Remembering A Legend,
On And Off The Track
While I sat here on Sunday evening putting together a piece that will be here in the coming weeks, I received the news none of us wanted or ever expected to hear - Terry Roma had passed away.
Terry was an incredible man. His smile, that never left his face I might add, could instantly lift your spirits at the track. I’ve been a member of the staff at Scotia Speedworld for the past five years and that smile has brought a similar one to mine on many occasions during that time. His passion and dedication to this sport was undeniable and his determination and never-give-up attitude on and off the track was admirable, making him a fan favorite to many who frequented the Speedworld.
For those who came to the racetrack to see the bright yellow and green #38 Pontiac Grand Prix, there was much more behind the wheel than just a driver. When I think of Terry Roma, I think of the man who always took time out at the track to visit with me when I made my rounds, whether it be in the pit area itself or in the lineup, where he and his brother Lockie would usually be awaiting the opening of the gates at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. We did a fair amount of bench racing in that lineup prior to those gates opening over the past few years. We’d chat about the Sportsman car, the night of racing ahead of us and the weather among other things. He would ask me about the [Pro Stock] Tour, how the racing was at our away races and where we were going this week.
At the 2010 Test ‘n Tune, I was just fresh off a visit to Spring Carlisle, which is one of the biggest car shows in North America and I remember Terry saying he saw the pictures of the show on my Facebook page and asked about the ’71 Chevelle that Thunder car driver Kyle MacMillan and I had brought back from Pennsylvania. We swapped car and travel stories outside the Tech Shed that afternoon and that’s something I’ll always remember about Terry.
As nice and courteous as he was off the track, Terry was a fierce competitor when that green flag flew. He never thought about points, and that’s probably what contributed to him being classified as such a good “point racer.” Terry was consistent as any other competitor on track and it would be a rare sight to see the #38 Doug Forbes Century 21 Classic Grand Prix out of the top five when that checkered silk was in the wind. He earned the championships he won in the Street Stock and Sportsman classes with that model of consistency but would constantly tell me “that P word” was nowhere near his mind. Let’s put it into perspective - Terry’s rookie year in the Sportsman class, according to ScotiaSpeedworld.ca, was 2003. In that time between ’03 and his last full time season in 2009, Terry’s finished in the top two positions in the standings a staggering five of those seven seasons with his worst finish in points coming in his rookie year (sixth place).
In his last full time season in 2009, he tied for the point championship (that he had won the prior year) with then sophomore Jeff Dillman. Jeff poured the pressure on late in the season after Terry had began the season strong and at the end, they were even at 1166 points a piece. The tiebreaker went to wins and Jeff had won more than Terry that season, giving him his first of two Sportsman championships. On the other hand, Terry was handed what would be his fourth runner up finish in the standings in six years but again, that smile never left his face and was almost as big as the year before, when he edged out long-time rival Harry Ross White by five points for the 2008 championship.
When it came to special events, The Shriner’s Classic was Terry’s playground. Throughout his career, he won the race thrice, the only driver in the 17 year history of the race to do so and was also the only driver to win back-to-back Classics in 2004 and 2005. The only other drivers to win multiple Classics? Harry Ross White, Craig Slaunwhite and Jeff Dillman. Pretty elite company right there if you ask me. One of the Classics that I’ll always remember though was the 2010 edition of the race. Though the history books will show Cape Sable Island’s Colby Smith as the champion of the 16th Annual Shriner’s Classic, it was Terry who pushed the young gun to his limits on Saturday, August 28th. Terry and Colby both worked their way to the front of the field in what was a rough and tumble race for some of the other top contenders in the division and had themselves on the front row of a restart with three laps remaining in the 50-lap race. Terry, who started on the inside of the final restart, made Colby earn that win as Colby had to muscle his way around the outside of the #38 to take the win away on that evening.
Terry, who raced the latter part of 2010 with his chemotherapy treatment taped to his arm, climbed from his Sportsman car on the front straightaway that night to a huge standing ovation from the Speedworld crowd. Being the gentleman he has been throughout his career, Terry congratulated Colby and commended him on a fantastic drive. “It’s great to run with a great bunch of guys out here,” said Terry after climbing from his car. “This young man (Colby) can wheel a race car, he’s going places.” Colby was very appreciative of Terry’s words and spoke highly of the man he had to pass to win the coveted Classic trophy. “There are a lot of big names on this trophy,” remarked Colby when checking out the snowglobe he had won for the first time. “Terry’s name is on here three times and there are guys on here that are racing in Pro Stock now. This is a big deal!”
Last February I had got the message from Terry that everyone had been waiting for, the cancer he had been fighting was in remission. As outlined in this column 14 months ago, Terry had told me that he knew he had a long road ahead, but he could not wait to get back to the track to do what he loved - racing his #38 at Scotia Speedworld. “I’m looking forward to making laps again with all of my racing buddies and seeing all my fans and the fans who support each and every driver and team out there. Without their love and dedication to the sport, we as drivers wouldn’t have a place to play,” Terry said on that February evening.
Moments like that showed that Terry’s passion and dedication to this sport was tremendous. Just six months later, the disease had returned and after consultation with doctors, Terry relinquished the seat of his #38 car to a man that he had some incredible battles with in the Scotia Speedworld Sportsman division - Shawn Turple. Terry accompanied the car as it rolled into the Tech Shed on the evening of the 2011 Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman 100 with the 2009 Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour champ in the seat. I was taking care of the pill draw and while I could see in Terry’s eyes that he wanted to be at the helm of the car, the smile on his face was as big as it was on any race night. “If I can’t be behind the wheel, my first choice would be Shawn,” said Terry as he drew for the heat race starting position of the #38. Terry was the grand marshal for the evening’s main feature as he gave the command to send his peers underway for 100-laps of racing.
The two both moved up to the Sportsman class in the early 2000’s, Shawn from Hobby Stocks and Terry from Street Stocks. Some of my earliest memories as a race fan were sitting in the stands watching a yellow #38 and a blue and white #72 run side-by-side for numerous, clean laps. I can remember an undercard race when the Pro Stocks were at Scotia when the two ran door-to-door for nearly the full 50-lap duration of the event. The smile on Shawn’s face when he sat in the #38 car rolling through tech that afternoon was as big as I’d ever seen it in years and you could tell the pilot of the #0 Pro Stock was having fun, just as Terry, Lockie and the rest of the team had every time they were at the track. The duo teamed up again for Finale Friday to complete the season.
Scotia Speedworld will be different in its 25th season without Terry at the track. His dedication, passion and approach to life on and off the track along with that smile was inspirational to all of those that knew him. Dictionary.com defines “hero” as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” That definition easily describes the man I knew who drove the #38 Sportsman car at Scotia Speedworld and I am honored to call Terry Roma one of my heroes.
My condolences go out to the Roma family and all his friends.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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