Riverhead, NY Aug/ 10thBy Bob Finan
Kerri Larsen Photo
A near capacity crowd turned out for the I Love America Night program at Riverhead Raceway Saturday night and they surely did not leave disappointed as the NASCAR Whelen All American Series portion of the program provided last lap or late race lead changes for the win, plenty of hard side by side racing along with Fireworks and a hard hitting Demolition Derby. When the 50-lap NASCAR Modified feature event was checkered former three time champion John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville earned his 33rd career victory tying him with Chris Young for 4th on the all time win list. In a twist of irony the driver Fortin had to ward off for his first win of 2019 would be Chris’s son Christopher Young of Calverton.
Early in the NASCAR Modified contest self funded Eric Zeh bolted from the outside pole with John Baker racing his way to second. Zeh, whose team races when their budget allows would lead Baker for the first 6 laps before John was passed to the outside exiting the fourth turn by John Fortin to start the 7th lap. After chasing the hungry Zeh for three laps Fortin would this time utilize the inside lane exiting the fourth turn to take the race lead to start the 11th circuit. Riding Fortin’s back bumper to make his way to second as John made his way to the lead would be Chris Young and the race was on. Young, a rising second generation talent would go to work trying to find a way by leader Fortin, just as his late father used to in both the Figure Eights and NASCAR Modifieds. Despite the on track rivalry the two families remain close to this day. Chris who is still seeking his first career win was coming off a long week of late nights in the race shop after heavy damage from the week before really wanted this one badly but then again so did the tested tough veteran John Fortin.
Try as he might Chris would not be able to make that one run to the race lead and when the checker flew it was John Fortin Sr. rolling his John’s Fuel Oil Chevy into victory lane. Afterwards Fortin, 55 who admits he is very tough on himself at times reflected “I was starting to wonder if I’d win another one” after receiving the Donaldson’s VW-Subaru trophy. “I know Chris is knocking on the door for that first win but not tonight” Fortin quipped while looking over at Young. “I can’t thank Rob Fuller of LFR enough for convincing me to buy this new piece in the off season”.
Chris Young of Calverton would again settle for runner-up money in his Riverhead Building Supply Chevy and noted afterwards looking over at Fortin in victory lane, “that’s it, he’s cut off. He tied my Dad but no more” the youngster said with a laugh. Enjoying a solid season John Baker of Brookhaven was third in his Elite Towing entry while championship leader Kyle Soper of Manorville and Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead completed the top five. Rogers trimmed 19 points off Soper’s championship lead between the heat race and feature points on the night and now trails the defending champion by 60 markers.
Breaking news! A driver other than Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead or Chris Turbush of Wading River won a Riverhead Raceway Late Model race in 2019. In the 25-lap thriller it would be Jarrod Hayes of Calverton making a late race pass of McDermott exiting the fourth turn as the field took the two to go signal to score the win in his first start of 2019. “Radiant” Ray Minieri led the first lap of the race but lap 2 two find Jeremy McDermott making his way by Minieri for the race lead. Ray would hold second until lap 4 when he was passed by Dylan Slepian but the former Legend Race Car champion’s stay in the challengers role was short lived as Jarrod Hayes who started 8th in the field made his way by. Once to second Hayes had to methodically lap after lap cut into the lead McDermott had established. As the laps clicked off it was apparent Hayes was doing just that and McDermott might have his hands full late in the race. With about five to go Hayes drew to the rear bumper of McDermott and after sizing up Jeremy for a few laps Hayes ducked to the inside off turn four to slip past McDermott as the field started the 23rd lap. Over the final half mile of the race “J-Rod” Jarrod Hayes would show the way taking the win in his Beach Auto Collision Chevy, the 16th of his career tying him with runner-up Jeremy McDermott for 5th on the all time win list at 16. McDermott was runner-up in his Eastport Feeds Pontiac while Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills was third in the RP Fabricating Chevy.
