Roxbury Connecticut’s 20 year old Chase Dowling will be behind the wheel of the famed Marsh Racing #31 Whelen K&N car when the series makes it return for the second year in a row to the high banks of the 5/8 mile Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson CT., July 14 for the K&N throwback 100 lap race. Along with Thompson’s 3 fender, two Modified divisions and Vintage mods.
Chase Dowling is arguably one of the best drivers out there and he has proven that with a modified in his short career. He was the 2013 Stafford SK Lite Rookie Of The Year, 2014 Stafford SK Rookie Of The Year at age 16, 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Rookie Of The Year! He has been in the top 10 in points in the two completed years he ran full time on the tour and currently sits 2nd in points this year after 7 races of 16 with 7 top tens so far with his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour #15 LFR Race chassis’s 15-40 Connection sponsored car. He also broke the Stafford track record this year as he won the pole for the famed “Spring Sizzler” race. Chase has 48 starts on the Tour overall with 12 top fives, 27 top tens and two poles! Chase touched on why they are having such a good 2018 season. “This is the first year Rob (Fuller) ran a full Whelen Modified Tour season, obviously we put a ton of time and effort and preparation to be up front and run how we do. There is so much effort when you run the WMT from, organization to the weekly shop maintenance and help, to the track and actually setting the car up and having a fast car at the track.” This may be Dowling’s 1st time at Thompson in a K&N car, but he has run the Marsh Racing #31 Whelen Engineering car at Dover once before. We were lucky enough to catch up with Chase Dowling, Ted Marsh and Crew Chief of the Whelen #31 team Todd Fisette.
Ted Marsh explained how this deal with Chase driving again for him came about. “We had Chase drive for us at Dover a couple years back. He had never even been to Dover and had no experience in a K&N car. Naturally (for Dover) practice was rained out, so he only had a very short practice a few minutes before the race. He was immediately in the top ten in that short practice, but because everything was rained out, we lined up to start by points. Since we (Marsh Racing) don’t run the whole series that put Chase near the back. He steadily moved forward and got up into the top 10. There was a yellow right near the end, but I think if I remember right, it hurt us a few spots, but he still finished in the top 10! Ted continued, “He enjoyed it and we’ve been trying to put something together since then. Now we can’t interfere with his Tour program, because that’s his bread and butter.” Ted confessed. Chase would share similar sediments as well “it was a lot of fun, we ran at Dover and got a top 10 finish, I only got about 20 minutes of practice and qualifying got rained out so I felt I adapted quickly and had a good run with the Marsh crew”
Chase would impress many with his results his first time at the “Monster Mile” Dover and being in a big heavy full fender K&N car, though horsepower may be similar to his Tour modified that’s where the similarities stop. The tire is half as wide as a modified, the car weighs a third more and it has fenders. Dowling like the natural wheelman he is took right to it. “The Fender car is bigger obviously, the weight of the car is heavier and more bulky, it was defiantly a lot of fun for being something new to me,” Chase told us. “He did an excellent job, he has very good car control and gives great feedback. He knows the feel he is looking for and can convey that to me, it makes my job easier I don’t have to guess at it.” Said Crew Chief Todd Fiesett. Todd is one of the best around, he has been with Marsh Racing for a while. Marsh Racing runs part-time on the K&N but they have multiple #31 K&N cars and run other series as well. “We have the K&N cars, we have Sonny (Whelen) and George’s Corvette and the TA 2 Camaro that I also crew chief in the Trans Am Series” Fisette informed us. I asked Todd what their biggest challenge might be this year at Thompson? “I need to make the car drive off the corner better than it did last year, we were just driving off the right rear last year. Chase has basically the same driving style as Ryan Preece, so car setup is very close to how Ryan raced it at Thompson.” It is obvious there is a connection between Todd and Chase, one can see they speak the same “language” and that is less common than many may think between a crew chief and Driver today. “Todd is very sharp obviously; he has been around racing and these cars for a very long time and knows how to set up these cars. Outside of racing, he’s an awesome guy and overall a good guy in general and its fun to work with all of them!”
