Constructive Career: Todd Owen Shines Building And Driving SK Modifieds

Todd Owen celebrates his first career victory in an SK Modified feature last July at Thompson Speedway

Todd Owen will head to Thompson Speedway for this weekend’s season opening Icebreaker chasing a victory in Sunday’s SK Modified feature, but with a big picture eye toward chasing the division’s championship in 2018.

In 2017 Owen went to the final event of the season at Thompson Speedway in the hunt for his first SK Modified championship at the track, though it wasn’t a spot he had ever expected himself to be in at the start of the year.

Thompson Speedway actually wasn’t even a place he expected to be at all in 2017.

Before the start of the 2017 season Owen’s plans were to race full-time in the SK Modified divisions at Stafford Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

And then the Somers driver found himself chasing wins and titles at three tracks.

“We had built a brand new car for Waterford and obviously with them not knowing if they were going to open last year, it was I think a couple days before the Icebreaker last year and the car was sitting in the shop and I decided ‘Why don’t we just change the rear and go there.’” Owen said. “I used to run a Pro Stock there years ago, but I hadn’t been there in probably five or six years. Two days before the Icebreaker changed the rear and went there. We said ‘Well we did OK the first race so let’s go back to the next one.’ That’s kind of how the whole year kept going. Now this year we built a car just for Thompson and that hopefully will make it easier because we were trying to change over cars and go back and forth. Hopefully we made it easier. I don’t think I made the winter any easier on us, but it should pay off during the year.”

On the track Owen looks to build on the success of 2017 at all three tracks again in 2018. Off the track the veteran of Modified racing just keeps building, period.

With the help of close friend and car builder Butch Shea, Owen’s reputation as a guy who can drive a car fast has been augmented with reputation as a guy that can build a fast car.

Owen’s shop in Somers houses two other SK Modified teams and an SK Light Modified team and born there in the last two years has been a fleet of Modifieds that Owen and Shea have built together.

Building Up 

The 42-year old Owen got his start racing in a Strictly Stock at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass.

“They didn’t have go-karts back then like now,” Owen said. “The first time I went to a racetrack I bought four left side tires. I had no idea what I was doing.”

After six years Owen rose to the ranks of the Pro Stock division at Riverside. He was racing Pro Stocks at both Riverside and Stafford when Riverside closed after the 1999 season. In 2000 the Pro Stocks ran for the last season at Stafford.

Owen then ended up teaming with then Stafford Speedway SK Modified driver Brad Heitala at Reliable Welding and Speed. It was with Heitala where Owen began to learn the art of building Modifieds.

He went on to finish second in the SK Modified standings at Stafford Speedway in both 2004 and 2005 working with Hietala. Owen got the first of his seven career SK Modified victories at Stafford in 2005.

In 2016 Owen and Shea built the first Modified out of Owen’s Somers shop.

“The Chassis Pro name that we kind of put on cars, that’s [Shea’s] business was,” Owen said. “He built Pro Stocks for a living. What happened with that deal was they kept [throwing Pro Stock divisions] out of race tracks and basically that put him out of business.”

This winter Owen and Shea built their fifth, sixth and seventh Modifieds since 2016.

“We’re on car number seven and we only started two years ago, so I don’t know how this is even happening,” Owen said. “It’s something that we said we’d build one, then we built another one.

“We built one for [Stafford SK Modified division driver] Josh Wood last year and that helped me to be able to race at three race tracks. I could never afford the motor program, so it’s kind of like I’m working to race for myself. It’s a way to earn extra money to keep going.”

This past winter Owen built two more cars for himself and a car for Stafford Speedway SK Modified division rookie David Arute.

“It’s helping fund what I want to do,” Owen said. “When people say ‘Oh you built two new racecars this winter.’ I say, ‘Well, I built three new racecars, two are for me, but in order for me to build two chassis’ for me I built one for David.’ So in a way, that’s how I made the money to do it. It’s not like I have all this money to build new cars. You can work as hard as you want to work to keep going.”

Owen said there’s an extra level of pride that comes with a racing a car he built from the ground up.

“It’s very special,” Owen said. “I went out for practice Saturday [with a new car at Thompson] and you go out there breaking it in and you’re just like ‘Man, I built this thing.’ And it feels exactly like last year’s car. It’s pretty cool that we can build things the same and build them identical. Obviously I could never do it without Butch Shea. He’s obviously the brains of the whole deal. I can work, I can fabricate. But when you start talking about roll centers and geometry, that’s not my department. I can never claim to be that guy. He’s just so talented.”

The Owen shop in Somers serves as the headquarters for not only his own operation, but also for Arute, Wood and Stafford Speedway SK Light Modified driver Bryan Narducci.

“I guess in a way it’s a payback for what people did for me when I started,” Owen said. “Unfortunately my father passed away when I was 19 so I needed to have help from other people that were in the sport to keep going. I was fortunate enough to have that. David and Bryan and Josh, they’re all great kids and they’re very appreciative and they’re very thankful for what opportunities they have. The shop just seems to work well with everybody working together.”

