RPW Column: It’s Been A Labor Of Love, But For Sportsman Racer Craig Wholey, It’s Been The Best
Column By: BILLY HODGES / RPW – BOLTON LANDING, NY – Racing has always been a way of life for Sportsman racer Craig Wholey.
While Wholey has been developing his own racing resume, the bug was planted more than 20 years ago.
“My dad raced asphalt cars at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island from 2000 until 2008,” Wholey said. “Racing was in the family already. He was #98 which is why I use that number.”
There was a gap between Craig’s father’s last race and his first. However, once the second-generation driver got a taste of the sport, he was hooked.
“I didn’t even start going to the races until the summer of 2018,” he said. “I couldn’t get enough of it once I did, but it was a struggle getting my mom on board.”
Once they did, though, it was full speed ahead…literally.
“We ended up buying a car from Jessey Mueller in the fall of 2018,” he said. “Then, we started to get our feet wet the following season, racing seven or eight times. We did the same thing in 2020 because of the COVID-19 lockdowns. We didn’t end up racing a full season until 2021.”
That season, Wholey finished fifth in Limited Sportsman points at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway while coming home seventh at Vermont’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway.
Then came 2022. Was it successful for the Wholey Motorsports team?
“It actually went better than expected,” he said. “Our goal was just to win one race. We ended up winning four times. It was awesome.”
With those wins came some a chance at a first career championship.
“We ended up finishing third in points at Malta which was great,” he said. “We had some bad luck in a few races which kept us out of the championship hunt, but we can’t complain. We were still extremely happy with the season we had.”
Three of Wholey’s victories last season came during points competition. However, it was the fourth that was extremely satisfying to the entire team.
“I was really happy with the last win of the year during Malta Massive Weekend,” he said. “The trophy for that race was a championship belt. It was a goal of mine to win that.”
Does the team have eyes on moving up to the regular Sportsman class at some point?
“It’s definitely time to move up after the four wins we had last season,” he said. “We were planning on moving up if we won one race.”
Is he ready for it?
“I’m excited about the new challenge,” he said. “It’s going to be a learning curve racing against all those guys. Some of them have been racing as long as I’ve been alive. Racing against better and more experienced competition is only going to make me a better racer in the long run.”
Does the team having exceptions for this coming year?
“We’re planning on racing Albany Saratoga again while adding Airborne Speedway weekly,” he said. “We want to get as many laps as possible and improve every week. If we can stay out of trouble and consistently be getting better, we’ll be happy.”
After two full seasons in the Limited Sportsman class, with eyes on 2023, what has Wholey learned so far that has helped him behind the wheel?
“When we started all of this, we knew nothing,” he said. “We had to learn everything and we are still learning everyday.”
Has it been as he expected though?
“There is some much that goes into these cars,” he said. “From tire prep to chassis adjustments to proper maintenance, all the way down to cleaning the car the right way, we had to learn it.”
From the first time he sat behind the wheel to now, Wholey’s made great strides.
“Let’s just say this,” he said. “The first time on track, I couldn’t even get the car into gear. Saying I’ve come a long way would be an understatement.”
Wholey knows, however, that he’s not the only one that makes this race car successful. It takes a team to get to victory lane and he’s thankful for the crew behind him.
“We have a very small hands-on crew but it’s a dedicated bunch,” he said. “My dad is a big part of our success as is Frank Pittelli who is a huge help at the track and records all of my races.”
It’s those videos, Wholey feels, which has helped speed along the learning process”
“I believe what Frank does has been a huge part of our success,” he said. “Being able to go back and watch the races, seeing my mistakes and to see what I can improve on is awesome.”
The biggest part of the Wholey Motorsports team is the sponsors that are a part of the 98.
“We’ve got about 25 partners that are behind this team,” he said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have the support we do and couldn’t be where we are without them.”
Those sponsors include Adirondack Dumpsters, Adirondack Roofing, Alpha Drilling and Blasting, Blue Line Barn, Burke Brother Builders, Chris Gabriels and Crew, Diamond Point Boat Repair, DKM Fabrication, Doug Wholey’s Ideal Excavating, Famiglias Italian Deli, Kimak Builders, KLC Property Enhancement, Lake George Auto Marine, Lake George Land Conservancy, Mowery Enterprises, N.Diagle Construction, North Country Heliflite, Northern Lifts Elevator Company, O’Connor Sand and Stone, Rounds Paving, Surfside on the Lake and my Aunt Nadine.
New for 2023 include Bayview Bearing and Supply, Fitzgerald Electric, Hutchins Engineering and Lake Shore Styles.