By Bob Finan
Even since strapping into a INEX Legend Race Car at Long island’s Riverhead Raceway in the spring of 2010 Kyle Soper of Manorville showed he had what it takes to succeed in the weekly NASCAR Whelen All American Series at the historic track. With nine race seasons now under his belt the 22-year old Soper has won 25 feature events at the demanding quarter mile oval spread across four divisions along with four track championships in three classes. In 2018 Kyle Soper not only won his first career NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead driving the iconic Eastport Feeds entry of Wayne & Joette Anderson but also the New York State Whelen All American Racing Series New York State championship.
Like many of his generation Kyle’s path to weekly stock car racing began when he was just 7 years old competing in the Sunday Go Kart program locally at Riverhead Raceway as well other venues in the region. From 2004 through 2008 Soper complied nearly 100 victories to compliment Go Kraft championship not only at Riverhead but regionally and nationally as well. Kyle along with his father former Riverhead Charger driver Tom made the move to the popular INEX Legend Race Car series at Riverhead in 2010 with Kyle the leading rookie driver in the class during that freshman season. Along the way during his stint in the INEX Legend Race Cars Soper would win six times and capture the 2014 Riverhead track championship. During those formative Legend years Kyle would go fender to fender with fellow Go Kart graduates Kyle Ellwood, Chris Young, John Fortin Jr. and Dylan Slepian who like Soper all moved into other classes at Riverhead Raceway before eventually landing in the highly competitive NASCAR Modified ranks.
In 2015 the Soper family with the backing of a few loyal sponsors invested heavily in Kyle’s racing future when they purchased their own NASCAR Modified for competition in 2015 at Riverhead Raceway. Again Kyle immediately showed pure driving talent as he would finish second to Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead in the championship chase winning the Rookie of the Year honors in the process. It would be during his sophomore season of 2016 that Kyle would lay claim to his first NASCAR Modified victory in the rough and tumble NASCAR Modified ranks at Riverhead and he would back that first career win up with three more triumphs during the campaign.
However the grind and expenses associated with fielding a NASCAR Modified for weekly racing took it’s toll on the Soper family and the tough decision was made during the off season leading up the 2017 to park the car until a major sponsor could be found.
All was not lost for Kyle heading into 2017 however as he was tabbed by local Late Model car owner Rob Pelis to steer a team car as a teammate to former champion Scott Kulesa. What transpired after caught both Pelis and Soper off guard as they promptly went out and won six LM races along with the 2017 championship in what started out to be a back-up effort to the primary car of Kulesa. Surprisingly enough that would not be the turning point of Soper’s career although driving for Pelis would play a role in what transpired early in the summer of ’17.
Doug Corwin of Eastport Feeds who not only sponsors Wayne Anderson’s NASCAR Modified team at Riverhead but also the Late Model team of Rob Pelis liked what he saw in how Soper performed not only on the track but away from it as well. Despite having won the 2016 NASCAR Modified championship together at Riverhead Raceway Wayne Anderson and driver Shawn Solomito made the mutual decision to part ways after just six starts into the 2017 season. Enter a suggestion from Doug Corwin and Kyle Soper was tabbed to drive Anderson’s mount for the remainder of the season and the rest as they say is history.Soper again answered the call collecting one victory along with 10 top five finishes in 12 starts for his new Eastport Feeds team of Anderson with his father Tom calling the shots as his crew chief.
With a full off season to prepare for the 2018 campaign at Riverhead Raceway the Soper/Anderson tandem was successful right out of the box winning the opening night main event the first of three wins on the year for the team. As spring turned into summer it became evident if the Kyle were to win the 2018 title there would be one driver in particular he’d have to contend with, that being four time and defending NASCAR Modified champion Tom Rogers Jr. Coming to the season with a chance to win his fifth career crown that would put Rogers in elite company with Soper’s car owner Wayne Anderson, Don Howe and the late Charlie Jarzombek as the only driver’s to win five titles Tom would be tough to beat for the 2018 crown.
The 2018 title would boil down to the last night of racing on the final Saturday of September between Soper and Rogers with the latter scoring his 4th win of the season but Kyle on the strength of a fourth place tally after dropping as far back as 10th during the race realized the dream of a lifetime winning the NASCAR Modified championship.
Reflecting back on the intense NASCAR Modified championship chase with Rogers Soper looked back, “battling with Tommy like that is something I’ve never experienced before. We both hate to lose and that is what made it so much fun”. Not lost on Kyle is what the championship also meant for his car owner Wayne Anderson who during his driving days not only won five Riverhead driving titles but also the 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title. “For Wayne and his team to have the faith to put me into the ride of a lifetime is something I’ll forever cherish. To win the 2018 Riverhead and New York State championships just takes it to a whole other level”.
As for car owner Wayne Anderson when asked about his versatile driver who not only won the 2018 NASCAR Modified title but also backed up his 2017 LM championship with a second straight LM crown in 2018 Wayne offered, “Kyle doesn’t say too much outside of the car but when he straps into the car his driving talent does all the talking”.
In a career where Kyle Soper has recorded those 25 career Riverhead Raceway wins ( 9 NASCAR Modified, 9 Late Model, 6 INEX Legend & 1 Crate Modified) since 2010 to go along with his four championships Kyle of course hopes to advance his career to one of the NASCAR Touring series or perhaps even one of big three NASCAR series. In fact a few years back Kyle and his family leased a Camping World Series Truck for the fall Martinsville race with limited success and he’d love another chance but admitted, “unless you have a bucket full of money your chances are much more limited”.
Whether it was the NASCAR Modified or Late Model Kyle Soper was the model of consistency in route to both 2018 championships. He started 15 NASCAR Modified events winning three times and posting 12 top five finishes while one the Late Model he started 13 features going to victory lane three times while in the top five in 11 races. To that end Wayne Anderson noted, “Kyle is real smooth, takes what the car gives him and doesn’t tear up equipment no matter if it’s the Modified or Late Model”.
Looking towards 2019 Soper announced he’d be returning to the Eastport Feeds team of Wayne & Joette Anderson to defend their NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead Raceway starting Saturday May 4th, 2019 when the tracks opens for it’s 69th season of stock car racing.
Aside from Kyle Soper other 2018 Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Whelen All American Series championships went to Michael Rutkoski (Crate Mods), Tom Rogers Jr. (Figure Eights), Jack Handley Jr. (Blunderbusts), Mark Stewart (Super Pro Trucks) and Jim Sylvester (INEX Legend Race cars). Riverhead Raceway will host it’s 2018 Championship Awards Ceremony Friday January 11th, 2019 at Giorgio’s of Baiting Hollow. Tickets can be obtained from John Ellwood who’ll be available at the track Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.
Further information can be obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 631-842-RACE
Photo By Noah Watts Myracenews