John Fortin Jr. of Holtsville realized the dream of a lifetime Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway when he won the 40-lap NASCAR Modified feature event mastering numerous restarts during the race to take the Whelen All American Series victory. Once again weather played a role in at the 68-year old track as a rain delay slowed the program for about an hour but the hard working Riverhead Raceway track staff were not going to let mother nature win out and all nine feature events were presented.
Rookie drivers Dylan Slepian and Roger Turbush bought the 19-car field to the green flag with Slepian gaining the advantage at the drop of the green over Turbush. Lap 2 found Chris Young getting by Turbush for second and over the next five laps the second generation driver would test Slepian for the race lead. A double file restart on lap 7 would liven things up at the front of the field with Young riding the outside lane to take the race lead from Slepian as the duo began the 8th circuit. Just two laps later Slepian went for broke racing into the third turn diving very low on Young entering the turn. Unfortunately Dylan’s car slid back up the track clipping leader Young forcing him into a spin drawing a caution flag. When the field was reset John Fortin Jr, who started the race from 6th and Eddie Brunnhoelzl III who started 7th were now occupying the front row for the double file restart.
When the race resumed to start the 11th lap Brunnhoelzl tried with all he had to try and make the outside groove work in an attempt to outrun Fortin to turn one for the race lead This was a scene that would play out more than once during the final 29-laps of the contest with several yellow flags waving for minor spins and contact. Every time the green light came back on Brunnhoelzl seeking his second career triumph would try and gain an advantage over Fortin but after a lap or so to the outside he’d have to tuck back into line as veteran drivers Dave Brigati, John Beatty Jr. and David Schneider al ran within striking distance of the top two cars. As the laps wore down Fortin just kept hitting his marks with Brunnhoelzl hot on his heels
When the checker flag waved it was a relieved and jubilant John Fortin Jr. in his Suffolk Pro Cycles Chevy scoring the all important career first victory. “I want thank Eddie for racing me hard but clean, it was a fun battle” Fortin reflected in the winner’s circle, “I have so many people to thank, first off my parents who gave me this opportunity, my girlfriend for all her support and my crew who just keep working their tails off” Fortin added.
Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown was a close runner-up in his Go Green Generators entry while David Schneider of Northport completed the podium in his ESM Racing machine. Kyle Soper of Manorville and Chris Young of Calverton both recovered from early race misfortune to rally back for fourth and fifth place respectfully.
After misfortune struck Chris Turbush of Wading River in the first two Late Model races of ’18 the third generation driver found himself on the front row for the night’s 25-lap feature event. Unless it’s a time trial show Turbush very rarely starts from the front row and he would take full advantage as he out ran “Radiant” Ray Minieri for the race lead at the start. Minieri would ride in the challengers spot over the first 10-laps of the tilt before he was passed by championship leader Kyle Soper during a double file restart. Once to second seeking his third win in a row Soper went to work Turbush for the lead and over the final 15-laps of the race the duo would swap paint on more than occasion. In the end it would be Chris Turbush coming out on top in his Eastern Fuel Chevy for his 8th career win. Kyle Soper of Manorville was a disappointed second in the Eastport Feeds racer with Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead third in the JDP Mechanical Chevy.
The 30-lap Eagle Auto Mall Modified Crate race would become a clean sweep for sophomore driver Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck who set fast time and led all 30-laps for his 3rd career win. Rutkoski was quickest of the 15 who took time posting a lap of 12.627 beating out Terry Stiles of Rocky Point who turned in a lap of 12.767. When the race took the green flag Rutkoski quickly motored out front with veteran “Jumping” Jack Orlando making his way under Stiles at the start to come from third to second. Once to second Orlando was able to stay with Rutkoski for the remainder of the race but the nod would go to the 2017 Rookie of the Year in his Buzz Chew Chevrolet machine. Orlando of Calverton was second over the line in the Prototype Race Fabricating Chevy with Justin Brown of Manorville third in the Motorcycle Mike mount.
It was quite by accident that Vinny Delaney came to drive a Figure Eight car midway through the 2017 season but in just his 10th start the 2016 INEX Legend Race Car champion would become a winner in the daring division topping the 15-lap main event. At the outset Johnny Vullo and Ken Hyde Jr. went toe to toe for the race lead for the first four laps before Delaney who started third made his way to second passing Hyde. No wanting to waste any time Delaney soon made his way by Vullo of the race lead with Hyde coming back for second by Vullo soon thereafter. As the laps clicked off Vinny Delaney gave himself enough of a cushion in the Northeastern Office Equipment racer that he enjoyed until the conclusion of the race. Ken Hyde Jr. of Mastic Beach was runner-up in the Kings Park Contracting Chevy while Tom Ferrara of Patchogue raced his way from 7th to a third place finish in the Sayville South Bay Auto Cadillac.
After spending the off season repairing a wrecked race car Blunderbust driver Jim Laird Jr. of Riverhead rewarded his hard working team with a victory in the 20-lap feature event, his 5th career win. Early on Joshua Creel paced Russ Jansen for the race lead but Laird who started 5th in the race was on the move quickly passing Jansen for second on lap 2. After sizing up Creel for a lap Jim Laird Jr. made his move for the race lead again to the inside passing Creel low off turn two. Creel would remain second until lap 7 when he was overtaken by Jansen for second but one lap later Jack Handley Jr. who started from the 8th starting spot worked his way by Jansen. However Jim Laird Jr. steering the Poolsmith Inc. Caprice was long gone and would take the win. Jack Handley Jr. of Medford was able to cut into the big lead of the race winner but would have to settle for second in his Liccardi Builders Chevy. Russ Jansen of Medford was third in the Polar Bear Air entry.
