Mar 3, 2020 05:00 AM EDT
Driver Profile: CORY COSTA. CARVING OUT HIS OWN NICHE IN NORTHEAST DIRT MODIFIED RACING
The Corning, NY native shows that an upstart owner/driver on a limited budget can still be competitive and win.
Exclusive Story by Kenny Shupp Jr.
(Dundee, NY) Cory Costa of Corning, NY is yet another one of those second-generation drivers that is talked about so much and he is what must be considered a late bloomer in the sport. But, don’t let this 33-year-old owner/driver fool you. He is locked and loaded for bear and is making a name for himself in the tough northeast dirt Modified Division.
His dad, Mark Costa was a fierce competitor during his hay days in the 1990’s at the Woodhull Raceway in what then was the popular and very competitive Amateur Division. Father, Mark picked up the 1993 Woodhull Amateur Track Championship in a class that boasted an average of seventy cars per night Having grown up around the sport, Cory Costa was no stranger to race competition, however he didn’t start his own career until the age of 25.
“I dabbled a little in Moto Cross racing locally, but I never really took it seriously and only raced a bike for a short time, stated Costa. I actually never started racing on the local dirt ovals until I was twenty-five so basically, I have only been racing competitively for about eight years.”
Beginning in 2012 in the tough Street Stock Division which races at numerous tracks in the Upstate Region of New York, Costa was an immediate winner and wound up third in the final point tally in just his first year of racing at the Woodhull Raceway.
“We had a very good first year in a class that is really competitive. A top five in the final point standings at Woodhull really jump started my career. We came back with the Street Stock in 2013 and picked up the season ending Empire 100 at Black Rock, now known as Outlaw Speedway. We also did a lot of late season traveling to places like Penn Can, 5 Mile Point, Afton and Skyline. We ran well at most every venue and gained a ton of experience. I figured it was time to move up in class so in 2014 I got into the Crate Sportsman Division and raced at Woodhull and Outlaw Speedways full time.”
Costa was once again an instant winner in the Crate Sportsman Class winning five features at Woodhull in “14” and picked up Rookie of the Year Honors. He was also successful on the road with a GRIT Series win at Penn Can and sweeping the Afton Short Track Super Series weekend in October.
“Afton was really neat in 2014, stated Costa. On Friday night we picked up the win in the Open Sportsman feature and came right back on Saturday and won a GRIT Series race with the same car and motor combination. It was a great way to end the season and I had so much confidence that I figured it was time to move into the Modified’s.”
When Costa began 2015 with the Modifieds, he again raced at both Woodhull and Outlaw Speedways and he did it with just one car and a 358 cu.in. Chevrolet powerplant.
“Woodhull was still racing Modifieds with a maximum 370 cu. in engine. Tyler Siri had just purchased Outlaw and ran an open Modified class. My 358 was pretty much under powered compared to what many of the other teams were running but I was able to pick up a feature win in my rookie season at Outlaw. Winning the Modified Rookie Awards at both Outlaw and Woodhull was very special, but the feature win at Outlaw was huge. The competition there is unreal with numerous drivers that race full time in the sport, so being able to beat those guys was very memorable and gave me a ton of confidence going into 2016”
Keep in mind that Woodhull and Outlaw Speedways are like comparing apples to oranges. Woodhull is a tight one-third mile high banked bull ring. A paper clip design with long straights and tight, highly banked corners. Go fast, slow abruptly, turn hard left and hammer the gas again. It’s a very challenging venue. Outlaw Speedway is much longer, wider and is semi banked. Drivers carry a lot of speed all the way around. The tracks are totally different which requires different gearing, tire stagger and chassis set up. For Costa and others that compete at both tracks it requires a lot of preparation from one surface to the other.
“We were just a one car, one motor team so we are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to racing Friday at Outlaw and then Woodhull on Saturday, but like a lot of other teams we managed.
“16” found Costa again competing at both Outlaw and Woodhull with more success, but he made a change in his Saturday night stomping grounds in 2017 by making the weekly trek to the Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, NY.
“Thunder Mountain is a longer tow from our Corning, NY race shop, but I saw the challenge as a real opportunity to hone my skills at a tough track racing against several top-notch teams.” We ran there just one season with a lot of success, but in 2018 we headed back to Woodhull on Saturday while still competing at Outlaw on Friday’s.
Costa continued his steady Friday performances at Outlaw in 2018 against a who’s who list of drivers picking up a huge win in the 3rd Annual Summer Nationals. He also put on a stellar performance in the Brett Deyo Short Track Super Series event run at Outlaw. Starting on the pole, he led the first twenty-five of the scheduled fifty lap A Main before slipping back winding up fifth at the finish to eventual winner, Stewart Friesen.
