at Fonda, in nine starts, in 2020.

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