Miniature racers compete in Groton


Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dominic Fuller takes his modified microd around the track Saturday at Hillcrest Raceway in Groton. BELOW: Racers head out on the track Saturday.


Staff Reporter

GROTON — The smells of hamburgers, hotdogs, charcoal and gasoline mingle in the air as the 5-horsepower engines sound off in high pitched crackles and pops. The kids have their favorite NASCAR racer’s number painted on the aluminum panels of their homemade microds, along with their own names and local sponsors.
The young drivers’ big helmets make their heads seem out of proportion with the little cars as they zip around the tenth of a mile track, at Hillcrest Raceway, home the Mid-State Microd Club.
With ages ranging from 5 to 18 years old and six different ability groups for the racers to participate in, the track holds 12 races per year on Friday nights. Last weekend, however, was a special event as the track at Elm Street and Wood Road hosted its yearly state race, one of four held throughout the New York every season.
“We weren’t fast enough so we have to go back and change the gears,” Bruce Crandell, father of 7-year-old racer Tyler said afterward. “We’ve got to drop a tooth and lower the gear ratio so our top end speed is as good as everyone else’s. We’re holding our own but the lead car is just a little bit faster.”
While waiting in line to get weighed after Tyler had just finished a heat in the Junior Novice class, Crandell, a Homer resident, explained that the car and racer together must weigh a combined 350 pounds and that although his son’s car can go as fast as 30 or 40 mph, microd racing is a very safe sport.
“The kids have a five-point harness, they have to wear gloves and a (state State Department of Transportation) approved helmet,” he said. “They have to wear long sleeves and wrist constraints. They put them around each one of their wrist so if the car rolls, it keeps their arms from going outside the car so that they don’t impact with the ground. They’re very safe.”
Although safety may not be a concern with these cars, maintenance certainly is. Many racers get businesses from their hometowns to sponsor them, which helps to cut the cost of buying or building the car. However, combine that with the regular maintenance of engine oil, gasoline and tires, not to mention what it might cost if the car is in a wreck, and parents are still paying hundreds of dollars per year out of pockets.
“I think the magic number is three,” Crandall laughed. “Engine needs an overhaul, $350. A new clutch is $300, tachometer, that’s another $300.”
Bruce’s wife, Julie, said she and her husband presented their son with the idea of racing and since he started doing it, he loves it.
“We kind of met a couple people that were doing it and we thought we would see if he had a knack for it and he seems to,” she said. “You can see the grin from the back of his head. It’s the best.”
After his race, Tyler climbed through the top of the car’s roll cage and slid down its bars with a smile on his face.
“I like passing and trading paint,” the third grader at Homer Elementary School said. “The hardest part is passing the cars because they try to shove you off the track.”
This high-speed sport is by no means just for boys. There were several girls of all ages in Groton on Saturday, including Ariel Corl, of the Quick Chick Racing Team. The 15-year-old who sports a black car with a pink roll cage and pink flames said she has been racing for five years and that her stepfather got her interested in the sport.
“When I first got out here I was little nervous, then it ended up being one of my favorite things to do,” said the tenth grader from Groton High School. “We have to work on the tires a lot because one tire can throw you off. And we have to keep everything clean and there can’t be a lot of grease on anything.”
Stephanie Smith, whose father, Jim, is the president of the Syracuse Microd Club, said she is in her second year of racing and started after she watched her 5-year-old cousin race.
“You just have to know what you’re talking about and know how to control your car,” said the Schenectady High School student. “I have to know how to change my oil, change my gears and make sure everything is tightened.”
Next April Smith will turn 16 and looks forward to getting out on the road. When asked if racing might translate into speeding tickets, she just grinned.



County may create lawyer position

Staff Reporter

In an effort to save money spent on assigning private attorneys to handle public defense cases, the county Legislature will vote at its July 27 meeting on a local law that would establish a conflict attorney’s office.
The Cortland County Public Defender’s Office now outsources about 450 cases per year, according to Public Defender Keith Dayton. The assigned counsel is paid $75 per hour for felony and Family Court cases and $60 per hour for misdemeanor cases.
Situations where an assigned counsel — or a conflict attorney — might be needed include instances where the public defender may have a history with a particular client, situations where there is more than one defendant and situations where there is a scheduling conflict.
Although the conflict attorney would not be able to handle all of those cases, and assigned counsel would still be necessary at times, having a full-time position devoted to handling such cases would likely save the county money, Dayton said.
“If they can hire a conflict defender and pay a salary rather than an hourly rate, in theory the conflict attorney could handle more cases and cost less money,” said Dayton, who roughly estimated that creating the position could save about $50,000 per year. “It definitely appears to have worked in other counties that way.”