Jon Puleo Out Indefinitely After Crash In SK Modified Opener Saturday At Stafford

Jon Puleo’s SK Modified launches over Daniel Wesson’s car on the backstretch during Saturday’s feature for the division (Photo: FLORACING video)

Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified driver Jon Puleo had high hopes for his rookie season in the division in 2021. 

Unfortunately, due to a high-flying crash in the opening event of the season Saturday the 17-year old from Branford will be watching the racing at Stafford from the sidelines for the foreseeable future. 

Following the afternoon crash Saturday, Puleo was at Hartford Hospital until early Sunday morning. 

“He just kind of banged up his back,” his father Ed Puleo said Sunday evening. “He’s got some back pain. They didn’t find anything serious. He’s in pretty good shape now. I thought it was going to be worse because he was really in a lot of pain last night. But he woke up this morning and he’s actually pretty good. He’s not broken or anything. But you know how it is when you get a back injury, they can linger for a while. We’re going to sit him out for a little bit. He’s not happy about it. He’s only 17, he’s got plenty of years to race, so we’re going to put him on the shelf for a little while.” 

With 18 laps remaining in the 40-lap SK Modified feature on NAPA Opening Day Saturday, Puleo’s car ended up launching over the spinning car of Daniel Wesson on the backstretch.  

The crash took place about a half a lap after a restart. Contact from Wesson on the inside sent Andrew Molleur up the track and into the wall off of turn two. Further down the backstretch Wesson spun and was turned around going backward down the backstretch. Puleo, who was running just outside the top-10 at the time, came at Wesson’s car head on and launched off the front of Wesson’s car. Puleo got four wheels off the track going airborne before landing on all four wheels and the sliding sideways to the grass. 

The hard landing after getting four wheels off the pavement left with immediate pain through his back after exiting the car. 

“He had two impacts, first when he hit the other car and it drove him up in the air, and then the landing of course,” Ed Puleo said. “And the landing was right on the left rear wheel, which is right behind the driver. Both impacts were on the left side of the car so he definitely took a really good shot. I think everything did its job. He had no neck pain, so that’s good. The HANS device worked and the seatbelts did their job. He had no evidence of a concussion or anything like that. He remembered every single thing. So he was good in that regard. It’s something that could have been a hell of a lot worse. I wish it was better, I wish it didn’t happen, but it definitely could have been a hell of a lot worse.” 

He wasn’t released from Hartford Hospital until after 2 am. 

“They did a bunch of different x-rays,” Ed Puleo said. “They did an ultra-sound on his chest. They did a CT Scan. I was really happy that they were very thorough. Unfortunately it just took a lot of time. We were there until after 2 o’clock in the morning. So it took a long time, but they really just wanted to make sure that they checked everything and I couldn’t argue with that. They saw a slight compression so they want us to follow up with an orthopedic doctor just to have him checked again. Obviously they suggested he didn’t get back in a race car for now.” 

Ed Puleo said at this point there’s no formal timetable for a return. 

“They just said it was probably not a good idea [to race] for a while,” Ed Puleo said. “I already knew in my mind while we were in the ambulance that he was probably going to be out for a little while. I have had back pain before and I just know that if you don’t take care of it it’s just going to get worse and it’s something you’ll live with for the rest of your life. He woke up this morning and immediately he wanted to go to the shop, so I know he’s pretty good. He wants to go right back to work. I know he’s going to be a handful for a little while.”

Jon Puleo spent the last two years competing in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford after winning an SK Light Modified division championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 2018. He had five SK Light Modified wins at Stafford in 2020. Ed Puleo was effusive in praising the safety crew at Stafford Speedway. 

“I can’t say enough for the track crew,” Ed Puleo said. “You hear a lot of things in the racing world. We moved to Stafford. You get people saying ‘Why did you go to Stafford? The competition is harder, everything is harder, why would you do that?’ But when you look at Stafford, even when we weren’t racing there we were going there every week. You look at what they do and how quickly they respond and just the job they do, it’s really not talked about enough. As a father – and I can say this for a lot of people that have their sons or daughters racing – that matters. For most people it doesn’t matter until it matters. 

“That was a perfect scenario yesterday. Just a racing deal, a couple cars got together and he got caught up in it and they got to him right away. They calmed him down, they gave him great instructions, they were just great. I go to some race tracks and you see there’s a wreck and it takes forever for the crew to get out there and sometimes that can make a big difference in the matter of somebody having a minor injury or it becoming something serious. I think for parents that are getting their kids into racing, I think that’s something they need to pay attention to because it is important.”

Jon Puleo at the driver’s meeting Saturday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)


  1. Get well soon, Jon!

    That was quite a ride, here’s to a speedy and full recovery!

  2. Most fans know about the time Corky Cookman’s car launched into the stands in 1983 injuring 30 people. What is more obscure was an incident that also happened in the 80’s. JJ Goff a Street Stock drivers car got hooked on the back gate that sent the car violently spinning and disintegrating leaving the engine laying on the track. Goff was OK and it prompted the gate redesign but the point is you can never plan for every risk.
    We tend to get lulled into a false sense that with all the newer safety measures drivers getting hurt is a once in a blue moon occurrence. Anytime you strap into a race car there’s nothing about it that’s truly safe.

  3. First off, best wishes for a speedy recovery for Jon.

    Second, a tip of the cap to his father for some very classy comments at a time where you could excuse a few that went the other way. Ed went out of his way to say nice things about many people withot pointing the blame finger at anyone else.

  4. Marvin D Schulz says

    Tony Jankowieak did the same thig on the front stretch that led to his death so it could have been worse. Anytime those cars hook wheels someone is going for a ride

  5. The Atomic Punk says

    Tony J died going straight into the wall due to the awkward sun angle at the time, The race was delayed a bit until the sun set a bit more to reduce the glare. I was there and remember it well.

  6. Shawn and Ed….Thank you very much for the update. Your comments Ed about the Stafford crew is spot on./ They are the best! So glad Jon is okay and in good spirits. Hopefully he will have a speedy recovery and be back at the track soon.

  7. Tony J’s wreck was the result of a hung throttle, it had nothing to do with the sun angle. I was sitting in the third row of the first turn out bleachers, right where he hit, there were about 50 feet of skid marks leading to the point of impact. He realized his throttle had hung. When he hi, his helmet hit the right side A pillar bar, and I truly believe he was dead on impact. But again hung throttle, not sun angle.

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