BOLLES FAMILY A MOD TOUR STAPLE by Denise DuPont and Matt Kentfield
Veteran Still Has The Fire in a Part-Time Role
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is full of drivers and teams on different ends of the spectrum. Sure there is a lot of young talent like James Civali, Matt Hirschman and Ronnie Silk trying to make names for themselves as they work up the racing ladder, but there are also those grizzled veterans who race simply because they enjoy it and still have the fire to win.
The new dealership just a few minutes down Route 190 in Stafford from the track that he cut his racing teeth has become Bolles’ new full-time passion, but when it comes to Modified racing, the itch may never leave.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Tom Bolles was one of those young guys chasing the racing dream, but in just a few short weeks, the Ellington, CT native will turn 46. Even though he’s racing with guys half his age, that competitive fire is still in his belly.
How could it not be? He has been doing it since he was a teenager, traveling to local tracks with the guidance of his father, Ed, who has built the Bolles family of Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge dealerships in Central Connecticut to be one of the most successful in the country while still supporting his youngest son Tom on the track and off still today.
Tom Bolles (#76) can still hang in there with the "young guns" like Chuck Hossfeld (#79) (Jim DuPont Photos)
“I always had an interest in racing but in early years I had a young family to support and did not have the time or resources to devote to it,” said the elder Bolles. “In 1976, when my sons were old enough, we started racing at the Stafford and Riverside race tracks. First with my son Brian in the car, and then Tommy took over. These two have been the only racers on our team.”
As Brian Bolles decided to take a more active role at his father’s dealership after a brief stint in the Street Stock division at Stafford, Tom took the reigns of the #76 machines and has not looked back since.
First Bolles succeeded in the Modifieds at Stafford and Riverside Park, before turning full-time to the NASCAR Modified Tour in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. A victory at Jennerstown on the Tour in 1988 was his crowning achievement on the circuit before a two-win career (at Stafford in 1995 and Jennerstown in 1997) in the NASCAR Busch North (now East) Series. A devastating injury in a Busch North race at New Hampshire International Speedway in 1998 nearly ended his career, but Bolles bounced back to continue to chase victories on the Mod Tour and Busch North circuits.
For a time, Bolles was one of the more successful Modified drivers in the region, but even as his business efforts have put his full-time racing career on hiatus, he still has the desire to get back into victory lane on the Tour.
“We ran Riverside Park Speedway for many years,” said Tom. “One year we won five races at Riverside. We were at Riverside for a few years, then we chased the Mod Tour and then the Busch North Series, but now we are now driving when we can. We just started a new business in Stafford and so much is going on.”
Bolles was a frequent visitor to Stafford's victory lane in the late 1970's. (51 Photo)
“We have been very busy with the family business the last couple of years, so our racing has been limited to local tracks, primarily Stafford and Thompson. Just like anything else, I love to race and I would like to chase the full schedule, but we have constraints right now.”
Bolles showed in 2004 that he can still get the job done, as he won one stage of the Thompson 300 and nearly won the entire event, finishing sixth overall. In 2006, Bolles made five starts with a season’s-best finish of fourth at Thompson in August.
“When you do not run all the time you miss the edge a little bit. There are a lot of competitive cars here. These fellows have been running week in and week out. We do
not run week in and week out so we are a little rusty when we do get out there.”
Bolles may only be on the track on a limited basis these days, but he still has the desire to win. Perhaps 2007 will be the season that Bolles beats some of those young stars that he used to resemble to get back into Mod Tour victory lane.
Bolles may not run on the Tour full-time these days, but he still runs up front when he does show up.