Opened in 1949 as a dirt track Riverhead Raceway has evolved under several ownership’s and promoters. The track has raced on Wednesday nights, Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. They have run many divisions of race cars, Bombers, Grand Am’s, Modifieds, Sportsmen, Figure 8’s, Late Models, Enduro’s, Demolitions Derby’s and many other classes. In 1984 after Islip Speedway closed it moved from Friday nights to Saturday nights and has run continuously ever since.
Great drivers and champions have started their racing careers at Riverhead. Drivers like Sacks, Jarzombek, Anderson, Park, Brunnhoelzl, Malone, Krukowski are known across the country for not what they accomplished on Long Island but at places like Daytona, Trenton, Langhorn, Pocono, Stafford , Thompson and many other tracks.
Drivers from all over the east coast have traveled to Riverhead to compete with the locals. Evans, Bodine, Preece, Christopher and dozen of others have traveled long distances to test the 1/4 mile high banks at the end of Long Island. Even ESPN visited a few times to broadcast figure 8 races and Roll Over contests. The NASCAR Whelen Modified tour has made a regular stop on the Island since 1985.
While Riverhead has been the Saturday night home on Long Island to the NASCAR weekly racing for the last 32 years, development and shopping centers have closed in and there has always been a fear that the track would be replaced with a big box store . Every year rumors circulated that the track was for sale with no guarantees it would continue as a race track. Those rumors were finally put to rest last summer when it was announced that the track had been bought by Eddie and Connie Partridge with their partner Tom Gatz.
When the fans file into the track this Saturday many will be pleasantly surprised at the number of changes and upgrades made since the last show of last season. Since last fall the track facilities have undergone a great transformation. Almost every building on the property have been leveled and replaced. Bathrooms are spotless, concessions are all new with all new equipment to prepare a new menu of food. Picnic tables dot the facility so that when you buy you dinner or a frosty beverage you have a place to eat and drink it.
The lights are new, the sound system upgraded so we can hear Bob Finan’s familiar voice loud and clear, parking lots have been upgraded, you will buy your tickets at new ticket booths. The track even has a new Buzz Chew pace truck plus new equipment to clean the track after a wreck and speed up the show. The inspection area has moved so fans can watch what goes on after the races. Opening night will feature the band X-session who will also preform the Star Spangled Banner.
Even the racing will be different with heats in all divisions to set the lineups, for several years time trials were used to set some of the featured line ups. This year every division is slated to run heats to set featured line ups, something many fans have been asking for.
A new division will also make its debut this week. The Riverhead Modified Crates which is an affordable crate modified division. The track decided at the end of last season to eliminate the Charger division and replace it with a class that was low cost and more affordable. Already in practice almost 10 cars have hit the track with more on being built as the season progresses.
Opening night many invading modified drivers are expected to compete. Ryan Preece fresh off his great run in the Xfinity series at Talladega, Ron Silk, Shawn Solomito, Icebreaker winner Timmy Solomito will race against weekly regulars. Riverhead regulars including champion Tom Roger Jr, John Fortin, Howie Brode, Vinny Biondolillo, Ken Darch, Kyle Soper and others will defend their home turf.
The new era start this weekend, Rogers, Lehman, McDermott, Maestri, Baker and Slepian will look to defend their championships and start the 2016 season with a win.
Originally Saturday night May 7th, now with the weather it will be Saturday night May14th, the gates to Riverhead Raceway will swing open for the grand re-opening. Seven divisions of race cars, Modifieds, Late Models, Figure 8’s, Blunderbusts, INEX Legends, Riverhead Crates and Super Pro Trucks will take to the track along with a huge fireworks display that will light up the May sky.
Heat races start at 4;30 sharp followed by features for all 7 divisions. Over 120 race cars and teams will jam the pits with one of the biggest opening nights in the history of the track.