Owen finished just seven points behind Keith Rocco in the chase for the SK Modified title at Thompson Speedway last year. He got his first career SK Modified victory at Thompson on July 8 and finished the season with three victories, including the track’s annual 20/20 Sprint event.

“It was great,” Owen said of battling Rocco for the championship on the final day of the season. “Obviously I felt like I had to chase Keith at every track last year. It was just not a position that we even thought we’d be in. So to go there the last race and honesty feel like there was no pressure because no matter what the outcome was it was going to be a good for year for us. So we went there and we did all we could do that weekend and we just fell short. But obviously it gave us all a little bit more of a prize to try to chase this year and hopefully we can give it a shot.”

Owen also got his first career SK Modified victory at the Speedbowl in 2017 and finished third in the standings at the shoreline oval. He ended up fifth in the 2017 SK Modified standings at Stafford with eight top-fives.

“I didn’t actually plan on doing all three tracks last year and it kind of just worked out that way,” Owen said. “It was a lot of fun, a lot of work. I actually think in the grand scheme of things it helps you stay on top of the game a little bit better. As of right now we’re going to try it again. Thankfully I have some really great people that help me out. Thankfully I have an employer that gives me some leeway to have some time off.

“… It was a great year last year. We seem to be getting better and better every year. There’s multiple reasons why that’s happening I believe. It’s just, everything is gelling together. We have the right people helping us. The motor program’s really working with what we’re doing. I think the more cars that we have in the shop and the more racing that we’re doing obviously we’re learning and it’s helping us improve each week.”

For more from Todd Owen check out this week’s edition of the Unmuffled Podcast

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  1. Great article on Todd. He is a true racer. Teaming up with Butch Shea seem to have brought more consistency to his program,while also allowing him to build cars for other competitors. To show the gentleman he is back when Jim Peterson was still competing we went into the fall final trailing Adam Gray by 3 points, Todd was driving the #90LM that year. A late race caution put Jim within Striking distance of Adam, we lined up outside of Todd. I was spotting and asked Todd’s Spotter if he could let Jim in,hedid and although we still fell short the gesture was appreciated. Todd runs people clean and races the way he expects to be raced. There aren’t many of his kind left in the sport

  2. Good luck Todd at the ice breaker

  3. Sad to hear aboutGlen Johnson’s mom being sick. Best wishes for the family. As many know Glen owns the car that Chase Dowling was supposed to be driving at Stafford. Glen made the right decision Family always comes first. Joe Hamm was forced to make the same decision in 2010 after winning the 2009 Track Championship in Late Models. Joe said it was a tough decision to make in one sense but a no brainer in another. Family must come first. You made the right decision Glen.

  4. Race dude says

    Echo your statement Rob p. Glen Johnson definitely made the right decision. Family First. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Johnson family

  5. If I recall correctly, the situation with Hamm happened about the same time of year. Glen and Joe made the right choice Family must come first. Best wishes to Glen and his family.

  6. WeldingWonders says

    Just an observation. Rocco frequently gets he accomplishments to modified racing marginalized for not being a top competitor in the NWMT. No one I can recall has even hinted at the suggestion the Owen is not up to snuff for not racing on the Tour. His support always centers around the SK’s but in many respects Owen and Rocco share the same approach to racing and their contributions to it. Owen is always a top 5 car and a multi feature winner but expectations are always moderate for him. I wonder why.

  7. Crazy in NY says

    Can you name a TTOM race Rocco almost won? How about a top 3?

  8. WeldingWonders says

    How about 8th in the Haunted Hundred?

  9. Hey Wonders – When was the last time that someone claimed that Todd was the successor to TC? That might be why no ones bashing him. He’s a class act that goes out, works hard, and sees success from his efforts. Rocco much the same, but there’s that element that always is putting him up as the next greatest mod driver of all time. There’s the difference.

  10. WeldingWonders says

    So Rocco takes hits on not being a force in the NWMT because many view him as the next greatest mod driver of all time and many feel you can’t be that unless you are a force in the NWMT at some point. Owen is not considered in the same class as Rocco for the consideration so whether he ever races on the Tour or not is not a big deal. Fair enough.

  11. I find it hard to root against a car named “Herbie”…

    Best of luck in 2018 to Todd!

  12. TC got his firs modified tour win in his 11th year and after 80 starts. 0 wins in his last 65 starts
    Rocco has 30 starts in 7 years and no wins .

    It takes good equipment and a good team to win on the tour – no easy task without these things

  13. WeldingWonders says

    I don’t think anyone that follows racing could ever actually root against Owen. On the other hand I’ve never heard anyone show any real deep rabid support for his either. More like polite appreciation. He’s in the perfect neutral sweet spot.

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