“Tiger Tom” and grandson Tommy III have joined together and created “PISTONERACING” … Look forward to the debut in the NASCAR 2012 CWTS !!
OWNER / CREW CHIEF: “Tiger Tom Pistone”
The Pistone Racing Legacy started over 90 years ago, in 1921, when “Tiger Tom” Pistone’s father, Pietro Pistone decided leave his native Alia, Sicily with $22 in his pocket and board a boat called the “Minne Kahda”. This voyage which began from Palermo, Sicily brought Pietro Pistone to Ellis Island in New York City. Although he was only 5′ 3″ and 26 years old, Pietro had a work ethic that he would later instill in his son. ”Tiger Tom” was born on March 17, 1929 and is 100% Italian American. Pietro started “Tiger Tom” working early as a fruit and vegetable peddler with his Dad.
Imagine a young “Tiger Tom” going through the streets and alleys of Chicago singing as he was going up and down those steps to the various houses to deliver fruit. He would sing out “fruits, vegetables and tomatoes” to the people. They would hear “Tiger Tom” singing and come out onto their fire escapes to buy their produce from “Tiger”.
It was this hard work ethic that paved the way to them having a vegetable & fruit delivery truck … this successful business later turned into owning apartment buildings in Chicago. It’s easy to see how “Tiger Tom”, who came from such humble beginnings and with a work ethic instilled in him since an early age; would grow to learn about respect and to how to take care of his family and friends … and yes, charities too !! “Tiger Tom” learned the charitable lesson early and has always gave of himself and to ”pay it forward”.
Growing up his family could have never dreamed that he would grow up to be one of the finest competitors to ever strap himself into a race car. The young Pistone began his career in his native Chicago at Soldiers Field during the late 1940′s. Early in his career, Tiger Tom flipped his racer 22 times in one season. His quick wit and winning smile made him an instant favorite with the fans. During these early years, “Tiger Tom” also served his country by being in the military.
Competing against local legends such as Gene Marmor, Skippy Michaels, and Sal Tovella, Tiger Tom drove his car no. 3 to the track championships at Soldiers Field in 1954. A perennial point chaser, Pistone was always a top contender for the title at the fabled speedway. One of the cars Tiger Tom utilized during his1954 championship drive was a four-door Pontiac. His success caused him to be idolized by thousands.
One of his biggest admirers was a youngster from Elmhurst, Illinois named Fred Lorenzen. As a young man, Fred’s goal was to one day be as great as his hero, Tiger Tom Pistone!!!! Running for promoter and longtime friend, Andy Granatelli, “Tiger” drove a very sanitary Cheverolet to the Soldiers Field title in 1955. He also entered his first NASCAR Grand National race that year in the October 100 miler at NorthWilkesboro Speedway. An overheating engine relegated him to a 27th place finish in that event.
During the 1950′s , winning the track title at Soldiers Field was quite a feat. Tiger Tom Pistone captured the crown an amazing five consecutive times!!!! An he still holds the track record at Soldiers Field to this very day. Promoter Andy Granetelli rewarded Tiger Tom with a huge trophy for-claiming his fifth championship!!!
Tiger Tom’s first victory in a NASCAR sanctioned race came on June 30, 1956. An enormous crowd of 38,000 screaming fans watched him drive his ’56 Chevy ragtop to victory in a 100 mile convertible contest at Soldiers Field. He drove his car #54 around the legendary Curtis Turner with six laps to go and held on for the win!!! Tiger Tom was also very successful at Chicago’s Raceway Park. It was not uncommon to find him collecting the spoils of victory after a hard fought struggle on the race track.
By today’s criteria, 1959 would be considered Tom Pistone’s rookie season on NASCAR’s Grand National (now Sprint Cup) tour. To this very day, his remains one of the most outstanding records ever compiled by a driver during his freshman year in major league stock car racing. Driving a Thunderbird, the little dynamo scored two victories and logged a dozen top five finishes en route to a sixth place finish in the point standings.
