Chase Catania's first season in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart has been an interesting one.
The 22-year-old from El Cajon, California, is part of an impressive rookie contingent and has shown his talent behind the wheel of the Xpedient Communications/RBK Racing STR Chevrolet by finishing sixth or better in every start. But he's only 13th in the Hoosier Tire West point standings and needs another strong showing in the November 16 finale at Las Vegas to have a chance of finishing in the top 10.
There's an obvious contradiction between Catania's finishes and his point standings, and there's an easy explanation, too. He didn't join the series until the third race of the season, at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in May, and sat out the event at the Irwindale (California) Events Center in August after being suspended for one race for what series' officials considered an overly-aggressive driving style.
Catania said he "could be more patient (on the track)," but never would intentionally initiate contact with another driver, and called the suspension "tough to swallow." Chances are there won't be any similar instances, either, because he's proven to be a quick study at whatever he undertakes.
Catania's passion for racing was sparked when he was 5 and his father, Doug, bought an entry-level stock car to race at Cajon Speedway. Chase said he "fell in love with it just from sitting in the stands" and watching for the next 10 years or so.
When he was 15 he got behind the wheel for the first time, in a Legends Car. Hist first race was at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California. His second was in Lake Havasu City. He finished that one in the winner's circle and "then we were really hooked."
Catania ran Legends Cars for the next five years. He won a California state championship for all divisions, was third in the nation in the Semipro Division in 2010, and made several trips to North Carolina for the annual Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
While Chase was learning his craft in the three-quarter scale Legends Cars his father was fielding the Lucas Oil Modified in which Danny Gay won the 2007 championship, and in 2010 he traded the Modified for a Late Model. Chase won his first race in that car, at Havasu 95 Speedway on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010
They rejoined the Lucas Oil Modified Series in late April when close friend Dean Kuhn called and offered him the seat in the car Miinch had driven for the first two races.
"It's a good deal, it's a good team and it's working out," said Catania, who hopes to be a title contender next season. "You learn a lot about car control and horsepower to weight ratio from a Legends Car. That taught me a lot. And a Modified is like a Legends Car on steroids, that's how I like to put it. So I have a great feel for the car and how to drive it and I'm just comfortable, especially with Dean and the whole team."
Age: 22 (16 June 1991)
Lives in: El Cajon, California
Marital status: Single
Occupation: Cable technician for Xpedient Communications
Car number: 5
Type of chassis: STR
Crew Chief: Dean Kuhn
Sponsors: Xpedient Communications; John's Collision Center; MODOC Veterinary Center; Salm Engineering; RBK
Years in racing: 7
Divisions raced: Legends Cars, Late Models, ASA Speed Trucks, Lucas Oil Modifieds
Series points standings: First season