So with carefully thought out planning and preparation we decided to go to Riverhead Raceway for the Islip 300 this past weekend. After the ROC race at Lake Erie Speedway and the Bullring Bash at White Mountain Motorsports Park were rained out we made the phone calls around 2 pm Friday and were delighted to find out they were willing to let me race in the Islip 300.
With two hours to prepare we shifted gears and began to get ready for our new destination. We set about the task of converting the car from White Mountain over to what we needed for Riverhead. This did not involve any re scaling or gear changes, instead we spent the time we had make a stubby nose and adding bracing to the front bumper… little did I know we would need more then I had added.
We unloaded and we weren’t fast, way too tight. With three people in the pits and trying to get 7 tires figured out for later the whole day kind of got away from me. You can only do so much and by the time I knew it was time for time trials. We managed to put the left side tires on backwards and timed with less then 3 inches of stagger, my fault. I told Steven I wanted to swap lefts after time trials but I didn’t explain that they were currently marked for there eventual race time placement. Miscue…
It was an impound race so I didn’t have my usual time to come up with a plan. We didn’t have enough gear, the car needed wholesale changes but we were kind of stuck. We had 15 minuets to work before the race so I did what I thought was best and we headed out.
They say 300 laps click off quick at the head. I did not experience this sensation, I was in for a long night. We started out free which was new. We clicked off some spots and worked our way up from 19th only to get shoved into a wreck on lap 25. I could see my bumper pointing straight up in the air, but the tires were fine so we kept trucking along.
The car became tight after this, I assumed I bent the left side of the front frame section up and thus had preloaded the sway bar. We pitted to try and free it up but for the most part I would be grabbing two bites of the wheels for the rest of the night.
It was hard to roll through one and two and as much as I tried to stay out of trouble it seemed to find me often. I became the popular car to run into if you needed a caution, on some instances I’m not sure I did my best to save the car once they had me halfway around as I myself didn’t hate the prospect of some slow laps to catch my breath.
Around halfway things got worse. A “friend” hip checked me hard in the left front and jammed up my electric power steering unit. He also gave me a flat left front and we didn’t have a spare so we had to put the left rear on that we started the race with. The car was very hard to drive after that. The rack had free play from the hit and the car was very darty and unpredictable. If I could run by myself I could hang onto it but it was very hard to go side by side with anyone without bouncing off the wall.
Despite all of this, we managed to stay on the lead lap all day and once the sun went down the car started to feel a little better around lap 175. We hung onto the bumper of the red number 5 and I followed him up into the top ten until about fifty to go. This was the only part of the race where I felt we ran respectable. Not good, but we got better. I learned a better line following the red 5 car and we improved. With 50 to go a couple cars upfront pitted and we restarted in 5th. We kept our place for a couple of restarts but one the pit stop cars came I didn’t want to risk to much with my steering issues and all, but we settled into 7th or 8th.
With 15 to go we got turned around by a car that needed a lucky dog. He spun me to the right down the back stretch, all I could think about was how pissed I was going to be to put 285 laps on my engine and not finish the damn race. I gassed it and managed to slap the wall in a way that wouldn’t take me out. We got turned back around and I made it my mission to try and get a top ten.
We got a good start and I clipped off a couple guys only to get tangled up again with 8 to go. Someone jumped my left rear and we went spinning. I grabbed a gear and got back inline in front of the cars that crashed with us.
Many cars that had less drama then us were sitting pit side. My race had turned into a test of what we could endure. Its not a race I am proud of, it was in fact a race that I will be quick to forget. I am certain my better qualities as a driver were not on display this evening, but I have never been one to accept when it just isn’t my day.
I had spent 292 laps getting shoved around, driven over and breaking pieces on my car. The steering was so far off that I had to take two grabs of the wheel every corner of every lap, I have never noticed myself doing this before. We were still rolling though and a top ten was within reach. If I have one talent in a race car that never lets me down, even on my bad days its that I am a hard to kill. We weren’t out yet.
The green dropped and again I made my mischief of the restarts before I fell in line and tried to hold on. I did what I could to hold place and keep an eye on the front pack in case of a crash. On the last lap I saw a car go spinning and everyone scatter. Sue called on my radio what I could already see. As her warnings came through she let go of the push to talk and the radio reminded me one last time that the battery was dying, perfect I thought to myself. I kept my foot on the gas and weaved my way though. I knew I was around 10th and I did not want to slow down and get passed. We made it through and crossed the line.
I called up to the spotter. Top 10? No answer. Again, did I make it back to the top 10? Where was I? Finally Sue answered. Yup! 9th! Which was exciting since ninth place paid the exact amount of my tire bill. That is a win! Other then the 6 wheels and the 84 dollars those crooks charged me to cross the George Washington bridge with an open deck trailer I think we did OK. We made the most of a very bad night where we were not 100 percent and finished 300 laps at the Head in the top ten. That’s not the goal we started with, we always want to win but considering the obstacles it felt OK on this night.
Big thank you to Jake, Steve and Sue for coming with. Big thanks to the Riverhead Raceway and all of its fans for being so welcoming and thoughtful whenever they talked to me. It was cool. We will be back someday and much smarter as far as what we need to do. For the moment though I think my 300 laps has satisfied my Riverhead ambitions for awhile.
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.
