Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Eric Tomlinson off to strong start in Open Mods

ROBINSON, Texas — They are some of the fastest, most exciting machines to watch within the entire short track racing world. While Super Late Models may provide that all-out assault on the senses most folks seek, the ground-pounding Modifieds also draw fans up onto the edge of their collective seats. 

For 36-year-old driver Eric Tomlinson, the thrill of winning Modified races never gets old. He won a pair of features in 14 starts last year, and already has a TOMS win at HOT in 2024. He and his team have found the speed and consistency others find so elusive, and credits good people for that success. 

“It really comes down to the fact that races are won in the shop,” Tomlinson said. “Last year was the first year we went open-motor racing in nine years. We ran the Crate stuff and IMCA for almost a full decade. When Heart O’ Texas went to the open-motor Mods, it allowed me to get back to what I enjoy.

“There was a big learning curve the first part of last year, for sure. At the end of the season, we got tied in with Tyler Davis at Blackout Motorsports, Bobby Bills at Bills Built Race Cars, and John Rahlf at TDS Suspension. We’ve all worked diligently to get our program where it needs to be.” 

Tomlinson comes by his love for racing naturally, yet it was a neighbor who got him hooked on ovals. 

“My Dad was a drag racer back in the day,” he explained. “When we moved from Tyler back here to Waco, we lived right across the street from Keith Green. Dad decided it was time for him to quit racing, so he started helping Keith on the Winged Modifieds. He helped him all up through the 1990s.  

“So that’s kind of how it all got started for me. I’ve been racing for 22 years now, which is amazing. I started in 2002 in the old SIMS series, before we had IMCA sanctioning races in this part of the country. We were still running on a Street tire; that tells you how long ago it was.”

From there, Tomlinson’s career path started to take shape, as he honed his skills in open-wheel racing.

“We ran the SIMS deal for a several years until IMCA moved in and took them over. I ran under that sanction until 2009; then we traded my race-ready SportMod for my first Hughes chassis Modified with a guy named Danny Morris from Oklahoma. That’s what got me started in the Modified deal. 

“We’ve been running them from 2009 on, so it’s been 13 years in these cars. Where we’re at here in Central Texas, it’s kind of tough to do anything other than that. I’ve always wanted to run the Late Models; that’s always been the ultimate goal for me. But they don’t run them much close to here.”  

No matter where Tomlinson unloads his mighty Modified, the level of competition he faces is intense.

“I feel we have some of the top Modified guys in the country right here in my backyard,” he said. “We have guys like Triston Dycus to contend with, and he’s one of the very best. You have Troy Taylor, who is a real veteran; Philip Houston, Chris Huckaby, and that’s just a few. You need to qualify well today.”

When Tomlinson puts on his safety suit and gets ready to race, he straps into a very well-built machine. 

“I have a 2019 Bills Built chassis here in my shop,” he said. “It’s a very well-crafted car, and it reacts to every little change we make to the suspension. I also have a great relationship with the guys up there. I can call any time of day or night, and they’re happy to listen and answer my questions. That is priceless.

“As for horsepower, I build my own engines. I go to PRI every year, talk with the professional builders and stay on top of technology just like they do. It saves me a ton of money this way, and my motor had 728 hp on the Dyno before it went into the car. It makes good power, is reliable, and I enjoy the work.” 

Along with his years of experience and top-notch race car, Tomlinson has a long list of supporters. 

“I want to thank all of the great people who help me out, including Rick, Cindy and Donna Tomlinson; Tyler Bruce, along with Linda and Jerry Huntley at Select Avionics. I couldn’t race without a supportive family and friends who believe in me. 

“I also need to thank Nate Lemire with Natemare Wraps; Tyler Davis and Blackout Motorsports; John Rahlf at TDS Suspension; Bob Bills at Bills Built Race Cars; Jack Hodgson and Precision Machine, Ryan Smith and BG Products; Derek Cates at Truform Products; Meghan and Phillip Smith with the Parker Lee Project; Jason Gallimore at Pizza Junction; Morris Wood at Southwest Maintenance; Micheal Garcia at CrossFit MisFits; Simpson Race Products, and Keith White at Champ Fuels.” 

With Tomlinson and his wife expecting a brand new baby boy in roughly six weeks, racing may take a back seat for a while. He will have other priorities in his spare time. 

“Once the baby arrives, I’ll be doing a lot less racing for a while. And that will be just fine. For the most part, we’ll be chasing wins and big-money races this year. We aren’t chasing points, since I’ll be backing down once our son comes into the world. But I know we’ll be in the Mod War 100 for $50,000-to-win. 

“We plan to go hard here in the next six weeks. We’ll be at Heart O’ Texas this weekend to take on those USMTS guys, for sure. We fully expect to make the show both nights, and I’m really hoping to score a top-10 finish. Those guys are all fast, but we’re going to give it our best shot at my home track.” 

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Stacy Kolar/Southern Sass