Running on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has been a dream his whole life. That dream will finally become reality for Brandon Oltra on April 11 when the series takes to the high banks of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) for the season opening Icebreaker 150.
“I never thought it was plausible, but as we kept upgrading we basically made the decision to convert our Race of Champions car over,” Oltra told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
In fact, it has been a fairly quick progression for Oltra, who only first stepped into a racecar in 2009. His uncle Mike Higgins, a local racer at Mountain Speedway (PA), struck a deal with Oltra, now in his late 20’s, where if he helped him finish building a Street Stock then he could race in it. One year later he won in his fourth career start in a Factory Stock and after continued success in a Four Cylinder car in 2011 he received his first opportunity to compete in a Modified thanks to a longtime family friend, Geary Rinehimer.
“(Former ARCA driver) Barry Fitzgerald wasn’t feeling well one night and Geary asked me if I wanted to drive,” explained Oltra. “I got out of my Four Cylinder and qualified on the pole and finished fifth in my first start.”
The Nanticoke, Pennsylvania driver’s biggest opportunity came in 2012 when car owner Joe Kaminski, witnessing his past performances, told him to go pick out a Modified to run the season. They have yet to reach victory lane in a feature, but consistent strong runs in several races including appearances at new tracks on the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour provides confidence heading into the NASCAR ranks.
“I have no doubt in myself that I am capable to go in there and represent myself well,” said Oltra. “I have to keep my head on my shoulders and take care of the equipment. A majority are guys I grew up watching and looked up to so all I want to do is gain their respect.”
While Oltra and Kaminski’s work has mainly come from their own pockets, including the purchase of a new motor, experience in the form of Matt and Tony Hirschman have walked them through the process of getting the car ready to where it needs to be.
Oltra had plans to test at Thompson, but the preseason session was cancelled as the New England region continues to thaw out from a rough winter. They still decided to go up there and check the place out, and plan to attend a test and tune at Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA) near home to shake it down to make sure everything is intact.
After the Icebreaker, the plan is to take things month by month and one race at a time.
“We’ll see how it goes; I can imagine we’ll run the Spring Sizzler,” predicted Oltra. “We are planning somewhere between five and seven starts, maybe more if I can get some sponsorship or help along the way.”
In addition to starts on the NASCAR Tour, Oltra hopes to run some of the bigger Mahoning shows and already has his hotel booked for the 65th Annual Race of Champions at Oswego Speedway (NY) in September.
For the time being, Oltra’s main goal is to enjoy the moment.
“This is the chance I have to go do it, so I might as well have a good time. That’s what it’s all about.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo Credit: Mojo Photos