50 Greatest Modified Drivers – Mario “Fats” Caruso 1928-1993
“The Shrewsbury Flash”
Mario ‘Fats’ Caruso raced only one year (1967) at Stafford and his best finish was fourth. In the twilight of his racing career at the time, Caruso was best known for his victory in the then annual Trenton 200 at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Caruso raced throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. A heart attack cut short his career in 1968. He returned to racing in the mid 1970s at Westboro and Thompson before finally calling it quits.
A weekly competitor at the now closed Norwood Arena in Norwood, Massachusetts, from 1961 to 1967, Caruso ranks second behind Bill Slater for all time sportsman victories with 12 wins to his credit. (At the time, ‘Sportsman’ was considered somewhat similar to today’s SK Modifieds®, but they ran together with the then unlimited Modifieds). Caruso also had four Modified victories, which placed him fourth overall on the All Time Feature Winners list with 17 victories. Also to Caruso’s credit was the Norwood Arena Modified Track Championship in 1961.
Caruso raced in an era when most of the cars in competition were built in backyard garages. Engines were also home built. To win, it took 90% driver and 10% car. Caruso could manhandle a Modified with the best of them. Among those whom he raced against and beat many times were Wild Bill Slater, Leo Cleary, Johnny Thompson, Ralph ‘Hop’ Harrington, Eddie Flemke, Freddie Schulz, Bugsy Stevens, and Fred DeSarro. It took a rare breed of cat to beat these drivers and Caruso was one of them.
Mario ‘Fats’ Caruso was honored in ceremonies at Stafford Motor Speedway as part of the Stafford Salutes NASCAR at 50 program as being one of the Fifty Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time as voted by the public. Caruso was fortunate to have been among Modified racing’s stars of what was a truly great time in racing’s history.
By: Phil Smith