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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Success isn’t something new to Amy Catalano, the 2009 Modified Division champion at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y.
But last weekend was unique.
Catalano, 37, won a pair of feature races at Spencer Speedway, and followed that up one night later by winning the feature modified event at Holland (N.Y.) Speedway in Holland, N.Y. In addition to her heat race victories, The Ontario, N.Y., driver was a perfect 6-for-6 at a pair of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks during the two-day period.
“We had a good weekend, but it is early in the season,” Catalano said. “I am just happy for my sponsors, crew, family and fans that have supported me. I just want to race as much as I can and win every time I am in the car. I am a very competitive person.”
Lee Pulliam didn’t win, but his race week was nonetheless successful. The Semora, N.C., driver finished second in the annual Rusty Harpe Memorial event at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., and moved past Keith Rocco to take over the top spot in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings.
Pulliam leads Rocco, 663-659.
Pulliam has 11 wins, 16 top fives and 17 top 10s in 17 starts, running regularly in the Late Model divisions at Motor Mile Speedway at Radford, Va., and South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Last week was his first appearance of the season at Caraway.
Rocco extended his Modified division win streak to five with a victory at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on Thursday, but was unable to improve his points total due to a rainout at Stafford on Friday coupled with a 10th-place result in his first trip to Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H., on Saturday. The Wallingford, Conn., driver has accumulated 14 wins, 19 top fives and 24 top 10s in 27 starts at Thompson, Stafford, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl and Monadnock.
A driver’s best 18 results through Sept. 18 are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their total increases incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.
Catalano’s success last weekend allowed her to jump from 244th to 89th. She has three wins and eight top top fives in eight starts at Spencer and Holland.
“I look at myself as just another driver out there on the track and I think a lot of drivers I race against feel the same way, she added. “I still get a lot of attention from fans who are excited to see a woman winning races.”
She is one of a number of females throughout the United States and Canada ranked in the top 500 of the national standings, including three in the top 50. Leading the way is Natalie Sather, who is 21st. The Fargo, N.D., native has 10 top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts in her second season driving for Sellers Racing.
The 26-year-old Sather has proven that consistency is key in challenging for a championship – she has three runner-up finishes and is second in points at South Boston behind three-time national champion Philip Morris, who is third in the national standings.
“Last year was a tough year after I suffered a broken wrist,” Sather said. “We started off with a DNF, but have rebounded nicely. My crew chief Brian Rundstrom, along with H.C. and Peyton Sellers and all the guys have worked hard to put a great car together come race time.
“I have really made a lot of friends among the drivers and I have worked hard to earn their respect and I think it shows more and more at the track.”
Nichole Morgillo, 23, doesn’t have to be reminded how tough the competition is in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The Wallingford, Conn., native takes on some of the best modified drivers in the country at Waterford and Stafford
During any given week, Morgillo faces drivers such as Rocco, former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ted Christopher, and Ryan Preece. Morgillo has a pair of top fives and 10 top 10s in 19 starts.
“Last year was a tough year,” Morgillo said. “This year has definitely been an improvement for our entire team.
“I take pride in being a competitive female driver and at some tracks, I feel I have earned respect of the competitors because we have a fast car and have shown we can compete with some of the best.
“I am my own worst critic and my dad is always telling me I am hard on myself, but I just want to win races and I am going to keep working hard until I do. I think in the future, fans will see a lot more women competing and winning races.”
Toni Marie McCray, 34, is 46th in the national standings while racing at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).
There are more females ranked throughout the top 500 in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, including Mackena Bell, 21, (283rd) and Jessica Brunneli, 18, (305th), who have competed at tracks throughout the southeast for Revolution Racing, which fields cars for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity initiative. Another notable driver is Kortney Kosiski, 19, (372nd), who races at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb. Kosiski’s father, Ed, won the 1998 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title.
“I think NASCAR will only keep growing and once you have a female driver break through and have success on a regular basis, you will see a lot of doors open for people,” Sather said.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points, and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five bonus points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third, 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top-three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Dec. 9.