The second annual Islip 300 at Long Island’s Riverhead Raceway is just a few days away, and perhaps nobody is more anxious for race day than Huntington, New York’s Dave Schneider. Schneider is coming off the biggest win of his life less than a week ago, and now has to be considered one of the favorites to win the Islip 300.
Saturday’s victory was the third of his career at Riverhead, with his first two coming last year. But it’s the circumstances surrounding it the made this one so big.
His mother, Eileen, passed away suddenly in March. She was 57. According to Schneider, the cause of death of his mother, who battled bipolar disorder, is still not known.
“They’re going to do a toxicology report to see if something happened with her medication because she was bipolar,” Schneider explained. “Just a few days before she had a tummy tuck surgery. We thought maybe it was an aneurism or a blood clot or something. We have no idea.”
Schneider made the pass for the win with just two laps to go on an overcast evening at “The Head.” He was immediately overcome with all sorts of emotion.
“This is definitely the most special one I’ve ever had, just with my mom passing away and everything,” he said. “I was just very overcome with emotion. I honestly didn’t believe we even won. It was just so surreal. Kerri Larsen the photographer there, we’ve become very good friends over the last eight months. She was there for me the whole time with everything with my mom. She was crying for me. I couldn’t even cry I was so happy. She was sitting there balling her eyes out. It was funny.”
Schneider has finished on the podium each of the last two weeks, and he also scored a podium finish in the inaugural Islip 300 in May last year. Now he has momentum on his side, and confidence, and that should make him a favorite for the $7,000 check on Saturday night.
“This definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I have to make sure my helmet fits me next week,” he said, laughing. “Really honestly, I’m trying to look at next week as a different week. We’ve been on a roll the last two weeks, but I know anything can happen. We had a good strategy last year, and I know how to save my tires, so I’m pretty confident this Saturday.”
Three-hundred laps on a quarter-mile bullring can be a daunting task. There were a lot of people who questioned the idea when it was announced for last season. Schneider said that the inaugural edition last year, for him, was not as difficult as one would expect because the race pace was so slow.
“Everyone took their time early on. We were running real slow lap times for most of the race conserving our tires trying not to wreck. So for me, it wasn’t bad. I’m sure other people were tired, but I’m used to running longer races. Towards the last 50 laps I got kind of tired, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
As special as the past week’s win was, Schneider, who will have even more family members in attendance this week, said winning the Islip 300 would be even bigger.
“That would be the biggest win of my career up to this point. Probably the most special one. Especially for my crew chief, Ray Grennan. He grew up racing at Islip and being around that. He loved that place. I think it would be special for me, and I think it would be very special for him to get that win.”
The second annual Islip 300 will take place this Saturday night, June 16. Racing will begin at 5 p.m. ET with the Riverhead Crate Modifieds, Vintage Modifieds, INEX Legends, and Blunderbusts also on the schedule of events.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Kerri Larsen/K.Larsen Photography