Category Archives: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes: Stafford

  • Whelen Mods Headline 45th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler Weekend
  • Solomito Hitting His Stride

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 19, 2016) – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour provides a difficult challenge to any newcomer hoping for immediate success. Veterans rule the roost, and have for a long time.

Timmy Solomito has experienced growing pains in his first few seasons like most drivers new to the tour. The tracks are unfamiliar. The competition is as stout as it is deep.

As the Whelen Modified Tour heads to Stafford Motor Speedway for Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200, the 24-year-old may be hitting his stride after three seasons of learning the ropes.

The second-generation Long Island racer had an average finish of 22nd through his first five races before showing his potential with a pole and a podium at his home track, Riverhead Raceway, in his sixth start. There were good runs early on, but consistent top finishes are a challenge for all competitors.

A 21st was followed by a fifth, followed by an 11th.

Solomito’s third season on the tour marked a turning point. Although his average finish only improved by one position from 2014 to 2015, there were fewer lower results and more top finishes. Solomito finished third in the last two races of the season, the first back-to-back podiums of his career.

The culmination of Solomito’s growth came in the 2016 opener. He drove away from 15-time winner Ryan Preece and into Victory Lane for the first time in his career on April 10 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

The focus now shifts to the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200. Solomito finished third in two of four trips to the historic half-mile last year. He will look to become the first driver since Ted Christopher in 2009 to record the Icebreaker-Spring Sizzler sweep.

RACE:  NAPA Spring Sizzler 200

PLACE:  Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway

DATE:  Sunday, April 24

TIME:  3:15 p.m. ET (approx.)

TRACK LAYOUT:  .5-mile, semi-banked asphalt oval

2015 WINNER:  Woody Pitkat

2015 POLESITTER:  Ryan Preece

EVENT SCHEDULE:  Saturday – Practice 10:45-11:20 a.m., Final Practice 12-12:45 p.m., Qualifying 2:30 p.m., Sunday – NAPA Pit Party Driver Autograph Session 11-11:50 a.m.

TRACK CONTACT:  Scott Running, 860-684-2783, scottrunning@staffordspeedway.com

TRACK TWITTER:  @StaffordSpeedwy

EVENT TWITTER HASHTAG:  #Sizzler2016

NASCAR CONTACT:  Jason Cunningham, 704-201-6658, jcunningham@nascar.com, Twitter: @NASCAR_NE

 

Fast Facts:

The Race:  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will headline Stafford Motor Speedway’s 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler Weekend, the first of four trips to the historic half mile in 2016. The NAPA Spring Sizzler will be the second of 17 events on the schedule.

The Procedure:  The maximum starting field per the official entry blank is 33 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 200 laps (100 miles) and three change tires allowed for the event.

The Track:  A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR-sanctioned track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967. Stafford’s 118 Whelen Modified Tour races are second all-time.

Race Winners:  There have been 32 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Stafford native Woody Pitkat is the defending winner of this race.

Pole Winners:  There have been 43 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Ryan Preece holds the tour’s track qualifying record at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph), set during the 2012 Spring Sizzler.

NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 Notes:

Rule of Four:  Fifteen of the last 16 checkered flags at Stafford Motor Speedway have been captured among a select group of four drivers. Doug Coby (6), Woody Pitkat (2), Ryan Preece (4) and Bobby Santos (3) have owned Victory Lane at Stafford since the beginning of 2012. Santos’ success extends further back to when he also won three of four in 2010-11.

 He’s Back:  After missing the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the first time since 1996, Ted Christopher will be back in a Whelen Modified Tour car at his home track this weekend. Christopher has transitioned to a part-time competitor this year, but kept the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” on his schedule. The nine-time weekly track titlist at Stafford has participated in every Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler race since 1994. Christopher has 12 tour wins overall at the track, including a record five in the Spring Sizzler.

 Brunnhoelzl Looks for Second Gen Win:  George Brunnhoelzl III will look to join his father on the list of all-time Whelen Modified Tour winners at Stafford this weekend. The four-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion will head north for the first time with his No. 28 Chevrolet that has won two of four southern two races this year. His father, George Brunnhoelzl Jr., won a 200-lap Whelen Modified Tour race at Stafford on Labor Day in 1986. The younger Brunnhoelzl made four starts at Stafford in 2010 with the No. 46 and recorded an average finish of 15th.