“That race was awesome. I ran up front against some really big names in the sport. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get the win, but a top five was quite an accomplishment”
His performance at Outlaw Speedway during the STSS event did not go unnoticed as Costa got the attention of numerous other drivers and car owners in the pit area that night and his fan support continued to grow. He wound up sixth in the final point tally at Outlaw that same year to Track Champion, Matt Sheppard.
“18” found Costa coming up just one spot shy of winning his first ever track championship at Woodhull finishing second in the final point tally and 2019 saw a repeat performance as he again wound up a close second in points.
“Both of those years at Woodhull were disappointing. Both years it came down to the last night of the year and I had a chance to win the title, but we came up a little short. At least we had a shot at winning the title both years. Hopefully we can get it done this coming season!”
Costa also had excellent season ending races at Fonda and Afton.
“I had never been to Fonda before. I ran my 358 engine and the car was competitive. I was doing well till the one hundred lap break and then things started going backwards. But again, I learned a lot and when we go back next year, I’ll be better prepared. When we ran in October in the STSS event at Afton we had to qualify thru the consi. After it was over, we only had a couple minutes to get the car ready for the fifty-lap feature. We got rushing around and didn’t get enough fuel in the car and we ran out late in the race. That was a big disappointment.”
It was during that event that Costa again had heads turning and jaws dropping as he barn stormed his way thru an elite field of drivers. Starting deep in the field he easily moved into the top ten and was poised to gain a top five finish before the car sputtered and coasted to a stop and thus ended the 2019 season.
2020 will find Costa in a position of having two complete Hig Fab Modifieds and three Chevrolet power plants one 358 and two big, small blocks.
“I’m hoping we will be in good shape heading into this season and I will again focus on Outlaw and Woodhull, but if things go well, I plan on hitting more of the STSS races. 5 Mile Point is back on the schedule and I’ve run well there in the past, same with Afton. Depending on how things materialize there may be even more travel time.”
Cory Costa is also a student of the game as he has attended numerous training schools including the Bob Harris Chassis Seminar in Minnesota along with the Vinnie Salerno and Jeff Strunk Seminar in Pa.
“A few years ago, when I was getting started, I wanted to learn as much as possible, so I attended those seminars where I learned a lot. Vinnie runs a top notch Modified operation and Jeff Strunk’s track record speaks for itself. It was a very informative class focusing a lot on car maintenance and weekly preparation.”
Costa credits his success to a very dedicated crew including his father Mark along with Luke Boom, Tommy Daw and Tom Brautigan. There are also others that come to the track on race night and lend a hand. Sponsors include Nate Dunning of Dunning Auto Parts and Costa’s Auto Body both of Corning, NY and Al Wilcox of Trackside Products in Owego. Cropper Motorsports in the eastern part of Kentucky provides the potent small block power between the rails.
“I have a great team and some very loyal sponsors that help me out a lot, but I’m still footing about 90% of the bill out of my own pocket, he claimed.”
The thirty-three-year-old Costa is still single and has been employed as a Refinishing Technician for the past four years at Fox Auto Group in Painted Post.
When asked what his biggest moments were thus far in his relatively short career, Costa stated, “The Street Stock win in the Empire 100 at Black Rock in 2013 was big. The Crate Sportsman double wins at Afton were awesome and the Summer Nationals Modified win at Outlaw really helped my confidence. I’ve had sixteen feature wins thus far and they’re all important.”
Other than continuing with his weekly regiment of Woodhull, Outlaw and salting in some Short Track Super Series events, Costa has no major goals at this point other than to improve and be as competitive as possible.
“It’s very expensive doing most of this out of my own pocket, so if a big-time sponsor were to come along that would be a huge benefit and perhaps, we could travel more or maybe even look at the Super Dirtcar Series. Also, if I was offered a seat in a good competitive car, I would also entertain that, stated Costa. Whatever the case we are going to keep moving forward.”
On a closing note, late last season Costa ran into engine problems and with only two point races left at Woodhull and still with a good shot at winning the title, he left work late on a Friday afternoon, drove nine hours straight thru to Kentucky, picked up a fresh motor from Cropper’s, drove back to Corning, NY, installed the engine, got about 2 hours sleep, hauled to Woodhull and won the feature. That’s the kind of dedication and determination that has Cory Costa moving to the forefront in Upstate New York’s tough Modified Division.