BY: Kyle Souza/ PHOTO: MyRaceNews
After what has been a bit of a bumpy offseason, Timmy Solomito is itching to return to the race track.
The former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner will take on a new venture in 2020, with his family-owned operation competing in a part-time schedule. At the end of last year, longtime car owner Eric Sanderson — who Solomito won nine races with — retired from competition, leaving Solomito to come up with a new plan.
The offseason started off well — with his business, Natural Design Concepts & Apparel — booming with success. But at the beginning of January, things took a turn the opposite way.
Solomito was spending time competing in the Indoor Auto Racing Championship Series event in Pennsylvania’s PPL Center, when he was involved in a terrifying crash. It sidelined him or a bit after he was diagnosed with a concussion.
“Racing the Indoor Series is difficult, they get 40 or 50 cars that show up for around 20 spots,” Solomito said. “Towards the end of last year, we had started running better, and we went to Allentown to start 2020 and we qualified through the B-Main, winning it. I felt strong about the car, moving up in the feature, when someone spun and I jumped the right-rear tire and got banged up pretty good. In 22 years of racing, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a crash that violent. My head hit the roll-bar and I got knocked out.”
From there, it was a difficult stretch through January, and even into February for Solomito, who spent more time in the doctor’s office than he did at his business. He was vocal about the diagnosis on social media, giving race fans and friends the inside look on what it’s like to have a concussion and go through the process of recovery.
“As an athlete, you don’t want to admit you got hurt, and often concussions are swept under the table as far as drivers, we just want to get back in the seat and race and don’t really think about our own health,” Solomito said. “It took me eight weeks to recover, going to three doctors, three times a week, with physical therapy, chiropractor and a neurologist. They kept me busy. You crash in the big Modifieds and the car takes most of the impact, but when you crash in the indoor midget, the guy driving the car is the point of impact.”
What is most important after all of the struggles to kick off 2020? He’s back and ready to go.
RACING-REFERENCE: Timmy Solomito Career Stats
“I’m ready to get back at it, and I’m back to 100 percent now,” he said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the start of the Whelen Modified Tour season, delaying the first three events and forcing their postponement, Solomito is itching to get back to the track for a part-time schedule with his family-owned team.
When Sanderson retired, it was a tough moment for Solomito, who has run five of eight seasons driving the No. 16 for the veteran.
“I started my Whelen Modified Tour career with Wayne Anderson, a local guy and former champion, and we ran competitively, but I met Sly Szaban (crew chief) and Eric Sanderson at the end of my Rookie season and Ryan Preece and I had a hard-fought race a few years before at Riverhead, and Preece was driving their car,” Solomito said. “I went over after the race and shook their hand and congratulated them. At the end of the Rookie season, I didn’t have too much in cement — and Ryan had stepped away from the team — and a few phone calls later, Sly was texting me asking me about moving forward with them.”
The first official encounter to discuss Solomito filling the seat was a rather quick one, but involved Solomito telling a small white lie in order to make it to their shop.
“I went up for a meeting on a Monday and I actually told my job I was sick and couldn’t come in, and I jumped on the ferry,” he said with a laugh. “I walked in the office and Eric looked at me and said: “So, you want to drive our car?”, and I said yeah, I would be interested, and he said we had a deal and he shook my hand. I didn’t even have to sign any papers. He told me he was a handshake guy and he was going to do it if he said he was. We raced that way for five years, we had fun, and competed hard. Winning four races in the second year, and five races in the third and nearly winning the championship, I had a great car owner behind me with a great team.”
Solomito knows it’s going to be a difficult venture, with some of the best on the Whelen Modified Tour set to return in 2020 to chase the checkered flag. His main goal is to try and finish top-five in the races that he runs, and hopefully contend for a checkered flag along the way.
“We purchased some equipment with some sponsors and up until the last few weeks our plan was to run as many races as we could depending on funding, but no one really knows what the future is going to hold because of COVID,” Solomito said. “We are hoping for 5-8 races, maybe 10, but it all depends. The car is ready to go and all of the parts and pieces are in place.”
Solomito ended his interview with candid comments about the late Wade Cole, a regular on the Whelen Modified Tour, who suddenly passed away in March.
“Wade no matter what would always up come to me and say hello and ask how things were going, he was just a genuine guy,” Solomito said. “He didn’t do it for the likes on Facebook — he went out there because he was a racer and he enjoyed doing it. You knew every week that the No. 33 was going to be in the pit area and ready to go racing. He had a passion for the sport, and didn’t care what it took. Open truck all the way down to Bristol… he was there to race, and didn’t even care if anyone was coming with him. You don’t see that in this sport anymore. To get the news was tragic, and we will race this year in his memory.”