February 9, 2014 — By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR — Rich Hayes photo — LEE, N.H. — Former rivals joined forces in 2013 and won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship. They’ll continue their partnership this year.
Driver Tommy Tombarello Jr. combined with owners Bobby and Eddie Witkum Sr., to win the NASCAR Small Block Supermodified track championship at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway. Tombarello, 32, of Haverhill, Mass., was an owner-driver until last season.
Tombarello won three of the last four Small Block Supermodified track championships at Lee, including 2010 and 2012-13. He placed second to Witkum Brothers Racing and their driver Wayne Helliwell in 2011.
Helliwell decided to focus on Late Model racing in 2013, making the seat in Witkum’s ride available.
“I was really up in the air as to what I was going to do last year. I didn’t think I could run the whole season on my own,” Tombarello said. “The Witkums called to ask if I’d be interested in driving for them right before the season opened. It didn’t take long for me to go to their shop and get fitted for the seat.”
The team had a successful summer that produced a record of three wins, 11 top-fives and top-10s in all 15 starts. His biggest wins came on Moneybags Night in July when he won two of three 30-lap features. The second feature was not a NASCAR point race. Tombarello won the first and third events. He added a post-season win in the fall Oktoberfest finale.
Even with a great record, the point race tightened at season’s end. Tombarello won the track title by just seven points over good friend Mike Netishen who also had a three-win season.
Netishen won a late season double-points race on a night Tombarello encountered a rare balky engine and finished ninth.
“We just had to keep racing through it,” Tombarello said. “The Witkum brothers are dedicated to what they do. They took the engine out, went through it, got it back together and solved the issue. We came back and were dominant in the Oktoberfest race. We were happy to finish the season with another big win.”
The friendship between Tombarello and Netishen might have contributed to Netishen stepping up his performance in 2013.
“Mike’s my friend and we respect each other as racers,” Tombarollo said. “When it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to run the whole season on my own, I wanted him to be able to run for the championship if I couldn’t. I shared some ideas that might help him. Maybe it helped and maybe it didn’t, but he had a great season.”
The Witkum brothers are co-owners and crew chiefs who design and build their own chassis. The car uses a GM 603 crate engine. Crew members include Jeffrey Battle, Scott, Kevin and James Witkum, Jim Sullivan, Jim Harrington, Bobby Harrington, Scott Scherbon, and Garrey Pinheiro. Sponsors include Scherbon Consolidated Inc., Harrington Paving and Witkum Flooring. Tombarello, a self-employed electrician, is married to wife Jeanette.