MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Timmy Solomito had the page flipped on the 2018 season before the calendar ever turned over to start the new year, after a surprising winless stretch on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Now, the New York modified standout is hoping that a clean slate will lead him back towards the top of the standings, as he pursues his long-sought after first series championship.
Solomito’s quest to claim the crystal bowl kicks off this weekend at Myrtle Beach Speedway, where the 27-year-old has found prior success in NASCAR modified action, winning the inaugural Tour race at the .538-mile South Carolina oval two years ago.
A similar start to this season would put Solomito in prime position as a contender for the title, which is exactly the level that he and his Flamingo Motorsports No. 16 team want to get back to.
“Absolutely, we want to come out of the box strong,” Solomito said. “The team has upgraded both cars and did a lot of work over the winter, and I think we’re going there extremely prepared this year. I’m looking forward to it; we had really good luck there two years ago when we won the race, and our hope is to get back to victory lane and rekindle some of that magic that nearly brought us a championship.
“As a driver, your hope is always to start the year off right and that’s what we aim to do this weekend.”
A native of Long Island – specifically Islip, N.Y. – Solomito is used to the beating and banging of bullring race tracks like Riverhead Raceway, where he grew up competing at as a kid.
You can’t get away with that type of racing very easily at Myrtle Beach, however, something Solomito was quick to point out because of the track’s old and worn-out asphalt.
“Both Myrtle Beach and South Boston, where we’ll go to in a couple of weeks, are completely different than anything us northern guys are used to,” Solomito noted. “We’re used to tracks that have pretty good grip, where the pavement’s not too beat up, but when we come down south we run into tracks that are really rough and abrasive on our tires. These places are ones that you have to take slow, not just to race your competition but also to race the race track itself.
“In cases like that, it really comes down to strategy and who has the best tires at the end, so it always makes for a lot of unique storylines and roads to follow,” he added. “There will be guys who are killing their stuff at the beginning because they want to lead and maintain track position, and then there will be others who fall to the back, ride and hopefully rise back to the front at the end when it counts.
“It certainly makes for an interesting race for the fans, that’s for sure. It’s like chess and roulette mixed together.”
When he went to victory lane at Myrtle Beach in 2017, Solomito only led the final eight laps of the race, taking the point with three to go and then holding serve on an overtime, green-white checkered finish.
It was a race that taught Solomito a lot about the mental game of racing at the weathered half-mile.
“What I remember about that first race at Myrtle Beach was learning really quickly how you can’t go by speed or anything like that to know who’s going to be good,” reflected Solomito. “You had to dial your car in and be really comfortable on the long runs, as opposed to looking for raw speed and putting a big number up on top of the charts.
“That race was about racing the track and being smart. We were sitting seventh or eighth in the final laps, and getting caution after caution that ate up laps, but ended up second on a green-white-checkered and had enough tire left to take home the victory,” he added. “It was a really cool night.”
Solomito’s hoping for another of those cool nights on Saturday, against a loaded 34-car field.
“There’s going to be a lot of good cars and a lot of guys that I believe will have a shot to win the race,” said Solomito. “All we can hope for is that we’re one of those that’s in contention.”