Story By: ROB HAYES / KING OF DIRT – FONDA, NY – Don Ronca has been racing longer than King Of Dirt Racing promoter Rob Hazer has been on this earth. It’s been a while since he’s been ‘new’ to anything in dirt track racing, but this past summer he earned the Fastline Performance 358 Modified Tour Newcomer Of The Year Honors.
Flashback to 1980 to a young and ambitious Don Ronca who purchased himself a home built chassis of sorts with a 320 Small Block power plant between the rails and set sail to represent the family name, after all Ronca is one of prominence in Capital District racing, but the car had issues and the motor blew up his very first time on the track.
That’s not how kids start their careers these days, but back in the 80’s you had to work for it and with the help of his legendary father he was able to borrow another power plant and finish his rookie season in the Modified division.
It didn’t take Ronca long to visit victory lane, as in 1982 he picked up his first career Modified feature win at Drummondville in Canada. Shortly after that he experienced his career best season in 1989 where he claimed multiple victories and the overall combined CVRA Championship between Albany Saratoga and Devil’s Bowl Speedways.
His success continued and in 1993 Don Ronca earned track championships at both Malta and Devil’s Bowl Speedways. He’d continue his competitive spirit and winning ways throughout his career bringing us to the 2018 season where for the first time he’d go on tour with the King Of Dirt Racing 358 Modified Series.
Having success at the tracks involved with the tour was a plus for Don despite some concern for a different layout at Devil’s Bowl than he had seen in years past.
“I liked doing the KOD tour. We had success at all the tracks on tour so, I knew what to expect except for Devil’s Bowl and Lebanon Valley. Devil’s Bowl had a new configuration and I didn’t know what that was going to be like and I hadn’t been to Lebanon Valley in so long I forgot what that was like,” said Don Ronca about his tour experience.
Despite doing what it took to earn the Fastline Performance Newcomer Of The Year honors, he didn’t think his season was that good saying, “I don’t think we did very well at all actually. We had a lot of mechanical failures this year and it was frustrating. One minute the car would run then something would break. I just couldn’t get everything to stay together.”
Ronca trailed Rocky Warner heading into the season finale at Lebanon Valley Speedway, but earned the award after the flying squirrel stayed close to home in the Mohawk Valley. Ronca was able to make up the points he was behind and gain some in route to the Newcomer Of The Year honors.
At the season ending Banquet Of Champions (date to be announced soon) Don Ronca will receive a $500 certificate from Fastline Performance for his efforts in earning the Newcomer Of The Year Honors and the veteran surely had some folks to thank for helping his journey.
“I have to thank my family first, because my father still puts in a lot of time and with three of us racing out of the same shop there is never a day off,” Ronca began with.
He concluded by saying, “I need to thank my crew chief Bill Spain and valued crew member Ken LaCasse who have been with me for years. It’s a lot to ask of somebody to take time off work and their family to go racing, but he’s been by my side for a long time and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
KOD Promoter Rob Hazer weighed in saying; “I’ve watched the Ronca family race since I was a kid. They’re name is just as recognizable as others in the Capital District like Romano, Flach, or Johnson. They’ve dedicated their life to the sport and have done it the right way and it’s pretty cool that at this point in his career Don’s going to get an award for being new at something in racing. That’s what makes this award special on our tour in my humble opinion.”