PHOTO: Timmy Jordan sits in his Valenti Modified Racing Series car during an event in 2011. Jordan hopes for a better season in 2012 after a tough 2011 rookie season. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

PLAINFIELD, Conn. — The name Timmy Jordan is a familiar one with Late Model racing fans in the northeast. The Plainfield, Conn., racer won numerous races at Waterford Speedbowl in the Late Model division and was the 2010 Late Model champion. Jordan was part of the inaugural ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009, and was a front runner in most of the ACT Late Model series races at Waterford.

But Jordan’s name was missing in Late Model racing last season. Jordan was at the track for Waterford’s opening race. However, he was behind the wheel of a Modified and was racing with the Valenti Modified Racing Series

Jordan endured a tough 2011 season with the Valenti Modified Racing Series. Although being named rookie of the year, Jordan recorded three top-ten finishes in 14 series starts. But a string of runs at the end of the season left Jordan and his father, Pat, feeling optimistic.

“Statistically, it was frustrating,” Jordan said. “But we had a bunch of runs towards the end of 2011 that allowed us to see that we could run with experienced Modified teams and drivers. The things we struggled with were things we needed to show up and race to learn. I had no clue how much to tighten a Modified up at Monadnock [Speedway] or Canaan [Fair Speedway], or what geometry package suited my driving style best. I’d never raced outside of Waterford. For a local guy who made a really huge jump to a Tour Modified, I got less intimidated and more comfortable, and got better, I think.”

Jordan not only left Waterford, the only track he had ever raced, he also went to an entirely different style of car. A modified has nearly twice the horsepower compared to a Late Model, has no fenders, races on a wider tire, and is lower to the ground. All the differences between a Late Model and Modified make the diving style much different.

“It is kind of night and day,” Jordan explained about the driving differences. “The Late Model seemed like the driver could carry the car a little bit more when it was off. I’ve won races at Waterford by just hustling the car and being smart, and same in the ACT races I ran strong in. With the Modified, you have a tire that gives up really quickly, twice the power, and the view is extremely different. But at the same time, it’s all about where you start, track position, and saving the tires while beating the snot out of them. They’re so easy to drive, but harder to race. Everyone is close on equipment and effort.”

His family team has added two key crew members over the offseason: Ben Althen and Brian Ross. Althen graduated from Western New England University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2011, while Ross is currently attending Central Connecticut State University studying mechanical engineering. Ross was the winning crew chief for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale at Thompson Int’l Speedway with driver Glen Reen.

Jordan hadn’t seen many of the tracks the Valenti Modified Racing Series had visited having never driven a Modified before last season, and rarely racing outside Waterford Speedbowl. They were able to gather valuable notes each time they visited a track and gained more laps. Jordan feels the notes they gathered, the laps they run, and the additions of Althen and Ross will help their 2012 season.

“I’m ready to roll,” Jordan said. “Now that I have laps, a notebook, and have added Ben Althen and Brian Ross on board for 2012, along with my longtime crew of my father and John Hugh, we have high hopes. We’re going to show up to tracks with the same four guys, no more, no less, because we are all dedicated to having fun and performing. Knowing what to expect, in a general sense, eliminates the nervousness and replaces it with anxiousness.”

With better notes, more laps, and additional crew members, one would think Jordan would say that they are the differences that are going to make him better in 2012. However, Jordan jokingly has a different answer.

“Honestly, pulling a good number for the heat race and for picking tires,” Jordan laughed. “But, I truly feel that I learned as much as I could for my first season in a Modified. By simply applying the knowledge we gained [last season], we can avoid making the same mistakes we made. I know I can wheel a race car. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in the seat, because I wouldn’t let myself be in it. My dad works too hard and spends a lot of his hard-earned money on this to just ride around in 8th. We just needed to put the missing pieces together, which I think we have, and now we need to give it hell.”

After one season on the Valenti Modified Racing Series, Jordan knows how well he wants to do in 2012, and has great expectations.

“I could settle and say a win and top-five in points, but I know people have won championships coming off of unspectacular seasons,” Jordan said. “Plus, I’m a racer and want to win a lot. To be honest, I’m probably way past any division anyone expected me to get to, except maybe for my late mother, Debra, and myself. Just being here is not good enough in my eyes. I have to show I belong in a Tour Modified. Talk is cheap, and results speak louder, so I just want to race under the radar and shock everyone except myself this season.”

Jordan and the Valenti Modified Racing Series will begin their season at Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Conn., on Sat., March 31 and Sun., April 1 for the Budweiser Blastoff Weekend. The Valenti Modified Racing Series will qualify on Saturday, with a 100-lap race scheduled for Sunday.