Peter Kroner, director of business development for Eli & Ali’s, a distributor of organic and high-quality conventional produce in Brooklyn, NY, will race his dragster July 1-3 in the Race Tech-Jegs Summer Series Shootout at Atco Raceway in Atco, NJ. The event marks his re-entry into racecar driving.
Mr. Kroner started racing in New York in 1967. He has raced at Dover Racetrack in Dover, NY, at the Westhampton Drag Strip on Long Island and at National Speedway in Center Moriches, NY.
“I raced throughout my younger years, primarily with cars owned by other people,” said Mr. Kroner. “Due to time restraints caused by business, I had to give it up in the late 1970s and 1980s, but I’ve stayed connected to the sport since 1970, and I’ve remained a member of the National Hot Rod Association, which is now in its 60th year.
“In 1993, I returned to the circuit with my own car in the super pro category,” he continued. “I started with a 1993 new body-style Camaro, which was built into a full-blown racecar by 1999. That car won awards from Hot Rod magazine and was written about in several other magazines.”
In 2001, he had a dragster built, explaining, “These cars are all cookie-cutters. You buy the components that you want — from the gauges to the steering rack, battery, engine and everything else — from the manufacturers who specialize in them.”
At the time, Mr. Kroner was just beginning his relationship with Eli & Ali’s, and again had little time to dedicate to racing. He sold the car in 2005 and stayed out of the sport for five years. But recently, he was inspired to begin again.
The handicap-elimination system race on the July 4 weekend has the expectation of a 200-car field. Mr. Kroner explained that one car may run the course in six seconds, and another might run it in 7.2 seconds.
Mr. Kroner’s car is a highly specialized chassis configuration that only a few manufacturers build to be used as a top dragster, referring to the speed index of six seconds or less. That means the car will race at speeds between 180mph and 200mph.
Mr. Kroner’s close association with Dominic Balducci, owner of Balducci’s Car Care Experts in Cherry Hill, NJ, support from Eli & Ali’s and his love for racing prompted him to start racing once again. Mr. Balducci is considered to be among the better mechanics in the state, and he was named Courier Post Readers Choice Best Mechanic of South Jersey. Aside from his expertise, he has been considered a top-10-best bracket racer of super-pro top dragsters in the country for many years. When he started racing in the 1980s, he quickly advanced to the top by building and tuning cars.
“Dominic gave me an opportunity to purchase one of his older cars, and together we upgraded it to today’s level of drag racing,” said Mr. Kroner. “There is a tremendous amount of time-consuming logistics involved in getting the cars to and from the race tracks, which I used to do on my own. Dominic is now doing that for me, which reduces the amount of time I need to dedicate to it. That’s time I need for Eli & Ali’s.”
Mr. Balducci’s son, Bryan (Chicken) Balducci, also races alongside his father. The three men work together as teammates. They race against each other only if they get to the finals.
Mr. Kroner said that his passion for drag racing is the same as his passion for the produce business.
Eli & Ali’s name is on Mr. Kroner’s and the Balducci cars recognition and for the company’s sponsorship of the dragsters.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world at this time in my life,” said Mr. Kroner. “My relationship with Marc Ross and Jeffrey Ornstein, partner-owners of Eli & Ali’s, has permitted me to grow a wonderful business. Dominic, who I’ve known for 20 years, committed me to racing. Combined, these people have given me the opportunity to go back to my roots and my love for drag racing.”