Riverhead, NY June 15th
By Bob Finan
As in the first two Islip 300 contests at Riverhead Raceway the 3rd annual edition of what has quickly become a short track classic had it’s share of pit strategy, extended green flag runs and late race drama. In the end defending NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper of Manorville would hold off a torrid late race challenge of Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead to take home the $7,000 victory for he and car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson. It was Soper’s 4th win of 2019 but by far the biggest of his budding career.
John Beatty Jr. would click off the quickest lap in qualifying in his MSM Elite Motorsports Chevy with a lap of 11.532 earning a $300 bonus from Brigandi Brothers Automotive of Nesconset while Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct was second quick at 11.564. Beatty and Preece brought the 23-car Islip 300 field to green with Preece gaining an early advantage over Beatty at the throw of the green flag. In the 2018 300 Preece’s game plan was to pout as many cars a lap down as he could before pitting in and around the 200 lap mark of the race. However this year with 23 cars, the largest field to date for the 300 on hand and a splattering of early race yellow flag the first of which flew on lap 6 for Roger Turbush who damaged his right front after catching the wall last years game plan was out the window. Preece would lead the early going dictating the pace of the race with Beatty in his tire tracks. Then during a caution flag slowdown the unthinkable occurred when Preece’s car came to a stop at the turn three exit gate on lap 28 unable to move due to a drive shaft malfunction.
When the field line-up for the restart It was John Beatty assuming the race lead with John Fortin Sr. now second and the two Riverhead regulars would run that way until lap 46 when Fortin moved under Beatty for the race lead. On lap 60 Kyle Soper who started the race 4th made his way by Beatty for second and he’d follow leader Fortin for the next 56 laps before moving out front with an inside pass entering the first turn on lap 117. As the cautions fell after the 100-lap mark teams starting revealing their tire strategy with several team ducking in for their change tires either 1, 2 or all 3 tires that were allotted for the race. Craig Lutz made his presence known when he made his way to second on lap 126 during a double file restart. Soper and Lutz both graduates of the former go-kart program at the track would run one-two until lap 155 when Lutz changed the running order by taking the lead from Soper.
As the race bore down on the 200 lap marker all but a quartet of the top running cars Lutz, Soper, Rogers and Jon McKennedy had been in for tires and as the race ran a long green flag period the four drivers struggled to keep their cars under them. This allowed Eric Goodale who was one of the teams to pit between the 100-200 lap mark to march his way to second in quick order and by lap 205 Goodale became the new race leader with Soper second. For the four drivers who had yet to pit it looked as though their game plan was going up in smoke when suddenly Lutz would spin off turn two. Unfortunately for Craig his car stalled in the spin and would not re fire right away putting him two laps down. However he along with Soper, Rogers and McKennedy roared into the pits for their much need change tires.
When the race resumed on lap 258 Goodale led Beatty but all eyes were on the drivers who had fresher rubber with all four on the march. Soper moved by Beatty on lap 264 for second and after chasing and catching Goodale over the next 11 laps Kyle would move to the race lead on lap 276. Just one lap later Tom Rogers Jr. worked by Goodale for second and he drive right up to challenge Soper for the rich victory. Some well placed cautions late in the race found Lutz awarded the lucky dog twice putting him back on the lead lap. With the race format having caution laps count up until lap 290 a yellow flag waved just prior to lap 290 and it would set up a dash for the cash between Riverhead rivals Soper and Rogers.
During those final ten laps it was evident Rogers had a better car from the center of the corner off as Soper’s car tightened up but Kyle was wise wise enough to slow his car up in the center of the turns stalling any run to the inside Rogers was attempting to make. The final 10-laps of the race alone were worth the price of admission with Kyle Soper prevailing in his Eastport Feeds Chevy as the large crowd on hand roared with approval.
