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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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  • Paul thought it was something that was never going to happen. It's the biggest thing that Paul and Joe have ever tried to do is race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
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  • "He's handled it pretty well. We're hoping to get a sponsor because its kind of hard. I am the main sponsor and we got a lot of volunteers. so we're hanging in there," said Paul.
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  • Joe is pretty good about giving feedback in a racecar. Sometimes his dad will call him Days Of Thunder Character Cole Trickle. He has gotten better with giving feedback with what the car is doing.
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  • "Some of the communication is tough. He's gotten much better. He's doing a good job. He's really a good driver. He's easy on equipment. Easy in, Easy out. He's got this sneaky speed about him and he gets up there," said Paul.
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  • Paul has always raced since he was a kid. He raced motorcycles along with Legends cars where he won three state championships. When Joe was young, he raced dirt bikes. He has his black belt in Karate. He plays the drums. When he was a kid, the doctors told them that he would have muscle tone issues along with coordination issues. He played basketball back in high school and did a little bit of football.
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  • "Didn't take to racing all that well but he liked the dirt bike. One day, I think he got in my legends car and said I am driving this. I go, 'the problem with that, son, is it's my legends car,'" said Paul.
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  • They brought him down to a track. Paul along with his friends help Joe groom into being a racecar driver.
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  • Paul told 22News that Joe is pretty high on the spectrum, "He's been with me in a dump truck since he was about four. I was the guy that took care of him. Made sure that he looked you in the eye and say hello. The easiest way I can put it or the hardest way I can put it. Everything that comes natural to your kid. I had to teach Joe from walking to running to everything. He's tough."
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  • Paul continued saying, "For him this gives him his ego. Because he was stigmatized his whole life. There was no special schools for autism back when Joe was a kid so it was really tough and it was hard on him. He's come along way. He's an impressive kid and a pretty good driver all in all."
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  • Joe talked to 22News after a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour practice session at Stafford Motor Speedway back in April.
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  • "I have more fun in a race than practice. Practice is way too much over thinking," said Joe.
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  • Joe started 32nd out of 36 cars at the Icebreaker at Thompson back in April. He finished 22nd in the 150 lap event.
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  • "I survived my first big track race. It was a lot of fun. I'll put it that way. We're learning with the best in the business. Definitely a lot of fun," said Joe.
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  • Ron Silk along with Jimmy Blewett, Timmy Solomito, and the Zacharias family have helped out the DeGarcia family a lot and are very grateful for it.
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  • DeGracia has about 35-40 wins in a Legends car and was a state champion. Paul tells Joe to do the best he can and that Paul will do the best he can. When Joe was six years old, the doctors said he would never be able to ride a bicycle and 19 years later he is competing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and is racing pretty hard.
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  • Joe has received the Hoosier Hard Charger Award from the season opener at Myrtle Beach Speedway back in March.
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  • The plan is to take it race by race with the hopes of going for Rookie of The Year on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
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  • The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be back in action this Saturday at Seekonk Speedway.

Joe DeGracia battles at Stafford for second Hoosier Most Improved Driver Award

  • Looking forward to “go the distance for Autism” event on June 3rd at Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ- (May 8, 2018) Joe DeGracia battled a severely sprained wrist and ill-handling race car to a hard fought 19th place finish at Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the annual running of the Spring Sizzler. Joe D. was caught up in an early wreck and suffered a painful right wrist injury making his navigation of the tricky Connecticut oval a difficult task…but his PJ DeGracia crew got him back on track after he mangled his front end in the incident.
  • “I am proud of my team for all of their hard work,” stated Joe D. after the Spring Sizzler. “I had nowhere to go after a car came down off the wall…really messing up my front end. My guys never quit, and we got back out. My wrist hurt really bad on restarts, but we fought through it.”
  • DeGracia started 27th and wound up 19th against the best modified drivers in the world keeping the Jersey native in the hunt for the coveted NASCAR Modified Whelen Tour Rookie of the Year honors and winning his second Hoosier Most Improved Award of 2018. After the race the likeable racer was honored with some of the praise he received for his efforts.
  • “Everyone has been calling me Ted Christopher after continuing to race with a sprained wrist,” added Joe. “I am honored to even be mentioned with Ted and I am dedicating my Hoosier Most Improved Award in his memory.”
  • Joe DeGracia will be back at the Doctor this week to see when he will be cleared to race and go back to work. His next NASCAR tour race is Saturday June 2nd at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. Following the race Joe and his team will pack up and drive all night to head to Bergen Community College for the “go the distance for Autism” event on June 3rd. Joe will present a check to the Garden Academy of West Orange, NJ who he donates 10% of his race winnings. It’s going to be an awesome day.
  • For more information on Joe D., please call Rolfe Schnur at 954-224-8661. Check out Joe’s website at joedegracia.com.

