By Michael Jaworecki
After two races in the south the NASCAR WMT season heads to Long Island for its first northern race of the season at Riverhead Raceway. Thirty-three teams have entered the Miller Lite 200 at the 1/4-mile Riverhead Raceway.
The year started at the New Smyrna Speedway in February with Thirty-one teams towing over 1,200 miles south of their normal New England season opener. A successful weekend resulted in a sellout crowd and great racing. One unhappy driver that night was multi time champion Justin Bonsignore. Justin, looking to a for a strong start to the season ended up being the first car out of the race digging an early hole in the 2022 points battle.
Justin would redeem himself with a win at Richmond Raceway in April taking the Richmond is for Racing Lovers 100 over Tommy Catalano. After the disaster in Florida, his win vaulted him all the way to ninth place in the standings only twenty points back of the points lead.
Coming into the Miller Lite 200, two New Yorkers from opposite ends of the state are tied for the points lead. Eric Goodale, who will be racing in his hometown of Riverhead, and Tommy Catalano will be making the seven-hour ride from Ontario, New York. Third in the point standings is Tyler Rypkema only one point back. Unfortunately, Tyler will drop in the standings as he is not entered in the Miller Lite 200.
Long Island based teams have always been strong at Riverhead. Long Islanders have won eleven of the last fourteen Whelen Tour races. Eric Goodale, Timmy Solomito, and Justin Bonsignore have been dominant during that stretch of races. Only Doug Coby who will return for the Miller Lite 200 and last September’s Miller Lite 200 winner Patrick Emerling have broken up the hometown party.
Local Riverhead Modified regulars with be tough this Saturday. Tom Rogers Jr., Dave Brigati, Roger Turbush who finished third last September John Beatty Jr. and others should be strong runners at their home track.
Entry List for the May 14 Miller Lite 200 at Riverhead Raceway: https://www.nascar.com/news-media/2022/05/10/entry-list-miller-lite-200-at-riverhead-raceway/
We reached out to several Long Island based drivers about the upcoming race.
Timmy Solomito Natual Designs #66
How does it feel to be back in a race car?
“It feels great to be back on a more regular basis this year. After running the Islip 300 last year and the Turkey Derby at Wall I am pretty excited to get back at it. “
2. Do you believe you have a home field advantage at Riverhead?
“I don’t really feel that way any longer, the tour regulars are so good, and the local drivers are extremely competitive. The playing field has become very level, and everyone is fast these days.”
3. Will you be running more tour races this season?
“We really don’t have a schedule set in stone. We are just picking races we want to go to. With the rising gas prices, we’ll see how things go. “
4. You are in the family car for Riverhead, does that make you more comfortable?
“I never really worry about which car I’m driving; I always give it 150%. It didn’t matter if it was Eric Sanderson, Tommy Baldwin or my family car, we were there to give it all we got.”
“I would like to thank my sponsors that make all this possible Highmark Building Efficiency, Meadowbrook Collision, American Tent, Couch Racer, Natural Design and of course the support of my family.”
Eric Goodale GAF #58
- The early races have been so spread out is that tough?
“It’s easier for me, you have time to work on the car and focus on other things until it’s time to go back racing like family and work.”
2. You come into Riverhead the track you started your career tied for the points lead, what is that like?
“It’s good to come to Riverhead, it gives us an advantage. I started racing there with a Charger many years ago and this will be on my 12th or 13th year on the tour. We only have about a 10-minute trip to get to the track. It’s a different feeling with more family and friends coming to see us in person. Most of the races we have we have a longer commute than the other teams. Three races at Riverhead are great for the team. I love that all the races are on FloRacing. My kids can watch Dad at every race, and I can watch the replays when I get home.”
3. How does it feel to have run two races in 2022 with two top ten two top ten finishes with no damage to repair?
“It’s great, only a few hours work getting ready for the next race, and we are set. This week leading up to the race we are busy with other things, like kids’ Baseball games and Lacrosse games. On Friday we are taking the car to my kid’s school, after that we will load up and be ready to race in the Miller Lite 200.”
Justin Bonsignore Pheonix Communications #51
- The year started rough at New Smyrna Speedway. How much weight did the win at Richmond take off your shoulders? Does another Championship feel more in reach?
” Richmond was a great way to bounce back after such a tough start at New Smyrna. We still have a big hole to climb out of, but we are confident we can and will contend for our fourth championship.”
2. Is the spread-out earlier season schedule easy or tough, especially when you had that rough first race?
” The spread out start to the season has been a bit of both purely based on confidence and momentum. The time between New Smyrna and Richmond was a long period of time to have to think of the rough start. On the other hand, the Time since Richmond we have been able to ride the momentum of the win. During this downtime Stone and the team have been able to prep for the next stretch of races and make sure we are fully prepared.
3. Do you look forward to coming to Riverhead 3 times a year? Do you think you have any advantage?
“I always look forward to coming to Riverhead and racing in front of friends and family. We are very appreciative of Riverhead for hosting three races.”
“I feel before the re-pave I had a home track advantage, however since that we have lost that edge and we have been working hard to get back to victory lane”
4. Your fiancée Taylor, being a former Miss Motorsports, she must be a big supporter of your racing. Does that help in a long season?
” Taylor and I met through racing and she is a huge supporter of mine and the team. She comes from a racing family and is very understanding of the time and effort it takes for us to be successful, she loves being there at each race. She may be a bigger race fan than I am honestly.”
Jimmy Wilson Director of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
- NASCAR just published all the purse, contingency, and bonus money for the Riverhead Miller Beer 200 and its substantial.
“We wanted to highlight more of that and what we do behind the scenes. People say NASCAR doesn’t do anything for the team well that’s not that case. The winner of the race can earn over $13,000.00 if they hit all the bonus and contingency money. ” The winner bonus plan was revamped this year where $11,000.00 per race is now handed out to the top fifteen teams.”
2. This is a different year so far with new tracks and a different schedule. The season even started deep south during Speed Weeks at New Smyrna Speedway. I know it’s early but how do you see the season so far?
“It’s been a very good year so far with a lot of eyeballs on the series. To open in front of a sellout crowd was tremendous. My mouth hit the ground when I heard them announce they were done selling tickets. I grew up down here and can’t ever remember New Smyrna turning people away. It was a tremendous show, the electricity was in the air that night amongst everyone. It was a very special night to start off the season”
3. How do you like your new partnership with Floracing?
That is doing well and has been received well. It’s great to have a partner that gets it from top to bottom and is reinvesting in the sport as they have done. They put $10,000 per race to the highest twenty in addition to the purse and $25,000 to the teams that attempt to qualify for all the races. The money will be divided evenly between those teams so it definitely there is a lot of money coming back to the Modified tour.
Notes: This will be the 68th NASCAR WMT race at the historic oval. A solid field of teams will head to Long Island including several drivers making their first start in a NASCAR WMT Tour event or their first trip to Riverhead Raceway. Joey Coulter, former Camping World Truck driver will make his first appearance in a Modified at Riverhead Raceway.
Both Turbush brothers, Chris in the #81 and Roger in the #88 will attempt to make the field. Jake Johnson, normally a PASS and Open Modified competitor will be in the Boehler #3. Doug Coby, who won two WMT races at Riverhead last year will be a substitute driver in the Tommy Baldwin #7. Jimmy Blewett has withdrawn as his daughter Layla has been ill. 10 Riverhead based Modified teams are on the entry list. Total posted awards are $83,240.00
Schedule: Garage opens at 12:45 p.m. ET … Final practice from 3-4 p.m. ET … Single-car qualifying (two laps) at 6 p.m. ET … Race at 8 p.m. ET