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Forsyth's Salvatore Iovino juggles business, travel, self-funding as he climbs NASCAR's lower ranks
Salvatore Iovino
Salvatore Iovino.
About this article

  • This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 400-The Life, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.
Salvatore Iovino

Breaking into any sport can be hard, but breaking into racing — once you factor in car parts, travel, transporting the car and so many other expenses — is a pricey endeavor.

Salvatore Iovino knows it.

“The drivers on the main series, like the cup, those are written contracts, but drivers on lower series like myself and other drivers out there and series across the country, there are self-funded drivers going out there that [are] knocking on doors and trying to get help just to go out there and race and go up to the next series,” Iovino said. “It’s pretty unfortunate that there are a lot of talented drivers out there who won’t be able to make it the next level because of a lack of sponsor support.”

I met Iovino at Shakeaway, one of his main sponsors, in Cumming, as he prepared for a race at Spokane County Raceway in Washington in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, the regional racing and a lower division of the series.

He began competing in 2012 in NHRA drag racing events and, after making connections, was able to begin racing stock cars in 2016, when he was named Most Popular Driver in the K&N West series despite only competing in the last seven races of the year.

Though he has had success in both, Iovino quickly learned different skills are needed for each.

“When I was drag racing, I was drag racing 1,500-2,000 horsepower cars,” Iovino said. “The first time I ever sat in a stock car, a buddy of mine said, ‘Look here, it’s a stock car, it’s got 400 horsepower.’ It was more like 350-400 horsepower, on a little, quarter-mile track and he said, ‘Go out there and make some laps and we’ll see how you do.'

“In my mind, it was like, this is going to be easy, all I’m doing is driving in a circle in a 400 horsepower car. I did not know the fundamentals of the stock cars or nothing; I just figured you made circles. I did 19 laps by myself on the track. No one else was out there, and I totaled the car.”

Like many of the sport’s critics, Iovino assumed all drivers had to do was turn left, which he said isn’t at all how the cars are driven.

“I didn’t know anything about unwinding the wheel,” he said. “We’re not turning left, we pitch the car left, but we’re turning right to turn left and we’re using the brake and the throttle to turn."

Salvatore Iovino
Iovino paid a visit to Matt Elementary in north Forsyth County earlier this year. - photo by Micah Green
Slavatore Iovino
- photo by Micah Green
Iovino competes in the K&N Pro Series West and the Camping World Truck Series.

Unlike jumping from drag racing to stock car racing, Iovino said trucks were an easier adjustment.

“The truck series runs bigger tracks and they have typically more banking, so it’s more of a set-up change than anything,” he said, “but the stock-car, it’s all pretty much the same dynamic.”

Already this year, Iovino has competed in races at the Greenville Speedway, Tucson Raceway Park, Kern County Raceway Park and New Smyrna Speedway, where he finished 17th, but is hoping to kick off next season at one of NASCAR’s most famous tracks.

“NASCAR has a whole approval process; you have to get approved to race certain tracks,” he said. “Right now, I’m still in the process to race at, like, Daytona next year. All the tracks I’m doing right now are to prepare for next year and the truck series. Hopefully, I can open up next year for the Daytona 500 with the trucks.”

While racing is tough, just getting there with a working car requires a lot of money, work and travel. Being a selffunded driver  — whose pit crew is split between Las Vegas and Idaho, where his team, Patriot Motorsports Group, is based —  makes it even tougher.

“My team is a lower-budget team,” Iovino said. “I’m what’s called a self-funded driver, so I seek out sponsors and I seek out financial support for racing because even though we are a low-budget team, it still costs me about $20,000 per race, and that includes the travel and the lodging, paying the pit crew, tires.

“The tires for just one race is $3,000.”

Salvatore Iovino

Racing is expensive, hard, time-consuming and, most of all to Iovino, absolutely worth it.

“For me, it’s the best feeling,” he said. “I love just the competitive feeling of racing side by side and getting better on the track. That’s just the best part; it’s a huge adrenaline rush. When I was drag racing, you got an adrenaline rush for a couple seconds, then you’re back in the pits and you’re working on the car to make a couple seconds pass, then you’re done.

“With stock car racing, you’re out there for hours with an adrenaline rush.”