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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tommy Catalano continued his family's tradition of collecting NASCAR championships.
The year 19-year-old Catalano won a pair of NASCAR track championships at New York’s Holland International Speedway and Spencer Speedway. By doing so, Catalano became only the second person in history to win both championships in the same year.
The only other person to accomplish that feat is someone Catalano knows very well: his mother, Amy Catalano.
“That’s definitely cool,” said Catalano, who locked up both the Holland and Spencer track championships last weekend in New York in his No. 54PJ modified sponsored by Power & Construction Group, CP Ward and PJ Radiator.
Catalano is no stranger to track championships. The championship this year at Holland is his third-straight in the Getzoni Nationwide Insurance Agency Pro Modified class, but only his second Division I track championship at the three-eighths-mile oval after Holland officials decided to make the Charger division the top class in 2016.
That change didn’t bother Catalano, who won the Pro Modified championship for the second-straight year in 2016. The division returned to Division I status in 2017, allowing Catalano to earn his second Division I track title at Holland.
While continuing his winning ways at Holland, Catalano also found success at Spencer. He earned his first Sunoco Modified track championship at the half-mile oval thanks largely to a consistent season that saw him never finish outside of the top-five.
“There are 14 cars weekly there that can win the race. It’s really anybody's game,” Catalano said of Spencer. “At Spencer you’re running with a lot of the big dogs. The RoC (Race of Champions) guys, past Whelen (Modified Tour) guys. Spencer is a track full of the best talent in the area. It’s hard to win there. It’s hard to do good there.
Catalano credited his experience early this year racing with a regional touring series, the Race of Champions, for helping his family team get ready to battle for a track championship at Spencer.
“This year we took the momentum from the RoC and started off strong and that carried us through,” Catalano said. “The competition is tough and usually the person that wins the championship there is the person that has zero finishes outside the top-five all year long. This year we were the only car to do that. It adds up to us having the championship.”
Between the two tracks Catalano scored two victories, 10 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 11 starts. That amazing consistency is what allowed Catalano to secure both track championships in the same season.
“We started the year out with a pair of wins and just kept basically moving forward from there,” Catalano said. “The past couple of years we would start off a little shaky but towards the end of the year we would start racking up the wins, but at that point its too late. We were just able to put it together fully early on this year. It was definitely something that was huge.”
For the Catalano family, racing is a family tradition. In addition to Tommy and Amy, Tommy’s father Dave and his younger brother Timmy also race. His father took the year off to recover from hip surgery, but Tommy believes he’ll be back behind the wheel in 2018.
“Up until this year it was the three of us (Tommy, Amy and Dave) racing against each other. He took the year off to have his hip replaced and have some surgery done, so hopefully he’ll be back in the car next year,” Catalano said. “At the local level my mom, myself and my next youngest brother (Timmy) races against us too. It’s all one big happy family out there to say the least.”
So what can we expect from Catalano next year? He said to expect him back at both Spencer and Holland to hopefully defend his track championships, but he also hopes to try his hand at a few NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events if the schedules work out right.
“I think we’re definitely going to do Holland and Spencer (again),” said Catalano. “This year coming up we’re going to try do the last couple Whelen Modified Tour shows. Next year, I don’t know if we’re going to do a full season, but we’re definitely going to try and hit some more of them and get some more experience in the tour-type cars and go from there.”
Tommy Catalano (No. 54) earned two victories, 10 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 11 starts between the two tracks. Bev & Ken Dippel