By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: LAD Racing Photography
FORNEY, Texas — While that Factory Stock craze continues to capture hearts (and drain checkbooks) throughout central and south Texas, the depth of talent and level of competition in Limited Modifieds across northern regions continues to grow. It isn't easy to win, yet one driver is getting pretty close.
For 36-year-old Joe Findling, the Limited Modifieds are a great fit. He's been the model of consistency in 2021, with 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 26 starts. While he's yet to carry the checkered flag after an A Main, he's been close enough to almost taste it, and knows he's on the right track.
“I'm not disappointed in this season, but we've fought a lot of mechanical issues this year,” Findling said. “I've been very fortunate to have a guy that provides 100 percent backing for whatever I need and whatever I do. He relieves some of the pressure I would ordinarily put on myself.
“We've been really close an couple of times. I've actually been leading the feature a couple of times and had catastrophic failure. We've had transmissions break and rear-ends come apart, that kind of thing. We've knocked on the door of victory a couple of times; I feel like we just need luck to go our way.”
Findling, who also owns a Factory Stock, got his start in racing early, just not in the manner you might expect. He owns a Bowling Pro Shop, and is also a highly-skilled bowler himself. Findling has eight professional titles to his credit, and was named Player of the Year in 2013-14. Yeah, he's that good.
“I started racing when I was 13, and raced steady right up until I turned 23,” he explained. When I was young, I hung around with my brother-in-law as he raced Modifieds. One day I kind of joked around to him that I thought the Bomber class looked like fun and felt I could do it. So one day shortly after that we were working on his Modified, and he told me to walk around the back of his shop.
“I strolled out back, and there sat a beat-up old gold-colored Oldsmobile. I asked him what it was, and he told me it was my first race car. He said I had to help work on it, so we knocked the windows out of it, gutted it, put our own roll-cage in it and he took me to Thunderbird Speedway. That was my start.”
From there, the road was filled with early success and an entire reel full of career highlights, including a victory in the inaugural SIMS Nationals in Many, Louisiana.
“I won my first race in that Bomber class before my 15th birthday,” Findling said with pride. “From there, we went straight into the Limited Modifieds when the class was first developed. We were one of the first teams that helped build the class and were friends with the man who came up with the concept.
“We were fortunate enough to win three straight championships at 85 Speedway, and finished second in the points at Grand Prairie Speedway back around 2003 or so. In 2004 and 2005, we won close to half of the features we ran. We started 11th or 12th at 85 and drove to the front. Those were great years.”
In the years he was away from the sport, Findling says the Limited division has changed.
“When I was in this class before, there were lots of good drivers, don't get me wrong,” Findling added. “But when I got back into it this time, I was shocked at just how much it has changed. We went to three or four different tracks, and there were 12 or 14 fast cars in every feature.
“The level of competition is insane just in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area, let alone the rest of Texas. We've traveled as far south as 105 Speedway down in Cleveland, and as far east as Texarkana, and the talent is unreal everywhere we go. It's amazing how good young guys like Corey Neil Jr. are.”
When Findling suits up, grabs his helmet and gets ready to roll, he straps into an older machine that's still pretty capable of running up front.
“I'm running a 2013 Smiley's chassis this year,” Findling explained. “It's not the latest and greatest piece, but we've done some updates and are always trying to make it a little better. We'll be tweaking on it a little more as we wrap up this season, for sure.
“About three weeks ago, I drove a 2018 IRP car for a buddy of mine who asked me to take some laps in it. I was fast in it, but it made me realize how those newer cars feel underneath you. I still feel like we've done very well passing cars with an older car.”
As far as horsepower, Findling has an ample supply and good reliability to make it last.
“We have a motor from Allard Racing Engines in Ennis, Texas. It has plenty of power and runs great.”
Along with a fun-loving personality, infectious laugh and ample talent behind the wheel, Findling also has several key people working behind the scenes to keep his racing program on track.
“I need to thank my wife, Stacie, and my kids, Cooper, Chloe and Scotty. They mean the most to me.
“I also need to thank our great sponsors, including Hilltop Lanes in Waxahachie, Hayes Farms, KH Suspension, Allard Motors, Sherrell Air Conditioning & Heat, Kevin & Sons Lonestar Seasonings; UCanBowl2, Striking Against Breast Cancer, Gessner’s BBQ, Craig’s Bowling Supply, the Edgerton Family, Hitman Designs, Don's Auto Care and Momma P's Cookies. I sure appreciate their support.”
As the 2021 season rapidly draws to a close, Findling shifts his focus to new few races and next year.
“We plan to go after that victory a couple more times this Fall,” Findling concluded. “Right now, we're planning to run full-time for points next year and do a little less bowling. I've had some issues with my arm, and I really want to get more serious about chasing points and a feature win. I'm excited about it.”