Photo - Dave Burnham
Photo – Dave Burnham

Dave Burnham, Middletown Chronicle, November 1, 2013

With a calm maturity and steely determination that belie his young age, Joey Ternullo is a teenage racing driver, a young man with a bright future and the youngest INEX Legends Cars champion in Waterford Speedbowl’s history at just 14 years of age.

Racing in Waterford’s Wild n’ Wacky Wednesday racing series, Ternullo drove his Laticrete-sponsored Legend into victory lane in rounds two and four of the series on May 15th and 29th. His third victory came on Sept. 4th (Round 18) to seal the championship with a race to spare. The Middletown racer picked up three wins, 11 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes from 19 races in 2013, his second season of Legends division racing.

Legends are 5/8-scale fiberglass full-fendered versions of vintage NASCAR Modifieds powered by a 120hp, 1250cc Yamaha engine. Ternullo’s blue-and-white No. 10 machine is a 1934 Ford Coupe and can hit 85mph at Waterford’s 3/8-mile asphalt oval race track.

“I started racing Waterford Legends in 2012, when I was 13, and got one win toward the end of the season,” said the Xavier High School student. “This year I was able to grab three wins and clinch the championship. I’m very proud to be the track’s youngest Legends champion.” To add to the historic championship win, the young racer is also ranked seventh in the country in Legends’ Young Lions division.

Joe Ternullo Sr., owner of Middletown Ceramic Tile Company, thinks his son’s victory on May 29th “may have been the most exciting race Joey has ever participated in. He started in ninth and due to problems with another vehicle which caused some down time, here started in the last spot out of 15 drivers. After seven laps, he was in the lead and ultimately ended up with the victory.”

Ternullo, with nine years of racing experience, is looking to return to the Speedbowl in 2014 to defend his title against a pack of hungry racers whose ages range from 13 to 50.

“I’d like to stay with Wednesday night Legends for my third year and try to race as many Saturdays as possible to get some more laps under my belt. This will help get some practice in for Wednesdays and defending my championship. It’s pretty competitive. I like the way Legends drive. They’re fun and you can always go out and have a good time. I like the people I race against. They give me respect and I give it back.

“Hopefully I can move on to Stafford Motor Speedway to race an SK Lite Modified in 2015, and then a regular SK Modified. By that time I will be17 or 18. From there I’d like to pick up a ride and see where my career takes me.”

Like many young racers, Ternullo has a great support team behind him in his parents, Joe Sr. and Jennifer, and long-time sponsor Laticrete, a Bethany, CT-based family-owned, world-wide manufacturer and marketer of proven construction solutions used in residential, commercial and industrial applications.

“My parents are great. They support me every step of the way. My mom would like to see me get as far away as possible from racing, but if I like it, she likes it.”

“The bottom line is that we’re extremely proud of Joey, no matter if he wins or loses,” added Jennifer.

“He’s got a huge global sponsor behind him,” Joe Sr. stated. “They’ve been so supportive and I can’t thank Laticrete enough. This is the fourth year they’ve been with him. It’s exciting to have a global company sponsoring him that’s family owned and supporting another family that’s in the business of ceramic tile and stone. It’s cool. I‘ve been using their product for many years.”

To illustrate the regard that Laticrete has for its young charger, Dr. David A. Rothberg, Laticrete’s Chairman/CEO, interrupted an expedition in Borneo to pay this tribute: “We are so proud of Joey’s accomplishments. Very few youngsters have the drive, diligence and plain old gumption that Joey has shown this season and in prior years.”

Ternullo is equally complementary of his sponsor. “Laticrete is a great support. They’ve sponsored me since Bandoleros. I don’t know what I would do without them. I probably wouldn’t have won this championship without their support. I would also like to thank Da Vinci Pizzeria for its help as well.”

At age four, Ternullo was visiting the Silver City Quarter Midget Club in Meriden, CT with his father who was checking out a tile job. “It was a rainy day and they were drying the track. When they started up I really enjoyed it”.

“My mom knew I had a desire for racing. I had no fear at all. It was in my blood. At 18-months old I was driving my sister’s Barbie jeep around the yard. We had some battery-powered jeeps when we were kids and I would always go out and ride around in them.”

The visit to Meriden was at the end of the 2004 season, so the family had the winter and spring to find a car and get ready. A car was sourced online from Anthony Flannery in East Hampton, which Ternullo raced successfully for the next four years. It now sits proudly in the family’s racing workshop among the myriad trophies and photographs.

“I didn’t win any championships, but I had some wins in the Junior Novice division,” said Ternullo. “I took home seven wins out of 25 races during my first season.”

“It was all about safety for me,” Joe Sr. said. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into – it was more than I thought. It’s not just going around in a circle. I was a little concerned. I tried to buy him the best safety equipment I could to keep him safe.”

After Quarter Midgets, Ternullo moved to a new division with a larger and faster vehicle for 2010-11, a Bandolero, which was raced at Waterford Speedbowl. A Bandolero is a miniature NASCAR stock car with a rear-mounted 30hp, 570cc Briggs & Stratton engine and is around 10mph slower than a Legend. He placed in the top five of every Bandolero race he participated in and at one point, was ranked 22nd in the country.

“I liked Bandoleros from the start. It was a big jump from the small track to the big track. Five of Silver City’s tracks could fit into Waterford. I had 12 wins in that series. I wasn’t able to get the championship because we went on vacation. But I did get nine wins in one season so that was good enough for me.”

While racing a Bandolero on Aug.18, 2010, Ternullo had one of his biggest accidents. “Joey got hit, rolled three times and landed upside down,” according to Jennifer. “Paramedics and the pit crew came onto the track and they literally had to flip the car over with him inside. My heart was in my stomach. I didn’t like it.” The car was so badly damaged that Joey missed a couple of races while it was repaired.

“Here it is years later and I’m still nervous watching him. He absolutely loves it. He can’t wait for race night. I’m behind him 100%, but on the flip side, I’m scared to death for him. I’ve seen him hit the wall. I’ve seen him flip upside down and my heart is just in my stomach the whole time.”

In March 2012, a Legends race car joined the Ternullo racing stable. “We picked the car up in Concord, NC, from Dan Snyder Racing. He set up the car for me and I raced it at Concord, NC. I started 15th in my first race and finished ninth, so that was a great accomplishment.” Ternullo rounded out the 2012 season in victorious fashion by taking an end-of-season win in the Legends car at Waterford Speedbowl.

The win gave Ternullo victories in Quarter Midgets, Bandoleros and Legends, mirroring the early successes of one of his favorite NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and fellow Middletown native, Joey Logano.

To see the published feature click HERE.

Photo - Dave Burnham
Photo – Dave Burnham