(LEHIGHTON, Pa.) If history has a way of repeating itself, then look for Calvin Carroll to make a big splash as a rookie Modified driver for the upcoming season at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway.
Carroll, a 14-year old from Andover, NJ, has been tapped by veteran northeast Pennsylvania driver/owner Geary Rinehimer of Moosic, to wheel his No. 39 Troyer beginning with the April 11 Opening Night 125-lap/$5000-to-win feature, which is round one of the Central States Modified Gamblers Series.
Although 14 may seem a young age to drive a Modified and at a track as demanding as Mahoning Valley, you need not look more then the past few seasons to see that youthful talent thrives at the paved ¼-mile oval.
Last season 14-year old sensation Kyle Strohl motored to a pair of victories and became the youngest driver in the 64 year history of the track to win a Modified feature.
The year prior, then 17-year old Austin Kochenash scored his first two career Modified wins within in a three week span. That same year, after just turning 20, Kris Graver was a Modified winner. The aforementioned trio all have track titles by the time they reached age 15.
“When they came to me about this and I got the background on the kid the first thing I said was ‘14 is good.’ I like the idea of mentoring a young driver,” said Rinehimer.
“After they came up to my shop and we talked I liked him right away. All this kid wants to do is drive race cars and work on race cars. There are a lot of guys who want to drive race cars but they don’t want to put the time in working on them. This family (Carroll’s) is all about racing. They’re all involved.
“The first day they came here they stayed all day and worked on the car. I got a good positive feeling about Calvin and I’m not concerned at all that he’s 14.”
Carroll has been racing the past seven years, starting with Quarter Midgets then Micro Stocks where he won regularly. The last two years he’s run with the USAC Eastern HPD Midget Series and on June 21, 2014 he achieved his career first win at North Carolina’s Ace Speedway. He closed out the year a solid second in points. His brother, Nikki Carroll, 12, was fourth in points and became the youngest driver to ever win a USAC Midget feature with his victory on October 18 at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC.
It was with the Midgets where Carroll gained valuable experience racing against some very tough competition and in typical Midget style it was all under close quarters which will suit him fine once he gets to Mahoning Valley where side-by-side is the norm.
“I’m very happy to have this opportunity. It’s been a dream of mine to step into an asphalt Modified and I can’t thank Geary Rinehimer enough. I plan to do my best to make him and my team proud,” said Carroll.
“I’ve had the chance to practice with Don Wagner’s Modified a few times at Mahoning and can’t get over how much more grip it has compared to the Midget.”
Last season Joe Mooney drove the Rinehimer car on a limited basis but had some very respectable showings. With the help of Steve Mooney, the team made great strides in working at being a front runner.
“There was some great feedback from Joe and Steve (Mooney) in getting the car to where it is now. I’m excited now to be able to tutor a young driver like Calvin,” said Rinehimer.
Rinehimer is not the only one looking at mentoring Carroll. Wagner, who is the 2006 Modified track champion at Mahoning, is also lending his expertise. It was Wagner who actually got him into the sport.
“I know this kid personally and I watched him grow up. I put him in his first race car when he was a small boy and I saw that he was very interested in it,” said Wagner.
“I always knew that kid had something special for sure. Is he the next Jeff Gordon? We all think we have the next Jeff Gordon but I want to see another good Modified racer and I think Calvin Carroll is going to be a great Modified racer.
“And thank God for the Geary Rinehimer’s of the world. There aren’t many guys like that anymore that are willing to put a young guy in their car. But I don’t think Calvin will disappoint. To me the kid was born and bred to be a race car driver and we’ll help him out in any way we can.”
Tom Vitale, a seasoned race mechanic, will serve as the team’s car chief. S & S Speed Shop of Kingston takes credit for the 358 ci Chevy engine.
The team will get their first laps during Test and Tune days March 28-29. Carroll will then bypass a third pre-season practice day April 4 as he will be partaking in the USAC Midget race at Hickory, NC. Carroll will continue to race the Midget as well this season.
His goal during his maiden year of Modified racing is simple.
“Make laps, high finishes and most importantly I want to gain the respect of the other drivers. Those guys at Mahoning are some of the best in the business,” said Carroll.
With his positive attitude and willingness to learn and succeed along with the opportunity given by Rinehimer, Carroll should come to find out that that just as those young guns before him, his drive to win in a Modified may come sooner than expected.
-Dino Oberto Press Release. Photo Credit: Dino Oberto