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Catalanos make auto racing a family affair

When you are born into the Catalano family, based in the upstate New York town of Ontario, history shows that you will probably be involved one way or another in local auto racing.

As he prepares to enter his senior year at Wayne Central High School, 17-year-old Tommy Catalano is seeking to advance his own driving career. A top five finish would provide a great boost when Catalano races with the Sunoco Race of Champions (ROC) Asphalt Modified Tour in Saturday’s Holland 100 at Holland Motorsports Complex. Also in the ROC field will be Tommy’s mother, Amy Catalano.

The Catalano clan has been involved in local racing for years, ever since Tommy’s late uncle Joe Catalano formed Catalano Motorsports. Tommy’s dad, Dave, and his mom both compete against Tommy. Dave and Amy Catalano have four other sons, three of whom currently race: Timmy, age 15, 4-Cylinders; Tyler, 10, Go-Karts, and Trevor, 8, Go-Karts. The youngest sibling, Troyer, does not yet race as he turned 3 years old this past Saturday.

Tommy’s uncle Buck Catalano and cousin Patsy Catalano have also enjoyed past careers in local racing.

Tommy, Amy and Dave have been competing the last few seasons together in the Sunoco Modifieds at Spencer Speedway, NASCAR Pro Modifieds at Holland and Sportsman at Lancaster.

In addition to those divisions, this season Tommy and Amy have added the ROC competition to their race programs.

In the most recent ROC event, the Ol’ Boy Cup 60 held June 25 at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, Tommy Catalano overcame early setbacks and was on his way to a possible top five finish when mid-race gremlins appeared, resulting in a 22nd-place result.

“In the heat race I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got involved in an accident,” said Tommy Catalano, who has raced since joining the Sodus Microd Club at age 4.

“The accident damaged the right front suspension and its components,” Tommy said. “We also were struggling with engine problems. We got the suspension fixed and had to start the 60-lapper in 27th place out of 28 cars. I got as high as sixth. The engine problem somehow cleared itself. I was thinking that maybe I might possibly get my first ROC top five and then about halfway in the race the left rear axle broke and that was it.”

As expected, getting a handle on the much more powerful ROC Modifieds has had its ups and downs for Tommy, including a trip to the hospital earlier this season.

On May 24 at Shangri-La II Speedway, Tommy was involved in a serious accident that saw him transported to a local hospital for a two-day stay. He suffered a concussion, cracked right-side ribs and a punctured right lung.

He got back behind the wheel of his Sunoco Modified two weeks after the accident and won the race that night at Spencer Speedway.

Thus far in the 2015 ROC campaign, along with his Lancaster and Shangri-La II results, Catalano has finished 26th at Chemung Speedway on May 3 and 16th in the Richie Evans Memorial on May 9 at Oswego Speedway.

The Catalano family has found success in local racing. Amy is a two-time and defending Holland NASCAR Pro Modified champion, a two-time Spencer Speedway Sunoco Modified champion and a past NASCAR New York State champion. She has won many races, including her first career Lancaster Sportsman triumph earlier this season.

Amy and Tommy compiled two Sunoco Modified wins each last season at Spencer and one each at Spencer thus far in 2015. Timmy has won four 4-Cylinder races at Spencer this year. Tommy grabbed a Sportsman victory at Lancaster last season and has a NASCAR Pro Modified win each of the last two years at Holland.

For whatever happens on the race track, it is the closeness of the Catalanos that each family member values the most.

“It’s about family,” said Tommy. “Every night during the week we are all together in the shop working on our cars. My mom is there too. She takes a break to make us dinner. Sometimes we eat inside and other times we all eat together on our deck.”

Very few teenagers get the chance to race side-by-side against both their parents in stock car competition, as Tommy often does.

“We try not to get into problems and so far everything has been fine except for one time in 2013 at Perry,” said Tommy. “My mom and I were racing for the win and it became intense and we rubbed together and she went into the infield but kept going. I won and she finished second. There were some hurt feelings and it was quiet in the house that week but everything is fine and we’ve all enjoyed racing against each other the last few years.

“My dad has won races but when we are on the track in races where my dad also runs, I think that he is so busy when he sees us on the track and he tries so hard to see what our cars are doing and how he can make our cars run better that he sometimes forgets to pay enough attention to his own car to make his car better. He sacrifices a lot for the rest of the family.”

Tommy Catalano is very familiar with the layout at Holland and hopes that his familiarity with the track and the success he has had there in the NASCAR Pro Modified will translate to the ROC Modified this Saturday.

Remembering Nancy Petrie

Former Lancaster Speedway and Dragway official and car owner Dennis Petrie is remembering his late wife, Nancy, in a special way. Starting with the July 18 stock car event at Lancaster, Petrie is donating $1,500 to the Sportsman class purse, which will be distributed over the remaining five point races of this season at Lancaster plus the U.S. Open on Sept. 26. At each of these six races the Sportsman victor will pocket an extra $150, with second place awarding an extra $100.

Nancy Petrie was a concession and hospitality manager at Lancaster for 14 years before her untimely passing March 31, 2012. She also did hospitality for local sports car racer/businessman Joe Sahlen and the Team Sahlen sports car team.