Tommy Catalano took one of the most unorthodox paths imaginable to victory lane Friday night at Spencer Speedway (NY). The driver from Ontario, New York rebounded from a broken axle and broken rear end to win the Dave London Memorial after another competitor was disqualified in post-race technical inspection.
“We broke an axle in the first round of practice and we didn’t get back out there until the heat race. In the heat race, we broke the rear end and got that fixed just in time for the B-Main,” Catalano told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We started twenty-third in the B-Main and were able to come through to win that. Decided to take the transfer spot of course and put us in the twenty-first starting spot in the A-Main.”
Catalano had his work cut out and only 50 laps to do it, but he was confident he had the car and the strategy to compete in the final laps.
“I had a plan when I went out there early on to keep my nose clean early on, so I took them as I could without making any real aggressive moves and around halfway we wound up finding ourselves inside the top ten. That’s when I decided that it was time to go and start making some moves. I was better on the top then most other people, plus they got singled out on the bottom, started picking them off and ended up competing for the win at the end.”
On the track, Catalano competed with Chris Finocchario for the race win. Finocchario was first across the line when the checkers fell; however, there was one last surprise left for Catalano. The post-race technical inspection required a shop visit by officials the next day with a complete teardown of the winning car’s engine. Finocchario and his team refused to undergo the inspection and Catalano was then declared the winner.
“It’s too hard to say whether he was illegal or not,” Catalano said. “The tech that needed to be done had to be done the next day, and it required taking the motor fully out of the car. I can see where it would be something not everyone would want to do. It benefitted us for sure, you never want to see anyone get DQ’d, but for us it worked out pretty well.”
While Catalano would have preferred to win outright, it did not diminish the sense of accomplishment after the trials he and his team had endured during the day and night.
“We were supposed to start third in the heat race and only three qualified to the A-Main, so we were hoping that it was going to be a good showing. By the time we got the axle on and we got on the track, as they were coming to the green, so we started last about a half a straight behind,” he explained. “At that point we thought our night was over and then we had the gears break. We went into the B-Main 23rd, our goal was just to get through the B-Main in one piece and focus on next year. Little did we know that we would win that and go on to win the race, it’s just something that you don’t see every day.”
Another fascinating layer to the story was the tail of the winning car. Originally owned by the Catalano family, it had been sold off at the end of 2016. But just days before, Catalano got an offer to take it back out once again.
“This car, we had owned until last year and we sold it to the Shoemaker family. They called me and asked if I’d be interested in running it for this race because they have another car of their own,” Catalano said. “I figured why not. It was $2,000 to win for a 50-lap Super Stock race and in the driver’s meeting they announced they had over $16,000 in lap money; it’s something you don’t see for a Super Stock race.”
Not only can Catalano check off this particular Super Stock event, but he can check off a win in the class overall.
“It’s my first Super Stock win, up until that point. We got the Late Model one at Lancaster Speedway last month right to the day almost. I’ve won Sportsman Mods, Mods, the Midget, one I was missing was a Super Stock win.”
The attention now turns back to getting Catalano his first win in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series; which has only two races left in 2017. Both are back to back at the end of September and are the series’ biggest on the calendar: the U.S. Open at Lancaster National Speedway (NY), and the 67th Annual Race of Champions which makes its debut at Lake Erie Speedway (PA). As it so happens, Catalano has finished second at both tracks the last time the series visited them both.
“Two weeks ago we ended up finishing second at Lancaster in the RoC race. We kind of screwed up on the pit stop and came out in the back, then worked our way to second. We’re feeling really good about going there and having a good solid run and being to move up one more spot. Then we go to Lake Erie for the Race of Champions, earlier this year we got our first second place finish to Matt Hirschman, we were right on his bumper. With those two finishes and all this momentum we can end up winning one of them at least.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com