 Welcome Aboard:  Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 will see the Whelen Modified Tour debuts of Nick Salva and Walter Sutcliffe Jr. Salva recorded four feature wins last year in Stafford’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified division and plans to contend for top rookie honors in SK Modifieds in 2016. He also has plans for seven Whelen Modified Tour appearances. Sutcliffe has an assorted stock car background, including the former NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and more recently American-Canadian Tour late models. He ran an ACT car in last fall’s Thompson World Series.

 Extra Distance:  At 100 miles, Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 is the longest of the four trips to Stafford this year and the lengthiest short-track event on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule. The next race at the historic half-mile in June will be 125 laps while the August and October events are 150. The longest events of the season overall are at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where the tour runs 105.8 miles.

 Home Tracks:  SK Mods to Run 45 for 45

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified division will run a 45-lap feature on Sunday as a nod to this year’s NAPA Spring Sizzler being the 45th edition of Stafford Motor Speedway’s season-opening weekend. The headlining weekly division traditionally contests 40-lap features. Rowan Pennink is the defending SK Modified champion after he scored six wins, 17 top fives and 19 top 10s in 22 starts a year ago.

Timmy Solomito Now a Winner at Every Level

The Solomito family has been a part of racing on Long Island for  decades. The latest generation of Solomito racers, brothers Jerry, Shawn and Timmy have been regulars at the Riverhead Raceway for years. They have raced Legends, Chargers and Modifieds  at the 1/4 mile oval at the end of Long Island all with great support from family and friends.

IMG_8603_5759 (2)
A win in the INEX Legends feature at Riverhead.

Timmy  has always been a fan favorite at Riverhead,  many seasons ago he acquired the nickname “The Natural” as a smooth driver when he ran his legends. The nickname stuck as he won races in the Legends, Chargers and Modifieds  in family owned cars and driving for people like Wayne Anderson and the legendary red #15 modified.

Several years ago Timmy got a chance to see what modified racing was like at the highest levels. Ed Whelan who owned Ted Christopher’s tour modified gave Timmy a chance to drive the teams second car. A solid run at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park was only spoiled by a broken

IMG_5922
Timmy in the #66 Charger

oil line. That day Timmy showed the racing world he could wheel a race car at the bullrings and the larger, faster tracks.

Last weekend  Timmy Solomito won the biggest race of his career with the season opening NASCAR WMT Icebreaker 150 the  Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Timmy’s power move past Ryan Preece to take the lead for good late in the race cemented his first NASCAR WMT win.

Timmy has joined the long list of Long Island drivers that have ventured off the island and a shorter list that have won races at Thompson.  Drivers like  Charlie Jarzombek, Mike Ewanitsko, Steve Park and Greg Sacks left Long Island and found great success in the modifieds and beyond. A win at Thompson means you can compete with and beat the big boys.

Jul212012_0523
Getting ready to shake down the #1 Charlie Jarzombek Vega at Riverhead.

Charlie Jarzombek was an Icebreaker winner  30 years ago and now Timmy can claim that same title . Ironically several times Timmy has been asked to drive the  legendary #1 Vega restored by Charlies bother Rickey.  Amazingly with little track time in the cars  Timmy was always able to turn laps that would put him in the field of today’s race cars. One year he was turning times not far off the fastest modifieds racing that night made even more impressive by the fact that brake fluid was leaking into the cockpit making it tough to keep his feet on the petals.

When Sundays Icebreaker 150  started the front row of the race consisted  Xfinty regular Ryan Preece and last years champion Doug Coby, both heavy favorites to win that day. Timmy started  further back n 13th place and had to work his way forward. As he said we picked them off one by one then a great pit stop late in the race helped put Timmy near the front and put him in a position for the win.

IMG_0151
Timmy being pushed, out of fuel to victory lane after his Icebreaker win.

After the race Timmy spoke to the media on what it was like to win the Icebreaker. In typical  fashion Timmy humbly thanked the  team owner, crew, sponsors and every person who helped put him into a position to win. Last year was not the year they had hoped for but he never felt his job was in jeopardy. He credited a talk with Mike Stefanik during the week that helped him on his restarts which he admitted was not his strong point.

When asked what it meant to him to join the great Long Island drivers who have won races at Thompson Timmy said it was huge, everyone knows where it is on the  map. You always want to race and win at Thompson, plus to win your first one there is incredible.

One of the most amazing parts of Sundays victory was the fact Timmy’s car started sputtering right after he crossed the finish line. By the time he got to the back stretch the engine shut off and he was out of gas. On the radio he kept telling his crew “I think I’m out of gas”. One more lap or one more caution and the outcome of the race might have been much different. Timmy’s  comment about running out of fuel after the race “Someone must have been watching over us today.”

