Britten, Romano team up to race at Albany-Saratoga

MALTA — “I’ve never seen him race. Not once,” declared Andy Romano, owner and retired driver of the famed no. 97 out of Andy’s Service in Johnstown.

The “him” Romano was referencing is competitor Peter Britten, the driver who will be behind the wheel of the Romano no. 97 Big Block Modified in 2017 at the four-tenths mile Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday nights.

Britten found himself without a ride in late December when he was released from the HBR team of Weedsport, and Romano had a Big Block Modified car to run but no driver.  Romano’s son Mike, who operates Andy’s Speed Shop, was well aware of Britten’s talents and thought the match would be a good one. 

“Dad wanted to have fun once again being involved in racing,” said Mike Romano in a news release.  “He can do that with Peter.  When I learned Peter was available, I wanted to make it happen.  Wins are a bonus and we feel we can do both with Peter.”

Mike, an accomplished race car driver himself, got to know Britten well during the 2013-14 seasons when Britten called the Malta oval his Friday night home and where Britten was a customer of Andy’s Speed Shop.

Brothers, Mike and A.J. Romano, also had very successful careers in the family owned or sponsored car with more than 100 wins between them at tracks in the Northeast. 

Although it has been several years since the Romano name has appeared over the door of a no. 97 modified, Andy Romano has not forgotten how much fun it is to race and win. 

One of those more recent wins came in 2012 when area driver Bobby Varin powered the Andy’s Service car to a DIRTcar Series win at Albany-Saratoga.  Romano, who will be 80 years old in October, wants to experience that level of “fun” once again. 

Romano owns race horses that run at Saratoga Harness. 

“They’ll have to do without me on Friday nights now,” he said in the release, “…because I will be at the speedway with my team.”

Romano has either owned or driven a winning race car every decade since 1957 when he first drove at Victoria Speedway (Esperance). 

That’s more than 60 years of support and speaks to his level of commitment to the sport. 

In addition, Andy Romano also has the unique distinction of having won at Albany-Saratoga, Devil’s Bowl and Plattsburgh on the dirt and asphalt surfaces of each track. 

Britten, who hails from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a three-time Australian National Modified Champion and has raced Troyer Race Cars his entire racing career.  So, although Romano had a Teo ready to go for 2017, he purchased a new Troyer for his new driver.

“My philosophy is that we need to run consistently versus looking for the next gadget that is supposed to make the car faster.  I don’t want to jump from car builder to car builder all the time.  I know we can be consistent with a Troyer.”  Britten said in the release “I want to be a part of everything as much as I can.  A big part of that is the setup. I have always raced Troyer cars and am very comfortable with how to prepare a Troyer for the track.” 

The current plan is for Britten to travel the three hours from his Weedsport area home to the Romano shop and put the finishing touches on getting the car ready for Friday night racing.  During the week, work on the car will be done by Romano’s two crew members — Tom Simek who has been with Romano his entire career and Christopher Sweeney.

“I’ve met with Andy and the crew and they’re a great group.  For them to include me as a team member is a great privilege,” said Britten in the release. “I want this relationship to grow and be as strong as it can be.  I want to continue the Romano tradition of piloting a winning no. 97.”

The new car is currently being built at Troyer Race Cars in Rochester and should be delivered by mid-February to the Romano shop.  It will be completed there and have a C.C. Performance Engine ready to go opening night carrying sponsorship from Andy’s Service, Andy’s Speed Shop and Troyer Race Cars.

Initially the team will be committed to racing weekly at Albany-Saratoga where Andy and his sons have raced since the mid-1960’s. 

“I won my first modified race at Malta (Aug. 5, 1966),” said Romano in the release. 

He recounted how he almost had a win the previous week but lost the lead coming off turn four.

“If things go good on Friday, we’ll have to see where this goes.  No arrangements have been made for anything yet, but, you never know where we will end up,” said Romano in the release. 

Britten is comfortable at Albany-Saratoga and has five wins at the speedway. 

“It’s a three hour drive to the track and I don’t mind doing it at all,” said Britten in the release.  “I spend my time on the road looking forward to what I know is going to be a great night of racing. My goal is to win several times for Andy this year.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  If I don’t feel that I can be competitive and win then I would retire from racing.” 

The split from HBR was unsettling to the young driver but to have a fresh new start at a track where he loves to race makes him excited for the start of the new season. 

“I love the sport and want to enjoy myself as well as race well and not just because I want to win.  Everything will come together being with a team that enjoys racing as much as I do…including wins,” said Britten in the release.  “I’m not looking for the magic button or the latest twist on a chassis, but for the consistency that a long-established team, chassis and engine can bring to the track week in and week out.” 

Track management is also looking forward to Britten’s return to the track on a weekly basis. 

Lyle DeVore, promoter of the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, feels Britten has a strong fan base at the speedway and will raise the bar for the already high level of competition at the track weekly. 

“Pete is a dynamic individual and driver,” said DeVore in the release.  “He is people friendly-he is the whole package. He is the type of racer that any promoter would love to have at their track weekly.”

Britten finished second in the track point standings in 2015 to multi-time track and DIRTcar champion Brett Hearn, establishing a friendly rivalry the fans love. 

“He reaffirms that Albany-Saratoga is ‘The Great Race Place’-he is definitely going to elevate the level of competition driving for Andy,” DeVore said in the release. “It’s good to have Britten with us and with a team that has been involved with the speedway for so many years.  We have a great tradition of strong race team support and fan support-the Romano family and Britten exemplify that tradition.  As a matter of fact, Andy was our Sportsman track champion in 1984 and is a Hall of Fame member of the NYS Stock Car Association.”

In turn, Britten is highly supportive of the speedway and track management. 

“I love everything about it.  Every Friday night is a good crowd and it’s exciting to be there,” he said in the release. [Albany-Saratoga] has what a lot of tracks lack in that as soon as you get there it has that feel of excitement and anticipation.

The 2017 season for Britten will begin with the opening of the DIRTcar NE season, Feb. 23-25, at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida.  He will be running his own equipment for the opening races at Volusia with the support of long-time friend, Rich Scagliotta, driver of the No. 8.

“I want to run the entire DIRTcar Series but I need to find support for my efforts,” Britten said in the release.  “There are only a handful of $100,000 sponsorships out there and they are tough to come by.  You can’t do it alone.  I’m hoping I can pull together a number of smaller sponsors, that when combined will allow me to make the series shows.”