DELIVERS SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Top First-Year Driver In The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
old phrase goes that once is by chance, twice is a
coincidence and three times is a trend. Chase
Dowling is trending.
A rookie of the year at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor
Speedway in its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK
Light Modified Division in 2013 and SK Modifieds in
2014, Dowling has kept the streak going by adding
2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors on the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour.
Dowling sits ninth in the championship standings
with seven top-10 finishes in 14 outings, and with
one race remaining, he’s already clinched the tour’s
top first-year driver honors.
The highest finishing rookie in a race receives 10
points, second receives nine, third gets eight and
so on. After 14 of 15 events, Dowling has an
insurmountable 23-point lead on his nearest
competitor Max Zachem (117-94).
The 17-year-old has displayed marked improvement as
the season has transpired. Through his first six
races he maintained an average finish of 18th. In
the eight outings since, he’s lowered that number to
eighth. Included in the surge was a best run of
third at Riverhead (New York) Raceway in August.
“At the beginning of the year we had a lot of
mechanical and electrical problems and had some
horrible finishes, but about midway through the year
things started coming together,” Dowling said.
“Everything was new. The team was new, I was new, so
there were some struggles. Once things started to
click, our team has been pretty stout these last
Dowling, of Roxbury, Connecticut, originally got
into auto racing by chance. He was racing dirt bikes
as a youth when a family friend suggested competing
on four wheels. Dowling’s family got him started in
go-karts at a local dirt track and things progressed
quickly from there.
Dowling and his father and crew chief, Mark, didn’t
necessarily have a road map for his career – they
just looked to advance as he matched the skill level
of the competition. They were unsure how the team
would fare in their first modified venture – the
Stafford’s SK Light division – with the family-owned
team new to that type of racing. But Dowling won
seven races in his first season and contended for
the division title, so they decided to move up to
Whelen All-American Series Division I SK Modifieds.
He followed with an impressive first year in that
division, and another door opened.
Dowling had a common sponsor with Whelen Modified
Tour ironman Jamie Tomaino in Dunleavy’s Truck &
Trailer Repair. Business owner Doug Dunleavy
introduced Dowling to Tomaino, and Dowling
eventually began contributing to Tomaino’s tour
effort in various capacities as a crew member.
Toward the end of last season, Tomaino offered
Dowling an opportunity to join the Whelen Modified
Tour as his teammate for 2015.
“It wasn’t something that was really planned,”
Dowling said. “Three years ago I didn’t have any
intentions of being where I’m at right now. We keep
proving to ourselves each year that we can compete
with the big guys.”
Looking back on his three-year rise in modified
racing, and run of rookie of the year honors,
Dowling appreciates what he has been able to
“Every year I won the rookie award, it wasn’t just
given to me either,” Dowling said. “It’s not like we
showed up to the track and were the only rookie
there. It’s been good competition, so that’s
definitely something to be proud of.”
Dowling will receive the Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Award on Dec. 12 as part of the NASCAR Night of
Champions Touring Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The 2015 season will conclude for the Whelen
Modified Tour on Oct. 18 at Thompson (Connecticut)
Speedway Motorsports Park with the Sunoco World
Jason Cunningham /
October 9, 2015