I got to share a golf cart ride back to the pits long after  all he interviews were over and it was time to go home. It was pretty clear that his win was something he dreamed about a long time and the smile on his face was not going away any time soon. His last comment to me as we rode behind the empty grandstands back to pits the was I hope they give me the day off on Monday but it was back to work on Monday morning.

Timmy will try and back up the season opening win at next weekends Spring Sizzler at The Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs Ct.

 

Solomito Claims First NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Victory in Thompson Icebreaker

IMG_0163(THOMPSON, CT) – Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park hosted its 131st Whelen Modified Tour Event on Sunday, April 10th capping off an action packed weekend in the 2016 Icebreaker and kicking off the tour’s season schedule with a first time winner in victory lane.

Timmy Solomito was crowned the champion of the Icebreaker 150 after benefiting from a great pit stop that helped him earn the lead in the second half of the event and hold off series veterans Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore and defending champion Doug Coby to claim his first win in the series in his 36th start.

“I’ve been coming to Thompson many years watching races. It’s always been a dream of mine to turn right onto that stretch and turn into Victory Lane. To do it in such a great car with the 16 team really means a lot,” said Solomito. “I got my start with Wayne Anderson on the tour and it’s catapulted me to where I am now. I just can’t thank everybody who believed in me and has been behind me this whole time enough.”

Solomito took the lead after a great pit stop put him and Bonsignore ahead of Preece, who led the first 81 laps of the event. It would be several laps before Solomito was able to wrestle the lead away for good and set the pace for the remainder of the event. “The guys on the 16 had an incredible stop. We picked up a lot of track position there. We had a car that was very stable. We didn’t really kill it in the beginning, but we picked them off one by one. We got to the top 7 and then picked up the spots that we needed on pit road and that’s what helped us win,” he said.

Preece, who returned to the Modified Tour after racing several races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, said his race started strong, but he just did not have enough to best Solomito in the end. “They had a really good car,” Preece said after the race. “I thought we were going to have something for (Solomito).” Bonsignore and Coby held on to place 3rd and 4th respectively while Ron Silk rounded out the top five for a solid finish in the first event of the Modified Tour season.

The Sunoco Modified series kicked off the afternoon with big names vying for their first win of the season at the Big T. Series regulars Keith Rocco, Preece, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink led the field to green in the 30-lap feature with Rocco and Christopher reigniting their rivalry by engaging in a cat-and-mouse game all race long. The two survived a slew of cautions and two green-white-checker restarts to finish in the top two spots with Rocco’s extreme precision on each restart helping him hold on for the win.

Rocco said he enjoyed the hard fought battle with Christopher as he charged towards the checkered flag. “Ted is always fun to race with. Switching this tire compound, the racing is just like me and him in Waterford – There’s going to be a lot of good shows this year with the new Hoosier tire,” Rocco said.

While Rocco and Christopher celebrated great performances in the season opener, a few big names were not so fortunate. Series regular Rowan Pennink saw a good run go sour after spinning twice in the last few laps, causing the two green-white-checker restarts that ended the race. Reigning champion Woody Pitkat, who has experienced minimal mechanical setbacks over the past few years in the series, saw his day end early after a hard crash on lap 3 eventually led to mechanical failure later in the race. Ryan Preece started the race strong but had to fight back after an early pit stop to finish sixth.

The Vintage Outlaw series ran its second race at Thompson following its 2016 premier event on Saturday. Sunday’s race saw a repeat victory from Jim Lowrey who started up front and stayed there the entire race, fighting off challenges from Glen Boss and others to start the season off with a bang.

“When you come here twice and there’s double features you want to win both,” Lawrey said. “I feel pretty good. My car was very good both days. Today offered a little more bite off the corner, which was good. The other guys are getting racier so it’s going to get more interesting later on in the season.”

The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) saw a first time winner in its northern series season opener and third race of the national season with Garrett Hall of Scarborough, Maine who worked his way to the front 51 laps into the 75-lap feature and never looked back.

Hall beat out fellow young gun Derek Griffith to claim his first trophy in the series and said he was proud to come out on top at Thompson, a place where he is still a relatively green driver compared to others in the field. “I ran back here a couple years ago in the World Series and we finished in the top ten, not quite what I was hoping for but we came down here and got some track time. It paid off,” Hall said. “(Winning at Thompson) is something a lot of people don’t get to experience.”

