By Bob Finan
Riverhead, NY Dec. 13th. The calendar might have read Friday the 13th but there was nothing but positive vibes and celebration this past Friday in the main ballroom of Giorgio’s of Baiting Hollow as Riverhead Raceway owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz officially crowned the 12 champions from the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and Enduro racing with a crowd of 356 on hand for the festivities. The seven NASCAR and INEX champions once again received their tradition championship rings, Hoosier Racing jackets and the lion’s share of the 2019 point fund paid to the top five in each class.
For the second consecutive year 23-year old Kyle Soper of Manorville was celebrated as the NASCAR Modified track champion along with his car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson. The 2019 title is the fourth in the past three years for the soft spoken driver of the Eastport Feeds Chevy as aside from the 2018 NASCAR Modified title he also won the championship for the Late Models in 2017 and 2018. For Wayne Anderson the 2019 championship is 8th overall, five as a driver and now three as a car owner. The tougher than nails Anderson made his way to the podium with the aid of a cane as earlier that afternoon Wayne was released from the hospital and in patient physical therapy after knee replacement surgery. Aside from the 2019 championship plaque, Hoosier Racing Tire jacket and point fund check Soper & Anderson were presented the annual Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Long Island Drivers Cup, a perpetual cup awarded annually since 2001 when John Fortin Sr. first won the trophy. Highlighting Kyle’s seven wins in 2019 was his victory in the $7,000 to win Islip 300.
Tom Rogers Jr., of Riverhead, Dave Brigati of Calverton, Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills and John Baker of Brookhaven completed the top five in the NASCAR Modified points. 2018 Crate Modified champion Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck was named 2019 NASCAR Modified Rookie of the Year while Kyle Soper was voted Most Popular Driver. Soper and Anderson have indicated they will return as a team in 2020 to try and make it three championships in a row
Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead was honored as the 2019 Late Model champion giving car owner Rob Pelis his third consecutive LM crown after winning the title in 2017 & 2018 with Kyle Soper. McDermott a former three time LM champ never lost a beat once strapped into the Eastport Feeds Pontiac and in fact set a new single season win mark having won 8 races breaking the 7 win mark in a season set by Robin Vollmoeller (1983) & Paul McElearney (1984).
Chris Turbush of Wading River made a late season charge winning five times in 2019 but settled for second in the LM championship chase with Shawn Patrick of Brightwaters, Ray Minieri of Bay Shore and Kevin Metzger of Massapequa completing the top five. No drivers were eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2019 as none raced the mandated 50% of the 15 races. Newcomer Gerald Giordano of Freeport was voted Most Popular Driver, the 2019 NETS Truck champion made 4 starts in the former Peter “Buzzy” Eriksen LM.
For the third time in the four year existence of the Crate Modifieds “The Fancy Farmer” Dave Brigati was honored as the champion of the rapidly growing division. Briagti in his Brian Schwarz prepared Quest Machining & Fabricating Chevy won once in 2019 but was the model of consistency in route to the championship. Dave also remains the all time leading winner in the Crate Mods at 11.
Sean Glennon of Northport, Chris Rogers of Patchogue, Terry Stiles of Rocky Point and Peter Bertuccio of Bohemia completed the top five in Crate Modified points. Sean Glennon who won his first career race in 2019 was named Rookie of the Year while Justin Brown of Manorville was voted Most Popular Driver, Brown will move to the NASCAR Modified ranks in 2020 in a former Solomito family car.
Domination earned Tom Rogers Jr. his sixth career Figure Eight championship winning 10 of the 13 races run in his Keith Repp owned Chevrolet Coupe. It was the third year in a row Rogers and United Exhaust Shop team have won the title however their might not be a fourth in a row as current plans are for the team to sit out the 2020 race season. Rogers will hold onto the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Long Island Drivers Cup.
Eric Zeh of Selden, teammate to Rogers was runner-up in points with Ken Hyde Jr. of Yaphank, Vinny Delaney of Holtsville and Gary Fritz Jr. of Mastic Beach completed the top five. Only Hyde (2) and Delaney (1) won a race in 2019 besides Rogers. Joe Warren Jr. of Ride was named 2019 Rookie of the Year while for the second year running Tom Ferrara of Patchogue won Most Popular Driver.
