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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Shawn Solomito helped a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour legend complete his bucket list in 2016 at New York’s Riverhead Raceway.
Solomito, who turns 28 this week, captured his second track championship at Riverhead in the modified division and in doing so helped 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Wayne Anderson claim his first Riverhead track championship as a car owner at the quarter-mile speedplant.
“We had one of those seasons that was like a dream season,” said Solomito, who also won the Riverhead track title in 2012 driving a family-owned car. “We won five features, we hardly tore up any equipment and I think we finished top three every night except for like three nights last year.”
The championship came in Solomito’s second year driving Anderson’s No. 15 modified that carried primary sponsorship from Eastport Feeds. Ironically Solomito got the seat in Anderson’s modified because his brother, Timmy Solomito, vacated the seat prior to the 2015 season to join Flamingo Motorsports on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Anderson didn’t have to look far to find a replacement driver.
“I was always over there (at the shop) helping them and me and Wayne built a relationship. When Timmy stepped out and went on to Flamingo Motorsports Wayne was like, ‘Hey, the seat’s open. What do you think? You want to give it a shot?’ I said sure,” said Solomito. “At that point I was married and going to have a kid, so my racing days were numbered out of my house with my money. When Wayne said that it was pretty much a blessing in disguise.”
Solomito began the 2016 season at Riverhead Raceway with a bang, winning the first two features. By years end he collected five trophies and only finished outside the top-10 once in 17 points paying starts at Riverhead. That was enough to give him his second Riverhead championship by 56 points over David Brigati.
“All year long I just kept my head down and kept plugging away trying to get the best finishes I could and outrunning who I had to outrun on certain nights and be as smart as I could,” Solomito explained. “We ended up getting five wins out of the year, which is great. We got the ultimate prize that Wayne wanted as an owner.”
While his first championship back in 2012 will always be special, Solomito said that being able to deliver a championship to a legend like Anderson also carries a special meaning.
“Wayne has been around the modified community forever,” Solomito said. “He had won a modified tour championship and he kept saying, ‘All I want to do is win a Riverhead championship. I just want to be a champion as a car owner, then that kind of fills out my resume.’ It was a bucket list thing for Wayne.
“It was his first championship as a car owner, which is pretty cool to get Wayne and Joette Anderson their first car owner championship because they have been such a staple in the modified community. That was pretty special to do this year.”
Solomito, who drives and wrenches on the race cars, said working for Anderson and the crew that Anderson surrounds him with has been nothing short of phenomenal.
“I’ve got a good group of guys around me,” Solomito said. “I work on the cars too personally five nights a week. I just try to think of anything and everything that could go wrong. I go over the cars very, very good every single week to make sure nothing looks suspicious or might break. Anything that looks like it might have an issue we replace. Wayne is a good car owner. Anything that I question he just says hey, go get a new one. We don’t want to have a part failure because that’ll ruin our season.”
Looking ahead to 2017, Solomito said you can expect to see him back at Riverhead Raceway aboard Anderson’s modified to defending his track championship. The duo also plans to enter as many NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races as possible when they don’t conflict with the weekly schedule at Riverhead.
“Right now we’re getting both cars ready to compete again,” Solomito said. “As of right now I would say the plan is the same as it was last year. We’re probably going to run Riverhead full time and we’re going to pick and choose the Tour shows that don’t conflict with Riverhead.”
Solomito earned NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour legend Wayne Anderson his first track championship as a car owner in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Courtesy of Michael Jaworecki