DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2015) – The old phrase goes that once is by chance, twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend. Chase Dowling is trending.
A rookie of the year at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified Division in 2013 and SK Modifieds in 2014, Dowling his kept the streak going by adding 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Dowling sits ninth in the championship standings with seven top-10 finishes in 14 outings, and with one race remaining, he’s already clinched the tour’s top first-year driver honors.
The highest finishing rookie in a race receives 10 points, second receives nine, third gets eight and so on. After 14 of 15 events, Dowling has an insurmountable 23-point lead on his nearest competitor Max Zachem (117-94).
The 17-year-old has displayed marked improvement as the season has transpired. Through his first six races he maintained an average finish of 18th. In the eight outings since, he’s lowered that number to eighth. Included in the surge was a best run of third at Riverhead (New York) Raceway in August.
“At the beginning of the year we had a lot of mechanical and electrical problems and had some horrible finishes, but about midway through the year things started coming together,” Dowling said. “Everything was new. The team was new, I was new, so there were some struggles. Once things started to click, our team has been pretty stout these last eight races.”
Dowling, of Roxbury, Connecticut, originally got into auto racing by chance. He was racing dirt bikes as a youth when a family friend suggested competing on four wheels. Dowling’s family got him started in go-karts at a local dirt track and things progressed quickly from there.
Dowling and his father and crew chief, Mark, didn’t necessarily have a road map for his career – they just looked to advance as he matched the skill level of the competition. They were unsure how the team would fare in their first modified venture – the Stafford’s SK Light division – with the family-owned team new to that type of racing. But Dowling won seven races in his first season and contended for the division title, so they decided to move up to Whelen All-American Series Division I SK Modifieds. He followed with an impressive first year in that division, and another door opened.
Dowling had a common sponsor with Whelen Modified Tour ironman Jamie Tomaino in Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair. Business owner Doug Dunleavy introduced Dowling to Tomaino, and Dowling eventually began contributing to Tomaino’s tour effort in various capacities as a crew member. Toward the end of last season, Tomaino offered Dowling an opportunity to join the Whelen Modified Tour as his teammate for 2015.
“It wasn’t something that was really planned,” Dowling said. “Three years ago I didn’t have any intentions of being where I’m at right now. We keep proving to ourselves each year that we can compete with the big guys.”
Looking back on his three-year rise in modified racing, and run of rookie of the year honors, Dowling appreciates what he has been able to accomplish.
“Every year I won the rookie award, it wasn’t just given to me either,” Dowling said. “It’s not like we showed up to the track and were the only rookie there. It’s been good competition, so that’s definitely something to be proud of.”
Dowling will receive the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award on Dec. 12 as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The 2015 season will conclude for the Whelen Modified Tour on Oct. 18 at Thompson (Connecticut) Speedway Motorsports Park with the Sunoco World Series 150.