“The Real Deal” Mark Stewart of Riverhead scored his second Super Pro Truck win of the season when he scored a clean sweep of their 30-lap feature event. After setting fast time of 13.364 in qualifying Stewart would out drag Dave Brigati of Calverton to turn one for the race lead. Brigati, the defending champion in the class was second quick in qualifying with a circuit of 13.527. Once out front there would be no stopping Stewart in his Flemington Furs Chevy with his effort also aided by a non-stop 30 lap race. The win was Mark’s 15th of his very young and budding career. Brigati in the Quest Machining & Fabricating truck was runner-up with Mike Albasini of Flushing third in his Hollis Court Collision Chevy.
Brandon Esposito of Farmingville would show the way in the 20-lap Mini Stock race earning his first win of the year. Russ Jansen raced out front at the throw of the green from his third starting spot and would pace the race for the first 3 laps. As the field exited the fourth turn to start the 4th lap Esposito who started 5th in the race ducked under Jansen to come away with the race lead. Once out front Brandon, the 2017 Mini 8 Enduro champion never looked back grabbing the win in his Versa Contracting racer. Russ Jansen was second in the JJJ Rindos machine with Paul Wojcik of Centereach third in the VDR Graphics entry.
Coming from an 11th place starting berth Joe Warren Jr. of Rocky Point would top the 40-lap Gut & Go Enduro. Warren is quickly becoming the driver to beat in all forms of Enduro racing at Riverhead and in this race he opened up a huge lead early on. However Christian Conklin who started the race 19th made his way to second and erased Warren’s advantage in the late stages of the event. However Warren would hold on for yet another victory while Conklin of Riverhead was second. Defending champion Kevin Augustine of Bay Shore completed the podium.
Paul Fox of Riverhead won one for “Uncle Don Don” Donnie Fox when he won the 15-lap School Bus Figure Eight race over a star studded field.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. John Fortin Jr. 2. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 3. David Schneider 4. Kyle Soper 5. Chris Young 6. Vinny Biondolillo 7. Tom Rogers Jr. 8. John Beatty Jr. 9. Roger Turbush 10. Brad Van Houten 11. Dave Brigati 12. Sal Accardi 13. John Fortin Sr. 14. John Baker 15. Tim Lento 16. Eric Zeh 17. Dylan Slepian 18. Howie Brode 19. CJ Lehmann
Late Models: 1. Chris Turbush 2. Kyle Soper 3. Jeremy McDermott 4. Ray Minieri 5. Kevin Metzger 6. Chris McGuire 7. Ed Cheslak 8. Darren McCabe 9. Charles Macwhinnie 10. Ryan Zukowski
Modified Crates: 1, Michael Rutkoski 2. Jack Orlando 3. Justin Brown 4. Mike Albasini 5. Jason Hansen 6. Peter Bertuccio 7. Dennis Krupski 8. Artie Pedersen III 9. AJ DeSantis 10. Michael Rommeney 11. Scott Pedersen 12. Chris Rogers 13. Owen Grennan 14. Cary Rogers 15. Terry Stiles
Figure Eights: 1. Vinny Delaney 2. Ken Hyde Jr. 3. Tom Ferrara 4. Gary Fritz Jr. 5. Scott Pedersen 6. Johnny Vullo 7. Eric Zeh 8. Bob Dalke 9. Tom Rogers Jr. 10. Rick Swanson
Blunderbusts: 1. Jim Laird Jr. 2. Jack Handley Jr. 3. Russ Jansen 4. Bill Wegmann Sr. 5. Tom Pickerell 6. Alyssa Paprocky 7. Tim Mulqueen 8. Cody Triola 9. Jarett Campbell 10. Brandon Hubbard 11. Rob Bader 12. Joshua Creel
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Mark Stewart 2. Dave Brigati 3. Mike Albasini 4. Lou Maestri 5. Eddie Schutze 6. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 7. Sean Glennon 8. Frank Dumicich Jr. 9. Tom Sullivan 10. Frank Dumicich Sr.
Mini Stocks: 1. Brandon Esposito 2. Russ jansen 3. Paul Wojcik 4. Mitch Pattern 5. Steve Fuller 6. Andrew Farnham 7. Ryan Warren 8. Tom Puccia 9. Tony Collingsworth 10. Preston Prydatko 11. Jamie Meyer 12. Heather Dugre
Gut & Go Enduro: 1. Joe Warren Jr. 2. Christian Conklin 3. Kevin Augustine 4. Brandon Esposito 5. CJ Zurkowski 6. Rayn Dupis 7. Justin Squires 8. Bryan Moore 9. Tom Pickerell 10. Joe Palmeri 11. Doug Tittle 12. Robert Savoy 13. Charlie Astacio 14. Brad Bess 15. Dimitra Pickerell 16. Will Andrews 17. Woot Lawrence 18. Tyler Bieler 19. Tony Collingsworth 20. Mike Benton 21. Scott Phillips 22. Steve Raynor 23. Eric Germuth 24. Brandon Patricek 25. Mark Mahler 26. Dylan Marzek 27. Fred Grover 28. John Palmeri 29. Dan Dimodugno 30. Alin Spiera 31. Kevin O’Sullivan 32. Kory Comiskey 33. Andrew Farnham 34. Steve Augustine 35. Steve Fuller 36. Dale Larsen 37. Sean Glennon 38. James O’Connell 39. Martin O’Connell
School Bus Figure Eights: Winner- Paul Fox
-Riverhead Raceway Press Release
-Photo credit: PitStopPitbull.com/Jeffrey Rogers