Riverhead, NY June 6thBy Bob Finan With a weekend off from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. will jump into his refurbished old school race car hauler and head to Riverhead Raceway on Long island Saturday June 15th to defend his 2018 race win in the 3rd annual Islip 300. Awaiting Preece to contend for the $7,000 victory will be a blend of talented Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Whelen All American Series track regulars along with invading NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams. The Islip 300 pays tribute to the former All Star Racing League that culminated with a season ending 300-lapper at the 1/5 of mile bullring and carries a total of $32,650 in posted awards for the 75-mile extravaganza.
Last year Ryan Preece went back to an old school set-up on his Eddie & Connie Partridge owned racer for the Islip 300 and entered the race with the mindset of taking the lead early and putting as many cars a lap down as he could. Indeed Preece moved by early leader Ronnie Williams for the top spot on lap 66 and Ryan then proceeded to put all but the second through fifth place cars a lap down. Part two of the TS Hauler team game plan was to pit as late as they could for their three change tires which they did just after the 200 lap mark. By lap 222 Preece made his way around John Fortin Sr. who moved out front when Ryan pitted to reclaim the race lead and popular victory.
Entering the 2019 edition of the 300 will be different on many levels for Preece including the car he’ll defend last years race win in. Ryan was strapped into what was then known as a Troyer Engineering built chassis for last springs 300 win however when he rolls through the gate Saturday tucked inside his old school race car hauler will be a new Chassis Dynamics designed and fabricated machine. Preece was hands on with designing as well building the new car he’ll run in this years race. No set-up book not withstanding Preece will still find himself on solid footing with 16 career wins at the demanding quarter facility dating back to his first, a WMT 200-lap triumph in August of 2009 while driving for the famed Boehelr family.
Translation, Ryan and his team should be in the ballpark right out of the truck as Preece ranks 27th on the all time Riverhead win list with 16 career victories (12 NASCAR WAAS, 4 WMT wins). Currently on the MENCS Preece is locked in a tight battle for 2019 Rookie of the Year with Daniel Hemric with both among the top 25 in points.
As of press time several NASCAR WMT teams have verbally notified Bob Finan of their intentions of being on hand and vying for the $7,000 victory. Rising talent Craig Lutz of Miller Place fresh off his 3rd plan showing at the most recent WMT event at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will be on hand with his Goodie Racing team. Craig has never won a Tour Type Modified race but should be in the mix for the 300 win. Eric Goodale did not race the ’18 300 but rather did commentary with Finan and Stephen Halpin in the booth will return to more familiar surrounding and contest for the 2019 win in his Goodie Motorsports Chevy. Popular “Showtime” Jimmy Blewett of Howell, NJ will be gunning for the rich win in his Long Island based WMT ride the Joe Bertuccio owned Gershow Motorsports Chevy.
Aside from competing in the $32,650 Islip 300 the WMT teams on hand will also get an extended test session leading up to the first 2019 WMT Riverhead Raceway WMT race Saturday July 6th.
Tommy Baldwin Jr. announced on social media Tuesday that not only will he be bringing his famed 7NY machine to Riverhead Raceway Saturday for the Islip 300 but he’ll have the car wrapped in the colors in tribute to one of his father’s first NASCAR Modified featuring an all orange hue with the number 747 on the doors for driver Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma. The 300 will be the second race in less than 24 hours for Tommy Baldwin Racing as they’ll enter rising star Bryan Narducci in a 80-lap open comp show the night prior at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Calvin Carroll of Andover, NJ who placed a solid 7th in the ’18 Islip 300 will return June 15th with his Power With Prestige race team hoping to pull off an upset win.
Track officials have been in communication with other top flight Tour Type Modified teams and are hopeful to disclose some more entrants on social media in the days leading up to the race. Awaiting and looking forward to challenging the invading drivers will be the talented roster of Riverhead Raceway chauffeurs who make up the weekly Whelen All American Series roster at the Route 58 oval. Defending champion Kyle Soper of Manorville, winner of 3 out of four races contested in May is willing, ready and certainly able to collect the $7,000 win for car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson. Always a threat in any Tour Type Modified race run at Riverhead Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead ranked second on the all time win list with 53 victories will be sniffing around the front of the field in his Denise & Ken Darch owned racer for the big payday. John Beatty Jr of Merrick runner-up in ’18 to Preece tuned up for the 300 with a 75-lap win June 1st and hopes momentum can take him and his Mark Mina owned team to victory lane.
Former three time champion John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville along with upcoming talent Chris Young of Calverton, veteran Dave Brigati of Calverton, Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills and Davis Schneider of Hutington all front runners at Riverhead hope to make a statement with an Islip 300 win. The race which pays double Riverhead Raceway championship points is also expected to draw track regulars Howie Brode of East islip, John Baker of Brookhaven, Eric Zeh of Selden, CJ Lehmann of Shirley, 2018 Rookie of the Year Roger Turbush of Riverhead, Cory Midgett of East Hampton, Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown and Artie Pedersen III of Center Moriches. Rounding out the Islip 300 program will be the Crate Modifieds, Blunderbusts, INEX Legend Race Cars and keeping with the evenings nostalgic theme he second 2019 appearance of the Vintage All Stars. Qualifying will start at 5:30 pm with opening ceremonies and first feature event starting at 7:00 pm. In the event of rain the Islip 300 will be run the following week Saturday June 22nd.