Third-generation driver Tommy Catalano looks ahead to the full-time Mods season with confidence

Tommy Catalano’s family has been racing since the early 1960s.

Some 60 years later, that tradition will continue as Tommy Catalano returns the family’s No. 54 car to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for a full season effort in 2022.

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Catalano is no stranger to the tour, having raced in each of the last four seasons for most of the year, including the full schedule in 2019 and all but one of the races in 2018. Last year, Catalano rode the number 54 to the top five. 10 finishes, a career-high total, but luck turned sour in the second half of the season.

After scoring five top 15s in the first six races of 2021, Catalano suffered four DNFs in the next five races – three from incidents and one from engine failure at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“We’ve tried to be as prepared as possible, and sometimes we have some things that happened just completely out of our control, which, you know, you’re not going to do anything about that,” Catalano said. “But it’s clear we just kept going and doing our best.”

The 23-year-old is going into the new year with a mentality similar to last season: be prepared for anything and maximize the opportunities at hand.

“As we go into 2022, knowing how 2021 has been, not much will change,” said the third-generation driver. “Just do everything we can to make sure the issues, outages, etc. on our side are well maintained and things like that and do our best. Obviously you can only control what you can control but as long as you take initiative about that sort of thing that will of course help no matter what you can regain control of the future and prepare ourselves to hopefully make it all the way through the season .”

Tommy Catalano qualifies for the Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Riverhead Raceway on June 19, 2021 in Riverhead, New York. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

Catalano was born as a racer. His great-uncle, Joe Catalano, started what became the family tradition in the 1960s as a modified racer in Upstate New York before letting Dave, Tommy’s father, drive for him years later.

“During his career, my parents met on the track, and it really just evolved,” said Catalano. “My dad’s brothers, they raced when they were growing up, so it obviously started way back (in the) early ’60s, and was just kind of like something that everybody got hooked on and went on and on and on.”

Amy Catalano, Tommy’s mother, will make numerous open, modified starts throughout 2022, along with Tommy’s younger brother, Tyler, who also joined the tour full-time in 2019. Because he was in the sport at such a young age. , there was little else ever on Tommy’s mind outside of racing.

“Growing up, going to school, things like that, it was, ‘I can’t wait to go home, work in the store, go racing,’ all those good things,” he said. “Friends, other kids or whatever, they want to go to parties, swim in the pool or whatever. And for me it was that, I can’t wait to start doing something I called racing, whether it was sweeping the shop floor or racing the car. ”

The family is from Ontario, New York, and frequented Spencer Speedway, Holland Speedway and Lancaster Speedway’s New York Raceway Park on the weekly tracks. It was an important moment for Tommy Catalano to be able to join the tour full-time in 2019 with his brother, especially with his great-uncle’s number 54 on the door of his race car.

“Especially because we’re based out of Upstate New York, a little bit away from everything else, here, we’re often considered a bit of a bigger team because we had a lot of cars and stuff,” Catalano said. “But you go to the tour, and honestly, we’re one of the smaller teams when it comes to funding and things like that. So to be able to say we went, we did it, we went through the whole year, such a deal, it’s definitely something to be proud of.”

Tommy Catalano
Tommy Catalano pictured in front of the Toyota Mod Classic 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Oswego Speedway in Oswego, New York, on September 4, 2021. (Bryan Bennett/NASCAR)

The season kicks off when the tour heads to Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway on February 12. The family started preparing their cars and equipment early so that they don’t rush when the 2022 season actually starts. And while the competitive intensity is there, Catalano also has a modest attitude in the driver’s seat, with the goal at the moment being just to enjoy the track and have fun.

“When we went to the tour last year, we got a few top 10s. Ultimately, my goal is still a top 10,” said Catalano, who finished 12th in the 2021 points standings. “I get people all the time,” Oh, your goal isn’t top five yet?’ Well, it’s one of those deals where if you can consistently finish in the top 10, you’ll eventually finish in the top five, just out of pure right-place-right-time kind of deal.

“And the quickest way to suck the fun out of it is to have unrealistic expectations or expectations that are not easily supported. And not that you don’t want a challenge and whatever, but for us, to get a season where, say, 90 percent of the finish, is in the top 10, that would certainly be a step in the right direction for us. are.”

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