For the sixth time in nine Figure Eight races Tom Rogers Jr would drive to victory in their 15-lap main event copping his 49th career win. Former champion Ken Hyde Jr. took the race lead on lap 2 from Bryan Quiliam seeking his 3rd win of the season. Eric Zeh came to second on lap as well 2 but just one lap later his teammate Tom Rogers Jr. raced his way by for position. Try as he might Ken Hyde tried fending off the defending Figure Eight champion but as has been the case all season long Rogers would just be too strong racing his way out front in the Keith Repp owned Chevy Coupe on lap 5. Hyde tucked into second and was soon to be tested by Tom Ferrara which was just fine with leader Rogers who was able to pull away for yet another win. When it was mentioned to Tom afterwards he is now just four wins back of Joe Biondolillo Jr. for second on the all time win list Rogers paused and reflected, “to have my name mentioned in the same breath with guys like Joey or George Brown is an honor”. Ken Hyde Jr. of Yaphank was second in the Kennedy L.I. Realty machine while Tom Ferrara of Patchogue was third in the Sayville South Bay Auto Repair Cadillac.
In a wild conclusion to the 20-lap Super Pro Truck feature event it would be defending champion Mark Stewart of Riverhead scoring a close win over Lou Maestri of Deer Park with the duo crossing the line sideways after last lap, last turn contact. The win was Mark’s third of 2019 and the 23rd of his still budding driving career moving him into sole possession of third on the all time win list. Rookie Joe Cerabino moved the the early race lead at the throw of the green chased for the first lap by Frank Dumicich Jr. before he was passed on lap 2 by Eddie Schutze. From lap 2 through 7 Cerabino and Schutze waged an entertaining side by side duel for the lead never running into each other along the way. Schutze would be scored the race leader on lap seven while Cerabino not only dropped out of the battle for the lead but was also passed by Mark Stewart for second. Stewart after spending three laps chasing Schutze made his way to the race lead as the field took the halfway signal bringing Lou Maestri to second with him. Over the final half of the race Maestri made his presence know to Stewart and as the laps wound down to a precious few Lou turned up the heat on the race leader taking a look to the inside exiting the second and fourth turns. On the final lap Lou got under mark racing through the third and fourth tun and they touched slightly sending both into a “soft” spin as they slid across the start/finish line with Mark Stewart the winner in his 84 Lumber Chevy. “It was fun racing with Lou, it always is. He did what he had to do and so did I, it was fun!” After giving the race winner a hefty thumbs up Lou Maestri of Deer park took home runner-up money in his Hunter Business Schools Chevy. Jack Handley Jr. of Medford who was in the mix for the race win brought the Frank Dumicich Sr. Arenz Heating Ford crossed the line third but unfortunately jack is around 100 lbs lighter that Frank Sr. and the truck did not make weight in post race tech moving Eddie Schutze of Oyster Bay into third in his Patriot Organization Chevy.
There might not be a hotter driver on the east coast in INEX Legened Race Car competition then veteran Kevin Nowak of Medford who scored his third win of 2019 at Riverhead Raceway as well his third win in a one week span winning at Seekonk Speedway and in the Master Class at Legendstock at Bethel Speedway last week. However this win Nowak would have to earn every penny of as he and George Tomko Jr. slugged it out in the closing laps. At the start of the 20 lap feature George Tomko Jr. who has suffered through a tough luck campaign in ’19 broke to the race lead chased over the first eight circuits by Jeff Otto Jr. Exiting the fourth turn to start the 9th lap Kevin Nowak ducked under Otto for second then set his sights on race leader Tomko. As the laps clicked off Nowak drew to the rear bumper of Tomko with these two already having some history in the most recent Legend Race Car event two weeks back. Lap after lap Nowak put the pressure on Tomko but each and every time the leader was equal to the challenge, that is until the final turn on the final lap. Going into the third turn Nowak saw some daylight and stuck his nose under Tomko with the due dead even coming off the fourth turn, In a NHRA style drag race to the start/finish line it was Kevin Nowak in the Allison Automotive of Holbrook entry taking the photo finish win. The win was the 12th of Kevin’s career tying him with Timmy Solomito for 4th on the all time win list. George Tomko Jr. of Aquebogue was a disappointed runner-up in his sponsor wanted car while Jeff Otto Jr. of Deer park was third in his Designs For Vision entry his best outing to date this season.