Joe DeGracia pleased with results at Thompson Modified Tour Ice Breaker

  • Thompson, CT- (April 8, 2018) NASCAR Whelen Modified Rookie of the Year candidate Joe DeGracia, made his first trip to the lightning fast Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway for the running of the Ice Breaker 150 on Sunday April 8th. DeGracia was making his first trip to Thompson and the high speeds made Joe D. take a different approach to acclimating himself to the challenging racetrack.
  • “I admit that I took a slower approach to getting up to speed at Thompson,” said Joe D. “This is by far the fasting track I have ever raced at and knew that one mistake could ruin the entire weekend. My goal was to race a clean race and gain as much experience as I could.”
  • DeGracia lined up his family owned Troyer race car in 32nd spot but knew that his lap times would improve as the race evolved. In typical Joe D. style, he gained 10 spots over the 150-lap grind finishing 22nd and came away with a positive attitude.
  • “I am very happy with the results,” added DeGracia. “I felt more comfortable with my car as the race went on and picked up over a second in my lap times. I can’t tell you how exciting the entire weekend was. There was something very special at Thompson for me and my team. I can’t believe my next race is the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Springs. That is amazing.”
  • Prior to race two of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Joe D. picked up the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award for the season opener at Myrtle Beach Speedway. For more marketing or media information please call Rolfe Schnur at 954-224-8661 and check out Joe D.’s website at joedegracia.com.

Joe DeGracia makes the most out of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut at Myrtle Beach

  • Myrtle Beach, SC- (March 17, 2018) It has always been the dream of Joe DeGracia to run the NASCAR Whelen Modified series. His dream became reality when the popular New Jersey racer brought his immaculate No. 23 Troyer modified to the tricky Myrtle Beach Speedway for the first race of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified tour.
  • “This is a dream come true for me,” said Joe D. “Ever since I started racing I have wanted to run with the best modified drivers in the world. To travel from New Jersey to South Carolina to race at a great track like Myrtle Beach makes this very special.”
  • DeGracia took his time to become acclimated to the high-speed oval and started 27th on the grid. Driving a smooth and calculated race Joe D. finished a respectable 17th in his first outing in his P.J. DeGracia Contracting machine. The race was also special because talented racer and family friend T.J. Zacharias served as Joe’s spotter and driving coach.
  • “This weekend I was granted an opportunity that trumps everything in my career, “stated T.J. Zacharias. I got to spot for Joe DeGracia at Myrtle Beach for the tour race. Joe was diagnosed with autism when he was younger, and racing has been a passion of his and hasn’t let that stop him. He’s always dreamed of running at the tour level and to be a part of his first NASCAR Whelen modified tour start is something that I will forever look back on! Thank you, Joe and Paul, for allowing me to be a part of it as well as trusting me to be your spotter.”
  • “This was a great weekend for me,” added Joe D. “Thank you to all of my partners who make this happen. Your support means everything to me. To my loyal crew and my Dad…dreams do come true.”
  • Joe DeGracia’s next NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race is Sunday April 8th at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in the Ice Breaker 150. For more information please call Rolfe Schnur at 954-224-8661 or check out joedegracia.com.

  
Jimmy Zacharias to Crew Chief for Joe DeGracia
at 
Myrtle Beach Modified Tour race

  • Lyndhurst, NJ- (March 7, 2018) Joe DeGracia will have a friendly face as his crew chief when the PJ DeGracia race team travels to Myrtle Beach Speedway for the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen on Saturday March 17th. Longtime family friend Jimmy Zacharias will be working with Joe D. as his crew chief after inking a deal with the New Jersey based team.
  • “I changed my plans for Myrtle Beach,” said Zacharias. “The DeGracia family and I have been friends for a long time and Paul asked me if I would crew chief for Joe and I am really excited for the opportunity. Joe D. has made great strides as a driver. We parked next to them at New Smyrna and it was cool to see how much Joe D has grown as a racer.”
  • DeGracia and his family owned team are attempting to run the entire 17 race schedule and compete for Rookie of the Year honors. They are currently finalizing a few marketing partnerships which will allow them to travel the entire NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
  • Joe DeGracia was diagnosed with Autism as a child and is proud to represent several charities and the Garden Academy for autism in West Orange, NJ as well as participating in events throughout his home state.
  • “I am very thankful for all that I have, “stated Joe D. “My dream has always been to compete as a regular on the modified tour and now it looks like we are very close to that being a reality. I want to thank Jimmy Zacharias for working with me at Myrtle Beach. I respect him and his family very much.”
  • To catch all the latest Joe D. news, check out his website at www.joedegracia.com. For more marketing or media information please call Rolfe Schnur at 954-224-8661. For information on Rolfe Schnur go to his website at www.rolfeschnurmotorsportsmarketing.com.