Joe D's Next Races

June 23rd - Langley Speedway (VA)

July 7th - Riverhead Raceway (NY)

                Joe D's Last Results

April 21st - Bethel Speedway (NY) - 2nd

April 29th - Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) - 19th

June 2nd - Seekonk Speedway (MA) - 21st

June 9th - Bethel Speedway (NY)  - WIN

June 13th - Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) - 26th

"I live by the words, never say never."

  • When Joe DeGracia took the checkered flag on the lead lap in 20th position at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener in Myrtle Beach, S.C. it was a morale victory for him, his family and everyone afflicted with autism. Joe’s family was told he would never be able to do the simple things in life others take for granted. Like tying his shoes or riding a bike, no less drive a high-powered race car. Joe’s father, Paul, abruptly told the doctors if they can predict the future to give him tomorrow’s lottery numbers so his son could be rich. Paul then set out to prove the doctors were wrong. For Joe to drive in a NASCAR event, possibly the first ever for someone with autism, was just one of those amazing accomplishments. “It’s definitely really cool and very fast,” said Joe of driving a 600 HP Tour-type Modified on 15-inch wide tires. Joe has high-functioning autism, a term according to Wikipedia applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with autism. His dad said he has a great awareness function under the right atmosphere. On Sunday, April 8, prior to race two on the NWMT at Ct.’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the 27-year old from Lyndhurst, N.J. proudly accepted the $500 Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award for his performance at the series opener in Myrtle Beach. He did very well in his interview before the crowd and received a nice round of applause. The racing surface on Myrtle Beach’s half-mile paved oval is abrasive. Tire wear is so severe that competitors must race at a reduced pace so they have speed at the end of the event. The slower speed was perfect for the rookie in his debut in a full-blown Modified. After posting the slowest time of the 27 cars on hand, he was able to stay competitive. He was the last to finish the race on the lead circuit, ahead of five other competitors who took the checkered flag as many as nine laps behind him. Thompson was a different animal for Joe to battle. It’s a fast, high-banked 5/8-mile where aggressive driving is often used to make a pass. The Zacharias family of Candor, N.Y. drove to Thompson to help Paul with the car. Jimmy Zacharias took the No. 23 Modified out first to shake it down and ran very competitive laps. Joe wisely chose to take his time getting up to speed. Jimmy’s brother T.J. acted as his spotter at the event, trying to keep him out of harm’s way. The boy’s father, Chris, was there to help; as well as fellow driver Chris Gall. By the end of Saturday’s two practice sessions, some were worried that Thompson might have been too much for Joe to handle. But as he has done in the past, he proved them wrong. “This is my first time on a superspeedway like this,” said Joe prior to Sunday’s race. “I’m trying to sit back and hope for the best. I’m going to go easy and build up to it.” On Sunday Joe timed quicker than four other veteran competitors to earn the 32nd starting spot for the 150-lap Icebreaker feature. When he got lapped, he pulled down out of the way and gave the faster cars room. He spun once to miss a multi-car crash, as others did as well. “The Whelen Tour is perfect for me, you race against the best guys in the business,” said Joe. “They don’t wreck, and they are not going to harm anything. They just want a good race.” While the race laurels and top pay went to Justin Bonsignore, it was another major victory for Joe DeGracia when he crossed the finish line in 22nd position, three laps off the pace. “I can’t say I’ll lead laps,” said Joe of his pre-race plan for Thompson, “I’ve never been at a track like this, but if I stay out of people’s way and don’t wreck the car so it can roll on the trailer, that’s a victory for me.”
  • It was another victory for him, an accomplishing moment. “I’m with the big leagues now,” said Joe proudly. “I’m thankful for my sponsors and my parents,” he emphasized. Now 18th in the NASCAR point standings, his dad is going to attempt to run his son at all remaining events on the schedule. “Racing builds up his ego,” said his proud father prior to the Thompson event. “He loves it so much.” Starting out in fun Go-karts, Joe slowly proved to his dad that he could handle one and he allowed him to race. His next move was into Legend Cars, racing at the nearby Bethel Speedway in White Lake, N.Y. While Joe loved the competition, he was timid and fell to the back and finished last week after week. His dad was determined. He began to drive to another small paved oval in Shenandoah, Va. so he could compete two nights a week. Again, he finished last. The management at Shenandoah offered to rent DeGracia the track all day prior to the race for just $35, so Paul took them up on the deal and arrived early weekly. Joe started turning very competitive laps, but when it came to race time he would fall to the rear where he would finish. “I felt like I was just pounding my head on a wall,” said Paul. “I was about to tell him racing wasn’t for him and then that night he just took off and started passing cars. He finished second and showed me