Adam Romito has been racing since he was 6. He’s raced dirt and asphalt ovals until about age 12 when he was invited to race at the Talladega Grand Prix, his first taste of right-hand turns.
“I’ve been hooked on road racing ever since,” Romito said. “That’s all it took. One time.”
So he switched from ovals to road circuits, trading in karts for a Spec Miata until he grew “tired of not having any horsepower” so he got rid of it and bought his first used stock car chassis.
A couple of years and a couple of chassis later, he bought the Ford Fusion you see here. It’s a 2009 105-inch chassis built by Roush in Mooresville, N.C., where a lot of others like it are built. The No. 42 car was first sold to RAB Racing in Concord, N.C., a team that ran it in ARCA, but only a few times. The car was sold to Dale Quarterley of Quarterley Racing Services, one of Romito’s current sponsors, which is where it sat for a couple of years.
“I have a friend who used to work for Roush. He remembers the car coming through the shop,” Romito said. “Practically, when I got the car, it was brand new. Everything’s new. There’s nothing that’s old about it. It has the nicest and best parts you can put on it.”
Though the car was built for oval tracks, Romito set it up for road course courses and said the car is perfectly suited for road racing. In fact, the chassis are all the same. The key differences lie in how teams set it up for ovals and how the body panels are set in place.
If you’ve ever seen video footage of a Sprint Cup car coming down a straightaway and noticed that it somehow looks “off,” here’s why. The left front fender is formed differently as is the left rear quarter panel. The roof is different, too. Romito explained.
“When they hang the bodies on those cars, they do it for the aero,” he said.
“That car was actually set up for roundy-round. If you look down the driver side of the car, you can see the front fender, it rolls out and that’s because they run a lot of positive camber so when the car rolls over the left front tire is flat. On the back left side of the car, the body actually kicks over toward the passenger side right at the middle of the quarter panel. And they do that to get the air to roll off the side of the car.
“But the roof also has a 2.5-inch drop to the right rear of it, so when you look at it, the body looks like it’s sitting on there crooked, and they do that so the air rolls off and hits the right side of the rear spoiler,” he continued. “It’s all aero for circle-track stuff but it doesn’t affect us a whole lot. We don’t really notice it because of the way the car is set up.”
NASA’s Southeast region probably has more of these kinds of cars in Super Unlimited than any region, due in no small part to its proximity to Mooresville, N.C., the heart of NASCAR’s manufacturing and team base. That makes it easy to go and get bargains when you find them. There are lots of teams headquartered in the area who run in NASCAR, ARCA, Nationwide and the K&N series, but the interesting thing is that bargains aren’t exactly rare.
“Teams, what they usually do, at the end of every year, they’re offloading cars because they want to get new cars, and you can find them all day long on sites like Racing Junk, from anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 depending on how badly they want to get rid of them,” he said. “Sometimes you can find them for a little cheaper than that.”
But the upper echelon teams go through them so quickly that the cars still have lots of life left in them by the time a NASA racer gets hold of one. The cars themselves are essentially bulletproof. They are built to race every week for 400 to 600 miles at a time, so even a full weekend of NASA racing barely taxes the car at all.
“The good thing about a lot of this stuff is you’ve got all these Cup teams that do nothing but test this and run this stuff nonstop, so there is no question whether it’s going to last or hold up,” Romito said, comparing it with production-based racecars, which sometimes fall short of the mark when used for racing.
Romito admits that sponsors helped out a great deal with his car, which he estimates to have invested $17,000 as you see it. The best part, he said, was how cheap and plentiful replacement parts are. And they’re not just cheap in his area, but everywhere. All you need is an Internet connection. How cheap, you ask?
Romito started rattling off some of the prices he paid for replacement parts, which might not be new, but might have seen only have a few laps or less than a couple of hours of use. New frront brake pads can be had for $25 a set, and last up to three weekends of racing. Front rotors are $50 a set. That’s less than you’ll pay for front brakes on a Spec Z. Upper control arms? How about $7? Yes, seven dollars. Romito has bought Sprint Cup oil pans for $100, a C&R Racing radiator for $150, a clutch disc and pressure plate for $30 and a Richard Childress Racing bellhousing for $30. He recently bought an entire exhaust system, headers and all for $300!
The cars run 15-inch wheels, so a full set of new Goodyears are $700, which is about what you’d pay for a set of 15-inch Toyos for a Spec E30. Romito and his father Matt found a deal on a set of tires from a local team. They got 60 of them for $800. So now Romito has what amounts to a new set of tires for each weekend he takes to the track.
“They were running at Hickory, which is a little oval, roundy-round track,” he said. “Their sponsor bought all these tires and they would go and test. So all these tires have 10 or 15 laps, and we’re talking about a three-eighths mile track, so they only have a few miles on them and my dad bought all of them for $800. So I have 200 some odd tires, which are basically scuffs, at our shop right now.”
The biggest expense, he admits, is fuel. His team mixes 93 and 110 octane, which they burn at the rate of 20 gallons per hour. But the cars work great for road racing, he said. You don’t realize how fast they are and how tight they’ll turn. They look big on track, but the weight of the car with him in it is 2,850 pounds.
“It’s so cheap,” he said. “You can go to Roush Yates, which is probably the biggest parts place in Mooresville, and they buy from a lot of the teams getting out. Literally, you walk in there and you get a buggy. It’s like going to Toys ‘R’ Us for big kids. Everything you want is in there. If you can’t find it, they don’t make it.”
MAR Racing’s 2009 Roush Racing 105-inch chassis, Ford Fusion
|2,850 lbs. with driver
|Carbureted Chevrolet LS1, roughly 550 rwhp
|Front: Double A-arm, “big spring” 350-pound springs, 1 11/16 sway bar, Penske shocks
Rear: Ford 9-inch axle, 450 pound springs, Penske fully adjustable
|Goodyear Eagle, 15-inch wheel, 27 x 10
|Front: 6-piston AP Racing, steel disc
Rear: AP Racing, steel disc
|Magnolia Business Centre, Timberlake Foods, Vector Transport, Heritage Memorial Funding, Eagle Financial, Southern Belle Refrigeration, Aire Estess, Quarterley Racing Services, Jason Hogan Designs, Hancock Performance, Davis Machine Works, Custom Cages, Expressions Fine Photography and Driven Steering.