Enthusiasm of ‘Como Joe’ makes racing series growThe Como Modified Series has grown from humble beginnings into one of the best-known racing circuits in the Upper Midwest, making a name for itself and the senior vice president and chief financial officer of Como Oil & Propane, Joe Stariha of Duluth
By: By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram
The fourth installment of the series kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Proctor Speedway.
Stariha is known in local racing circles as “Como Joe,” and his devotion to grass-roots Modified racing has helped the series grow from a $15,000 purse its inaugural year in 2006 to $42,000 this year. Stariha called it the highest-paying Modified series in the country and by far the top-paying dirt track series in the region, even surpassing WISSOTA’s top class, Late Models.
“My motivation has always been to give Modified drivers in our region a series to call their own,” Stariha said.
“Every year different series and shows always center around Late Models, but I wanted to give the Modifieds something that was as good or better than that.”
The AMSOIL Late Model Series isn’t running this season, making the Como Modified Series the only regular racing series exclusive to the Northland this summer. This year there will be eight races at four tracks: Proctor, Superior, Hibbing and ABC Raceway in Ashland.
Last year veteran Al Uotinen of Superior capped a banner season by holding on for the series title, earning $7,500 and a new chassis despite having car trouble in the season finale. This year the top prize is $10,000.
“My goal was to make this the No. 1 paying Modified series in the nation, and with Chevy dealers coming on board this year as a presenting sponsor, that allowed us to do that,” Stariha said. “We’re trying to keep it growing for the drivers, and I think we finally got the series to a level where we could warrant a presenting sponsor, and Chevy dealers were more than glad to come on.”
Stariha has been a racing fan for about eight years and has been sponsoring drivers since 2004. It didn’t take him long to develop an amicable relationship or a lasting nickname. While “Como Joe” may predate the series, his popularity has grown exponentially with it.
“Kelly Estey, the first driver I sponsored, started calling me ‘Como Joe,’ and it kind of stuck,” Stariha said, laughing. “Now, everybody calls me that.”