This past Saturday night, Lebanon Valley Speedway’s Big-Block Modified division held one last 30-lap feature before calling it a season, giving all competitors just one last chance to get to victory lane at New York’s “Valley of Speed” before next year. One of the track’s most seasoned veterans made the very best of it, as 74-year-old Denny Soltis not only took his first victory of 2017, but his first in the division in more than 15 years.
Since his last win 2002, Soltis had been shut out of victory lane, partly due to his family team taking a break and partly because of bad luck. This season had been much of the same for Soltis, but the win, his 15th in the LVS Big-Block division, gave his racing effort a new light.
“It came at the right time, we were getting ready to, I don’t know. I’m not giving up, but I was pretty depressed the way our luck’s been, but we finally pulled it off together,” Soltis told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Very happy, not only for me but for my son, my grandson, my girlfriend, they all work so hard; we don’t have much of a crew, it’s just the four of us, we work our butts off to do what we do. I’m happier for them than myself.”
Midway through the season, Soltis came out fresh with a new Modified, but it had taken until almost the very end of the year to get it right.
“We came out with a different car about a month ago and we had a few issues, broke a couple of driveshafts, something wasn’t right there. Not much of anything going right, we just came home, did our homework and got back at it.”
The weekend started off a little shaky, but Soltis and the No. 1X team quickly turned things around and took advantage of a golden opportunity.
“Saturday, we didn’t start off very good, made quite a few changes after hot laps. We hit the nail on the head there and were pretty good after that,” he explained. “We qualified in through our heat race just barely, started on the front row, and everything was clicking, it went non-stop, no restarts, and just inched away from them. I was told I had a straightaway lead at the checkers.”
The win is a triumph for one of the many low buck operations in America that are always trying their hardest in the higher levels of short track racing.
“I took about five or six years off. I never quit, I just needed time to regroup,” the veteran racer stated. “We’re not a low-finance team; we’re a no-finance team. We had to get a few dollars saved up so I could get back at it. Worked my butt off, got enough money to come back, but then our luck wasn’t very good right from the get-go. We had a couple of runs there when we should’ve gone on to win them, but something would break; I think that’s happened three or four times since we came back. But keep plugging away and eventually it will come back.”
A native of Torrington, CT, where the family shop and business are still located, Soltis is one of the few Connecticut drivers, a state known for its asphalt Modified prowess, currently leaving their mark in dirt racing. It’s something that he has done well since starting out over sixty years ago.
“I started in Micro-Midgets when I was 13 years old in 1956, we were very good in that with home built cars, my father built a hell-of-a-car, won just about everything we entered. Drag raced for a few years. Took a few years off, got married, started a family, and then got back at it in 1971 with the Dirt Modified. Since then we’ve been going at it except for a few times. In the early 90’s we decided to go Sprint Car racing for seven or eight years, didn’t run a lot of races because of the expense of traveling and everything, but I had to do it before I got too old. I love those things.”
With the final Big-Block race at LVS in the books for 2017, Soltis is mulling around the possibility of one or two more races elsewhere. As for 2018, he has no doubt he’ll be back for more at the Valley.
“Oh definitely, can’t quit now!”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Lebanon Valley Speedway