Setting The Scene: Rob Summers Looks To Capture First Whelen Mod Tour Win At Oswego

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Rob Summers (Photo: Fran Lawlor)

Rob Summers is no stranger to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but he seems to be a foreigner when it comes to visiting Victory Lane.

Rejoicing in celebration after a hard-fought success story on the track has not been in the cards for him over the last 17 years of competition.

Not even once.

After 175 starts, and a best finish of second, (on two different occasions), Summers is ready to capture that elusive first Whelen Modified Tour win.

“Worse than anything,” Summers said when asked how much he wants to celebrate a win. “I’ve been chasing it for 20 years. It would be the biggest thing for me — and my father — who has supported me through my racing habit and spent a lot of money for me. I would love to give back to him with it. I just wanna do it. I wanna check that off the list.”

Don’t let the fact that he hasn’t won a race fool you. He’s been one of the most competitive drivers on the track and is one of the long-standing veterans that remains on the Whelen Modified Tour in the midst of a youth movement filled with upcoming rising stars.

Summers started his career driving in 1998, and when his first breakout season came in 2000, he won four pole awards. Three DNFs halted his rise up the championship standings that year, but he took the momentum and carried it into 2001 — scoring one more pole and eight top-10 finishes across 20 starts.

Since then, it’s been a mix of success and frustration for the Manchester, Connecticut, veteran.

“Just like every other young driver, my hopes and dreams were to end up down south at some point,” Summers said when asked of what he thought about 20 years ago. “I have driven for quite a few teams.”

This season, in his third campaign driving for Mike Murphy, Summers seems to have found the speed he needs to run at the front of the pack. The No. 64 Hoosier Tire East Chevrolet has been near the top of the speed charts in practice sessions and has quickly shown that he has the ability to contend for wins.

But the results just aren’t showing it.

His best finish is a third, last time on the track at Bristol, where he charged through the field late to seal a podium effort in the Bush’s Beans 150. He only has three other top-10s in the other 10 races, but feels like the results aren’t showing what the cars have been capable of.

“I wish I knew the answer,” Summers said at Bristol when asked why he couldn’t quite find the consistency he needed to run up front regularly. “We’ve been fast, I don’t know if you call it the wrong place at the wrong time, or what. Just couldn’t seal the deal.”

His time with Murphy over the last three years has produced some of the most successful efforts of his career. He finished ninth in the championship standings last year, and enters the Toyota Mod Classic 150 at Oswego Speedway on Saturday sixth in the current points rundown.

“Honestly, I’m probably with the best team,” Summers said. “It sounds crazy, but 20 years later, I’m now in the best position I have ever been in. I’m at an age where I’m not going to be doing this forever. I really would like to finish my career with these guys.”

Summers credits crew chief Steve Lemay for the speed that car has shown, along with his team owner, Mike Murphy, who keeps the cars at his garage.

“This year, we have taken things to the next level and it’s really showing. The cars have been super fast, really every week,” Summers said. “Steve has a full-time job, and he really works his butt off when he can find the time to get over there. We don’t really have full-time help, and they are getting so much out of the car, it’s really amazing. When we come in, we sometimes make adjustments, but we don’t make many, because he is so prepared when he gets to the track that we aren’t thrashing. When you unload fast off the truck, it really makes the job easy.”

Next up in his quest to capture that first win? Oswego on Saturday. The ‘Steel Palace’ is a track that Summers is familiar with, and not only behind the wheel of a modified. He does have multiple starts behind the wheel of a Supermodified as well.

“It’s a tough place to pass, everyone tries to run down low, but if you can get your car setup where you can go on the outside, it has to be comfortable where you can have forward drive, and it can be done up there,” Summers said. “It’s a fun track. I really enjoy racing Oswego.”

Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes:

Five Races Remain: The battle for the championship is hitting the final stretch, and right now, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to be able to challenge Justin Bonsignore. Through the first 11 races, the Holtsville, New York driver has been to Victory Lane six times, and has finished inside the top-10 in all of his starts. Chase Dowling is hot as well, but is still 64-points back in the standings as he looks for his first win. Timmy Solomito, who will enter the event third in the standings, is nearly two-races off Bonsignore’s pace at the top.

Live Pit Stops: Unlike last year, Whelen Modified Tour teams will have the opportunity to use their pit crew to their advantage during the Toyota Mod Classic 150 presented by McDonald’s. The 150-lap event will be run without a break, meaning teams will need to chose their pit strategy wisely if they want to end up in Victory Lane. With four change tires up for grabs, teams will look to gain their driver a few positions when they come down pit road. That could spell even more trouble for the rest of the field — since Justin Bonsignore’s pit crew has been among those that have been lights out so far this season. The element of live pit stops brings a whole new aspect of the event for fans to keep an eye on.

Rookie of the Year Battle Heats Up: The race for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title is also coming to a close over the next two months. Entering Oswego, Tommy Catalano holds a 19-point lead over Blake Barney, while Joe DeGracia is third, 62 points back. All three drivers have no previous Whelen Modified Tour starts at Oswego, but Catalano does have some previous experience driving in the modified ranks at the 0.625-mile oval.

Full Card of Racing: The 62nd annual Bud Classic weekend at Oswego will provide race fans an opportunity to witness multiple different classes competing across three days of action. Along with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the International Supermodified Association, the SMAC 350 Supermodifieds and the 200-lap Bud Classic for the Novelis Supermodifieds are also on the card.

Up Next: Following the Toyota Mod Classic 150 presented by McDonald’s, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to the track on Saturday, September 8, at Riverhead Raceway in New York.


  1. Had the pleasure of working with Steve very smart crew chief and the results show.

  2. Fast Eddie says

    My favorite darkhorse pick, and I think they’re way overdue. Rob has more track time at Oswego than most from his ISMA rides. Go get ’em #64!

  3. Rob is a personable class act that is WAY overdue for a win. Hopefully coming very soon and I am there to see it.

  4. I agree rob has paid his dues and I think with this combination they have a good shot good luck

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