The start of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season kicked-off in Florida with three races for Rob Fuller Motorsports and team partner, 15-40 Connection. With a new team for 2014, owner/driver Rob Fuller took full advantage of the opportunity for the crew to race and learn what to expect from each other both on and off the track.
Their first race of the new year was the UNOH Battle At The Beach, a nationally-televised exhibition race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour taking place on a 0.4-mile short track oval on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday, Feb. 18. After qualifying near the rear of the field in 23rd, Fuller faced additional challenges that lead to the No. 15 Chevrolet being involved in a few early cautions during the 100-lap race. By the end of the race, Fuller was running lap times as fast as the leaders and finished a respectable 16th. His RFM teammate Doug Coby won the race, marking his first win at Daytona International Speedway and the first race with his new team, Mike Smeriglio Racing.
“I was disappointed with the finish, but starting in the back and getting caught up in a few cautions - its tough to come back from that,” said Fuller. “I didn’t have radio connection with my spotter which was a challenge but by the end of the race, our lap times were just as good as the Top-5 cars. That gave me confidence and determination to finish out the week strong.”
Following the Daytona International Speedway event, the No. 15 team headed 12 miles south to New Smyrna Speedway to race in two feature events — a 75-lap race on Feb. 19 and a 100-lap feature on Feb. 21. The additional races gave the 15-40 Connection team more time with the car and allowed crew chief, Jeff Deminck, to make adjustments that led to strong finishes at the 1/2-mile oval track. During the Wednesday night John Blewett III Memorial 76-lap race, Fuller started 12th and finished 10th.
The Richie Evans Memorial race on Friday night was the finale to the World Series of Asphalt events at New Smyrna Speedway. This 100-lap event was filled with top modified racers from around the country. Qualifying was rained out and the No. 15 team was forced to start in the back of the field. But with two races under his belt, Fuller had a powerful run in the No. 15 - staying out of trouble on the track and passing competitors to move up and finish in sixth place.
“I’m really proud of the team and the way they worked to improve the car throughout the week,” Fuller said. “Jeff, Phil and the guys stuck with it and gave us a great ride for the Richie Evans Memorial race. Finishing in sixth place is very strong considering the top-level competition and we’re just getting started with the season.”
In addition to seeking solid finishes on the race track, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour owner/driver put a focus on on telling the story of a Leukemia survivor during his time in Florida. Through his partnership with 15-40 Connection, an organization committed to raising awareness of the fact that cancer survival rates in teens and young adults ages 15 to 40 have barely improved since 1975, Fuller named Josh Bell, 24, an honorary crew member and featured a photo of him on the rear deck lid and quarter panels of the No. 15 Chevrolet.
“Having Josh on the car was great,” Fuller said. “We actually had a bunch of teams ask about him and how he was doing so it was a good deal. He's a celebrity now. He might sign more autographs than I do at the next race!”
Rob Fuller Motorsports is scheduled to compete in 11 more races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) and Modified Racing Series (MRS) this season. Before these races get underway, Rob Fuller Motorsports is hosting a “Race Season Kickoff Party” on March 1 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. Proceeds benefit 15-40 Connection and support programming to empower 15 to 40-year-olds with the knowledge of what an early warning symptom of cancer can look or feel like. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and silent auction, followed by dinner and live band until 11:30 p.m.
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