DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour provides a difficult challenge to any newcomer hoping for immediate success. Veterans rule the roost, and have for a long time.
Timmy Solomito has experienced growing pains in his first few seasons like most drivers new to the tour. The tracks are unfamiliar. The competition is as stout as it is deep.
As the Whelen Modified Tour heads to Stafford Motor Speedway for Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200, the 24-year-old may be hitting his stride after three seasons of learning the ropes.
The second-generation Long Island racer had an average finish of 22nd through his first five races before showing his potential with a pole and a podium at his home track, Riverhead Raceway, in his sixth start. There were good runs early on, but consistent top finishes are a challenge for all competitors.
A 21st was followed by a fifth, followed by an 11th.
Solomito’s third season on the tour marked a turning point. Although his average finish only improved by one position from 2014 to 2015, there were fewer lower results and more top finishes. Solomito finished third in the last two races of the season, the first back-to-back podiums of his career.
The culmination of Solomito’s growth came in the 2016 opener. He drove away from 15-time winner Ryan Preece and into Victory Lane for the first time in his career on April 10 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
The focus now shifts to the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200. Solomito finished third in two of four trips to the historic half-mile last year. He will look to become the first driver since Ted Christopher in 2009 to record the Icebreaker-Spring Sizzler sweep.
RACE: NAPA Spring Sizzler 200
PLACE: Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway
DATE: Sunday, April 24
TIME: 3:15 p.m. ET (approx.)
TRACK LAYOUT: .5-mile, semi-banked asphalt oval
2015 WINNER: Woody Pitkat
2015 POLESITTER: Ryan Preece
EVENT SCHEDULE: Saturday – Practice 10:45-11:20 a.m., Final Practice 12-12:45 p.m., Qualifying 2:30 p.m., Sunday – NAPA Pit Party Driver Autograph Session 11-11:50 a.m.
TRACK TWITTER: @StaffordSpeedwy
EVENT TWITTER HASHTAG: #Sizzler2016
The Race: The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will headline Stafford Motor Speedway’s 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler Weekend, the first of four trips to the historic half mile in 2016. The NAPA Spring Sizzler will be the second of 17 events on the schedule.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field per the official entry blank is 33 cars, including provisionals. The first 28 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 200 laps (100 miles) and three change tires allowed for the event.
The Track: A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR-sanctioned track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967. Stafford’s 118 Whelen Modified Tour races are second all-time.
Race Winners: There have been 32 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Stafford native Woody Pitkat is the defending winner of this race.
Pole Winners: There have been 43 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Ryan Preece holds the tour’s track qualifying record at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph), set during the 2012 Spring Sizzler.
NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 Notes:
Rule of Four: Fifteen of the last 16 checkered flags at Stafford Motor Speedway have been captured among a select group of four drivers. Doug Coby (6), Woody Pitkat (2), Ryan Preece (4) and Bobby Santos (3) have owned Victory Lane at Stafford since the beginning of 2012. Santos’ success extends further back to when he also won three of four in 2010-11.
He’s Back: After missing the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the first time since 1996, Ted Christopher will be back in a Whelen Modified Tour car at his home track this weekend. Christopher has transitioned to a part-time competitor this year, but kept the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” on his schedule. The nine-time weekly track titlist at Stafford has participated in every Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler race since 1994. Christopher has 12 tour wins overall at the track, including a record five in the Spring Sizzler.
Brunnhoelzl Looks for Second Gen Win: George Brunnhoelzl III will look to join his father on the list of all-time Whelen Modified Tour winners at Stafford this weekend. The four-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion will head north for the first time with his No. 28 Chevrolet that has won two of four southern two races this year. His father, George Brunnhoelzl Jr., won a 200-lap Whelen Modified Tour race at Stafford on Labor Day in 1986. The younger Brunnhoelzl made four starts at Stafford in 2010 with the No. 46 and recorded an average finish of 15th.
Welcome Aboard: Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 will see the Whelen Modified Tour debuts of Nick Salva and Walter Sutcliffe Jr. Salva recorded four feature wins last year in Stafford’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified division and plans to contend for top rookie honors in SK Modifieds in 2016. He also has plans for seven Whelen Modified Tour appearances. Sutcliffe has an assorted stock car background, including the former NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and more recently American-Canadian Tour late models. He ran an ACT car in last fall’s Thompson World Series.
Extra Distance: At 100 miles, Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 is the longest of the four trips to Stafford this year and the lengthiest short-track event on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule. The next race at the historic half-mile in June will be 125 laps while the August and October events are 150. The longest events of the season overall are at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where the tour runs 105.8 miles.
Home Tracks: SK Mods to Run 45 for 45
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified division will run a 45-lap feature on Sunday as a nod to this year’s NAPA Spring Sizzler being the 45th edition of Stafford Motor Speedway’s season-opening weekend. The headlining weekly division traditionally contests 40-lap features. Rowan Pennink is the defending SK Modified champion after he scored six wins, 17 top fives and 19 top 10s in 22 starts a year ago.
-NASCAR Home Tracks Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen