Riverhead, NY Sept. 29th
By Bob Finan
When the 40-lap NASCAR Modified feature lined up Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead trailed Kyle Soper of Manorville by 10-points for the championship. When the race took the checker flag Rogers had won the battle winning his 4th race of 2018 but the 22-year old Soper won the war securing his first career NASCAR Modified championship off his 4th place finish. Soper driving for Wayne & Joette Anderson beat Rogers out by 6 points for the 2018 Whelen All American Series title and earlier in the night won his second consecutive Late Model championship.
Dylan Slepain and Eddie Brunnhoelzl III raced their way out front at the start of the race with Slepian showing the way with Brunnhoelzl a close second. Brunnhoelzl raced his way by Slepian on lap 9 for the race lead with Tom Rogers Jr. who started the race 8th getting by early leader Slepian as well for second. A lap 10 caution flag would change the complexion of the race as on the ensuing double file restart Rogers was able to power his way out front passing Brunnhoelzl as the field started the 11th lap. Chris Young made his way by Brunnhoelzl for second and he’d chase Rogers until lap 28 when he was passed by Kyle Ellwood. Kyle’s stay in second was brief as he would spin in turn 2 on lap 30 drawing a caution flag.
With 10-laps to go on the restart Rogers had done all he could to win the title by leading the race. Soper in the meantime was having a racer that at times saw him close enough to Rogers to win the crown but there were a few anxious moments where Kyle dropped too far back of Rogers. When the race resumed after the Ellwood spin Rogers remained the race leader with a new challenger in Dave Brigati. Over the final 10-lap run Tom Rogers Jr. in the Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Chevy nailed down his 52nd career win and in victory lane immediately saluted Kyle Soper, “hats off to Kyle and his team on the championship” Rogers noted. “As for my team, we never quit, the car was bent late in the year and my team just kept digging and just came up short”.
In his championship interview a soft spoken Soper reflected, “It’s an honor to be able to give Wayne & Joette Anderson another championship, I have to thank them and the Corwin family of Eastport Feeds for believing in me it’s a dream come true”.
Dave Brigati of Calverton was runner-up in the JDL Environmental Chevy while John Fortin of Holtsville placed third in the Long Island Truck Parts Chevy. Soper and John Baker of Brookhaven completed the top five.
In the 25-lap Late Model feature Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead won his 2nd event of 2018. Kevin Metzger raced to the early lead but McDermott was applying the pressure early and on lap 2 executed an outside pass down the backstretch to take over the race lead. One lap later Metzger was passed by Chris Turbush for second and the race was on for the win. However Turbush’s run towards a 6th win in 2018 hit a roadblock when he spun on lap 7 drawing the caution flag. When the race resumed McDermott remained out front where he would stay in his JDP Mechanical Chevy winning his 9th career Late Model race. Kevin Metzger of Massapequa was runner-up in the Complete Well & Pump Chevy while Chris Turbush of Riverhead recovered to finish third in the NAPA Auto Parts of Cutchogue entry.
The tightest championship fight on the final night of racing belonged to the Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified class with Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck and Justin Brown of Manorville separated by a mere three points entering competition. When the 25-lap feature event took the green former LM champion Peter Bertuccio who earlier in the month announced he’d retire after this race jumped to the early race lead with Chris Rogers in close quarters. For the first 10-laps it looked as though the 60-year young Bertuccio might be getting ready to go out with a win but along came another driver making his final start before retirement, Jack Orlando. Orlando was all over Bertuccio for the lead from the 6th lap until lap 10 when Bertuccio spun and Orlando was moved to the rear of the field for contact virtually ending any Hollywood storybook finish for either driver. That turn of event moved championship contenders Michael Rutkoski and Justin Brown to the top two spots and as they so often did during the entire 2018 campaign they raced for the win and title. In the end Michael Rutkoski in his Buzz Chew Auto Group Chevy won his 7th race of the season as well the Crate Modified title. Justin Brown placed second steering his SEDHI Builders Inc. Chevy. Artie Pedersen III of Center Moriches was third in the Vecchio Cesspools Chevy. The championship is the first for the 24-year old Rutkoski.
In Figure Eight action Tom Ferrara of Patchogue scored his second win of the 2018 season as he won the 15-lap main event that saw one of the heaviest impacts at the “X” in the 55-year history of the division. Back in his Northeastern Office Equipment Cadillac Ferrara wasted no time jumping to the early lead over Scott Pedersen who was seeking his first win of the year. Suddenly on lap 2 Pedersen and Mike Mujsce Sr. collided at the “X” with thundering impact. Mujsce was quick to exit his car and check on Pedersen who was shaken up in the crash. When the race resumed Ferrara remained out front with Eric Zeh now coming to second. Zeh would chase Ferrara until late in the race when he was passed by teammate Tom Rogers Jr. with a handful of laps remaining. Try as he might to get by for the lead Tom Rogers Jr. was going to have to settle for second in this race as Tom Ferrara drove off to his 13th career triumph. While not able to win his 9th race of the year Tom Rogers Jr. did secure his 5th career championship in the class steering the Keith Repp owned Chevy Coupe. Eric Zeh of Selden was third in the United Exhaust Shop entry.
