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WNY Auto Racing: Carbone clan competes at Holland

Racing has long been a family activity in Western New York, whether it be in the pits, on the track, or in the grandstand. Over the last few seasons, the Carbones have turned it into an extended family activity at Holland Motorsports Complex.

What started out as a racing venture long ago between brothers Lou and Joe Carbone now includes their sons and nephew Chris Powers. The team is called Da-Go Fast Racing, and all hail from South Buffalo.

Lou Carbone Sr. has two sons, Louis Jr. and Dylan, racing at Holland in the Hornet division. Joe Carbone assists his son Tony with two cars, one in Hornets and the other in NASCAR Pro Modifieds. The NASCAR Pro Modified is owned by Elma’s Gene Stevenson. Powers races in the Hornets.

Powers, Tony and Louis Jr., reside in the third through fifth spots in the Hornet points race. Dylan, who is racing part time, is 14th in the Hornet standings. Tony is also a rookie in the track’s top division – the NASCAR Pro Modifieds – where he is ninth in points.

Tony will run the longest race of his career when the NASCAR Pro Modified field takes the green flag Saturday in the 14th George Decker Memorial 100.

“This is going to be a real challenge because there will be a lot of different cars coming from different tracks, and I’ve never ran a race over 50 laps before,” said Tony. “My dad will be spotting for me and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Unlike his other family drivers, Tony races in two classes each night at Holland —the entry level Hornets as well as the NASCAR Pro-Modifieds. So, he must adjust his driving style each night.

“There is a big speed difference between the two classes,” said Tony, 23, the 2010 Holland Hornet Rookie of the Year. “I run low 18-second laps in the four cylinder Honda Civic Hornet car that I drive in the Hornets, which is front wheel drive. The Pro Modified can do laps in the high 14-second bracket at Holland and has rear wheel drive.

The cars steer and drive completely different and everything happens so much quicker in the Pro Modified.”

“Because I’ve been in Hornets five years and am a rookie in the Pro Modifieds my goals this season are to win the Hornet championship and to have a good learning year in the Pro Modifieds.”

Louis Carbone Jr., 22, has been in the Hornets for three years and, after taking Holland Hornet Rookie honors in 2011, earned the track’s Hornet Most Improved Driver award a year ago.

“I’ve had some heat wins but I won my first and only career Hornet feature race at Holland last year,” Louis Jr. said. “I bought the video of that race and sometimes I watch it to psyche myself up. It’s an honor because my dad and I have the same name, that my name is on the family race car now just like his was when he raced with his car. My car is not the prettiest in the pits but it runs pretty good.”

Dylan Carbone is the youngest driver in the family at 17, but due to an earlier career start, he has as much on-track experience as his older family members.

“I have four years racing time in the Hornets, too, because I started racing when I was just 14,” said Dylan. “For some reason I loved working on cars since I was little and when I was 14 my dad and I built a Hornet car together and as long as we had the car built we thought that I should race it.

“I graduated from Bishop Timon in June and am starting college at Buffalo State. That, plus with other stuff going on, I’m just racing part time this season.”

Powers, 23, a four-year Hornet racing veteran, nearly won the Hornet title at Holland last season, placing just a couple of points behind champion Jeff Szafraniec.

He is hoping to do better this season but sits in third place behind potent Dice Racing teammates Szafraniec and Ben Russo. Powers is grateful to his father Ray Powers for all his support.

“It’s a tough class because everyone is competitive, especially Dice Racing,” said Powers, who won twice at Holland last year. “I must make sure I finish every race. Even though we all have our cars at the same shop and work on them together, all of us have to go out and do our own sponsorship searches and find our own sponsors.”

Powers has one victory this season at Holland.

Lou Carbone Sr., recalls his racing career as being fun but says that watching the younger members of the Carbone clan develop their own careers has been rewarding.

“I raced Super Stocks at Lancaster and NASCAR Chargers at Holland back in the 1990s,” said Lou Sr. “I stopped racing when we had our kids because the kids came first. I continued to help my brother Joe as his fabricator and crew chief. Now it’s neat how I am back in the racing with my brother Joe helping our kids and nephew all together.”

Joe also has retired as a driver and has turned over his NASCAR Pro Modified to Tony.

“I started driving at Holland in 1983, and in 1989 I went to Lancaster and have gone back and forth at both tracks through the years,” said Joe. “I never won a championship in any of the classes I competed in but had some wins. I am enjoying the racing we are all doing now and I hope that Tony and everyone on our teams can compete for years to come.

“I finished third in the George Decker Memorial last year, and I told Tony that by being around until the end of that race is a big part of trying to get a good finish in this big race.”