Tommy Catalano, driver of the #54 FX Caprara, during the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia on April 1, 2022. (Sanjay Suchak/NASCAR)
Tommy Catalano, driver of the No. 54 FX Caprara Modified, during the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Richmond Raceway on April 1, 2022. (Sanjay Suchak/NASCAR)

Richmond performance serves as confidence booster for Tommy Catalano and family

The tension in the Catalano pit was palpable Friday night at Richmond Raceway.

As 24-year-old Tommy Catalano was leading during the late stages of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150, his mother Amy Catalano paced nervously.

She’d been pacing for nearly the entire event as she watched her son race at the front of the field. Occasionally, she’d glance down at her phone before quickly looking back up at the screen on the scoring tower in the infield of the 0.75-mile oval.

At one point, she got down on her knees beside a stack of tires, put her hands together and said a prayer for her son.

“I knelt down at one point and I know I probably looked silly to everybody if anybody was looking at me,” Amy Catalano told NASCAR.com. “I was thinking, ‘I didn’t put in this much effort birthing this little boy. I’m putting in more effort praying for him to win this race than I did bringing him into the world.’”

Ultimately things didn’t work out for Tommy Catalano, who lost the lead with 11 laps left to eventual winner and defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore.

Despite falling short of his first Tour victory, Tommy Catalano was all smiles after emerging from his race car with a runner-up finish Friday night.

“It’s one of those deals where you’re so excited but at the same time you’re so disappointed, but nothing to be disappointed about,” Tommy Catalano said. “A good day for us we said would be a top-10 finish. To come up 10 laps short of winning the race is definitely nothing to hang our heads on.

“We battled Justin early in the race. Kind of got a feel for where he was a little better than I was and where I was a little better than he was. We made some adjustments to the car and obviously he did the same. I had a feeling if we were going to race for the win, we would be racing him.”

Entering Friday’s race at Richmond, Catalano’s previous best tour result was a third-place finish at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. He also led a career-high 69 laps Friday night, more than any other driver in the field.

It was a career-day for the third-generation racer from Ontario, New York, who has followed in the footsteps of his parents. Amy Catalano is a champion racer with eight tour starts on her résumé and his father, Dave Catalano, also raced regularly for years.

Despite having dealt with plenty of stress through the years as she won races and championships, the stress Amy Catalano felt Friday night at Richmond was completely different.

She was a proud mother watching her son race against the best modified drivers in the country and, for a time at least, beat them. It was everything she could to contain her emotions.

“At one point I thought I was going to get sick,” Amy Catalano admitted. “At some points I wanted to cheer. At some points I didn’t want to look. I don’t really know. I had a range of emotions going on.”

For Tommy Catalano, who currently sits tied with Eric Goodale at the top of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings after two races, a performance like the one he and his small family team enjoyed at Richmond is a massive confidence booster.

Now all that’s left is to win his first tour race. He firmly believes that moment is coming sooner than later.

“The more we finish in the top 10, the more we finish in the top five, eventually hopefully luck will go our way,” Tommy Catalano said. “We’ll have a car capable of it and we’ll end up getting one.”

Always her son’s biggest supporter, Amy Catalano agreed.

“We always say we’ve got to walk before we can run,” Amy Catalano said. “Tonight I feel like we jogged pretty steady, so let’s hope we can run at the next one.”

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season resumes May 14 with the first of three visits this season to New York’s Riverhead Raceway.