By Bob Finan
Prior to the Buzz Chew Auto Group 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event Saturday at Riverhead Raceway four Whelen All American Series feature events were run off in front of a large crowd who gathered under near perfect weather conditions. Justin Brown of Manorville was awarded his second Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified win of ’18 while Jack Handley Jr. won his 24th career Blunderbust main event giving him sole possession of second on that all time win list. Two drivers would enjoy their first career victories during the night as Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches won the 20-lap INEX Legend Race Car event while Chris Lescenski of Riverhead topped the 20-lap Street Stock race.
In the 25-lap Crate Modified feature Chris Rogers broke to the early advantage chased for the first lap by AJ DeSantis before Owen Grennan moved by to take over the role of challenger. Grennan who started third made a quick move payoff for the lead when he passed Rogers to the inside in the third turn on lap 3. Once out front Owen in just his fourth start in the class broke away from the pack and seemingly drove off to a storybook first career win. Grennan was able to get away as Justin Brown and Michael Rutkoski diced for second over the final half of the contest. However in post race weigh-in Grennan’s car came up 20 lbs light at the scales and he was stripped of the win. What was a battle for second on the track would actually turn out to be the race for the win with Justin Brown of Manorville collecting his second win of the season in the FB Performance Transmissions Chevy. Championship leader Michael Rutkoski of Mattiuck was second in his Buzz Chew Chevrolet entry while veteran “Jumping” Jack Orlando was third in the Prototype Race Fabrication Chevy.
Saturday would be a day of wide ranging emotions for Jack Handley Jr. who earlier in the day laid his beloved Grandfather to rest. What better way to sooth the emotions of the day for he and his family by going out and winning the 30-lap Blunderbust feature which is exactly what Jack did. Jim Laird Jr. went out and broke his won track record in qualifying with a lap of 14.638, Laird had set the record only a few weeks ago at 14.666. After the redraw Cody Triola and defending champion Tom Pickerell brought the field down to start the race with Pickerell gaining the early advantage over Triola. Cody ran second to Tom over the first 9 circuits of the tilt before he was passed by Jim Laird Jr. The Laird/Triola tiff would feature some contact between the two and before long Jack Handley Jr. made his way to second on lap 13. Pickerell and Handley would then go toe to toe for the lead running several laps side by side to the thrill of the fans. On lap 23 racing down the backstretch Handley ducked under Pickerell who tried to reclaim the lead with a cross over move off turn four but to no avail. As the field started the 24th lap Jack Handley Jr. was the new race leader, a lead he’d not surrender in his Liccardi Builders Chevy. Tom Pickerell of Huntington was runner-up in the Makley Group Chevy while 73-year young Bill Wegmann Sr. of North Bellmore crossed the line third in the Crackerjack Auto Stores machine.
Just one week removed from finishing second in the Dan Jones Memorial INEX Legend Race Car event Allan Pedersen finally garnered his first career win in a 20-lap feature event. Ed Cheslak and Riely O’Keefe ran one-two for the first lap before veteran Brad Van Houten made his way out front on the second lap with Cheslak now second. Suddenly on lap 5 Cheslak spun in turn four drawing a caution flag setting up a double file restart, a restart that would be the demise for race leader Van Houten. Earlier in the day Brad felt as though the engine in his car was going bad on him and as the field took the green to restart the race Van Houten veered to the infield. The wild turn of events found Allan Pedersen coming to the race lead with older brother Artie III making his way to second with Vinny Delaney to third. Over the remainder of the race the Pedersen brothers would show the way with Allan in his Park Lane Maintenance racer leading the rest of the way for the long awaited first career victory. Artie Pedersen III of center Moriches was runner-up in the PJ DeGracia Construction entry recovering from a broken oil line in warm-ups. Third went to 2016 champion Vinny Delaney of Holtsville in his Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm mount.
For years Chris Lescenski of Riverhead has been a loyal and popular team member at the track even trying his hand at Late Model racing for a short time. When the Street Stock class came to be Lescenski was all in and Saturday night his decision paid dividends as he won the 20-lap Street Stock feature. Lescenski would lead the race wire to wire chased over the first 7 laps be former Blunderbust driver Rhett Fogg. It would be a restart on lap 7 that would do Fogg in as his left front tire was going flat as the field took the green, Rhett was able to limp to the infield. That turn of events moved Brian McCormack to second and he along with Greg Harris would pressure Lescenski to the finish of the race. However there would be no keeping Chris Lescenski and his L.I. Poultry team from enjoying their first ever win. McCormack of Holbrook was second in the Robo Car Wash Chevy with Harris of Riverhead third in the SGS Stone Works Chevy.
Crate Modifieds: 1. Justin Brown 2. Michael Rutkoski 3. Jack Orlando 4. Artie Pedersen III 5. Chris Rogers 6. Dennis Krupski 7. Peter Bertuccio 8. Scott Pedersen 9. AJ DeSantis 10. Jason Hansen 11. Terry Stiles 12. Owen Grennan
Blunderbusts: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Tom Pickerell 3. Bill Wegmann Sr. 4. Cody Triola 5. Tom Puccia 6. Jarrett Campbell 7. Russ Jansen 8. Jim Laird Jr. 9. Alyssa Paprocky 10. Brandon Hubbard 11. Brian Midgett
Legend Race Cars: 1. Allan Pedersen 2. Artie Pedersen III 3. Vinny Delaney 4. Jim Sylvester 5. Eric Hersey 6. Jeff Otto Jr. 7. Ray Fitzgerald 8. Richie Davidowitz 9. Matt Brode 10. Chris Gall 11. Silas Hiscock Sr. 12. Mike Van Houten Jr. 13. Mike Benton 14. Scott Cheslak 15. Steve Woytysiak 16. Patrick Moore 17. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 18. George Tomko Jr. 19. Ed Cheslak 20. Brad Van Houten 21. Riely O’Keefe 22. Jerry Curran 23. Rich Braun DNS- Alex Halinar
Street Stocks: 1. Chris Lescenski 2. Brian McCormack 3. Greg Harris 4. Gerard Lawrence 5. David Antos 6. Chris Busick 7. Anthony Pizzo 8. Wesley Sammon 9. Greg Zaleski 10. Walter Stroud 11. Rhett Fogg 12. Eric Zeh 13. Brian Brown 14 Joe Boccia 15. Tom Talbot