In the 25-lap Mini Stock event Tom Puccia of Shirley seemingly had his 3rd win of the 2019 campaign when the race concluded but unfortunately for him his car had unapproved upper control arms handing the win to Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge. The win is the fourth of the season for Warren and ties him with Bryan Kelly and Mike Mujsce Jr. for all time wins in the new class. Warren ad wrestled the lead away from Puccia in lapped traffic on the 19th lap but Puccia roared right back to take the lead back on the 20th circuit however it was all for naught at the end of the night. Warren set the standard in time trial qualifying earlier in the day turning in a lap of 14.950 in his unsponsored machine. Chris Elixson of Riverhead was second in the final rundown with his Mike’s Auto repair mount while Justin Squires of Flanders was third in the Roadworks Construction racer.
It was another hard hitting 4/6-Cylinder Demolition Derby with second generation daredevil Joe Palmeri Jr. of Lindenhurst scoring the win. In the end the event came down to Joe, his father Joey who was making his first start since a serious leg injury he suffered late last season in a Gut & Go Enduro and most recent winner “Fearless” Frank Phillips. Once the elder Palmeri was eliminated the event boiled down to Phillips and the younger Palmeri with Joe Jr. prevailing in his J&J Towing entry. Phillips of Ozone Park was named Judge’s Choice in the Tire Express machine while “Curious” George Astacio of Shirley was voted Fan’s Choice in his Monetary Recovery car.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. John Fortin Sr. 2. Chris Young 3. John Baker 4. Kyle Soper 5. Tom Rogers Jr. 6. Dave Brigati 7. John Beatty Jr. 8. CJ Lehmann 9. Dave Sapienza 10. Dylan Slepian 11. David Schneider 12. Eric Zeh DQ- Craig Lutz, Roger Turbush, Chris Turbush DNS- Jason Agugliaro, Ken Heagy
Late Models: 1. Jarrod Hayes 2. Jeremy McDermott 3. Dylan Slepian 4. Chris Turbush 5. Tom Rogers Jr. 6. Kevin Metzger 7. Ray Minieri 8. Shawn Patrick
Figure Eights: 1. Tom Rogers Jr. 2. Ken Hyde Jr. 3. Tom Ferrara 4. Eric Zeh 5. Vinny Delaney 6. CJ Lehmann 7. Bob Dalke 8. Bryan Quilliam 9. Brian Hansen 10. Paul Cummings 11. Scott Pedersen
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Mark Stewart 2. Lou Maestri 3. Eddie Schutze 4. Matt Triola 5. Joe Cerabino 6. Ethan Brown 7. Sean Glennon 8. Frank Dumicich Jr. DQ- Jack Handley Jr. DNS- Frank Dumicich Sr.
Legend Race Cars: 1. Kevin Nowak 2. George Tomko Jr. 3. Jeff Otto Jr. 4. Jim Sylvester 5. Joseph Braun 6. Allan Pedersen 7. Richie Davidowitz 8. Eric Hersey 9. Ray Fitzgerald 10. Riely O’Keefe 11. Jerry Curran 12. Collin Hoeffner 13. Vinny Delaney 14. Patrick Moore 15. Alex Halinar 16. Jason Castaldo 17. Joseph Costello 18. Mike Benton 19. David Strohmeyer 20. Nick Morabito 21. Mike Van Houten Jr. 22. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 23. Daniel carter 24. Ed Cheslak 25. Scott Cheslak 26. Anthony Colandro
Mini Stocks: 1. Joe Warren Jr. 2. Chris Elixson 3. Justin Squires 4. Jamie Meyer 5. Matt Stawecki 6. Joe Cooke Jr. 7. James O’Connell 8. Scott Phillips 9. Brad Bess 10. Thomas Cocozza 11. Martin O’Connell DQ- Tom Puccia, Paul Wojcik
Demolition Derby: Winner- Joe Palmeri Jr. Judge’s Choice- Frank Philliips Fan’s Choice- George Astacio