Monday October 31, 2005

  ARCHIVES

By Brian Danko         CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE VERSION               
 

THOMPSON, CT--------

One of the classiest teams and driver called it a career this past weekend at the Thompson International Speedway.
 

The records will show no championships on the modified tour and no wins but the respect by everyone on the modified tour is immense.
 

We are talking about the team of Tony Ferrante, Jr. and his father, Tony, Sr.
 

They have been apart of the modified tour forever and the elder Ferrante has been apart of modified racing since the 1950's.
 

"I don't miss it as much as I used too." Tony, Jr. when asked on the phone last week if the news was true. "The last few years we had been cutting back more and more but then everytime I'd think about quitting, I'd say to myself, 'how can you not do this.'
 

Ferrante and his family own a large body shop on the outskirts of New York City and that keeps the younger Tony quite busy running the business as his father has for the most part retired.
 

"We have 10 employees and our shop is about 5000 square feet. We usually do about 20-25 cars a week and we also have 3 truck drivers (wreckers) going at any time."
 

While Tony and his father and crew will miss the 'competition' it was beginning to ware on Tony, Jr.

"Our business has afforded us to do this. About 90% of our car was financed from money made in the shop and with being as busy as we are, I am trying to be more responsible for running the business."
 

When I talked with Tony on the phone, every couple of minutes, he'd apologize and put me on hold while he took care of his clients and customers.
 

When drivers talk about quitting, it usually because the money tree has run out or family commitments take over and while Tony is quitting because of the business, he isn't selling everything.

"I am keeping my car and the hauler. But I have sold all of the double equipment that I have owned. I figure if I want to run a race at Riverhead or somewhere else, I'll have it but it would be only to run a couple of events." Tony said with his Long Island accent.
 

While Tony has never tasted the champagne from victory lane, he has been runner up twice on the tour, once at Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania and the other at the Thompson International Speedway during the Thompson 300, his favorite track.
 

"That is the one that I really wanted to have." Tony said with a hint of sadness in his voice. "Mike Stefanik (winner) said he would have really like to see me win the race but that he had a job to do also."
 

Although Tony has had his share of success, he feels its getting more difficult to compete.
 

"I still love to compete but its getting harder to stay competitive. Look at the competition on the modified tour."
 

While he admits that he is ready to give it up, he isn't so sure about his father, who has been at the racing game for almost 50 years.
 

"His desire to compete is still there and as strong as it ever was" Tony said with a laugh.
 

When I asked Tony if he knew the respect in which he and his father are treated with, he reluctantly admitted it and said that is the one thing he treasures the most.
 

"Everyone has always treated me, my dad and the whole team with respect. I appreciate that more than anything else. I feel that we give that to our competitors and they are just repaying it."
 

While I asked Eddie Flemke, Jr., whom the Ferrantes have bought their cars from at RaceWorks, Eddie, said it would be tough with his friend not there week after week.
 

"We have always joked because he is like a brother to me and his dad was real close to my father. It will be awful tough not to compete against him anymore but he is always just a phone call away."
 

When Eddie was asked about the respect factor, Eddie put it this way. "If you can't respect Tony and his father, then you can't respect yourself. They have always given much more than they have ever taken."
 

Eddie said he will miss the usual pre race talks or the post race discussions and he knows others on the tour will feel the same way.
 

"Tony and his father have always been there for me but for many others on the modified tour."
 

When you are in a competitive sport like auto racing, sometimes you don't always see eye to eye with other drivers and officials but according to Ed Cox, NASCAR modified tour director, with the Ferrantes' it is completely different.
 

"I know that all of the tour directors around the country would like to have 50 Tony Ferrantes competing every week. Tony and his entire team have always treated our NASCAR officials with respect and I will miss them greatly, as will the tour."
 

Cox is a big believer in the family concept of racing and the Ferrantes are a testament to the racing family.
 

"To look at Tony and Mr. Ferrante, that is what you have, a great family."
 

I chuckled when Ed said Mr. Ferrante and it's only because to everyone on the tour, he is addressed Mr. Ferrante and nothing else.
 

"That is what he is, Mr. Ferrante." Ed said. "He has earned that title."
 

While Tony is quite busy with the family business, he is also a big lover of sports and living in the New York City area, you have your choice of professional sports.
 

"I live only about 15 minutes from Yankee Stadium." Tony said, not hiding his love for the Yankees by usually displaying the Yankee logo on his modified.
 

"I love to go to the Garden (Madison Square) but I also love going to New York for plays or just going for dinner."

While living in the big city, the water is only a few minutes away and Tony also has his boat that he will go out and play in.
 

"You know, racing is very expensive. For what I spend on racing on a weekend, I can have a lot of friends over, take them to the city for dinner or out on the boat the whole day and then be just a few minutes from home."
 

While Ferrante will no longer be a part of the modified tour, the friendships he takes with him will last a lifetime.
 

"We have made so many great friends and just because I'm still not racing, doesn't mean that I won't continue to be friends with them."
 

For the younger Ferrante, he has watched many great drivers run for his father, and although he was shown the ropes by many, besides Eddie Flemke, Jr., one other driver gave a lot to Tony Jr.
 

"Tommy Baldwin helped me build my first car. Tommy could be real tough on me but it was to make me a better driver. What he showed and taught me was how to race."
 

So when the checkered flag falls on the season finale for the modified tour, it will cap another season but for one driver and team it will cap a great career, even if the statistics don't show it.
 

OVER BEFORE ITS OVER

Everyone was all set for the battle for the 2005 championship between Ted Christopher and Tony Hirschman.
 

T.C. holding a slim 36 point margin heading into the season finale but before the race got into high gear, Christopher was involved in an accident on lap 10 and the Plainville, CT driver was through for the afternoon and in turn handed the championship to Pennsylvania's Tony Hirschman.
 

The title was fifth for the underrated champion who will be honored next month at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT on Friday, December 16th.
 

In the next couple of weeks we'll have an in depth story on yet another title for Hirschman, who now stands just one championship behind Mike Stefanik.
 

Jerry Marquis ended the 2005 season by winning the 125 lap World Series with Chuck Hossfeld second and third to Doug Coby.
 

THOMPSON STILL UNDER THE WEATHER

While everyone was finally happy to see sunshine in the forecast, the Thompson International Speedway still came in for some lousy weather as much of Saturdays outlaw features were halted when light rain and snow, yes, snow showers hit the track.
 

That meant the already dragged out World Series was set to have 15 features run Sunday and with an old Connecticut blue law which states that engines cannot fire at the track until noon on Sunday, it means a long day for everyone.
 

While the World Series is a great concept, it is an event, which I feel the modified tour doesn't need to be a part of.
 

Even without the tour, the track would be able to produce an event that will pack the pits and generate a large enough front gate to make the show a success.

Weather isn't something that anyone can control but when you are running such a major show with over 600 race teams competing, trying to get it all done in one weekend, without the help of Mother Nature, is nearly impossible.

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.  FOR THE MOST IN AUTO RACING NEWS SUBSCRIBE BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.