Joe and Andy Romano of Johnstown, NY


Courtesy of Otto Graham via Dirt Track Digest

Fonda Region Racing Pioneers


Romano Family Photo
Herb Dunleavey was the driver for the first Romano family race car. The 97 was in place even then.

     I don't have much in first line information on pioneering race car owner Joe Romano, of Johnstown, NY and his eldest son, Andy - who raced his father's cars for many years before taking over the operation himself. What I have here mostly comes from the Fonda book. A nationaklly - known expert textile colorist, Joe Romano was transferred to Johnstown from North Carolina in the 1950's. Inspired by watching early Fonda race programs, Andy and some friends built a stock car out of a 1936 Dodge two door sedan. He took on a local racing veteran Herb Dunleavey to drive.


 Photo by Russ Bergh Courtesy of Jo Towns, via Otto Graham
 Dutch Reed was the next driver for the Romano family 97. As seen here they were starting to pick up a few qualifier wins at Fonda.


                      Joe apparently became involved when the friends didn't want to spend the time commitment needed to run a race car. He didn't want the newly - married Andy to be footing a race effort by himself. The old sedan was replaced by a more standard Chevy coupe, and Dunleavey was replaced by Glens Falls driver Loren "Dutch" Reed, who drove for them for one season. Reed went on to the 90A cars, variously owned by Tom Hammond and Bill King.

 
Russ Bergh Photo Ladabouche Collection
Leave it to Tiger Tom to drive at Fonda with a wife beater shirt on.


                        Enter the Tiger. With such nicknames as "Tiger Tom" and "Terrible Tom" Rome. NY's mercurial Tom Kotary was a WWII vet who had suffered some serious wonds and PTSD. One of three racing brothers, Tom had driven for notable owner like Hal Kempeny and Theron Moore before landing in the newest Romano Chevy coupe, a blue and whote 97. I first saw Kotary run this car at Vergennes, Vermont's Otter Creek Speedway in 1961, when a number of New Yorkl sportysman teams went up to the dusty cow pasture tract on Sunday afternoons that year for easy NASCAR points.

  With his struggles with his demons, the intelligent Kotary would often race the 97 somewhat fortified. This was costing Andy a lot of time and money fixing up what Kotary wadded up. I recall watching the 97 at Otter Creek that afternoon. Tom seemed to have a terrible time geting the coupe off turn two and onto the long backstretcch. He must have spun out at least two or three times. Andy, who had snuck into the driver's seat of the 97 once when Reed could not attend, finally replaced Kotary with himself around 1962. That started a career of forty years.


Russ Bergh Photo Ladabouche Collection
Andy, with the car he started out in. Veteran Jeep Herbert is in the background in the yellow jacket.

For many race fans, the Andy Romano career is synonymous with "The Galiant Valiant". It has been said that Romano bought the Mopar - bodied modified from Dutch Hoag. I have no proof. But he ran that famous car at Albany - Saratoga, Airborne, Devil's Bowl, and likely Catamount - to name a few. Joe Romano was always a familiar figure in the 97 pits. While sons Mike and AJ combined for 65 feature wins at the beloved Fonda track, Andy had only 2; but he seemed far more effective on asphalt, winning dozens of times.

The Romano team of Andy and "Ol' Joe" would go through times of running two cars - sometimes both for Andy and other times for a hired gun like Ken Shoemaker. The story goes on into the 80's and involves numerous cars and other owners. It finally becomes more about the sons, as Andy would concentrate mostly on his speed shop business. This page is show what I have for Romano and Roano - related photos mostly on Andy.

 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The Romanos, with
"ol Red" and driver Dutch Reed.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

Dutch has wadded up the 97 here, as Gigi Conover checks_ out the remains.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The Romano 97 - probably Reed, in a Fonda scrum with one of the Starin 550 cars, the Roots H2, and Johnny Gruner.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The earlier red coupe -
likely Reed's car.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Gauthier Collection

Apparently Roger Gauthier had at least a brief stint in the Reed versiohn of 97.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
via Otto Graham

Reed or Gauthier in a
scrum with Art Gell [40] and Howie Westervelt.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Gauthier Collection

The Romano car,  with Dutch Reed. One of these girls is Charlotte Gauthier.
  
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The Romanos, seen here at Victoria with two crewmen and the first sportsman.

Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The Romanos, seen here in Vic Lane with Tom
Kotary, The car still says Terrible Tom on roof but it looks like Andy is getting the trophy.
 
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

Andy, with what looks like the earliest sportsman sedan.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

Andy, in an impressive lineup at Victoria with the first coupe.
  
Russ Bergh Photo
A dramatic photo by Russ shows Andy [or Tom] in the first coupe, starting a feature beside Bob Adams.

Russ Bergh Photo
 Andy [or Tom] in the first coupe, starting a feature besidethe Trinkhaus 62 and ahead of Fran Kitchen. Not sure the track.

 
Source Unknown
 Andy [or Tom] on the Fonda track with an older version of Ron Narducci's
98.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Ladabouche Collection

The Romanos soon had this sharp sedan, seen here at Victoria. 

Russ Bergh Photo
Ladabouche Collection

The Romano sedan  at Victoria with the team coupe alongside. 

Russ Bergh Photo
Ladabouche Collection

A strangely - colored
shot of the 1st sedan with Ernie Gahan beside.
 
 
Courtesy of Black Jack Racing
Andy finds himself sandwiched between Steve Danish and Ernie Gahan at Fonda.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

A pose with the sedan.
 
