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Dirt America Column
by Doc Lehman


It’s always a treat to run into Mike Balzano, the talented 43-year-old Parkersburg, WV businessman and that’s what I did last Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Wayne County Speedway. Having known ‘Blazo’ for well over 20 years it’s amazing to consider he is now nearly an ‘elder statesman’ in dirt Late Model racing. As usual the conversation served to catch us up on what has transpired so far this season.
“It started out pretty good but the past couple months has been pretty bad,” revealed Balzano. “Actually I think last night at Skyline we finally hit on a few things and got pretty good. We started in the back and made it up to fifth and we ran pretty good here tonight at one of my old home tracks I could almost call it, I ran so much here years ago at Wayne County Speedway.”

Balzano finished third at WCS driving his famed Polino Contractors, Eddie’s Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tires, Turbo Blue Racing Fuel sponsored Rocket Chassis/Cornett Racing Engines #E1.
“The car was good tonight and I think we finally picked up a little bit last night,” continued Balzano. “We still aren’t where we need to be but we’re getting closer. It’s been a tough couple months to run that bad when I know we can run better, just had some misfortune.”

But Blazo feels better about the remainder of the season. “Yes I really do,” said Balzano. “We just picked up a new car this morning and I have a new motor coming this week to finish the year out with so hopefully we can get everything together this week and be ready for the rest of the season.”

Balzano is once again committed to the MACS series and is looking forward to their upcoming races. “It’s a good little series and I’d like to see them get a few more races,” commented Balzano. “The smaller regional series like MACS and the IRS seem to be struggling to get more races and I don’t know why. Both series are good series and have good cars following them and have a good show. But the two national series, the World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil series have plenty of shows and are doing well, we just have to pick up the regional deals and make them a little better. It’s better for the racers, better for the fans and it should be better for the tracks.”

Balzano also confirmed that the talent and level of parity has reached new heights. “The deal now is everyone has the same equipment and everyone is fast,” said Balzano. “Five years ago it wasn’t like that but like everyone here has a high dollar motor and car and the best equipment you can get and that’s everywhere now and that makes it tough. It’s definitely a pretty even playing field.”

This coming weekend Balzano will be back on the road once again. “We have Bedford next Friday which is a MACS race,” said Balzano. “Will probably hit the World of Outlaws race at Hagerstown in a couple weeks and to be honest I’m can’t remember what we have planned for the next several weeks but we’ll be racing. We lost a few races at the beginning of the year because of rain and lately it seems like when there is one good race close to home then there is another one the same night so we have had to pick between races where want to go to. Right now we’re down about ten races from where we were last year.”

Invariably whenever Blazo and I meet up the conversation always turns to family and Blazo, a proud papa to be sure of two beautiful daughters, always beams when the subject of Brittany and Olivia comes up.

“My oldest daughter Brittany turns 15 tomorrow and in West Virginia you can get your driving permit at 15 and she will be ready for that on Monday,” Balzano explained. “The gray hair is coming, I try to keep it cut out though (laughs)! It’s scary but she’s a good kid. I have let her drive some around the house. We have a good size lot there close to the house. She’s good. She’s cautious right now. But you know what they are like when you turn them loose on their own. Olivia is my youngest girl and she will turn 10 next month and she’s a pistol (laughs)! She’s a piece of work.”

Obviously a ‘daddy’s’ girl in the truest sense.

“Yeah, she went to the races with me for the first time this year last night and I think I had more fun at the races last night than I have all year,” chuckled Balzano. “I have a good wife (Deena). She takes care of everything while I’m gone. She’s a good woman and has put up with a lot with me for a long time.”


SCOTT PELTZ: Last Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Wayne County Speedway during their Ohio Super Late Model Speedweek Firecracker 4 presented by Hoosier Tire Mid Atlantic I ran across Scott Peltz of Cadiz, OH, a long time dirt Late Model racer who has won countless features and has always represented himself as a class act on and off the track. Known as ‘Batman’, I first got to know Peltz 20 years ago when I promoted WCS and over the years he has continued to win races and maintain a solid reputation. These days Peltz is a hired gun and still enjoying himself driving the Hartman Motorsports/Malcuit Racing Engines #77 GTO.
As is the case the talk turned to the sport itself. “The competition is tough, like tonight there are 31 cars here and 25 can win the race,” stated Peltz. “You have to keep getting faster every week. Five years ago you could be off a little bit and still win.”