Jack Handley Jr. of Medford iced the cake on his 2nd career Blunderbust championship by winning their 20-lap main event for his 8th win of the season and 29th of his career. Tommy Walkowiak in what would be the final race of his illustrious career took the early race lead over Russ Jansen and then Jim Laird Jr. The all time leading winner of the class with 63 victories was hoping to go out on top but just past the halfway mark along came Jack Handley Jr. who took the race lead on lap 11. Walkowiak settled into second but soon found himself racing for that spot with Laird. The fight for second was music to the ears of Jack Hanldey Jr. who pulled away for the victory in his Relle Electric Chevy. Jim Laird Jr. of Riverhead was second in the Poolsmith Inc. Chevy while “The Wildchild” Tommy Walkowiak was third in his Blaze Fuel Oil Caprice ending a 27-year driving career.
Like Handley, 2018 Super Pro Truck champion Mark Stewart of
Riverhead wrapped up his championship season with a win, his 7th of the season and milestone 20th career victory. Eddie Schutze broke out front at the drop of the green and early on opened up a healthy lead over Lou Maestri who ran second. Stewart who started 4th made his way by Maestri for second on lap 4 and began the process of reeling in leader Schutze. After 13 laps of catching Schutze challenger Stewart was able to make his bid for the lead exiting the fourth turn with an inside pass as the due took the two to go signal. With just two laps to go 20-year old Mark Stewart in the M Spero Motorsports Chevy drove to the checkers and the 2018 Super Pro Truck title. Schutze of Oyster Bay was runner-up in the Rock Tech Inc. Chevy with Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach third in the Sonny’s Collision Center machine.
Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches became the all time leading INEX Legend Race Car winner at the track when he won his 20th career race in their 20-lap feature event. Jeff Otto Jr. paced the field early on leading the first four laps of the race. Ottos was chased by the likes of Stephen Coleman, Riely O’Keefe and Brad Van Houten with Van Houten getting by for the race lead on lap 5 with an inside pass off turn 2. It wouldn’t be long before Davidowitz debuting his new water cooled car made his way to and by Van Houten for the race lead. Once the driver known as “Big Money” moved to the lead he’d never look back in his 860 Racing entry winning his 6th race of 2018 in the process. Van Houten of Wading River was runner-up in the Van Houten Trucking machine while Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches was third in the Checker Won Motorports mount. Jim Sylvester of Massapequa came to the race having already clinched the 2018 INEX Legend Race Car championship, the first for the driver of the Oval Speed Unlimited #2NY.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. Tom Rogers Jr. 2. Dave Brigati 3. John Fortin Sr. 4. Kyle Soper 5. John Baker 6. John Beatty Jr. 7. Chris Young 8. CJ Lehmann 9. Ken Darch 10. Dylan Slepian 11. Artie Pedersen III 12. Roger Turbush 13. Tim Lento 14. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 15. Kyle Ellwood 16. Dan Jivanelli 17. Eric Zeh
Late Models: 1. Jeremy McDermott 2. Kevin Metzger 3. Chris Turbush 4. Kyle Soper 5. Dave Brigati 6. Chris McGuire 7. Rob Pelis 8. Tom Rogers Jr.
Crate Modifieds: 1. Michael Rutkoski 2. Justin Brown 3. Artie Pedersen III 4. Dennis Krupski 5. Chris Rogers 6. George Tomko Jr. 7. Peter Bertuccio 8. Jack Orlando 9. Scott Pedersen 10. AJ DeSantis DQ- Mike Albasini, Terry Stiles
Figure Eights: 1. Tom Ferrara 2. Tom Rogers Jr. 3. Eric Zeh 4. Vinny Delaney 5. Joe Warren Jr. 6. Charles Macwhinnie 7. Ken Hyde Jr. 8. Brian Hansen 9. Bob Dalke 10. Mike Mujsce Jr. 11. Mike Mujsce Sr. 12. Scott Pedersen
Blunderbusts: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Jim Laird Jr. 3. Tommy Walkowiak 4. Tom Pickerell 5. Cody Triola 6. Russ Jansen 7. Alyssa Paprocky 8. Joshua Creel 9. Bill Wegmann Sr. DNS- Tim Mulqueen
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Mark Stewart 2. Eddie Schutze 3. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 4. Lou Maestri 5. Dave Brigati 6. Frank Dumicich Jr. 7. Jerry Solomito Jr. 8. Tom Sullivan 9. Darren McCabe
Legend Race Cars: 1. Richie Davidowitz 2. Brad Van Houten 3. Allan Pedersen 4. Kyle Ellwood 5. Jim Sylvester 6. Ray Fitzgerald 7. Jerry Curran 8. Eric Hersey 9. George Tomko Jr. 10. Jeff Otto Jr. 11. Will Lambros 12. Vinny Delaney 13. Jonathan Parsons 14. Ed Cheslak 15. Scott Cheslak 16. Mike Benton 17. Pat Moore 18. Stephen Coleman 19. Silas Hiscock 20. Steve Hersey 21. Rich Braun 22. Steve Woytysiak 23. Riely O’Keefe 24. Matt Brode 25. Mike Van Houten Jr. 26. Jeff Farruggia Jr.