The entry list for this weekend’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale continues to grow thanks in large part to quite a few regulars from Riverhead Raceway (NY) who are taking the hour-long ferry trip across the Long Island Sound to race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT).
Six Riverhead regulars are attempting to qualify for this year’s Tour race at Thompson’s World Series of Speedway Racing headlined by the 2012 Riverhead champion, Shawn Solomito. Kyle Ellwood, Dave Sapienza, Frank Vigliarolo, Jason Agugliaro and John Beatty Jr. will be attempting the race as well.
“At Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) I said I wanted to run Thompson as long as we could get everything together and people in the right place,” said Solomito, one of two older brothers of Timmy Solomito, this year’s NWMT Rookie of the Year. “I think that we’ve done that.”
Solomito has made two starts at Thompson prior to this. One was in the Valenti Modified Racing Series and the other was a Tour start at the 2012 Icebreaker. But this time he needed some financial help to be able to afford to run the race. Shawn, Timmy and the rest of their family turned to Facebook to see if people would be willing to chip in to cover his tire costs.
“Timmy is very likeable and has a lot of good people that back him in the racing community so they decided they all wanted to help out too,” said Shawn. “Every little bit helps and they made it work.”
Ellwood is another driver who doesn’t have the financial backing that many of the teams on the Tour have. The 19-year-old driver scored his first two wins at Riverhead this season, but he isn’t expecting to be contending for the win at the end of 150 laps at Thompson. He said his goal is to make the race and get as much seat time as possible.
“We are not going to be a top 15 car,” said Ellwood, the 2012 Legends car champion at Riverhead. “We are going to be somewhere from 15th on back and I’ll be happy with that. We are just going to go there and have fun and just try to learn a lot.”
This will be Ellwood’s first ever race at Thompson. So how is he preparing for it?
“I think I’ve been on iRacing for about 70 hours the past two weeks,” he said with a laugh. “I have an understanding of what the place is kind of like. It’s not like the game is giving you a real good feel, but at least I’ll kind of understand what is what. You can kind of get down the line a little bit.”
Meanwhile Sapienza is heading to Thompson expecting to run well. The 49-year-old driver has never run at Thompson before, but he feels he has all the right tools to be successful.
“We’ve got the best of everything,” said Sapienza. “Top 10, no damage, and some seat time. I’d be happy with that.”
Sapienza needs a good run at Thompson to prove that he belongs. Especially since he is planning to run close to the entire schedule in 2015.
“After all these years of running a Modified I want to start running the Tour,” said Sapienza. “Riverhead just doesn’t do it for me anymore. We are at that level now where I think the Tour is where I should be.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Feature Photo Credit: Kris Holmberg.