Peltz likes the bigger shows for a variety of reasons, notably the competition and the purse. “I see it as a big trend,” said Peltz. “They are kind of running the little guy out. I mean, like last night at Hilltop they had 12 cars, 15 cars at Midway, that’s pretty bad. But I think with bigger races like tonight that pay more do better with the crowds, I really do. You could see that last night. You could shoot a gun into the stands at Midway and not hit anyone and there was no place to sit there Monday night (for the Jim Dunn Memorial).”

Peltz is an independent racer, rarely chases points (his last points championship was the Xtreme DirtCar Series Weekly championship series title) and likes hitting up a variety of tracks.

“For the rest of the year we’ll probably do the same as we’re doing now, just bumping around and wherever we feel like going it seems like the thing to do,” explained Peltz. “Back in the mid-90’s we were winning 12 to 14 races a year but we were racing at 16 or 17 different race tracks. I want to try and run more race tracks but it’s so hard anymore. The cost of fuel kills you.”

“We just plan it week to week. Coming here was spur of the moment. We didn’t originally plan on coming but we did and it seemed to work out.”

I mentioned to Peltz that his demeanor seemed a lot more laid back and asked if not worrying about points chasing takes pressure off. “It really does,” said Peltz. “Everybody on this team works for a living. We couldn’t go to Muskingum Tuesday because we went racing Monday and everyone had to work and it seems like that’s fine. As long as we can take a car out, race and bring it back in one piece these guys are happy. And if you win or run up front that makes it better.”

Peltz has nothing but good to say about ‘these guys’.

“The team and crew, they do a good job for me, they really do. My car owner is Paul Kartman, Sr., and Paul Kartman, Jr., and their son Jeremy and my son Ethan have been helping this year. It’s a lot of fun and its getting to the point if its not fun there is no point in coming because this winning every night isn’t happening anymore.”
I asked Peltz if, despite having raced for so long, if he was still having fun. “Yeah, when we started this it was my Dad, Guff Peltz and Nolan Bowers who owned the car and we all worked and I was like a slave to it,” explained Peltz. “And then back in ’92 I started driving for Gator Harris and I talked to Mark Richards a few times and he said if you’ve been doing this for 20 years you don’t need to be owning them and working on them. You need to put your input in and do the driving and other things. I like driving it and it seems like a pretty good mix right now.”

So he likes being a hired gun?
“Yes, yes I do! Maybe in a few years that may change. My kids right now are 12 and 16 and they are into karate, ball and all that stuff and you can do all that stuff on a Saturday afternoon and still go race. Where before you couldn’t even go on a Thursday night.”

“I get along good with these guys and it’s like a family affair thing. There is no pressure. Once I went out and tore the car up and I came back in and I said, ‘Sorry!’ and they said what happened and I said didn’t you see it? I wrecked. And they said we have never had a driver said ‘they’ wrecked (laughs)!”

“Monday we went to that UMP race and I hit the wall in my heat race and they were only taking two. So I went from the tail and worked my way up through the field and passed Mike Marlar on the last lap to make the feature so they were happy with that. I got a kick out of that too. Mike is a pretty good friend of mine now.”

Peltz, who ran Rocket Chassis for many years, is now in a Mastersbilt and he has no complaints. “I ran this car two years ago and I hated it,” revealed Peltz. “And then I started being good friends with Mike Marlar and he started helping me a little bit so we got it back out this year and started working with it and it seems to be working pretty good for me. We have a good package.”

Peltz may also have an extended role in racing soon, that of a car owner once again with his own ‘hired guns’.
“My family, they are doing really well,” said Peltz. “My daughter Paige just got a job this week. My son Ethan is probably two months a way from being a black belt and he’s 12. I told him that will probably be a plus when Dad gets older (laughs)! I just bought a Modified for the two of them so next year I will probably let them mess around with that. They are both kind of shrugging their shoulders about racing it and don’t really knows.”

“My daughter really wants to. But I’m not going to put any pressure on them, if they want to drive it fine, and if they don’t that’s OK. Right now my boy has been all hepped up about driving and for the past six weeks he’s been coming with us and helping and now he’s kind of liking the crew chief part of it. I told him there is probably more money in that than driving one of these things.”

So does Peltz have a good vibe about the rest of the season? “I think it will go well,” said Peltz. “When I am standing around with a big smile on my face these guys, they all smile. I’m pretty easy to tell when something isn’t going right. It seems pretty good right now every place we go.”

©2007 Doc Lehman/Dirt America

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