he can do it.” Joe would go on to win about 25 Legend Car races, five of 15 he competed in last year. “He’s not a protege,” said Paul, “but when he gets it, he can do very well.” Joe nearly pulled off a win Bethel’s biggest race each year, Legendstock, but a crash ended his hopes late in the event while racing for the win. Joe has been involved in other crashes, but luckily, he’s never been injured or became fearful of driving a race car. Paul DeGracia was a successful Legends Car racer in his day before being injured in a fiery crash. His wife, Dawn, still has bad memories of that crash and can’t watch her son race. Prior to his NASCAR Modified debut this year, Joe did race a much lesser restricted Modified at Bethel and Pa.’s Evergreen Speedway. The move to the Tour-type Modified, however, was a steep jump for anyone, especially Joe. He logged laps at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway during Speedweeks prior to making his NASCAR debut in March at Myrtle Beach. Driving a Tour-type Modified created another obstacle for Joe to overcome. He is not only going faster than he did in local racing, but he’s now got someone talking in his ear. Local racing didn’t allow two-way radio communication between the driver and his spotter. He’s now got someone offering him information on a regular basis. “It depends on the situation,” said Joe of his learning curve. “I can’t have five people yelling at me on the radio. If I’m going into the turn and people are telling me when and where to let off it makes me jump and I think something is wrong with the car. I tell my guys ‘the less said on the radio the better’. Tell me ‘car lower or high’. I’ll ask for more input if I need it and they can give it to me on the straightaways. To be honest, I wish I could just shut the radio off.” At Thompson, Joe’s family-owned race car was pitted behind their trailer in the paddock area. The driver, however, was seldom there. He works off nervous energy by walking around the pit area and talking with friends, and new friends he makes. He’s become quite the socialite. Paul said Joe doesn’t have the ability to turn wrenches on his race car, but he’s a great help doing odd jobs in the garage such as cleaning the car. He does hold down a full-time job as a truck driver, pulling a tandem wheel dump truck towing a low-bed trailer around northern New York for his dad’s contracting business. He also holds a black belt in karate. “I work every day and get to race,” said Joe. “I’m happy.” Kona Ice of East Essex, N.J., Gotham West Development and Joseph Fresco from Metjoes race shop have been helpful in helping sponsor Joe’s race car. Paul said he could have never made the jump to the Modified division if not for the help given to him by driver/car owner Earl Paules of Palmerton, Pa. The main burden to field the Modified, however is felt by his family-owned P.J. Contracting of Nutley, N.J. Joe’s father is very proud of the 2017 Troyer Chassis Modified he is able to field for him on the NASCAR circuit. He also has a 2002 Troyer which has 2008 updates that Joe will race at Bethel, Mahoning Valley and Evergreen speedways. He’s already won four features with this car and finished third at Evergreen’s King of the Green event after going to the rear several times. “That was fun, but the Tour-type Modified is better,” said Joe. “More grip and more power. If the money holds out, Paul wants to run all remaining races on the Whelen Tour this year. Joe’s praying, he can. “I hope I can run the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour fulltime,” said Joe of his goal in racing. “But I always have the crate Modified to fall back on. I was hoping one day to go Cup racing, but I’d definitely have to be lucky to get there.” Joe is becoming the poster boy in racing for those with autism. “The spotlight and the pressure is definitely on me. It’s nerve racking to me that people are saying ‘wait, that kid has autism’?
  • They don’t know how I can do it and it amazes them. I’m thankful that I can hopefully give hope for people with autism. That’s the goal.” Consider it a goal accomplished. Another victory.

Meet Joe D

At the age of three, Joe DeGracia got behind the wheel for the first time in an electric powered Jeep, and so began a passion for driving and a dedication to overcome obstacles that leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone who meets him that this young man is anything but average. Joe D., as he is commonly called -a nickname that his grandfather carried through his life as well -was born on July 19, 1992 in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.  He is the child of Dawn and Paul DeGracia, and has been the greatest challenge, pride, and love in their lives. In his early years, Joe D. appeared to be an average child, aside from not sleeping much.


 STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. (WWLP) - Joe DeGracia is a rookie on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. DeGarcia was diagnosed with autism.

Joe's father Paul told 22News that racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is a tremendous accomplishment for his son, "To compete at this level with these guys. These are the best of the best. I mean you look at Ryan Preece. He goes out in an Xfinity car twice and he wins. That just tells ya how good the guys in the Whelen Modified Tour are. I mean the Whelen Modified Tour is the oldest tour in NASCAR."

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