By Larry Ott
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Amy Catalano has won numerous races and championships over the years in the Sportsman/NASCAR Pro Modified division but she has had one big career dream left unfulfilled. That is until this past Saturday night at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway.
Catalano had never won a feature race at Lancaster until she held off a fast charging Kirk Totten to score the triumph in the 30-lap Sportsman headliner during Lancaster’s season opening stock car activity. Catalano became the sixth woman in the nearly 60-year history of Lancaster to win a stock car feature race.
The win was far from easy as she had to first battle her son Tommy Catalano early and then Totten despite having no power steering virtually the whole race. Totten spun out as he tried to pass Amy Catalano on the last lap.
“It’s a miracle,” Amy Catalano said in the winner’s circle. “I said a little prayer for us tonight with a first- and second-place finish for Tommy and me and we got close with first and third. To me this is like the Daytona 500. This is the career win I thought I would never get. I thought I was going to retire without it and always wonder if I could have had it.”
The key moment for Catalano came in spectacular fashion on lap 16. She was in second, chasing her son with Mark Pennell in hot pursuit behind her. Suddenly as the lead pack entered Turn One, Tommy Catalano and Pennell spun and went into the foam-protected wall fairly hard. Fluid on the track leaking from one of the other cars apparently caused the accident.
Amy Catalano held onto her car to take the lead as the red flag would wave. Tommy Catalano and Pennell’s cars were towed to the pits. Pennell would not return but Tommy Catalano did and eventually finished third. During the red flag period, Tommy Catalano gave his mom a hand by cleaning off her windshield just prior to reentering the race himself.
“I knew when I saw Tommy spinning out of the lead that it was nerve-wracking for me because I took a hard hit last week,” at Oswego Speedway, “and all I could think about was again safety,” said Amy Catalano. “I want him to be safe. I can fix that car but I can’t fix that boy.”
“I cleaned my mom’s windshield,” said Tommy, laughing. “If that’s what you got to do to get a team car to victory then that’s what you got to do.
“When I was leading I really didn’t see much. There must have been something on the track because my car went around like a top but thanks to my crew we got back out there.”
As everyone arrived at Lancaster on Saturday, all wondered how the new asphalt pavement that was laid down in certain portions of the track about two weeks ago would hold up, especially in the turns. By night’s end, the drivers generally provided positive reviews.
“I think the new paving job is phenomenal,” Amy Catalano said. “It’s never been nicer. This is one of the best tracks there is right now.”
“I didn’t have any trouble with the track and my car was going real good,” Pennell said.
Lancaster official Joe Skotnicki explained the careful prep work that Lancaster’s track crew did during the week to help ensure as best they could that the new asphalt would be trouble free.
“For the oval we just tried to stay off of it as much as possible and let it cure itself a little,” Skotnicki said. “We put some clothing detergent on it and scrubbed it in and let the rain the other night clean it off. Today we put a little concrete dust on it to bind it and prevent the oil from coming up. We also put some traction compound down in the outside groove to make sure that we didn’t have just the bottom of the race track being worked in.”
Kevin Bainbridge scored an emotional win in the 4-Cylinder class, dedicating the victory to the late Tom Lalomia Sr., whom Bainbridge referred to as “my uncle, my crew chief and my best friend. I miss him dearly.”
Rich Sharpe won his second consecutive Lancaster Street Stock race and Jonathan Reid prevailed in TQ Midgets.
Lancaster’s car count was light on Saturday in the various classes but the new track management is hopeful the counts will increase as the weeks and the next few seasons unfold. It is one of the many works in progress for the new management team. Low car counts have plagued Lancaster the last few seasons for various reasons so this is an ongoing issue that the new management team has inherited.
There were 15 Sportsman, 8 Street Stocks, 11 of the 4-Cylinders and six TQ Midgets at Lancaster on Saturday. Some of the Sportsman and TQ Midgets teams that were there are actually Holland Motorsports Complex competitors who came to Lancaster because Holland does not open for the season until next Saturday.