Even during these early years of racing and building a reputation as one of the premier drivers in Chicago, “Tiger Tom” always put charitable acts first in his life. “Tiger Tom” always helped children in need, even like this photo to the right from the Soldier Field days, ”Tiger” has always donated and contributed to helping others … this is one of the million reasons why his family loves and admires him so much to this day ! He would go to Boys Homes and donate bikes, toys and anything else just to put a smile on the faces of this precious kids who had so much sadness in their lives! The picture to the right is from “Tiger Tom’s” racing days at Soldier Field 1961, he’s pictured with two precious children who had the horrible disease, Polio. Later as time went by, along with his great friend and fellow racer Tiny Lund, they would both continue to go to these Boys Home to do this charitable work. “Tiger Tom” was what they called an “Honorary Sheriff for the Boys Homes of America”.
The beginning of the 1961 season found Tom Pistone racing a new Pontiac under the banner of the GO-GO-GO corporation. Pistone and Bill France Sr. were very instrumental in helping Lynn and B.G. Holloway form a potent three car team that featured General Motors cars. Team drivers were, Tiger Tom Pistone, Ned Jarrett and Johnny Allen. Jarrett drove the teams no. 11 Chevy to the 1961 Grand National Championship. In 1966 NASCAR and Ford Motor Company became embroiled in a major controversy over the eligibility of Ford’s single overhead cam engine to compete on the GN circuit.
A boycott by Ford led most observers to believe there would be no competitive Ford’s to challenge the onslaught of Chrysler teams. Someone forgot to tell this to Tiger Tom Pistone! Driving a modestly financed two year old Ford, the Tiger was a victory contender. Tom Pistone’s ability as a driver is equalled only by his expertise in the field of designing and building race cars. Drivers who have won races utilizing the Pistone chassis include the likes of Harry Gant and the late Bobby Issac. However one of the hottest combinations of the late 1960′s was the team of Tiger Tom Pistone and his great friend (afore mentioned), Tiny Lund … both were renowned as practical jokers, the colorful duo won races and set records throughout the Southeast.
Since those early days of working and racing in Chicago, this youngster who grew up in the heart of Chicago is now a fully converted “Southerner” and calls the Charlotte, N.C. area home. ”Tiger Tom” continuesto operate his very successful Charlotte N.C. family business “Tiger Tom Pistone’s Race Car and Parts” with daughter, Chrissy and grandson, Tommy III.
However in 2011, the family decided the time was right for Tiger Tom to return to the track as crew chief and with Tommy III at the wheel. The “Pistone Racing” Team was created and is looking forward to racing in the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Tiger Tom and Tommy III hope to find themselves again in a very familar place once again … VICTORY LANE !
In October of 2011, Tiger Tom was presented the prestigious “Smokey Yunick Award” at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This “Smokey Yunick Award”, instituted by legendary car owner and mechanic Smokey Yunick, is presented annually and recognizes the individual whose lifelong efforts have had a major impact on the motorsports industry. Recent notable recipient was former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Robert Yates.
Tiger Tom also recently was notified that he would be inducted in the Jacksonville Hall of Fame on Dec. 10th, 2011 and has also been nominated for induction into the Illinois Stock Car Hall Of Fame Inaugural Class of 2012. The induction ceremony would be April 14th, 2012. The accolades of his career and dedication to the sport continue to be recognized. An interesting side note on Tiger’s legacy, in anage where people in NASCAR are talking about “diversity” and the lack of various ethnicities, “Tiger Tom” will often comment that the fact that he is full Sicilian/Italian American, he was one of the very first truly “diverse” drivers in NASCAR, a claim that he is very proud of.
For those of you who want to know what ”Tiger Tom” is doing just about everyday, just go by the race shop and you will find “Tiger” still doing what he loves … it’s same thing that he was doing 60 years ago … working on cars and getting ready to go racing !!
Tiger Tom Pistone is still dedicated and committed to the “summer and winter shootouts” as well, this is his deepest passion. Working with the Legend and Bandolero divisions at Charlotte Motor Speedway is where you will find both ”Tiger” and Tommy … they both feel so privileged to be apart of this division. Retired ? “Tiger Tom” has never retired nor will he ever … he often says “the day he retires would be the end of him”.
One final thought: … “Tiger” would like to thank everyone for their support over these years. It’s that support that brought he and his grandson, Tommy III, to the decision to create “PISTONE RACING” and go racing again. So again, we sincerely thank you for being, first “a racing fan” but more importantly a fan of “PISTONE RACING” !
See you all on the track in 2012 !! … ”Tiger” !!