Story By: KYLE SOUZA / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Even though there are still a month before the drop of the first green flag for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, Timmy Solomito is eager to hit the track again.
And if his last two years of results show anything, Solomito is going to be a major threat for the championship in 2018.
The Islip, New York, driver, who has frequented Victory Lane in the last two years, will be entering his fifth season of full-time competition on the tour. The season will also be his fourth driving for Eric Sanderson and the Flamingo Motorsports team — a combination that has been successful right from their first race together.
In 2015, Solomito finished sixth in the championship standings and scored three finishes inside the top five. A year later, he opened the 2016 season by winning the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut, his first victory on the tour. Since then, he has put together a stat line that includes eight more victories and finishes of third and second in the standings in the last two years.
“Our first year, we knew it was going to be a learning-curve. I always had my dad being my crew chief before that. Working with Sly has been a real pleasure, he’s a great guy and has been really patient with me,” Solomito said. “My goal going into our second season was just to win one race and when we came out of it winning four and having a chance to win the championship, it was just great. We just never give up. Sly never gives up, the team never gives up. We may have some bad races here and there, but we get back on the track, finish the race and learn from them.
“We have been building a notebook — hopefully we can continue that this year and come out strong.”
Solomito and a number of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regulars will get things going a little early. The tour-type Modified portion of the 52nd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing kicks off Monday night. The five nights of racing for the Modifieds includes Wednesday’s John Blewett III Memorial 76-lap main event and Friday’s Richie Evans 100 Memorial.
The entire week airs live each night on FansChoice.TV
Ryan Preece is looking to match the late Ted Christopher’s record with a fourth straight title. Christopher won from 1998-2001, before also stringing three straight from 2009-11.
Solomito, meanwhile, hasn’t fared nearly as well on the high-banked half-mile at New Smyrna as he has on the tour in recent years.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been worth the trip south.
“It’s always nice,” Solomito said of the week that is ahead of him down in New Smyrna. “Last year, I feel like it helped us quite a bit, we went down there and experimented with a bunch of stuff and found some things we liked. I’m just hoping we can build on last year and just find a little bit more speed.”
Entering 2018, Solomito is looking to take that next step. After two seasons of coming close to capturing his first title, the 26-year-old is hoping the experience the team has collected will aide them in achieving their ultimate goal. In the first six races of 2017, Solomito won three times. But a difficult stretch in the summer, which included four finishes outside the top 10 and two DNFs, ultimately hurt his chances.
“We just want to run as hard as we can, win races and have fun,” Solomito said. “The summer stretch kind of got us in a little bit of a slump, but I feel like we ended up finishing the season the same way that we started, and that’s really strong. The summer is certainly a point of the year I want to focus on and get better at. We had two really fast cars at Loudon last year, but we just weren’t able to finish the races. Going back there, I’m looking for some revenge, I’m looking to find Victory Lane.”
For the second straight season, Solomito’s team will welcome Starrett Tools back as their primary sponsor. The Athol, Massachusetts, company also sponsored tour regular Matt Swanson during the 2017 season. They have extended their sponsorship and also joined the contingency program at Stafford Motor Speedway as well for 2018.
“It’s been great, it definitely helped us step it up,” Solomito said of the partnership. “It’s great for our team, a really great opportunity for us. They have been really great to have at the track and they are really into the sport as a whole. Hopefully we can continue carrying their name on our car and making them proud. At the end of the day, we want to help make some sales for Starrett.”
Solomito has seen five-time champion Doug Coby have plenty of success as of late, but is hoping he can be the driver that can take him off the top of the series.
“It’s not really frustrating (for me), Doug has been doing it a long time, Phil, the team, they are really good at what they do,” Solomito said of Coby’s team. “They put the time in, but we are putting the time in right behind them. If anything, I feel like I have the best bunch of guys to be able to knock those guys off. They know that we are there and they know we are looking to do better. They do a really good job and it just sets the bar even higher for us.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season begins on Saturday, March 17, at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway, where Solomito is the defending winner of the 150-lap event. The 2018 schedule includes 16 points championship events and one non-points event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It will conclude at Thompson in October.
“Myrtle Beach is a really cool track, there is a lot that comes into play there and it was really cool to win there last year. It’s always important to start off strong — we have the last two years,” Solomito said. “We won the race at Thompson and then won the Myrtle Beach opener last year. Those two races really set us up to have a breakout year. We’re excited to go back to those tracks we have run good at, but also those tracks we ran so-so at, I feel like we have improved at.”
For a former Riverhead Raceway regular entering his fifth full-time season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Solomito has come a long way.
“Growing up, you always want to go to the races on Saturday night, and you want to be the guy that wins races and championships. Looking back on it, from where I started to where I am now, it’s pretty amazing,” Solomito said. “There are days that you want to throw the towel in and other days where you never want to stop racing. There are a lot of people behind me pushing me to get better. There is always a lot of improvement to come, but to say that we have made it this far and won some Whelen Modified Tour races, if you would have told me that when I was 12 or 13-years-old, I’d be a really happy camper with where we are now. I’m just excited for the future.”