Richie Pallai, Jr. of Yorktown Heights, NY will compete in Tour-Type Modifieds this season for New Jersey native Phil Stefanelli. Pallai will drive Stefanelli’s home-built car at Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway’s IceBreaker February 12 and the World Series of Asphalt Racing at New Smyrna (FL) Speedway. The home-built car will also compete in the Southern Modified Racing Series.
Stefanelli will also field a new Fury racecar for Pallai in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener at Myrtle Beach March 18 and possibly the May 13 event. Pallai may enter additional races up north. Pallai expects to run 10-12 races, including 3 nights of Speedweeks at New Smyrna.
“Me personally selfishly I’d like to run Loudon again,” Pallai said. “I love Loudon and deep down inside if I can run one more race anywhere I’d like to race Stafford just ’cause that’s my home and I do miss running Stafford.”
Loudon was one of Pallai’s best tracks with 3 top tens in 9 races. The former Stafford regular owns wins in the Champ Karts, SK Modifieds® and SK Lights.
The team is supported by Stefanelli’s interests, but Pallai said sponsorship always helps.
“I just want to thank Phil (Stefanelli) for this opportunity. We really get along and I respect everything he has built for himself. Not many guys have what he has and gotten it the way he did. He’s a hard worker. I look forward to working with him and Scott (Persuitte)”.
Stefanelli of Midland, NC has owed a Modified and owned a car in the old USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. Stefanelli’s team is reminiscent of his old team, where he is hands-on. The team received the bare Fury chassis last week and are working on putting the crew together. Richie’s father Rich Pallai will fly down to Myrtle Beach and New Smyrna. Some of Pallai’s old crew members will be at New Smyrna to help.
“We’re probably gonna need some help for the tour stuff but we’ll come cross that bridge when we get there.”
Pallai moved to Concord, North Carolina after his hockey career ended in 2015. He graduated New York University in 2013. Pallai made 4 NACAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour starts last year for Hill Enterprises with a best finish of ninth at Caraway.
“This has always been an area of the country where I’ve always wanted to live in. So I felt like at this point in my life really nothing was stopping me so I decided to move down here. I had no job lined up or nothing really and it’s all worked out pretty good. I have a great job, a great company. I met a lot of good people down here and then it’s also kind of given life to racing again which was kind of dull for a little.”
Pallai’s career was put on hold by a practice crash at Stafford (CT) Motor Speedway when the throttle stuck.
“That was our only car and motor and everything kind of got destroyed there.”
Pallai made 46 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts from 2009-14 with 1 top five and 8 top tens for his father’s team Hurricane Motorsports.
“I’m just excited to see people I haven’t seen in a few years and just to be back in the seat its gonna be a good time. I’m also excited to go to some new places like New Smyrna or Myrtle Beach, places I’ve never been before. …Hopefully, for a semi-new team, we do fairly well and we’ll judge ourselves based on what we think is respectable for what we have and how new we are.”
“From a competition level though it’s mostly the same guys I’ve always raced against. Some are in better equipment than they used to be. Everyone’s gotten older or more experienced but at the end of the day everyone has a helmet everyone has a steering wheel and we’ll see how it goes.”
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour was merged into the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for 2017 with two races in the southeast.
“I think it’s great that NASCAR made it one series and even though … even though it’s going to be more travel for teams down here. The buyouts are better. The purse is better. Overall it’s better for the sport of modified racing. That’s not to say that modified racing being treated the way it should be in my opinion but maybe this is a first step to figuring out a way to save the sport of modified racing.
“I think it’s great that NASCAR made it one series and even though … it’s going to be more travel for teams down here, the buyouts are better. The purse is better. Overall it’s better for the sport of modified racing. That’s not to say that modified racing being treated the way it should be, in my opinion, but maybe this is a first step to figuring out a way to save the sport of modified racing.
… I just want to see modified racing excel ’cause that’s what I was born with and that’s what I grew up on.”
Sources: Nicholas Teto/YankeeRacer.com
Photo by Paul Fohlin