Riverhead, NY Jan. 11th By Bob Finan
Noah Watts Photos
Friday night at Giorgio’s of Baiting Hollow it was time to celebrate the 2018 Riverhead Raceway championship drivers and teams of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and Enduro competition as a festive crowd of 325 turned out at the gala affair hosted by Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz. Leading the 2018 parade of champions with both his NASCAR Modified and Late Model titles in ’18 was 22-year old Kyle Soper of Manorville.
All seven NASCAR Whelen All American Series champions received championship rings from Riverhead Raceway while the top five in each of those classes also taking home a 2018 point fund check and plaque.
In his first full season as the driver of the Wayne & Joette Anderson owned NASCAR Modified Kyle Soper would pilot the Eastport Feeds Chevy to victory lane three times earning his first ever NASCAR Modified title. For Wayne Anderson the 2018 championship was his 7th overall at the track having won five as a driver and now two as a car owner. For the second consecutive year Soper won the Late Model title for car owner Rob Pelis with that effort also backed by the Corwin family of Eastport Feeds. Kyle won three LM features in route to the crown.
Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck was honored as the 2018 Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified champion winning six of the sixteen races contested driving for his grandfather Buzz Chew. Rutkoski had to survive a tight championship battle with close friend Justin Brown before laying claim to the championship in his Buzz Chew Chevrolet entry. 2018 Figure Eight champion
Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead simply dominated the class in 2018 on his way to a fifth career title. Wheeling the Keith Repp owned United Exhaust Shop Chevy Coupe Tom won 8 of the 11 races run.
Also dominant on his way to his third career Blunderbust championship would be 22-year old Jack Handley Jr. of Medford who won 8 of the 14 races run in ’18 steering his Relle Electric Chevy owned by his Mom Cyndi. Handley indicated he’ll make a title run in the Super Pro Trucks in 2019 in a Mike Albasini owned entry.
The 2018 Super Pro Truck champion Mark Stewart of Riverhead also turned in a dominant performance on his way to his first career title in the Andre Vega owned East End Builders Chevy winning 7 of the 12 races contested.
Another driver enjoying a first career championship was 2018 INEX Legend Race Car kingpin Jim Sylvester of Massapequa who won three races along the way in his 860 Racing entry which he self owns and fields with a very modest sized team.
Dave Antos of Lindenhurst was feted for his 2018 Street Stock championship, his third overall at the track having won two Grand Enduro titles in the past. Antos was a two time winner in his CR Customs Chevy during the season. Soft spoken Paul Wojcik of Centereach won the 2018 Mini Stock title, the second career championship for the driver of the VDR Graphics machine having won a 4/6-Cylinder championship in the past. Don Nelson Jr. of Rocky Point repeated as the Truck Enduro champion with his Abner Tree Experts team.
Two drivers who enjoyed a first career championship in 2018 were Jarred Halsey of Southampton in the 8-Cylinder class and Gut & Go champion Christian Conklin of Riverhead. Jarred now joins his father Brian as a 8-Cylinder champ at the track and the driver of the Sabrosa Mexican Grill entry dedicated the championship to his later grandfather “Hot Rod” Halsey who also ran Riverhead Raceway. Conklin’s path to the Gut & Go title was a dominant one with the driver of the Spit Speed Shop Hyundai honoring his late mother Fran during his championship speech.
Six Rookie of the Year drivers were saluted during the ceremony with Roger Turbush the top freshman driver in the NASCAR Modifieds. Charles Macwhinnie (Late Models), Chris Rogers (Crate Modifieds), Russ Jansen (Blunderbusts), Tom Sullivan (Super Pro Trucks) and Scott Cheslak Legend Race Cars) all taking Rookie of the Year honors as well. There were no eligible drivers in the Figure Eight division in 2018.
Fan voting via the track web page determined the 2018 Most Popular Driver in nine of the twelve divisions with those drivers announced Friday night. Kyle Soper (Mods & Late Model), Justin Brown (Crate Mods), Tom Ferrara (Figure 8), Alyssa Paprocky (Blunderbusts), Jimmy Rennick Jr. (Super Pro Trucks), Allan Pedersen (Legends), Brian Brown (Street Stocks) and Russ Jansen (Mini Stocks) were all voted Most Popular Driver.
Led by GM John Ellwood with Mike Cappiello, Randy Murray and Tom Gatz banquet hosts Bob Finan and Stephen Halpin completed all the award presentations in one hour allowing attendees three hours to socialize, enjoy a gourmet meal with dessert and dance to the sounds of the band Noiz until the clock struck midnight.
The 2019 season will commence at Riverhead Raceway with opening weekend set for Saturday night May 4th and Sunday afternoon May 5th. The complete 2019 schedule of events can be viewed at www.riverheadraceway.com. To contact the track forward an e-mail to email@example.com. The track phone number remains 631-842-RACE.