(3/2/2022 – Alex Nieten) … Michael Faccinto has already cemented himself as one of the greatest micro sprint and midget drivers from California, and beginning in 2022 he’ll begin his quest to achieve a similar status in the 410 sprint car ranks.
Slightly more than a month ago Faccinto announced that he’d partnered with Mike Phulps Motorsports to pilot their No. 56 sprint car. The pairing has assembled a tentative schedule of more than 40 races with the focus being the entire NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car tour.
The move is the natural progression for the 31-year-old who has spent much of his career driving micros and midgets, even at one point racing a midget for Gary Scelzi, father of Faccinto’s current competitor and reigning NARC champion Dominic Scelzi. The micro maestro also picked up a pair of Golden Drillers at the Tulsa Shootout along the way. After winning the 2018 USAC Western States Midget title, Faccinto began his transition to winged sprint cars with a 360 ride.
“I was ready to do the wing stuff,” Faccinto said of the pivotal time. “So, Harley Van Dyke actually took a chance on me, and we were together for two and a half years. I credit a lot to Harley. He let me go do some cool stuff around Knoxville and go run in the Midwest. We had success together. I credit a lot to him for getting me going with the wing.”
Faccinto and Van Dyke collected impressive results, tallying a handful of top-fives with series from both the Midwest and the West Coast. Last year, Faccinto linked with the Phulps team, leading to his debut in the No. 56 at Keller Auto Speedway’s Anthony Simone Classic. While the night ended with an accident in the feature, the driver and team quickly gelled and ultimately birthed the 2022 plans.
“Last year, we tried to actually pencil in a couple races throughout the year when Ryan (Robinson) wasn’t available with the 56, and it never really worked out,” Faccinto explained. “Then it opened up there at Hanford, and I got to race. We kind of just clicked as a team. (Crew chief) Ryan Riley made me feel really comfortable, and Kerry (Fasig) was there. Actually, my dad (Monte) was there also helping that night, and we had a lot of speed.
“I kept talking to them throughout the rest of the year,” Faccinto continued. “And I got the call around Chili Bowl time that we were going to do the whole NARC schedule and select 360 shows, and I jumped all over it. I’m ready to take the next jump and run the full NARC schedule.”
As an added bonus to getting an opportunity to take his desired path in racing, Faccinto is excited that’s its coming aboard such an iconic ride. The blue No. 56 has ripped around California’s bullrings for decades, and Faccinto is no stranger to the team’s history.
“It’s really cool,” Faccinto said. “We went and had dinner at the end of January with Mike, and I got to meet the whole team, and with just the stories they told and the history of the car, being able to run for them is an honor. I hope to represent as best as I can and build a team that in three to five years from now we’re still talking that I’m with them.”
With his limited 410 experience, year one is sure to pose a challenge for Faccinto as they take on the NARC tour but one he’s eager to attack with a strategic approach.
This year’s NARC schedule features 25 races at 13 tracks, some of which will be entirely new to Faccinto. To combat his lack of laps at some facilities, Faccinto is setting high expectations for his better tracks to set himself up favorably before heading to unfamiliar territory.
“The tracks in California I’m really familiar with are Stockton, Hanford and Placerville,” Faccinto said. “So, I would say I have those circled on my schedule as events when we go to them I would like to think of ourselves as a top-three or top-five car… Placerville, I ran a lot in the last two years in the 360, and we’ve always had a lot of speed there. I like the little bullring atmosphere. Hanford, I grew watching my dad race there. I’ve had a lot of races there with a wing car, midgets, non-wing car, so I’m very comfortable at Hanford, and Stockton is very similar to Hanford.”
While Faccinto is still writing the beginnings of his winged sprint car resumé, the Mike Phulps crew has a lengthy notebook that should ease his continued transition. Crew chief Ryan Riley’s California racetrack notes date back to his time working on the original No. 56 owned by recent National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Walter T. Ross.
In recent years, the Mike Phulps team has collected wins with a handful of drivers including Ryan Bernal, Justin Sanders, and Cole Macedo.
Last year Ryan Robinson made 11 NARC starts in the No. 56 and picked up five top-10s. Their best run together came in August at Ocean Speedway when Robinson set the 410 track record and claimed the runner-up spot in the feature. Joel Myers Jr. made a NARC start in the powder blue machine at Petaluma and may have won if it weren’t for an incident with slower traffic.
Though Faccinto’s lack of 410 experience may prove to be a slight obstacle, his early success in a winged 360 sprint car combined with a blossoming and already strong dynamic with the potent Phulps crew may lead to impressive results earlier than expected. And if they achieve the finishes they’re looking for, it could be only the beginning of Faccinto writing his name in California’s sprint car history books and adding his name to the list of winners in the No. 56.
“I definitely would like to prioritize 410 stuff going forward and with the 56 team,” Faccinto said. “I think if we can continue to build on runs and build a foundation and a team here, I plan on being here as long as they’ll have me.”
The 2022 NARC Fujitsu General USA Sprint Car Series season is on April 2nd at the Stockton Dirt Track.