Story By: KYLE SOUZA / NASCAR – LOUDON, NH – Chase Dowling was a mere .014 seconds away from sweeping the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last year.
He went down the frontstretch inches away from Bobby Santos III in the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 in July, coming up just short of the checkered flag in one of the closest finishes in the history of the tour. Just two months later, Dowling was holding a musket in Victory Lane as the inaugural winner of the Musket 250 at NHMS, the longest race in Whelen Modified Tour history. It was the first career tour triumph for Dowling.
But just two races later, he had no ride. Dowling parted ways with Rob Fuller, and was left without a seat for the 2019 season until former champion Jamie Tomaino spoke with him. Dowling won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year on the Whelen Modified Tour driving for Tomaino in 2015.
“I just had mixed emotions to be honest, I didn’t really know what path I wanted to go down or what I wanted to do,” Dowling said. “I only had six or seven races lined up with Jimmy Paige in another series. Jamie walked into a shop I was working at and basically told me that I couldn’t not race the Whelen Modified Tour this year. He’s always had my back. he gave me the opportunity the first season I ran the tour and this is just a full circle. It just shows you never want to burn a bridge in the racing community.”
Heading back to NHMS for the first time since carrying the checkered flag last September, Dowling has a completely different mindset. In September, Dowling was second in the championship standings, heading towards the final three races hoping to catch Justin Bonsignore for the title.
This year, he isn’t in the title fight. Dowling is only running part-time with Tomaino and has run just three of the eight races with a mindset of just racking up victories.
“There are just little pieces to the puzzle that are making it all happen, but I’m fortunate to have people like Jamie still in this sport to help make it happen, he brings out the point of going to the race track and just simply trying to win races,” Dowling said.
The combination between Dowling, a 21-year-old rising star from Connecticut, and Tomaino, a 63-year-old former champion from New Jersey, has taken off well. They’ve been working together in the shop, and shown up to the race track with speed all three times. He started and finished second at South Boston Speedway in March, but at Stafford Motor Speedway, for the NAPA Fall Final, Dowling was the dominant car. He led 78 laps, and was at the front of the field at lap 166 when he pitted from the lead as the rear-end came apart.
“It’s incredible, it really has a lot to do with Jamie’s age, and I’m not knocking his age, but he’s a true background racer of Modifieds and the sport in general,” Dowling said. “He has the heart for everything because he was brought up in racing. When you have a friendship with someone like Jamie. He’s giving me everything I need to win races.”
New Hampshire seems to be the right track for Dowling and Tomaino to break into Victory Lane together. In just eight starts at the 1.058-mile oval, Dowling has three finishes inside the top five, and has finished 11th or better in all but one race.
“I really don’t know,” Dowling joked when asked why he has so much success at NHMS. “I’m not a person that likes going racing on the big tracks, I like real short-track racing on a place like Seekonk or Riverhead where a driver can control things with his foot and save the tires. Loudon is the complete opposite. I don’t even know why it’s been so good to me. It’s fun because we can draft, and you might have a fast car, but you can lose a race there really fast. The place is a lot of fun. We’ve just been fortunate with some fast race cars there.”
For Dowling, the chance to get back behind the wheel with Tomaino isn’t just an effort between the two of them. But the support from the series veteran is definitely pushing him to get the job done.
“I’ve had S&S Asphalt Paving with me for 11 or 12 years now, you don’t even think of them as a sponsor now because I have a relationship with them, it’s more than just a name on a race car,” Dowling said. “We also have names like Carragan Heating and Air Conditioning, and they are a big part of everything as well. We have others. But without Jamie it wouldn’t be possible. This guy doesn’t need me to be racing his race cars. He’s taking his shirt off his back for me.”
With New Hampshire marked as the only date on the calendar where the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour joins the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on the same weekend, Dowling knows there are going to be a lot of people watching.
“Luckily I made a lot of connections along the way and it’s cool when you have those guys in the Cup garage that you know,” Dowling said. “When I ran Legends Cars, I used to be teammates with Daniel Hemric, who is now in the Cup Series. Obviously it’s just a weekend that could bring out the best in you no matter what. It’s cool that you have the whole racing world there to watch the modifieds.”
“We’re going there to win, that’s the only mindset we have,” he continued. “Everyone is there to win, but it feels like we put 100 percent in our stuff. Being part-time, we have some extra time to put into the cars. Obviously there is a championship hunt going on and I’m not going to be the guy to disrespect someone. But a win is a win. If we have a shot to win, we aren’t going to take no prisoners. We aren’t there to make friends. If we finish second, we aren’t going to be happy.”
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes:
Three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will compete in both Friday’s Whelen All-Star Shootout and Saturday’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100. Ryan Preece, Ryan Newman and Andy Seuss will all be attempting triple-duty at NHMS. Preece drives full-time for JTG Daughtery Racing, while Newman moved to Roush Fenway Racing this season. Seuss, a two-time Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, will make his Cup debut driving for Rick Ware Racing on Sunday, and will drive his family-owned machine in modified competition.
Doug Coby brings a 31-point lead to New Hampshire as the second half of the season gets underway at a track where he’s had a mixed bag of luck. The Milford, Connecticut, driver has four wins in 31 starts, but also has five DNFs and 14 runs outside the top-10. With the car count at 40, Saturday’s race could play a crucial role in the championship chase. One mistake could cost Coby his entire point lead in the blink of an eye.
Coby and Justin Bonsignore have been to Victory Lane in six of the eight races this season. Ron Silk (South Boston) and Woody Pitkat (Wall Stadium) are the only other two drivers to win. All four of them are previous winners at New Hampshire.