The name Fullone will forever be associated with one of the greatest dynasties in this area’s local racing history, back when car owner Vince Fullone and his former driver Rick Wylie raced their potent No. 48 entry to seven NASCAR Late Model season championships at Holland Motorsports Complex many years ago.
In the years after Wylie retired as a driver, Fullone has continued to seek and gain racing success at various tracks near and far with his son Sam doing the driving. Now the family quest for victory continues but in a different type of race car.
The Fullone Motorsports team, based in North Collins, is currently in their first year of competition in the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified Tour with Sam behind the wheel. The open-wheel Modified venture is a big departure from the full-fender world of Late Model type cars and Pro Trucks that have marked the team’s identity to this point.
Sam Fullone was in the midst of a good NASCAR Late Model career, mainly at Lake Erie Speedway in 2012, having emerged victorious on five occasions that year. He also had won one race each at Clearfield, Pa., as well as Motordrome Speedway in Smithton, Pa., in 2012. Then Lake Erie cancelled the weekly NASCAR Late Model division at the conclusion of 2012, citing a lack of cars.
The Fullones stayed loyal to the Late Model class last season, but due to a lack of races in this area for their type of Late Model, they hit the road a few times. However, the travel expenses were great and the racing opportunities not as numerous, so a change of direction for 2014 was in order.
“Lake Erie stopped the weekly Late Model class at the end of 2012, so in 2013 we started going to other tracks like Clearfield, Motordrome and Oswego,” said Sam Fullone, 32. “But there are not many asphalt Late Model shows around anymore.
“So at the end of last season we took a look at everything and decided that the ROC was our best option. In Late Models we had a lot of travel for a few races. “We figured if we got an asphalt Modified we could stay more in New York State and travel less, and there’s more ROC races around. So it’s about travel less, race more.”
Sam Fullone emerged in the now-defunct NASCAR Pro Truck division in both 1997 and 1998 at Holland where he was the NASCAR Pro Truck Rookie of the Year in 1997. From 2001 through 2008, he competed on the national level in the Hooter’s Pro Cup Series. He returned to the Late Models in 2009.
Going from the Late Models to asphalt Modifieds has been a big adjustment for Fullone.
“They are kind of a handful and probably I’m not used to them yet,” Fullone said. “These Modified cars are lighter compared to the Late Models, and they have a lot of horsepower so the tires don’t last too long. So it’s been a learning experience with the tires and tire management.
“We have some experience with tire management because of our days in the Hooters Pro Cup where we ran between 200 and 300 lap races. But the Modifieds are faster than even the Hooters Pro Cup cars were.”
Thus far in 2014, Fullone has a pair of ninth-place runs, one at Elegant Builders Raceway Park and the other at Spencer Speedway. He recorded an 11th place effort in the Holland 100 at Holland Motorsports Complex July 5.
“The good thing is that I haven’t been involved in any accidents yet this year and that’s good because we can consistently look to improve the car rather than spending all the research time repairing the car from wrecks,” said Fullone.
Fullone says that his sponsorship arrangement with the family business, Fullone Trucking, only funds the team’s ROC program, but if additional financial backing can be found, the team would consider running NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events as well.
Whatever asphalt Modified series the Fullones follow in the days ahead, as always, they will bring with them their longtime pit crew of owner Vince Fullone and members Joe Mancuso, Greg Krause and Matt Zaccardo.
• Longtime local race official, announcer, public relations director and statistician Fran Bushardt, who is an institution in this area’s racing circles, resigned his positions at Ransomville, Merrittville and New Humberstone Speedway’s last week due to a change of his employment outside of racing.
Bushardt has performed his duties in a most professional and helpful manner for 25 years. Bushardt was honored by New Humberstone management just prior to last Sunday’s headlining DIRT.car Sportsman race.
“It will be tough to not be at those places every week anymore,” said Bushardt. “I will still help when my schedule allows. This has been a major part of my life for many years.”
• The late Kevin Ward Jr., who died this past Saturday in the incident with Tony Stewart at Canandaigua Speedway, almost won a race here in Western New York Aug. 1 when the Patriot Sprint Tour visited Ransomville Speedway. Ward was dominating the 25-lap A-Main with just two laps to go when he had contact with a lapped car.
Earlier in the evening Ward turned in a near-Ransomville Speedway Sprint Car record lap of 14.434 seconds in warm-up.
• Stateline Speedway will showcase the “Race for Damon” on Aug. 23. Damon Janes lost his life last Sept. 16, the result of local high school football on-field collision. Janes is the great-grandson of former standout Stateline driver Dick Gilbert. A fundraiser will be held that night with the proceeds going to assist the Janes family. The event is also being promoted by Stateline management as a way to bring further awareness to the problems of head injuries in youth sports. The Super Late Models will be featured that evening.