“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Timmy Solomito shouted at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) Sunday evening. One year after making his debut for Flamingo Motorsports, the Long Island driver reached the goal that he has strived for over his entire driving career. He joined the list of drivers to win a race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Despite growing up at the tight quarter-mile Riverhead Raceway on his native Long Island, Solomito has taken well to the high speeds of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, never having a finish lower than 11th since making his first start at the “Big T” in 2013. Last October, Solomito finished a career best third at the Sunoco World Series after an up and down season. On Sunday afternoon he went two better, capturing the season opening Icebreaker 150 and achieving the goal of winning on the Tour and the dream of winning at Thompson.
“Been coming to Thompson for many years watching and it’s always been a dream of mine to turn right and pull into victory lane here.” Solomito told the media at day’s end. “To do it in such a great car with the 16 team it really means a lot. Got my start with Wayne Anderson on the Tour and it’s catapulted me to where I am now. I can’t thank everybody enough that’s believed in me and been behind me this whole time.”
Solomito started the day with many question marks after qualifying 13th on Saturday. After moving to seventh when the caution fell for the first time on Lap 81, Solomito’s No. 16 team put together a fast stop to move him to the fourth position, a prime place to restart a Thompson.
“Guys had an incredible stop,” he recalled. “We picked up a lot of track position, we had a car that was very stable, didn’t really kill it in the beginning, and we picked them off one by one.”
Solomito went from fourth to second on the restart and ended up exchanging the lead three times with Justin Bonsignore before pulling ahead. But Ryan Preece, who dominated the race’s first half, ran him down on Lap 111. But Solomito did not give in, hanging with Preece and blowing back by for good on Lap 117.
“I knew he was going to be charging for me. He got the lead and I knew I could stay with him,” Solomito explained. “I actually felt like I was pushing him a few times down the straights, then I said it was time to go for it again, take the lead back and let him know we’re strong today.”
Preece was not surprised by this charge, indicating he had overworked his tires after losing the lead on the pit stops.
“As soon as I got by him, the car didn’t have the drive it had before when I was trying to get to him,” Preece said after the race. “I really worked that right rear a few times to try and get by these guys. As soon as it starts doing what it started doing I knew we were going to lose that forward drive and lose the cornering.”
Solomito was a little cautious in the final laps making sure to take care of his tires, but in the end nothing could keep him from the win he has been digging for not just himself, but his entire team.
“Eric Sanderson is great, he’s given me a big opportunity,” he said. “We had a rocky road last year, not as great a season as we had planned, but he’s stuck with me. They were very patient with me. I think they knew we were going to have some growing pains. I think they knew we were going to struggle before we set the world on fire.
“Sly (Szaben) has worked with a lot of drivers. He’s taught me a lot, a lot of back and forth on the phone and a lot of conversation. There’s some days I walked away from the track and said I feel like I’m giving them the wrong information and it was my fault, but we learned from it and that’s what put us here today.”
Solomito picked up the first win for the Flamingo Motorsports squad since their last race with Ryan Preece at the World Series in 2014. Solomito is also the first driver to get his first win at the Thompson Icebreaker since Tommy Cravenho, Jr. in 1995.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to Stafford Motor Speedway for the first of four visits April 23 and 24 for the NAPA Spring Sizzler.
For an on-demand look at Sunday’s race, visit NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live powered by Speed51.com.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen
Icebreaker 150 Unofficial Results