In his rookie year of Super Late Model racing, Gio Ruggiero was tasked with the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule driving the Wilson Motorsports No.22. The schedule saw seven different racetracks that the Seekonk, MA teenager had never seen before.
After a third-place result in the final points standings, it’s safe to say that Ruggiero passed the test with flying colors. He won the Winchester 400 in his first try, becoming the first driver to do so since Ryan Lawler in 2007. Before that, he won his first-career Super Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway by passing NASCAR Cup Series competitor William Byron on the final lap and beating him in a photo finish.
Additionally, he became the first driver to win both the ASA/CRA Super Series and ASA Southern Super Series championships in the same year, all while also winning Rookie of the Year crowns in each respective series.
“I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go with moving up from a Pro to a Super, but I had high hopes,” said Ruggiero. “I think we did have a pretty solid year, winning the Winchester 400 in my first year in a Super and winning that race at Hickory. Those two were big confidence boosters and I’m looking forward to carrying the momentum into the Snowball Derby.”
Ruggiero had three Super Late Model starts in 2022; his debut coming in a Southern Super Series race at Montgomery Motor Speedway before contesting the All American 400 and Snowball Derby. After that, he had CRA SpeedFest and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing to get ready for the 2023 ASA STARS season.
He led 17 laps in the opener at Five Flags and finished sixth at Madison, but otherwise the first three races were a struggle. Then came his win at Hickory, where he led 76 laps and beat a NASCAR Cup Series championship four competitor. He took off after that, winning the Winchester 400 while also finishing second in the Redbud 400 at Anderson.
“We started off the year with a bit of a learning curve with Speedweeks and SpeedFest before that. I was transitioning to a new team and a Super Late Model compared to a Pro, so having that extra horsepower was something that I had to learn. I was a little bit frustrated with myself at the beginning of the year because I was struggling a little bit the first couple races. Once I started to get a handle on the Super and started to figure it out, I think I improved a lot and got a lot better.”
He also won a standalone ASA/CRA Super Series race at Salem Speedway in June, kicking off his CRA championship season with his second Super Late Model victory. His worst finish with CRA was ninth in the Glass City 200 at Toledo, and he clinched the championship by simply taking the green flag in the Winchester 400.
The Southern Super Series title came to Ruggiero in a vastly different fashion than the CRA championship. The Hickory win was his only one with the Southern Super Series, as consistency was key to his championship in the Southeast. He had top-five finishes in six of the nine races, and beat Matt Craig by just 25 points for the title.
“That was cool as well for sure. We also won the Rookie of the Year in both, which is pretty cool to me. I’m really proud of everybody on the team. The Wilson Motorsports crew works so hard putting in so any hours in the shop, so much hard work and effort into the cars to make them fast for us. We definitely showed that we were consistently good to win both championships there.”
With a full year of Super Late Model experience under his belt, Ruggiero is looking forward to what the 2024 season has to offer. In particular, he is ready to get a second crack at the early-season races now that he has more experience under his belt.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to race with Toyota Racing and Wilson Motorsports next year in Super Late Models. I’m hoping to see what more we can do next year. Like I said, I struggled in those first few races of the season so now I get a second chance at them with more experience all over again.
For more information on the ASA STARS National Tour, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com, or be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: ASA STARS National Tour | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
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