As we call Chase around here “The Real Deal” because we recognize his talent, ability, and potential. I had to ask him, do you want to keep moving up the ladder to the higher NASCAR divisions or are you content battling it out weekly on the short tracks and Whelen tour? “Obviously you want to keep moving up, but everyone knows sponsors and connections is what keeps you going through the ranks. I have been very lucky to have the people standing behind me today to let me race such a broad selection of races each year and I’m grateful for that, but obviously you want to have that push and give your best to try to promote yourself and find the sponsors to get you further in racing." A grateful Dowling would respond.
I talked to team owner Ted Marsh about modifieds as that is where his roots are. Ted has had numerous mod drivers drive for him over the years. I asked him if he thought that drivers coming from mods help with driving the full-size cars. “Most of the drivers I have had over the years are originally modified guys. From TC (The late legend Ted Christopher) to Steve Park, Ryan (Preece) and several more. Modified experience is very helpful for most of the guys, but still, I have had (some) that just weren’t comfortable enough to really get after it...” While we talked a little bit about the “old days” I wanted to know some of the biggest changes Ted has seen over his long time in racing and what he thought of the future for the sport. “The Busch North Series was pretty strong because there were many Northern drivers that had a fan base. Today people don’t know hardly any of the drivers or teams (in K&N), so there is almost no fan base…. Until we can bring in some local talent, we won’t have any crowds. Plus the series itself needs better promotion from above. It will be interesting to see what happens when we combine K&N and ARCA in 2020!" Ted passionately responded. I agreed with Ted’s points and also think that another major thing that hurts the K&N series is that many drivers use it now for a short stepping stone to try and launch themselves to the upper divisions of NASCAR. Unlike years ago, yes some would advance through the Bush North series but many would race it year in and year out and rivalries were built as were relationships. Nowadays more so than ever I feel fans follow drivers more than they do teams and if the drivers do not stick around in a series very long it is hard to keep the fans there with that series. That may be one of the biggest difference I see with the Tour mods compared to its brother series K&N for a fan base. Most of the tour guys are happy and tend to stay racing the mods for multiple seasons if not forever so the fan base sticks with the series even after that driver may eventually move on.
Ted has seen many drivers and teams race, he has had many walk through the doors of his humble but very cool shop in Old Lyme CT. Where they house and work on all their cars in a “Barn” like shop with lots of character along with tons of professionalism on the old farm. It is not like many of the big dollar teams running with lots of backing, big facilities, and a large team force. It’s old school like it used to be, like it should be…. Just some great passionate guys doing what they know and love with what they have. Chase is a great fit, Chase reminds me of old school drivers on and off track, a great wheelman, great young guy to talk and hang with. Chase works on all his cars, he also works full time with his childhood friend Stephen Kopcik at LFR Race Chassis in West Boylston MA. These guys work lots of hours working on other people’s race cars, or race cars to be. Then they get done and work on their own race cars where they run weekly at Stafford Speedway along with Chase’s full-time Whelen Tour mod ride. “Stephen is planning on coming down and helping out with the K&N car too” Chase would tell us. “Getting more seat time and adapting to the size of the car as quick as possible, then trying to give Todd and the crew the best feedback I can.” Is Dowling’s plan of attack for Thompson for Fridays K&N practice. Ted Marsh wanted to let us know who helps make all this possible “ Whelen Engineering and Sonny Whelen’s & Michael J Fox’s efforts for Parkinson’s solutions along with Team Fox!!” Joking with Todd he also assured us the "Mod Squad Racing Media" Stickers have been on the car since New Smyrna.
So back to my point about the many drivers walking through the doors of Marsh Racing, Todd had already told me that Chase and Ryan Preece drive very similar. I had to ask Ted of all the drivers over the years, who does Chase Dowling remind him the most of on track? I got a very straightforward and simple “TC or Ryan Preece.” Agreeing, I guess can there be, or really is there anything else to say…..
Until the next green flag drops RG