By Larry Ott
Amy Catalano jumped from her race car Saturday evening near the Victory Lane area of Elegant Builders Raceway Park. Although she did not win, her heart was filled with pure jubilation as she ran full stride several yards to the winning car to greet her teenage son, Tommy Catalano, who moments earlier captured his first career race win at the Lancaster track in the Sportsman 50.
The result gave Amy, who finished fourth in the Sportsman race, a very special Mother’s Day present. Also in the field was Amy’s husband and Tommy’s father, Dave Catalano, who placed sixth in the Sportsman race that highlighted the track’s 56th stock car season opener.
Tommy Catalano, 16, began his Sportsman racing career just a couple of years ago and ran a smooth and steady race, first holding off Kirk Totten and then veteran Tom MacLeod to gain the victory.
The young Catalano and his mother exchanged big smiles and hugs in Victory Lane in what was a very special night for the Ontario, N.Y., family.
“There’s no better Mother’s Day present than winning, although I’m sure she was trying hard to beat me in the race,” said an excited Tommy Catalano. “I know she wanted to win but I know she’s also very happy for me.”
Amy Catalano is a decorated racer in her own right, having captured the Holland and Spencer Speedway championships a few years ago as well as the NASCAR New York State Championship.
“Mother’s Day has come one day early,” Amy said. “This is quite a gift. Tommy ran the wheels off the thing. From what I saw he made no mistakes and it was a great job by him. I’m sure in the car when he was leading he might have been playing a lot of mind games with himself but he kept it all together.”
In the 50-lap Sportsman event, Amy Catalano led the 10-car field to the green flag with Dave Catalano on the outside pole and Tommy right behind, starting from the third position.
Amy jumped out to an early race lead with Tommy advancing to second. On Lap Five, Tommy executed what would be the winning pass. A few laps later, Totten drove into the runner-up position and began to hound the youngest Catalano for the top spot.
On Lap 40, a planned competition yellow flag was displayed, and then the cars were parked on the backstretch to allow the pit crews 10 minutes to make minor adjustments to their cars.
Totten’s great drive was then thwarted when his team changed tires during the adjustment period, which was a violation of the rules. When the race was restarted for the final 10-lap sprint, Totten was penalized to the rear of the lead lap cars, restarting in the seventh position.
Tommy still led when the green flag was unfurled but MacLeod was challenging. Despite a late race caution on Lap 46, Tommy held on for a four-car-length triumph. MacLeod finished second, with Mark Pennell third
“I knew I just had to hit my marks and hopefully I could get a tad bit better and hold them off the rest of the way,” Tommy said.
Tommy Catalano has won Sportsman/NASCAR Pro Modified feature races at Spencer and Wyoming County International Speedways in his career.
T.J. Cochrane, who has won the last two Street Stock season championships at the Lancaster track, served notice that he is going to be strong again when he captured the Street Stock 20 main event Saturday.
Cochrane took the lead from Jim Stein early in the race and never looked back. Keith Flanigan placed second with Stein third.
“I want to dedicate my win tonight to Mac Myers,” Cochrane said. Myers, who died on May 1, was a 43-year employee at the track, serving as an official and also tow truck operator.
Jonathan Reid took the lead early in the 20-lap TQ Midget affair and won in convincing fashion. He dedicated the win to his late car owner Harry Macy, who died last May.
During the TQ Midget event, Joe Barber suffered a violent accident when he barrel rolled over the backstretch wall of the infield one-fifth-mile track but emerged uninjured. Tom Lalomia Jr. drove an impressive race to dominate the Four-Cylinder event.
Elsewhere, Wheatfield’s Chad Brachmann had just enough fuel to hold off Pete Bicknell on Saturday evening and win the DIRT.car 358 Modified opening headliner at Merrittville Speedway.
It is the second year in a row in which Brachmann won the season opener at the Thorold, Ont., dirt track. While Brachmann drives his own family-owned car at Ransomville Speedway, he is also competing weekly at Merrittville in an entry co-owned by Anthony Macri and Rich Stock.
“I’m very happy how things went tonight,” Brachmann said. “... Thanks to my crew and my new car owners, Anthony and Rich. If every week turns out this way, we can’t wait to do it again.”