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Riverhead Raceway Owners Look Ahead To Next Season

Barbara and Jim Cromarty reflect on their shared love for racing and for the fans and drivers who are as close as family.

On Saturday afternoon, just before 4 p.m., cars were pouring into the parking lot of Riverhead Raceway on Route 58 in Riverhead.

Saturday marked the last race of the season, and, sitting in their office, which is adorned with photos, plaques and trophies garnered over the 36 years that Jim and Barbara Cromarty have owned Riverhead Raceway, the couple reflected on the business, and on the drivers and fans who have become more like a family. 

The couple, who have been married 49 years, first began their career organizing a county fair. When promotors were needed for Islip Speedway, which no longer exists, the Cromartys signed on. Soon after, they were asked to promote Riverhead Raceway, which celebrated its 63rd season in 2012, and the pair began a journey that has lasted over three decades.

Before the began promoting the Islip track, Barbara Cromarty laughed, "We had never seen a race before."

But soon, the Cromartys became a fixture on the racing scene, with their quarter mile track drawing scores of fans to Saturday nights that also include family friendly events such as fireworks, monster truck expos, and school bus demolitions.

Countless memories colored the Cromartys' conversation, as they recalled moments such as celebrating the track's 50th anniversary, and the sea of Saturday nights during which fans are able to party in the pit with drivers, sharing barbecues and the comaraderie that they said makes the racing community extraordinary and Riverhead Raceway unique.

"Riverhead is very special," Barbara Cromarty said.

Perhaps nothing drew the Riverhead Raceway family closer than the tragic death last October of Jason Trinca, 7, a star go-kart racer at the track, and his mother, Keri Trinca; the two were killed in a tragic Manorville car crash.

This year, the Cromartys had Jason's number, 48, memorialized at the finish line; an event was also held to help Jay Trinca and his two children, Marialena and Christopher.

Looking back, Jim Cromarty said along with the countless happy memories, one frightening moment stands out -- the night Barbara was almost killed in 1993 when a car crashed into the gate, leaving Barbara with eight broken ribs, torn ligaments and a punctured lung.

But, Barbara Cromarty said, with her husband's love, she made a quick recovery.

"That, to me, was a miracle," he said.

The racing family, the Cromartys say, has always been close -- including their own four daughters Robin, Deborah, Meryl and Joyce, who grew up at the track.

And, thoughout the years, operating under the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing banner, the Cromartys have been close to Bill France, founder of NASCAR. 

The business of racing has changed dramatically over the years, morphing from small family-owned tracks to a "gigantic" billion dollar international industry, Barbara Cromarty said.

But, despite the stratospheric ascent to worldwide success, racing has stayed true to its family-oriented roots, with Riverhead Raceway a place where families come every week to share their passion for racing -- and their lives.

The business, said Barbara Cromarty, "is like a child to us. It encompasses our lives."

Their deep love for the raceway, Jim Cromarty said,  is the reason why they've never accepted multiple offers to sell the parcel on which the track is situated.

The Cromartys assure they will be back next season, and, when the day comes when they do decide to sell, they will seek a buyer who shares their vision of keeping Riverhead Raceway alive for generations.

"We have thousands of poeple that count on coming to Riverhead Raceway," Barbara Cromarty said. "We feel that obligation."

The Cromartys also believe in giving back to the Riverhead community; on Friday, the first of over 70 trees the couple donated to Riverhead after a NASCAR-sponsored event was planted at the town's animal shelter.

Racing, Barbara Cromarty added, runs deep in the hearts of the fans and drivers who devote their lives to the sport. "Racers sacrifice an awful lot," she said, adding that the sport is expensive and drivers dedicate countless hours to following their dream. "This is their lives," she said.


Bob Mannara October 02, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I think your race track days are numbered,becaiuse the dinosaurs who run riverhead wont allow a drag strip in calverton.Eventually all the people in the hotels near the track will complain about the noise and another race track will bite the dust..nice knowing ya !!
Jeff Rogers October 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
its grandfatherd in
C.D.D. October 02, 2012 at 10:43 PM
THE Cromarty FAMILY HAVE DONE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO ENHANCE THE RACING FAN'S EXPERIENCE OVER THE YEARS. THE BATHROOMS HAVE BEEN AND CONTINUE TO BE DEPLORABLE. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES. I AM A TRUE RACING FAN AND 51 YEARS OF AGE. I FIRST WENT TO RIVERHEAD RACEWAY WHEN I WAS 8 YEARS OLD. I HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT I WILL NOT SUBJECT MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER TO THESE CONDITIONS AT A PRICE THAT IS NOT COMENSURATE WITH THE LEVEL OF SIMPLE CIVILIZED CONDITIONS THAT SHOULD BE AVAILABLE TO THE PAYING CUSTOMER. I DO TRAVEL TO OTHER RACE TRACKS IN THE TRI-STATE AREA AND NORTHEAST IN GENERAL AND RIVERHEAD RACEWAY IS FAR AND AWAY THE WORST RACETRACK. THE FOOD IS TERRIBLE AND OVER-PRICED AND GENERALLY SPEAKING SHOULD BE CONDEMNED FOR IT'S HORRIBLE CONDITION. THE Cromarty FAMILY KNOW THEY ARE THE ONLY TRACK ON LONG ISLAND SO ALL THEY DO IS SUCK THE $$$ OUT AND INVEST NOTHING. WHAT A SHAME !!!!!!
L.I.M.A. October 02, 2012 at 11:09 PM
CDD has some legitimate arguments. When the 100' drags came to RR the motorsports community supported it so the powers that be could come and see a small percentage of our family that is displaced from having no facility. When we were done meeting with politicians there and donating our money to RR and the 100' drags business we had hoped the cromartys would have seen the need and hoped they would have met with us to open an area in the pit section and extend the area by pushing out the gate in the back...... But No instead we were told "we aren't satisfied with 100', drag racing is a sport that uses 1320' and 100' is not the sport and we aren't satisfied with 100'. They weren't interested in even trying, while I do believe back in the day things were different and they had a love of motorsports I question if there still is that same Passion some of us have. Other business people would donate and help to make a 1/8 mile attempt there, still not 1320'. But it would be a place for many of us and help keep kids from trying there sport on the street when faced with nothing.... Then we could use the old abandonded navy air field / grumman, but certain politicians do not care about peoples lives and safety and just come up with lies not to do ANYTHING positive
Terrence Mckeever October 02, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Barbara & Jim thanks for all you do and keeping motor sports alive on Long Island where there many that want it to go away. I think you run a good show and have over the years. I with my family and and friends have never had a bad time there. To me it's America the way it use to be fireworks and all. Plus you give Finan something to do!

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