The season opener for the Late Model series provided a familiar sight as the Rocco brothers, Keith and Jeff, fought for the lead for much of the 25-lap event before making contact on lap 18, taking each other out of the race. The incident caused substantial damage to both cars, including removing much of Keith Rocco’s roof. The two brothers shared some choice words on the track as safety officials responded to the crash and later continued their dispute in the infield while the race continued.

The front of the field continued to be the worst place to be for drivers in that event with Ernie LaRose, who inherited the lead after the restart, making hard contact with the turn one wall and also saw a potential race win fade away. Another caution would soon follow when Rick Gentes spun out from second place, causing a chain reaction involving several other cars including reigning champion Brian Tagg, who was running third.

One driver who did manage to find success at the front was William Wall, who turned a pole position start into his first victory in the series. “This is definitely the biggest win of my career right now,” Wall said. “Just getting this together, all the ducks finally fell in a row. It was awesome. Words can’t describe it. The cautions helped me out a little bit. I had a real bad push the whole race so every time the caution came out if I could get to the outside I knew I’d have a real good chance of getting a position. The cautions fell in my favor today and that’s what it took.”

Other events held over the course of the evening included the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Series where Scott Michalski took home the checkered flag in a dominating win and the Mini Stocks where defending champions David Trudeau picked up right where he left off in October with a trip to victory lane.

The 2016 Icebreaker also marked the final weekend for longtime Thompson personality Russ Dowd who, after over thirty years with the speedway, announced his retirement in the offseason. Dowd was honored in a pre-race ceremony on Sunday afternoon and has provided play-by-play for all 130 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at Thompson prior to officially turning the microphone over during the 2016 Icebreaker weekend.

NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR ICEBREAKER 150 TOP-10: 1. Timmy Solomito (Islip, NY); 2. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 3. Justin Bonsignore (Holtsville, NY); 4. Doug Coby (Milford, CT); 5. Ron Silk (Norwalk, CT); 6. Donny Lia (Jericho, NY); 7. Eric Goodale (Riverhead, NY); 8. Jimmy Blewett (Howell, NJ); 9. Rowan Pennink (Huntingdon Valley, PA); 10. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT)

SUNOCO MODIFIED SERIES TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 3. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 4. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA); 5. Bert Marvin (Colchester, CT); 6. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 7. Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 8. John Catania (Agawam, MA); 9. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, New Jersey) ; 10. Kyle Traynor (Marlboro, MA)

VINTAGE OUTLAWS TOP-10: 1. Jim Lowrey (Tilton, NH); 2. NO NAME #23; 3. Darrel Dutch (Greenville, RI); 4. Glen Boss (Danielson, CT); 5. Gary Byington;  6. No Name #17; 7. Ed Milligan; 8. Tom Bouregard; 9. Ben LeVangie; 10. Tom Cerroni (Smithfield, RI)

XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN TOP-10: 1. Joshua Wood (Palmer, MA); 2. Corey Hutchins (Salem, CT); 3. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 4. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 5. Al Stone (Hurham, CT); 6. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 7. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 8. Randy Waterman (Danielson, CT); 9. Allen Coates (Ledyard, CT); 10. Frank L’Etolle, Jr. (Wethersfield, CT)

PRO ALL STAR SERIES RACE TOP-10: 1. Garrett Hall (Scarborough, ME); 2. Derek Griffith (Hudson, NH); 3. David Garbo (Stonington, CT); 4. Trevor Sanborn (East Parsonfield, ME); 5. Ben Rowe (Turner, ME); 6. Mike Hopkins (Hermon, ME); 7. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, ME); 8. Joey Doiron (Berwick, ME); 9. Glen Luce (Turner, ME); 10. Derek Ramstrom (Worcester, MA)

LATE MODEL SERIES TOP-10: 1. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 2. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, MA); 3. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 4. Marc Curtis (Brookfield, MA); 5. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 6. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 7. Walt Sutcliffe (East Haven, CT); 8. Michael Bennett (Willington, CT); 9. James Banfield (South Glastonbury, CT); 10. Tom Carey, III (Orange, MA)

MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Scott Michalski (South Killingly, CT); 3. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 4. Ed Field (Deep Rivier, CT); 5. Jordan Hadley (Quaker Hill, CT); 6. Nick Anderson; 7. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 8. Doug Curry (Groton, CT); 9. Robert Ducharme Foster, RI); 10. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT)