DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Leading Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Timmy Solomito hopes that returning home to New York’s Riverhead Raceway for Saturday’s Hoosier Tire 200 will be the perfect opportunity to capture his first tour checkered flag.
Solomito, a 22-year-old from Islip, grew up racing at the famed Long Island bullring. Although he’s a true rookie at most all of the venues the Whelen Modified Tour visits, Solomito was asked if his experience at Riverhead will prove to be an equalizer this week.
“Without a doubt,” Solomito said. “Having so many laps there – I’ve been racing go-karts since I was eight there and stock cars since I was 16 – so I have a lot of laps there, which definitely helps me I feel.
“We’re pretty excited to get back there and hopefully we can have a strong run like we did at the end of last year.”
The best result of Solomito’s seven Whelen Modified Tour starts prior to 2014 was last September at his home track when he captured his first career Coors Light Pole Award and led a race-high 176 laps before settling for a third-place finish.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot running these tour races at the beginning of the year,” Solomito said. “Mainly it’s just saving that right rear tire. I wanted to be that guy last year [at Riverhead] that led a lot of laps and tried taking it home, but you’ve really got to be smart and save that right rear tire – not really kill it in the beginning – set a pace that you know it’s not going to hurt you at the end.”
Through four races this year, his first full-time Whelen Modified Tour campaign, Solomito has two top 10s and sits 11th in the overall standings while leading the rookie points. It had been fairly smooth sailing before last week at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl when he was unable to finish the race due to steering issues.
That Waterford DNF was just the type of thing he talked about prior to the race as something his No. 75 Eastport Feeds Chevrolet team was hoping to avoid this year.
“So far we’re just trying to be real consistent and keep the car in one piece, to maintain and log all of the laps that are on the board for the night” Solomito said. “We’re trying to finish every race and finish it in one piece so that we can learn and adjust on the car for the next time we come back to the track. Hopefully we can get these setups just a little bit better, and I can get a little bit better at the tracks, and we can go from there.”
Now after four events away from Riverhead, where Solomito’s car owner Wayne Anderson also calls home and is a multi-time track titlist, the crew can take a deep breath knowing they’ll be in familiar territory on Saturday.
“It’s always good to go somewhere you have a lot of experience at, where you kind of know what the car wants and what the feel is for the car,” Solomito said. “I just hope that we can maintain the tires, keep a good pace in the beginning and hopefully get a good starting spot and go from there.
“Last year I really set a blistering pace in the beginning, kind of drove away a little bit, and I think it hurt us for the long term part of the race. If we can just save the right rear tire and maintain, if we have to lose a spot or two in the beginning to get it back in the end, then that’s what we want to do.”
Knowing now what he didn’t know then, Solomito hopes things will all come together Saturday and he can register a tally in the win column, and end a long tour drought in the process. The last driver designated as a rookie to win a Whelen Modified Tour race was Bobby Santos was 91 races ago in 2007.
“I think it will be an advantage for me, definitely,” Solomito said of racing at Riverhead. “So I’m pretty excited to get back to my home track and hopefully we can put one in the books.”
The Race: The Hoosier Tire 200 will be the fifth of 14 races on the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and the first of two trips to Riverhead Raceway on New York’s Long Island.
The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying and the remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 200 laps (50 miles).
The Track: A quarter-mile banked asphalt oval, Riverhead Raceway opened in 1949. The track has held a total of 53 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races since the tour began in 1985, and is one of only two venues to play host to the tour in each of its 30 seasons.
Race Winners: There have been 23 different drivers to reach Victory Lane at Riverhead, led by Mike Ewanitsko’s 11. Ryan Preece has won the last three races there and is tied with Donny Lia for most Riverhead victories among active drivers with four.
Pole Winners: Thirty different drivers have captured a pole at Riverhead, led by Ewanitsko’s eight. Ted Christopher and Preece lead active drivers with two poles apiece. Chuck Steuer set the qualifying record at 11.546 seconds (77.949 mph) in 2000.
Hoosier Tire 200 Notes:
Preece Looks to Maintain Bullring Dominance: Winner of the last three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at Riverhead Raceway, Ryan Preece enters this week’s Hoosier Tire 200 as the undisputed favorite. Six of Preece’s nine career tour victories have been earned at bullrings, including four at the Long Island quarter-mile. In eight starts at Riverhead, Preece has seven top-five finishes.
