No Slowing Down: Jamie Tomaino To Make 600th Whelen Modified Tour Start At Speedbowl

Reprinted from May 3, 2016

Jamie Tomaino

Jamie Tomaino

When it comes to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, three-time series champion Doug Coby has been chasing a lot of historic numbers of late.

In 2016, Coby is looking to become the first driver in series history to win three consecutive championships. On May 14 at the New England Cycle Center 161 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Coby will look to match Mike Stefanik’s series record of winning six consecutive poles.

But Coby knows there’s one big number that will be celebrated in Waterford that he likely doesn’t have any shot at chasing down.

It’s the big number that will reached be on May 14 by the Whelen Modified Tour’s reigning Ironman. The series’  senior statesman, Jamie Tomaino, is scheduled to make his 600th career series start in the New England Cycle Center 161.

“It’s something that none of us will likely ever achieve,” Coby said. “Not only because we don’t run the amount of races that they used to, but most of us would never stick around that long. It’s awesome for him and it’s awesome for our series and I think people should pay more attention to it.”

On March 31, 1985 NASCAR hosted its first Whelen Modified Tour event at Thompson Speedway. Richie Evans won, Jeff Fuller was second and Brian Ross third.

And finishing fourth that day was Jamie Tomaino of Howell, N.J.

And since that day Tomaino, 59, has been at every Whelen Modified Tour event held. All 604 of them. Five times in series history he has failed to qualify for events.

“That number represents a lot of work,” said Tomaino, who will turn 60 on July 3 and began racing in 1974. “Getting up that early in the morning and driving to the track and doing everything that we’ve got to do, it’s been a lot of work. On top of that, a lot of people do get praised if you’re in a particular job your whole life and you go without missing a day or whatever. This is part of a unique type of deal. I know I don’t work everyday at the racetrack, but as most people know, a racecar takes up all your time, if not more than you have. With the traveling to boot, I’m not a Connecticut based team, even on a short run I’ve got hours and hours and hours. And in the old days, there was even more racing.

“I guess I just like people to realize that being able to go to every tour race – I’ve been to every one, never missed one attendance wise – it’s just cool. It’s just a lot of hard work and dedication.”

The last time Tomaino wasn’t part of a Whelen Modified Tour event was on July 12, 2009, when he didn’t make the field for the fifth event of that season at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y.

“He’s a huge asset to the series,” Whelen Modified Tour series director Jimmy Wilson said. “When you’re looking back at the history, as a series director, he’s actually an asset in the sense that if there’s something that goes back a long time in a competitor’s standpoint, it’s nice to go back to that history book. He’s a great guy and a great asset and that iconic 99 on the track with Jamie Tomaino driving it is huge.”

Tomaino was the 1990 series champion and has three career series victories, 91 top-five finishes and 246 top-10’s. He has run over 75,000 laps in Whelen Modified Tour competition.

“When the Tour started in 1985 I was [about] 30 years old and at 30 years old God gives you a lot of breaks in life,” Tomaino said. “You do crazy things at that age. Even though I traveled and did a lot of races, even though I had fun still, at 30 years old I still was having my fun and still being able to go to every one of these races. Back in 1985 and ’86 and probably ’87 we not only ran the Tour, but any weekly Saturday night racetrack that we could get to, Riverside Park, Wall Stadium. If anybody was running Modifieds you would run. It was a lot racing. It really didn’t hit me so much how much I was doing until I got my 200th start and somebody said that was a lot of starts. Before I knew it I was up at my 500th start. I don’t know, I’m just blessed.”

These days Tomaino heads to the track for Whelen Modified Tour events with a crew of three behind him. His wife of 37 years Cheryl, his 26-year old daughter Brittany and his crew chief, George Ratajczak, who has been with him for 11 years.

Tomaino and his wife have been together since 1972 after meeting in the grandstands while watching racing at Wall (N.J.) Stadium.

“I was just there checking out the girls and watching the races and we met and that was it,” Tomaino said.