“This is awesome” Soper boasted upon exiting his car and receiving the unique Islip 300 trophy created by ASI Racewear, “Tommy had a better car no doubt, I had to back up the corners so he couldn’t get a run off under me, I’m sure if the roles were reversed he’d do the same”. The triumph was Kyle’s 13 career win tying him with Frank Vigliarolo Jr. and Justin Bonsignore on the all time win list. “I say it all the time but I just can’t say enough about Wayne & Joette, the Corwin family of Eastport Feeds, Dr. Martha Baker, DDS and all our partners but especially my Dad Tom, he spends countless hours on this car and it shows”.
Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead, who marked his 41st birthday on Father’s Day was runner-up in his Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Chevy and reflected afterwards, “I was trying to gain a run on Kyle underneath but he did a great job protecting his lead. I have to thank Gino Tucci of Evolution Race Engines, we had a cracked cylinder head and he had the engine back to us on Wednesday, great team effort”.
Craig Lutz of Miller Place saved his night in a big way roaring back to third in his Riverhead Building Supply entry, “kinda messed up when I spun and couldn’t get it started back up but the cautions fell right for the lucky dog, I think we needed one more caution though” Lutz said through a smile. “My Goodie Racing team and I weren’t sure if we were going to race the race or just practice, we had a good night and learned some things for the WMT race here July 6th” Lutz concluded.
Eirc Goodale of Riverhead was fourth in his GAF Roofing entry after having started the race from 16th earning him the “Ironman” Sonny Densieski Hard Charger of the Race worth $400 from the Densieski family. John McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma was fifth in the throwback 747 car of Tommy Baldwin Racing, a bright orange color scheme in tribute to Tom Baldwin Sr’s Falcon he ran at Islip Speedway early in his racing career.
Chris Rogers of Patchogue has waited a long time to visit victory lane at Riverhead Raceway never having done so in his INEX Legend Race Car driving days but now the wait is over as Chris won the 25-lap Crate Modified main event. After winning his heat race Jason Hansen jumped to the race lead at the start with Mike Albasini on his rear spoiler. Hansen also seeking his first career win at the track had it all come apart on lap 8 when his car tightened up in the third and fourth turn, Hansen tried to correct the car but instead he spun drawing a caution flag. That put Albasini into the lead for the restart with rookie driver Sean Glennon alongside for the restart and when the race went back green Glennon rode the outside lane to the race lead. Undaunted Albasini came back two laps later and passed Glennon for the lead on lap 11. The lead tandem also had Dave Brigati and Justin Brown hot on their heels in third and fourth and on lap 13 the dicing got too close as all four wound up coming together off turn two. That turn of events moved Chris Rogers into the race lead with impressive rookie Matt Brode now second. For the remainder of the race Chris, cousin to NASCAR Modified & Figure Eight standout Tom Rogers Jr. kept his Captain Ralph’s Seafood Safari Chevy out front for the remainder of the race for his first career win at his home track. His only regret, “my folks who missed my only Legends win at Bethel Speedway were away at a family function today and missed this one too” Chris revealed. Matt Brode of East Islip in the Milro Environmental Chevy was a career best second while championship leader Justin Brown of Manorville raced his was back to a third place finish in the SoBol Acai Bowls of Manorville Chevy.
Jim Laird Jr. of Riverhead scored his second Blunderbust win of 2019 when he topped a competitive 20-lap main event field. Alyssa Paprocky and Eddie Diaz brought the field to green with Diaz from the outside pole taking the early race lead. Laird quickly made his way to second on lap 2 from his 4th starting berth and one lap later made his way by Diaz for the race lead with an inside pass in the third and fourth corner. Despite surrendering the lead Diaz hung tough with Laird before he was overtaken with five laps in the race by Cody Triola. With just five laps remaining Triola right away turned up the heat on Laird for the win but in the end the driver of the My Country 96.1 FM Caprice was not going to give up the lead or trip to victory lane, the 9th of his career. Triola of Bay Shore was runner-up in the Drexler Construction racer while Jack Handley Jr. of Medford made it interesting in the closing laps before claiming third in the Relle Electric Chevy.
