Before Shawn Solomito straps into his Modified for a race at Riverhead Raceway (NY) or a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, he gets a pep talk. Sometimes multiple pep talks. Sometimes it’s his car owner, 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and multi-time Riverhead track champion Wayne Anderson. Sometimes it’s another crew member. But the pep talk that means the most to Solomito comes from someone that is barely taller than the big tires on his car. That pep talk comes from his son, Landon, who is one-and-a-half years old.
“He’s at that stage now where all he wants to do is talk and yell and I am just trying to take it all in, because I know he’s only going to be small for so long,” Solomito told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s definitely a lot of fun. He takes a lot of stress off me, even when we’re having a bad night. I know I can go into the pits and see my son and he puts a smile on my face immediately. Landon has changed me for the better. He means the world to me.”
The reduced stress is a big reason why Solomito has had the year that he has had in 2016. Solomito has run weekly at the tight quarter-mile bullring of Riverhead Raceway in pursuit of a second championship. The 2012 champion has totaled four wins this year en route to a 41-point lead in the standings with one race left.
Solomito said that Landon has been a big key to his success this year, because the driving force behind his goal to reach victory lane every week has changed.
“I feel like I’m so much more relaxed. I don’t feel more conservative, but definitely more relaxed. I still try to get it done for these guys and win races as much as possible, but it’s awesome when we can win a race and have Landon in victory lane. He’s my world right now and he means everything to me. When I can have pictures taken with him it’s great because it’ll make great memories down the road. We have something to look back on and say ‘Hey Daddy won on this night. Look at how small you were.’ So it’s going to be great to have those memories.”
In addition to being a father, 2016 has been different compared to his first title in 2012 because he isn’t doing it all himself. He’s driving for Anderson, a five-time Modified champion driver and a legend at Riverhead.
“In 2012 I did it out of my own pocket,” Solomito explained. “My family backed me a lot. My car was run out of my family’s house. It was more of a family operated championship. But this year is really cool because I’m kind of out on my own now racing for Wayne. My family is still involved here and there, but not as much as they used to be. So to do it on my own with my own group of guys and Wayne would be totally different, I’m sure.”
With one race left, the goal to win a second championship has just about been accomplished. Solomito will get to share that championship with his wife Kristy for a second time, but with his son and his car owner for the first time.
“To win this one racing for Wayne and Joette Anderson would be awesome. He hasn’t won one as a car owner so I’d love to put together a good race for him and check this one off his bucket list.”
Championship night at Riverhead Raceway will see Solomito and the NASCAR Modifieds race for 60 laps in twin 30-lap features on Saturday, September 17.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Michael Jaworecki photo