Century Mark for Preece: The Hoosier Tire 200 will be the 100th career start for Preece. Since joining the Whelen Modified Tour as a 16-year-old in 2007, the year the minimum age was lowered from 18 to 16, Preece has posted nine wins, 12 poles and 56 top 10s in 99 appearances. The 2013 champion and NASCAR Next member is currently tied for 20th on the all-time wins list and 14th on the poles list.
Szegedy’s Back: A veteran of 11 full-time seasons on the Whelen Modified Tour, Todd Szegedy is slated to make his first appearance of 2014 in the Hoosier Tire 200. Szegedy will pilot Bill Park’s No. 20 Chevrolet this week at Riverhead, as well as the tour’s return to Long Island in September. The partnership also extends to a part-time schedule of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified features at the track this year. The Hoosier Tire 200 will actually be the first of three Whelen Modified Tour races in a row for Szegedy, who is slated to run the Rob Fuller Motorsports No. 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11-12.
Coby Returns to Scene of the Crime: Doug Coby could perhaps be vying for three straight titles this year if not for a costly accident prior to last year’s Hoosier Tire 200. The throttle stuck on the No. 52 Chevrolet – Coby’s former car – during his qualifying run and the damage incurred from the ensuing contact with the Turn 1 wall was too extensive for him to race. While he earned points for the qualifying attempt, the lost tallies combined with a win that night from eventual champion Preece essentially ended his bid for back-to-back titles. The final championship point deficit to Preece was 32 points for Coby, and in last year’s Hoosier Tire 200 he earned 32 points less than Preece.
Ellwood to Attempt Tour Debut: For the second week in a row, the Whelen Modified Tour will have a driver attempt to make his debut after recently earning his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified victory. Last Saturday at Waterford Speedbowl it was Craig Lutz and this week Kyle Ellwood has entered to compete for a spot in the Hoosier Tire 200 at Riverhead. Ellwood, a Riverhead champion in the legends division, earned his first career NASCAR Modified victory this past Saturday at Riverhead.
Home Cooking for One-Third of the Field: No ferry ride across the Long Island Sound this week. Nine of the 26 entries as of Monday will get to stay at home for the Hoosier Tire 200 instead of trekking to Connecticut or New Hampshire, where the majority of events on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule are annually held. The Long Island contingent includes: Justin Bonsignore (Holtsville), Eric Goodale (Riverhead), Ken Heagy (Calverton), Donny Lia (Jericho), Gary McDonald (Ronkonkoma), Tom Rogers Jr. (Patchogue), Shawn and Timmy Solomito (Islip) and first-timer Ellwood (Riverhead).
Home Tracks: Brode Looks for Riverhead Repeat
Howie Brode is contending for what would be a third Riverhead Raceway championship, and second in a row. The East Islip, New York, veteran earned his first track title in 1998, and the second didn’t come until last season. This year Brode has posted 197 points through last weekend’s event to lead 2010 track champ Tom Rogers Jr. by 27 tallies. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers Ryan Preece and Timmy Solomito also rank third and fifth in points, respectively. Bill Park was the last driver to earn back-to-back titles at Riverhead in 2007-08.
Last Time Out: Waterford
The fourth race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was contested at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl on June 21. Here are some highlights of the Mr. Rooter 161:
- Bobby Santos drove to his 12th career victory to move into a tie with Richie Evans and George Kent for 15th on the Whelen Modified Tour career wins list.
- Donny Lia, who finished as the runner-up to Santos, captured his 19th career Coors Light Pole Award prior to the event. He remains ranked 10th on the tour’s all-time poles list.
- Ted Christopher earned his first podium finish in nine starts with a third-place effort.
- Rookies Derek Ramstrom (finished 21st), Spencer Davis (26th) and Craig Lutz (29th) made their Whelen Modified Tour debuts in the event.
Next Time Out: New Hampshire
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will follow a race at its smallest track – Riverhead Raceway – with a trip to its largest facility – New Hampshire Motor Speedway – for the New Hampshire 100 on Saturday, July 12. Doug Coby is the defending winner of this race, which will be preceded by the inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout non-points invitational event on Friday, July 11.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com Photo