Six racers into the 2019 INEX Legend Race Car season one thing has become evident with the class that in the past has been uncharacteristic is the rough and tumble nature of their 20-lap features. Such was the case Saturday and when all the dust settled Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches did a masterful job of avoiding the carnage to post his first win of the season, second of his career. Rookie Joseph Costello broke to the early lead at the outset with Scott Cheslak second. However Cheslak’s night was over as fast as it started when on lap two a shove from behind found him in the turn one wall, Kevin Nowak was sent to the rear for contact. That adjusted the running order to Costello the new leader and George Tomko Jr. second when this young tandem lined-up for the double file restart disaster struck as the two cars locked together off turn four hitting the wall hard. Both drivers were transported and later released from a local hospital returning to the track. This latest turn moved Jason Castaldo to the race lead with Riely O’Keefe and Pedersen in close quarters. Lap 6 saw O’Keefe make a daring 3-wide move which allowed Pedersen to get by him for second with Allan’s forward momentum eventually carrying him by Castaldo as well for the lead lap 6. O’Keefe was able to pas Castaldo for second and he’d chase Pedersen over the following 4 laps before he was passed by former champion Vinny Delaney at the halfway mark. However there would be no stopping college sophomore Allan Pedersen from bringing his Ricco’s Clothing entry under the checker flag first for the win. Dealney of Holtsville on his Fine Design Landscaping mount was second with Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches third in his Hampton Fleet Service machine.
Jimmy Reed of Central Islip at the spry age of 82-year young won the 15-lap Vintage All Stars event proclaiming it to be his first win in over 50-years! Mark Miller paced the race for the first two laps before Reed in his Tango Argentinean Steak House Cavalier swooped by on the outside for the lead on lap 3 and once out front Reed, who still drives his self owned oil delivery truck in the winter marched off to a very popular win.
Islip 300: 1. Kyle Soper 2. Tom Rogers Jr. 3. Craig Lutz 4. Eric Goodale 5. Jon McKennedy 6. John Fortin Sr. 7. David Schneider 8. Dylan Slepian 9. Andy Jankowiak 10. John Beatty Jr. 11. Howie Brode 12. Michael Rutkoski 13. Sam Rameau 14. CJ Lehmann 15. Dave Brigati 16. Calvin Carroll 17. Artie Pedersen III 18. Jimmy Blewett 19. Chris Young 20. John Baker 21. Ryan Preece 22. Max Zachem 23. Roger Turbush
Crate Modifieds: 1. Chris Rogers 2. Matt Brode 3. Justin Brown 4. Terry Stiles 5. Peter Bertuccio 6. AJ DeSantis 7. Sean Glennon 8. Mike Alabsini 9. Dennis Krupski 10. Jack Handley Jr. 11. Jason Hansen 12. Charles Macwhinnie 13. Dave Brigati 14. Carey Rogers
Blunderbusts: 1. Jim Laird Jr. 2. Cody Triola 3. Jack Handley Jr. 4. Tom Pickerell 5. Bill Wegmann Jr. 6. Eddie Diaz 7. Cassandra Denis 8. Jarrett Campbell 9. Alyssa Paprocky 10. Kyle Halpin 11. Brian Midgett Jr. 12. Bill Wegmann Sr. 13. Russ Jansen DNS- Joe Warren Jr.
Legend Race Cars: 1. Allan Pedersen 2. Vinny Delaney 3. Richie Davidowitz 4. Riely O’Keefe 5. Eric Hersey 6. Ray Fitzgerald 7. Jeff Otto Jr. 8. Jason Castaldo 9. Ed Cheslak 10. Kevin Nowak 11. Pat Moore 12. Mike Benton 13. Steve Woytysiak 14. Tyler DeSantis 15. Alex Halinar 16. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 17 Jeff Castaldo 18. Rich Braun 19. David Strohmeyer 20. Chris Sinatro 21. Nick Morabito 22. Joseph Braun 23. Jim Sylvester 24. Ken Massa Jr. 25. Joseph Costello 26. Scott Cheslak 27. George Tomko Jr.
Vintage All Stars: Winner- Jimmy Reed