Jon Puleo Ready To Celebrate Speedbowl Rookie Season Championship

(Press Release from the New London-Waterford Speedbowl)

Jon Puleo celebrates his 2018 SK Light Modified championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (Photo: Passing Bird Photography)

Jonathan Puleo started the 2018 SK Lite Modified season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl with modest goals.

“My dad and I talked a lot about what we wanted to do,” Puleo said. “It was starting in the back, finish every race and to keep the car clean.” 

Something happened on opening weekend, however, to upgrade that philosophy. 

Puleo started on the pole and held off Brett Gonyaw and Wayne Burroughs Jr. to win his first ever SK Lite feature. It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, considering it was his first race after coming up from the Legends division.

“It definitely wasn’t part of the plan,” Puleo said. “It all clicked in. I felt like I was living a dream.”

Puleo didn’t wake up from that dream until the final race of the season. He rallied from an early wreck at the Finale to finish second and win the title by four points over Burroughs.

“My team definitely won the championship for me,” said Puleo, who at 15, became the youngest SK Lite champ in the history of the division.
“We just wanted to keep that winning mentality and do everything the right way,” Puleo said. “That meant keeping my nose clean during the races. We had a good solid car all year. My dad helped me keep my head on my shoulders and Rob Janovic also helped me all the way through.”

Puleo had raced in the Legends division for the previous two years and had one victory. His dad, former Speedbowl champ Ed Puleo, felt it was time to move up into an SK Lite.

“We had a lot of good runs the year before, so my dad thought it was time to try something new,” Puleo said. “We already had the car. It was a car he ran in the SK Modifieds and it sat in the garage for five years. He finally decided that I was ready. And it meant a lot to me to drive his old car and be on his team.”

Puleo wasted no time proving that his dad made the right call by winning at the season-opening Blastoff. That opening win was a game-changer. He didn’t stop winning. He struck again on June 8 when he took lead with an outside pass against John Sullivan on a green-white checker finish.

“I thought I was living a dream after the first win,” Puleo said. “This one tops it.”

He topped it again on June 15 when he pulled away from Burroughs with five laps to go.

The winning streak came to an end, however, two weeks later when Steven Chapman, in his first ever SK Lite race, got by Gonyaw and Puleo to secure the win.

“Our car was off a little,” Puleo said. “So me and my dad spent countless hours in the shop looking for a little more speed out of the car.”

Puleo used that extra speed on July 20 when he galloped past Keith Caruso in turn 3 on lap 13 to grab win No. 4.

“In the beginning of the race, the car was really bad, but in the middle the car was better and that’s when we took the lead,” Puleo said. “I didn’t mean to use up the track that much, but I was tight racing.”

Then Puleo developed another problem. Burroughs started winning races and vaulted into the point lead.

“It was fun racing Wayne,” Puleo said. “When he got a little faster than we were, we worked hard on the car and we started to get the upper hand again. It kept going back and forth.”

Burroughs, a two-time Speedbowl Mini Stock champ, notched his first win on July 29. Then Burroughs topped Puleo by a third of a car length for his second win on Aug. 24 to take over the point lead.

Puleo bounced back on Sept. 28, grabbing win No. 5 by charging past Burroughs late in the race.

“I knew I would have to try something I normally wouldn’t try,” Puleo said following that race. “I knew we were faster, so I just drove it into the turn hard. It’s my father’s birthday today and this is the best present I could give him.”

Puleo won again on Oct. 6 for win No. 6, and led Burroughs by seven points heading into the final race of the season.

Disaster struck early, however, at the finale. While Burroughs catapulted into the lead, Puleo was involved in a lap 2 wreck and had to go to the pits. When he returned, he was at the rear of the field.

“The one thing I wanted to do was stay patient,” Puleo said. “Wayne was up there in the lead, but when it’s that early in the race, anything can happen. The boys on my team kept me calm. They said if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. And it all worked out.”

Puleo romped his way through traffic and moved all the way to second to nip Burroughs by four points in the final standings. Burroughs won the final battle, but Puleo won the season-long war.

“I had never been in that situation before, running for a championship in a real race car.,” Burroughs said. “I just found that little extra that day.”

His sponsors include Mr. Rooter, Race Choice, Tick Mike, Big A Auto Parts of North Branford, Honest John’s Used Cars, Critical Signs, Hamilton Market, Greybar Electric, Foxon Park Beverages, Hocon Industrial Gas, Race Dog Photography, Wadell Communications and Keith Rocco Racing.
The members of his team include his dad, Steve Godfrey, his uncle Glen, Carl, his spotter Steve, Matt Crowley, Vinnie, Tyler and the entire Vo-Jan race team.

Next season Puleo plans to run the 23-race schedule at Stafford Motor Speedway, plus selected races at Waterford and Thompson.

But first will come a championship celebration Saturday at the “Stars of the Speedbowl” Banquet at the Mystic Marriott.

“This championship means everything,” Puleo said.

He started the season just wanting to finish races. He ended the season, however, by winning them.

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  1. David Banta says

    Two of the best people you’ll ever meet ..

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