With six wins and only a single finish off of the podium in 2018, Daniel Montanari put together an impressive season en route to being crowned the Sunset Speedway Signs of Innovation Mini Stock Champion.
“The championship was amazing,” he told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS. “We had a great season! With only a couple bumps along the way. it was great! I feel as though we got most of the bad luck out last year and this was our year since the beginning. It wasn’t until the end of the season and your post about the division’s stats that I realized how well this season went with only finishing out of the top-3 once, and that wasn’t even in my car! That was truly amazing. I can’t thank the Phinemore family enough for that!”
Although the wins included some great battles and impressive runs through the field, for Montanari, the night that stands out is where adversity threatened to put a wrench into his near-perfect season.
“The most memorable night would probably be the night that we made contact with the wall on the start after hitting the large amount of fuel that was dumped onto the track, preventing us from stopping or turning,” he recalled. “My dad (Rino) and brother (Nic) and everyone else in the pits that helped get my car out before we went green again was amazing! After that. I was at the back and had nowhere else to go except for up! So that’s where we went! I believe I finished third that race with a very loose car and mis-aligned front suspension. But we made it work and drove the wheels off of it!”
Although car counts on paper seemed to be lower than previous seasons, the competition was still at an all-time high across the board as Montanari, along with three other drivers, finished every single feature this season in the top-10 for a close race at the top.
“I always have the mindset of going out there and winning every race I can,” he commented. “I hold myself to a very high standard and to be honest I’m not pleased with anything but first. And I believe there is a large group of cars in the mini stock division that are the same way and have to win. On any night, we had at least six cars that could take the win; you always have to be putting down your fastest laps. Otherwise you’ll be passed before you know it.”
After a successful campaign, things are going to get more interesting for Montanari Motorsports as Daniel prepares to make the nerve-wracking, yet exciting jump up to the Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park Late Model division in 2018.
“This year is defiantly a big jump, but having bought my brother’s car, we know the car and what works with it and what doesn’t.,” he commented. “We also know where the money has to be spent to improve it. Late Model is such a big jump and that comes with bigger budgets. I started about three weeks ago talking to current and new sponsors to get this season rolling. You have to be able to put tires on the car to run and the front. And the beginning, it will be learning how competitive the class is and competing with the level of drivers and cars. After practicing the car about a month ago I was up to speed after about 44 laps so we believe we are off to a great start. I can’t wait to race against the best in Ontario.
“It’s defiantly a big power jump from the mini stock to the late model. But from the first time I stepped on the gas in the late model, I knew it was the right choice to move up!”
As Montanari noted, the team has already been at the track for a short test session before the cold weather set in, with the first 44 laps of his Late Model career now under his belt.
“Being able to step on the gas and get pushed back into the seat was the best feeling ever,” he commented. “I quickly got into good race times on a green track and no setup. With the current speed, I believe this season will be great!”
For the youngster, the goals are simple – track rookie of the year, don’t get lapped, drive to the front, score provincial NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year, and learn as much as he can about the car to become a better driver.