NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — It could have been pitch black in the pit area Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway and you still would have been able to see Trevor Catalano’s smile from a mile away.
He had just climbed from his No. 56 Catalano Motorsports Modified after a fifth-place finish during his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut, a result that far exceeded any expectations he had for himself.
It was the culmination of a winter’s worth of work for the Catalano family, who are taking on the colossal task of fielding three full-time entries on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2024 for Trevor and his brothers Tommy and Tyler.
“We came down here hoping to finish 20th and just have a good day and hopefully finish all 200 laps,” he said. “After the first run at the beginning I said, ‘I think we have a car that can run inside the top 10.’ I just needed to get comfortable and figure out what I needed inside the car.
“I think we found it in those last two pit stops. We got stuck a lap down on pit road, but all in all it was an awesome day, and I had a ton of fun.”
Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event marked day two of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, an annual motorsport gathering that draws drivers and teams from across the United States, Canada and occasionally other countries.
For the Catalano family, including mom Amy, the World Series of Asphalt serves not only as the start to what will be an extremely busy 2024 season, but also doubles as a vacation of sorts for the family from Ontario, New York.
It’s become an annual tradition for the Catalano family to pack their bags and head to Florida each February to race at New Smyrna Speedway, where the weather is admittedly much nicer than the conditions they leave behind in New York.
“It’s a family tradition that my kids carried on,” Amy said. “It started with my oldest (Timmy) and we don’t want to stop the tradition until all the kids get to give it a try. We’ve been coming down here for I think it has been 14 years of us doing this.
“Each one of my boys wants a shot to beat mom. I keep plugging along but each year I threaten I’m going to retire and let the boys take over. I feel bad to take it away from each one of them to beat me.”
You would think a trip to Florida in February would be relaxing, but the Catalano family has a hard time sitting still. That’s why they brought seven cars with them from New York to Florida, including five Modifieds and two Super Late Models.
Each car will see action during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, with Amy and Tommy each driving the Super Late Models while Tommy, Tyler and Trevor will take turns behind the wheel of the Modifieds. A family friend will also wheel one of the Modifieds one night during the week.
“We brought seven cars with us and no backups. So seven cars that we plan on racing,” Tommy said. “Our goal for the week is to try and keep it fun and that sounds entirely crazy to think because how are you going to keep it fun with seven cars? We brought a whole bunch of people with us that love racing and dedicated some time to coming and helping us.
“Hopefully that is going to play out in our favor. As I was telling somebody a little bit ago, part of keeping it fun is staying realistic.”
The addition of a Super Late Model for Amy to the roster of cars during the World Series happened less than three weeks ago. Amy, a former NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series New York State champion, started her career in Late Models before transitioning to Modifieds.
She always wanted to come back to Late Models to close out her career and saw an opportunity to do that this week at New Smyrna Speedway. She made her first Late Model start in more than two decades on Feb. 9, starting 31st and finishing 24th against a stacked Super Late Model field.
“I actually cut my teeth in Late Model racing,” Amy said. “I had 12 years in Late Model racing. I got a lot of wins and had a lot of fun. Old technology, not the new technology. I always teased that I’m going to get back in my fenders where I came from before I ended my career, so I bought one and I’m trying to be brave enough to get back in there.”
While a lot of the focus during the World Series for the Catalano family was on Amy’s Late Model return and Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, there is still a lot for the family to look forward to.
That includes fielding Modifieds for Amy, Tommy, Tyler and Trevor on the same night later in the coming week. The working goal is to field all four cars either for Thursday’s 50-lap feature or Friday’s Richie Evans Memorial 100.
“Most people take vacations and they go and do things. We don’t. We go racing,” Tyler said. “We come to Florida and call it a vacation and we go racing for seven days. It’s a blast.
“We all kind of work on everyone’s stuff to get it all prepared and ready to rip. It’s just fun to work out in the shop with our family and come race.”
No matter how the rest of the week goes, the entire Catalano family will leave New Smyrna Speedway happy. Not only did they get to spend more than a week racing together under the Florida sun, they also got to see Trevor finish fifth in his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut.
Anything else would be a massive bonus.
“A top-five, that wasn’t even in the radar when we left home,” Trevor said. “We could have the worst week the rest of the week and I don’t think we’re going to lose faith in this one.”