Romano Family Photo
via Otto Graham

Mike and little brother AJ
with one of dad's earlier cars.
 

Mike Anop Photo
The Romanos soon had this wild injected sedan, while retaining a coupe with less motor as well. 
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Jim Young Collection

A later coupe.  
 
Russ Bergh Photo
via Otto Graham

A win with the injected sedan.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
via Otto Graham

A win with the team car to the sedan.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

The Romano sedan at speed.
 
From Dan Ody's 8MM
Old Speedways DVDs

Earlier Romano coupe at Malta.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Collection

Andy, Joe, and Jeff McWalker in a group shot whose nature I can't figure.
 
via Otto Graham
Earlier color portrait.
 
Romano Collection

The Romanos at Langhorne, id'd as Fred Volpp, Joe Trusaint, and Joe Losee.

Courtesy of Jim Campbell
Andy's sedan towing into Fonda probably in the late 60's. A neat view !
 
Frank Simek Photo
Andy in the first coupe,
leading the Frank Trinkhaus entry.
 
Frank Simek Photo
Classic grave yard photo
as Andy leads the Cross 47, with either Farquhar or Townley.
 
Frank Simek Photo
Color shot of the 1st
sedan by Frank.
 
Greg Rickes Photo
Color shot of the 1st
sedan supposedly at Victoria.

   

     ANDY IN THE ALL STAR LEAGUE   


Russ Bergh Photo Courtesy of Otto Graham
1968 ASL ad with Andy - for Fonda race.

 
Courtesy of Otto Graham
Andy is 2nd from left, talking to Jerry Cook..
 
Courtesy of Mike Richards
1969 ASL ad with Andy
.
 
Romano Collection

Andy, with Jerry Cook
and Rene charland as the
Albany - Saratoga team.
 
ASL Program
ASL portrait.
 
Ladabouche Collection
ASL Program

Andy, in the driver
group photo for the
Fonda race around late 60's.
 
Ladabouche Collection
ASL Program

Andy, in the driver
group photo for the
Fonda race in 1968.
           

THE  GALIANT VALIANT ERA  

 
Romano Collection
Courtesy of Otto Graham

Andy, with the Valiant - maybe at Malta. Note Doc
Blanchard's similar - bodied 49 in background.
 
Courtesy of Lynch Mob
Photo Collection

Probably the car, when
owned by Dutch Hoag.
.
 
Mike Richards Collection

Andy, wnning the opener
at Airborne around 1970.
 
Ladabouche Photo
The Valiant at the ASL show at Catamount in 1970 or 71.
 
Romano Photo
 Collection

Andy, in a CVRA photo.
 
Fred Smith Photo
Otto Graham Collection
Andy, at Langhorne
with a rather temporary graphic package.
 
Courtesy of Otto Graham
in Dirt Track Digest

Andy in the Valiant with his ASL helmet.
 
Courtesy of Otto Graham
in Dirt Track Digest

Andy- same angle, at Fonda with different graphic package.
.
 
Courtesy of Otto Graham

Andy, with a classic pose
with the Galiant Valiant.
 
Romano Collection
via Otto Graham

At Langhorne.
 
Romano Collection
via Otto Graham

Andy's Valiant come s in
in pieces as crewman Jeff
McWalker waits for the wrecker to release the car.
 
Romano Collection
via Otto Graham

Andy gets backs out with the wrinkled Valiant.
 
Bob Mackey Photo
via John Rock
in Dirt Track Digest

Andy and Charlie Trombley  await an official decision on something at Airborne around 1970.
 
Romano Family Coillection
via Otto Graham

Andy wins a CVRA feature. Joe is seen as well as Jim Frye.
 
Romano Family Collection
Another Valiant shot.
 
Bob MackeyPhoto
via Mike Watts, Sr.
 Andy and Wes Moody pace the pack in a talent - packed Airborne heat in 1970.
 
Dan Ody's 8MM
Old Speedways DVD's
Andy and Will Cagle
somewhere.
 
Dirt Track Digest
 Andy Romano leads Shoemaker and Forrette somewhere.

ASSORTED PHOTOS  

 
Romano Collection
Andy, with Katie.
 
Courtesy of Andy Boright
The 97X team car which was driven for a while by Ken Shoemaker.
.
 
Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock

Andy joins Guy Chartrand in talking with CJ Richards at either D Bowl or Airborne.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Romano Family Collection

Andy is in pretty serious company here with Narducci, Gahan, and Wimble.
 
Romano Photo
 Collection via Otto Graham

Andy and Mike in team cars at Fonda.
 
Romano Family Collection
Andy, with a mid 80's car.
 
Romano Family Coillection
Andy and another shot of the sedan.
 
Romano Family Collection

Andy with what might be his final win at Fonda in 1993.
 
Romano Family Collection

Andy and Joe with a win with the Mustang.
 
Romano Family Collection
Andy and Joe with team members and the Mustang.
 
Romano Family Collection
Andy gets a Fonda win in he 1900's.
 
Courtesy of Mike Pa
Andy at Malta with an injected coupe.
  
Ken Shoemaker Biography
Ken Shoemaker takes a Fonda win with the Romano 97X, while Andy had the sedan.
 
Courtesy of Jo Towns
via Otto Graham
Ken Shoemaker takes a Fonda win with the Romano 97X, while Andy had the sedan.
 
Romano Family Collection
Ken Shoemaker was hard on the Romano 97X, and Andy got sick of working more on that than his own car.
   
John Grady Photo
via Richard Chartrand
Andy leads Jerry Cook. 
 

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