There are two types of drivers who seem to succeed at the rough and tumble Long Island bullring that is Riverhead Raceway. You can either be a smooth, calculated driver who will take close to 10 laps to set up a pass similar to Ryan Preece. Or you can be a bull in a china shop – a hard-charging driver who isn’t afraid to use his chrome horn and immediately fill any hole left by the driver in front of you.
That’s Tommy Rogers, Jr.
Rogers is a 36-year-old driver from Medford, N.Y. who races in the NASCAR Modified division at Riverhead. He’s the winner of the last two races at the track. He can sum up his driving style in one word.
“Aggressive,” he said with a laugh. “I’m here to win. I’m not here to run second. I’m not here to make for a boring race. I’m here to pass cars and make it exciting.”
Rogers is a throwback racer. He usually races in two and sometimes even three different divisions at Riverhead in one night. He’ll run a Modified race and then immediately run down to a white coupe with a 43 on the door parked outside of a blue school bus that was turned into a race car hauler to run 15 laps in the Figure 8 class.
“I love to race,” he said. “I’ll race anything. If it’s got wheels and a motor I’ll run it.”
When asked if that included hoping on a lawn mower and racing at Riverhead’s Elks Lodge on a small dirt track just a few miles from Riverhead Raceway he flashed a grin and said, “If somebody had one I’d do it.”
Rogers said part of what makes him want to race multiple divisions in one night is that he’d have too much downtime throughout the day if he didn’t.
“I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “It’s a long day here. If I jump from car to car, that’s what I like.”
Some people around Riverhead have taken to calling Rogers the “Long Island Intimidator.” Rogers said he isn’t sure if the nickname really suits him. But just like the original Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, Rogers will occasionally be involved in some controversy on the track. And sometimes in the pit area as well. But he doesn’t dwell on what happens at the track.
“What happens here stays here,” said Rogers. “I go home tomorrow and we go to the beach or parties. I don’t bring it back next week. The controversy and all the arguing and stuff like that, I’m not here for that. I’m here to race. Most of these people here are my friends. I grew up at this race track. I know a lot of people here. These are my friends. But some people take it to heart too much.”
Rogers said another thing that makes it really easy to forget about what happens at the track after a rough night is hanging out with his kids the next day. His kids are the most important aspect of his life and he said he’s already thinking about not racing anymore so he can spend more time with them.
“To be honest with you I was hoping this was going to be my last year,” he said. “I can run for a long time but I want to spend a lot more time with my kids. If I can sell this car I probably won’t come back. But for right now I’m just taking it one day at a time. My kids are the most important thing right now.”
– By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Correspondent. Twitter: @RobBlount. Photo credit: Speed51.com