After a career year in 2017, Tommy Catalano is ready to make a big splash in 2018 with the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series.
Along with his fourth-place performance in the RoC Modified Series points last season, the Ontario, NY driver celebrated titles in the RoC Sportsman Modifieds and RoC Late Models. The Modified young gun is also fresh off his first two starts in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour during the month of April.
Though he still is in search of his first RoC Modified win heading to the season-opener at Lancaster National Speedway (NY) this Saturday, May 12, Catalano believes that the ingredients may be right for a championship by year’s end.
“We’re ready, going to Lancaster it would be nice to win but the bigger goal is to get into a rhythm of finishing races and that will hopefully put us in contention for a championship at the end of the year,” Catalano told Speed51.com.
The biggest advantage that he and the family-run No. 54 team has going into Lancaster is the time spent in Connecticut at both Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Stafford Motor Speedway for the two NASCAR outings. Despite rough outings in both races, Catalano feels that it has built himself, his crew and his car for the battle ahead.
“For sure, we got something out of it,” he began. “It helped us with setting up the car and we got better at time trialing a little bit, hopefully that plays a factor into this weekend. Just racing within that competitiveness there, they race all-out the whole time. I think that doing that helped us to know how long we can go on the car and how hard before it starts to fall off handling wise. I think that’s a big advantage. Plus, doing all that before the first race of the year where a lot of the guys that are going to run it have not raced, that will give us a heads-up.”
Catalano also brings in some confidence from 2017 at Lancaster, at least from the season’s second half. It will be critical with five of the eleven RoC Modified races being contested on the half-mile just outside of Buffalo.
“Lancaster last year, we ran there four times and it was a high-low kind of place. The very first week we had a DNF there which really stunk,” Catalano commented. “The next time there we had another DNF from part failure there, but at the end of the year we ended up with a second and another top ten at the U.S. Open. If we can carry the momentum from the end of last year and from early this year, then we’ll have something for them.”
Though the big goal for opening weekend is to get on the right direction for the entire RoC season, Catalano feels he can certainly win this weekend. If he can’t, it becomes priority one for the rest of the 10 races.
“I’m hoping. I got to get that big RoC Mod win. I got a win in everything else I’ve raced to date, so that’s the only one I’m missing. I want to check that off the list this weekend, and if not then this year.”
Catalano is also planning additional visits east for more NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour appearances. The team is currently set to be at the next Tour race at Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, June 2.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos