Riverhead, NY July 17th
By Bob Finan
He was and remains an iconic figure in Late Model racing on Long Island and in the Northeast, who despite all his on track success was extremely popular with fellow competitors and fans alike. Saturday night Riverhead Raceway will celebrate the life and driving career of Paul McElearney with a 60-lap Late Model Memorial race that headlines the Advance Auto Part Weekly Racing Series program with six divisions providing over 200-laps of racing.
From a very modest start in the action packed Bomber division at Freeport Stadium Huntington native Paul McElearney embarked on a driving career not even he or his late brother and first car owner Joel could have ever imagined. The victories and championships at Freeport and Islip Speedway with Street Stocks led Paul to his next racing destination, Late Models. Some 45 wins later at Riverhead Raceway a few of which date back to when the class was titled Grand Am or Street Stocks catapulted Paul to seven Riverhead Raceway LM championships, the final three consecutively from 1990 through 1992. He has a rightful place on the Cromarty Wall of Champions the greets guests of Riverhead Raceway in turn three.
After his final Riverhead win on May 15th, 1999 he and his new car owner and brother in law Richie Resner took their show on the road. Like he did on Long Island McElearney armed with his driving talents and Hollywood looks found success and popularity at such historic racing venues as Lee USA Speedway, Hudson Speedway and Seekonk Speedway among others.
All along Paul McElearney, a heavy equipment operator by trade never lost sight of what was truly important, his loving wife Michele and their children. When Paul hung up the helmet he was not one to frequent the race tracks he had found so much success on as it was now time to focus on family and friends away from the game. Sadly on April 15th, 2020 Paul McElearney passed away from complications of Covid-19 at 70 years young.
Many special bonus awards have been posted for the Paul McElearney Memorial 60 kicking off with the $198 Pole Award from Michael Jaworecki and Myracenews.com. Many of Paul’s family, friends and former racers have stepped up to add bonus money to the winner of the event. Brian McElearney, Paul’s eldest son through his Finishline Demolition & Masonry firm has added $198 to the winner share of the purse. Brian who now mentors his son Sean’s driving career will in fact compete in the 60-lapper as well. NASCAR Modified standout John Baker, who watched on with admiration when Paul raced has put up $300 of his own money to the winner. Former LM foe and lifelong friend Ron Thiel Jr. and his wife Debra are providing three tall trophies for the winning car owner and driver, the third for Michele McElearney and her family to enjoy. Additionally Thiel, a 8-time Riverhead Late Model winner in his own right before moving south and Debra have added $500 for the top three spots, $250 to win, $100 for second and $50 for 3rd through 5th.
Joining this night to remember are the Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modifieds who return to action for the first time since July 10th led by first time winner Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck. The Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds likewise return to action after a week and will compete in their second race of the Miller Lite Triple Crown Series with a 40-lap feature event. The Blunderbusts after a month off are back in action as are the INEX Legend Race Cars who compete for the first time since June 26th. The night will conclude with a 8-Cylinder Gut & Go Enduro.
Qualifying will commence at 5:30 pm while spectator gates swing open at 4:00 pm. Feature event racing will start after the opening ceremonies. Adult admission is $30, kids 6-12 $10 with 5 & under free, tickets are sold on race day at the track only. If you live out of town or can’t make it in person to the track the live stream of the entire program starts at 5:15 pm at Riverheadraceway.Tv.