Sam Rameau has one main goal in mind this season.
The Westminster, Massachusetts, high school student is looking capture the Rookie of the Year honors on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. And with the start he’s put together, the goal is more than realistic.
Rameau has two top 10 finishes in his first seven starts, including an eighth-place finish last time on the track at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. A background in quarter-midgets, Legends Cars and tour-type modifieds prepared him to make the jump to NASCAR’s oldest touring series.
“We had to stop racing for a little bit after quarter midgets, but at 13, I was racing a tour-type modified at Claremont Speedway,” Rameau said. “But even then, the Whelen Modified Tour was my goal. Before we even got into modified, I really thought my next step was going to be a Super Late Model, then the tour. I never thought I would step right into a Modified at 13 years old.”
His early success this season isn’t a surprise to many. Last year, Rameau was competitive on the Valenti Modified Racing Series, a touring modified division in New England. It wasn’t long before Rameau was set to make his Whelen Modified Tour debut at Thompson’s Sunoco World Series, the final event of the 2018 season.
But the decision to go tour racing wasn’t really “his” choice.
“I was upset that we weren’t racing Thompson with the Valenti Modified Racing Series, and the next day when I got home from school, my trailer was hooked to a truck in the driveway and my dad told me to hop in. Next thing I know we were pulling into a driveway that said Dave Sapienza Racing, and I knew what was going on,” Rameau said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy in my life. Ever since then I knew this was the place I needed to be. The competition is a lot more stiff and the racing is a lot tighter.”
Entering a new venture, Rameau knew running at the front of the field wasn’t going to be easy. Chasing veterans like Doug Coby, Ron Silk and Justin Bonsignore, who currently sit at the top of the series standings, is a tough task for any incoming rookie. But Rameau and his team were ready.
“I’m a super competitive person, and the tour is so competitive,” Rameau said. “My spotter and my tire guy are really the only people that have raced the Whelen Modified Tour on my team. I’m not the only rookie. My crew chief only had one start, my dad is brand new to this and so are my crew and sponsors.”
Insert his main goal.
“Coming out of the box, my spotter told me the goals needed to be realistic. I told him we should shoot for a top five in points and he told me to back it up, and we decided to shoot for a top 10 and have the goal of winning Rookie of the Year. I think we are capable of that,” Rameau said. “I’m still learning. As of right now, I think I am terrible on the restarts, but we’re making up for it with some other stuff. We are all learning together. But I think we are doing very well.”
During a month-long break that currently is in place for Whelen Modified Tour teams, Rameau took the time to compete in one of the most prestigious modified races of the season. He ran the Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway last weekend, preparing for the Whelen Modified Tour race at the New York bullring on July 6.
“Tommy Baldwin talked with my dad and told us we should go and get some laps and I’m really happy that we went. I didn’t qualify as well as I wanted to, but, in the race, the right-front caliper had a failure and the caution came out and I had no brakes,” Rameau said. “We went down 30 laps or so in the pits, but the whole experience was a lot of learning, and I’m feeling really comfortable going back there for the Whelen Modified Tour race.”
For now, he’s happy with the performance and hungry for more.
“I will never go to the race track and not have fun,” Rameau said. “It’s always fun when you are doing well. I honestly would have never thought I would be in these shoes.”