Another driver basing in the spotlight of a sixth career track title was Blunderbust veteran Tom Pickerell of Huntington who most recently won the crown in 2017. Tom along with primary sponsor Marc Makely of Premier Infrastructure & Energy won four races on their way to the 2019 title. Cody Triola of Bay Shore Russ Jansen of Medford, Bill Wegmann of North Bellmore and Alyssa Paprocky of Coram rounded out second through fifth in points. Eddie Diaz of Centereach was the 2019 Rookie of the Year while Alyssa Paprocky won the Most Popular Driver.
For the second year in a row Mark Stewart of Riverhead, a fourth generation driver of the famed Turbush racing family was saluted as the Super Pro Truck champion. Salute is the appropriate term as Mark will not defend his championship in 2020 as he has enlisted and will be departing for a 4-year stint in the United States Air Force early in the new year. “The Real Deal” won four times in his Andre Vega owned East Side Builders Chevy ranking him 3rd on the all time win list with 24 wins. Lou Maestri of Deer Park, Sean Glennon, Eddie Schutze of Oyster Bay and Frank Dumicich Jr. of E. Quogue completed the SPT top five. Ethan Brown of Floral Park was named 2019 Rookie of the Year as well Most Popular Driver.
“Big Money” Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches has always known how to get to INEX Legend Race car victory lane and in fact now leads the track all time win list with 25 triumphs but now he can add a track championship to his already impressive driving portfolio. Davidowitz, a route driver for UPS during the week won five times in 2019 in the car owned by his father Wally and backed by Benimax Trucking. In 2020 Benimax will also back Richie as he heads to the Crate Modifieds in addition to his Legend Race car driving duties. Eric Hersey of Commack, Kevin Nowak of Medford, Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches and Riely O’Keefe of Manorville were second through fifth. Joseph Braun of Manorville won both the 2019 Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver honors.
Having won five of the ten Street Stock races in
2019 Eric Zeh won the 2019 title for the full bodied race cars in 2019 along with car owner Frank Curtis Motorsports and the Best Built Construction team. Chasing Zeh were 2018 champion Dave Antos of Lindenhurst, Wesley Sammon of Southampton, Brian McCormack of Holbrook and Brian Brown of Riverhead. Chris Lescenski of Riverhead was voted the Most Popular Street Stock driver.
Enter 2019 Joe Warren Jr. had never won a Mini Stock race. By the time the 2019 Mini Stock season was complete Joe Warren Jr. was the all time leading winner in the class having won seven times this season in route to the 2019 championship. As he does after every win no matter what division Joe dedicated his championship to ‘Lil Jason Trinca. Chris Elixson of Riverhead, Paul Wojcik of Centereach, Tom Puccia of Shirley and Jamie Meyer of Riverhead rounded out the top five. Newcomer Matt Stawecki of Bayport was voted Most Popular.
Midway through the 2018 season Enduro veteran Phil LaManna of Smithtown bought a Enduro Truck and just one season later the driver of the EP Milling & Sweeping Chevy found himself the Truck Enduro champion winning 4 of the 7 races contested. Three time winner Gary Voight of Medford was runner-up with Bobby Pease of Medford, Justin McGrady of Selden and Dustin Cole of Port Jefferson second through fifth.
Third generation driver Jarred Halsey of Southampton won his second straight 8-Cylinder Enduro title winning twice in 2019 in his Sabrosa Mexican Grill entry. Sean Fitzpatrick of West Babylon, Dennis Jones of Calverton, Brian Halsey of Southampton (Jarred;s Dad) and Dale Doherty of Jamesport completed the top five.
Despite a mid season flip and a wrecked Gut & Go Enduro car Christian Conklin of Riverhead with a little halp from his family and friends prevailed as champion of the Gut & Go class for the second year in a row. Conklin won three times in his Ham Racing/Spit’s Speed Shop racer and was chased by Woot Lawrence of Southampton, Robert Savoy of Medford, Eric Germuth of Hicksville and second generation racer Joey Palmeri Jr. of Lindehurst.
During the evening aside from all the awards attendees enjoyed a five hour open bar, gourmet dinner and then danced the night away to the band Noiz.
With 2019 officially in the books track management announced the two Safety Tech Inspection Days leading up to the 2020 season will be held Saturday April 11th and 18th. The two pre-season practice days are set for Saturday April 25th and May 2nd while the 2020 opening weekend will usher in the new race season Saturday evening May 9th and Sunday afternoon May 10th. The complete schedule will be released shortly.
To contact the track during the off season please e-mail us at Riverheadraceway1@gmail.com. The track phone number remains 631-842-RACE.