50 Greatest Modified Drivers – Tim Connolly
“Man on a Mission”
In comparison to many drivers listed as part of the 50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-Time, Tim Connolly is a relative newcomer, but is nonetheless very deserving of the honor. Connolly drove the Ralston-Purina Tidy Cat #4 Dodge Stealth of Bob Garbarino on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. At Stafford, he was the winner of the 1997 CARQUEST 300 Fall Final. He also finished second to Tom Baldwin in the 1996 CARQUEST 300.
A general contractor for building construction by trade, Connolly was an All-State quarterback at Ithica College in upstate New York and was headed for a professional career with the NFL when knee injuries forced a change in plans. Married and the father of three, Connolly got the urge to go racing in 1986 and bought a slightly used Street Stock and raced it at the Tioga Speedway (formerly Shangri La) in Oswego, New York. After finding out how complex and competitive auto racing was, Connolly bought his first Modified in 1987 and recorded a second and a sixth, plus a D.N.F. Connolly ran weekly at Tioga in 1988 and that is when his first win occurred in a 100 lap Race of Champions qualifier. It was during that time that an invaluable friend joined forces with the young racer. Lew Parks lived in the same town and Connolly asked him for help. Parks, a truck driver and race mechanic by trade, was a vital part of the A. J. Foyt-IndyCar effort and brought a wealth of knowledge to the Connolly camp.
Connolly, with Parks as a coach, began racing on the NASCAR Modified Tour Series in 1989. Along the way he joined forces with Massachusetts car owner Bobby Fuller and his career as a driver blossomed. The first Mod Series win came in 1993 at Nazareth, Pennsylvania and with that, Connolly’s stock went up. When Bob Garbarino needed a driver for the 1996 season he called Connolly. The union between the two was fantastic. Garbarino, a veteran car owner and builder of NASCAR Modifieds saw the makings of a great partnership and it didn’t take long for the results to speak for themselves. Their first year together produced eleven top 10s in 20 races. Although winless, they took an optimistic view for 1997 and it wasn’t long before the first win for Connolly in the Mystic Missile came. It was on the road course at Watkins Glen International Speedway. Connolly started on the pole and all but dominated the entire event to take the win. Connolly backed up the Watkins Glen win with three others including Holland, New York, Loudon, New Hampshire, and the Fall Final at Stafford. In the 1997 final point standings, Connolly closed out the year in second spot behind Mike Stefanik. He also broke three track records as he captured nine Busch poles.
In his own words, Connolly gave his reason to race: “I race for many reasons, but the primary one would be because I welcome the challenge of competition and the camaraderie I have with my race team. I also race because it gives me the opportunity to improve my skills not only as a driver, but as a person.”
Tim Connolly is one of Modified Racing’s true greats and will continue to grow his racing career and skills to new and higher levels.
By: Phil Smith