Ricci Wear Many Hats, But Likes Wheeling a Mod Best by Mike Twist
Mainer Turns Wrenches or Races Anywhere: Mods, PASS, Pro Cup...You Name It
There’s a pretty good chance that whenever you see Tony Ricci, he’ll have racing on his mind. The question is what kind of racing will the young Mainer be thinking about?
Ricci is most at home in the driver's seat of his Mod. (51)
Ricci knows a thing or two about the big time racing. He headed down South fresh out of high school to work on the Cup cars of Geoff Bodine. He learned how the big business of racing really worked and before long he was wishing to be back at the short tracks – that led to a chance meeting with L.W. Miller.
“When I got done with the Cup team down south, I was driving around looking for jobs and I drove by a shop with a Modified sitting out front. I saw that and knew that is what I wanted to work on. I went in and met L.W. and they hired me on the spot. They told me to come to work the next morning and we’ve done stuff ever since. He was running the Featherlite Tour at that time, in the fall of 2000.”
And while most drivers his age are chasing a chance to go South and race, Ricci is happy right where he is at. He’s been there and done that. He’s not likely to go back either.
“I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t take a chance to go down there if it was given to me, but I don’t think that is a realistic goal and I really don’t care about it,” said Ricci. “I just want to go to the short tracks up here and know that I can unload one of the fastest cars there. That’s what I look forward to.
“This is all that I do. It is all that I think about doing and all that I want to do right now. I’m fortunate that I can do it at home. I don’t have to be in North Carolina. I can race
Richie won two TVMRS races last season as a part-timer. (Jamie Williams Photo)
“It wasn’t hard at all [to make that decision]. My heart is in the Modifieds. I like racing Pro Stocks and I’ll race anything, but these Modifieds are something else. They are really fun to race.”
What isn’t always fun are the ups and downs of racing. Ricci doesn’t have a large bankroll and he builds just about everything on his cars himself. On the other hand, working on other people’s racecars can provide a paycheck. Does getting out of the drivers’ seat even tempt Ricci?
“It’s a hard decision,” he admits. “Come every February, I have a decision to make if I’m going to race or work on them. I’m lucky right now to have the deal with Scott Mulkern. I’m in a perfect situation there. Scott and his wife Vicki are so great to me – they’ve become like family. It’s 10 minutes from home and I get to work on racecars there. That also allows me to do my own thing too. I’ve got it made right now. I’m the only guy in the shop and it’s short track racing, it’s not the big time when there is so much pressure.”
myself and all of my friends are on my crew. When I was down south, I said that there was no way to race on my own because I didn’t know anybody and nobody wanted to work on the cars at night for free after doing it all day long. I’ve got it made right now.”
After winning a pair of TVMRS races in a limited schedule last season, Ricci plans to move up full-time to the series this season. It’s a place that feels like home to him.
“I like it here,” said Ricci. “It’s a comfortable place to race. I like the people and I love the cars. We’re competitive and that’s the main thing. Half the cars that we race with all probably [NASCAR Whelen Modified] Tour-legal, but it is a lot less expensive. I do all that I can do just to afford this.
"We’re going into it hoping to do the whole season and even still that might not happen. All it takes is one blown motor or a wrecked car and I might not be able to come back. But normally, we can go to the racetrack and get our tire money back. It gives a lot of guys a chance to race.
“Running the whole schedule is going to be a learning process for sure because I haven’t raced for points anywhere since 2002 and I’ve probably only raced about 20 times total since then. Racing a full season will be different.”
Ricci's #4 Modified (51 Photo)
Ricci is an owner-driver in the True Value Modified Racing Series, works full-time in the shop of PASS racer Scott Mulkern, hangs bodies in his own shop on Super Late Models as a sideline, has worked as a crew chief in Modifieds and USAR Pro Cup racing for L.W. Miller and has turned wrenches on just about anything with a number on the side of it.
“I’ve worked on everything it seems - Nextel Cup to Craftsman Trucks to Hooters Cup cars to Featherlite Mods to ARCA cars,” said Ricci. “You name it and I’ve been in the pits. I’ve got my hands in everything.”
Even with that resume, there is still one thing that is especially close to Ricci’s heart – Modified racing.
“I fell in love with the Modifieds long before I ever drove one. My parents owned one when I was little and I loved them.
Ricci, 25, has also raced PASS North Super Late Models on and off – for both his own team and for car owner Jay Cushman. While, he enjoyed that time behind the wheel as well, Ricci has now sold his fendered racecar.
“I ran the Modified and then went over to the Pro Stock for the last couple of years. I don’t want to have a conflict of interest though racing against people who I do work for. I work on Scott’s car and want to be hanging bodies for other teams. It would be bad for business to race against them too.
Ricci's #4 at Monadnock (Jamie Williams Photo)
But even if he wins the TVMRS championship this season, Ricci still won’t be the most famous racer in his family. That distinction doesn’t fall on his brother Adam, a championship winner at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, either.
The best known member of the Ricci clan is their Mom – Jolaine. A few years ago,
mother and son would share the same car to run in two different divisions at Beech
Ridge Motor Speedway.
While they both won their share of races with the car, the spotlight always seemed
to point a little more at Tony’s mother.
“There are people from Maine to Florida that know my Mother has won races before
they even know me,” laughed Ricci.
Mrs. Ricci hasn’t hopped into her son’s Modified yet – but you never know if someday
she might decide to.
Jolaine Ricci (Ricci Motorsports Photo)