Tomaino’s two sons – 35-year old Jamie Jr. and 30-year old Trey – both work for Tommy Baldwin Racing at NASCAR’s top-level Sprint Cup Series.

Tomaino said he has no timetable at this point for when he will stop racing.

“It’s kind of year-to-year,” Tomaino said. “Being [59] I get criticized some now because I don’t win and I don’t finish in the top-five. Every once in a while I get a top-10. I’ve got my daughter and my wife and [Ratajczak]. At [the season opening Icebreaker 150 on April 10 at Thompson Speedway] I had to pit four times because I’ve got no help. Today in this division everybody wants to get paid. There’s paid crew chiefs and paid tire guys. Back in the 80’s nobody got paid. You jumped in the truck and went from race to race to race. That’s what I’m up against and I know that’s what I’m up against and I don’t care. I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got good equipment. Chase Dowling proved that driving [a second team car] for me last year. I wish I wasn’t so stubborn or he’d be driving for me fulltime, but I’m still stubborn. When I stay on the lead lap in a race and I bring the car home in one piece I feel like I did a good job. People can criticize me because I don’t win anymore, they can, I don’t care, I love doing this.”

Said Coby: “It’s a testament to his hard work and longevity in the sport and his family’s commitment to helping him. I think he would probably be the first to say that if his wife and kids weren’t behind him for all of those starts that he probably wouldn’t be there doing it still. It’s one of those deals where it’s like, what can you say about the guy? He’s been a good help to everybody who is young and up and coming, even if it’s just ‘Hey, figure it out.’ He’s always there to help.”

Nobody comes close to matching Tomaino’s starts number with the series. Seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik, who last ran in 2014, is second on the all-time starts list with 453. Ed Flemke Jr., who last made a series start in 2013, is third all-time with 439 starts.

“It’s a great division and it was the main deal for NASCAR way back,” Tomaino said. “This was NASCAR. Then somehow in the 60’s or whatever things transpired and it changed. But man, when I was a young kid, just thinking that I was able to go race against great guys. Then they started this Tour and I thought everybody would do it, but they didn’t. Many guys frowned on it at first. Most of the people stayed at their tracks. One thing I’ll never understand is that we don’t race for a lot of money and NASCAR has a few other divisions that race for a lot of money and I feel we put on as good a show if not better than those divisions.”

Justin Bonsignore, who at 28 years old is in his seventh full-time season with the series, shudders when the mention of Tomaino’s record for starts is brought up.

“Six hundred?” Bonsignore said. “That’s insane. I haven’t even hit 100 yet and it wears me out.”

Said series veteran Jimmy Blewett: “He still gets around. He doesn’t really have the buck everybody else does out there, but he’s still here because his heart’s in it. I don’t think there won’t be another day where he might run up front. You never know. But it’s nice to see that he’s here supporting and setting milestones that you could only dream of setting.”

Asked if he still loves it the same as when he was 30-years old, there’s no hesitation with an answer from Tomaino.

“No, not even close,” Tomaino said. “Sometimes I say ‘What am I doing?’ and I would have never said that back then. But when I get to the track it’s a whole different deal. When I get out there on the track, I might not be fastest or even close to that on the speed charts, but sometimes I have pretty good cars and that gets my blood circulating again. I wish the Tour tire rule was different. If it was different I think I’d be more in the top-10. The tires Hoosier provides are real good tires. There’s no problem with the tires. But they can go more than 75 laps. But we can change tires. So people think that’s all they can go. Now, if everybody could only change one tire, or no tires, it would be a completely different outcome of a lot of races.

“I know I’m never going to be a millionaire doing this, but I’ve done what I wanted my whole life. This is a great division most of the time. I’m just lucky I’ve been able to do it this long.”


  1. Frankie tree says

    God Bless you .

  2. I thought it was pretty cool that they were passing out cupcakes in the stands at the speedbowl. 600 of them and all with their own number written on them 1-600.

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