It was Monster Truck Saturday at Riverhead Raceway with a large crowd on hand at the historic quarter mile oval on a warm & pleasant evening. In the headlining 50-lap Late Model feature event Chris Turbush of Wading River rewarded his hard working team who burnt the midnight oil during the week to repair a heavily damaged car by making a last lap pass of Kyle Soper of Manorville to claim the win. Rookie driver Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck scored his first career Eagle Auto Mall Modified Crate victory when he topped their non stop 30-lap main event.
Qualifying found Late Model championship leader Kyke Soper laying down the fastest lap at 12.827 edging out defending champion Jeremy McDermott who turned in a lap of 12.842. The top 4 would redraw for the race with McDermott picking the pole while Roger Oxee drew the outside of the front row with Soper and Chris Turbush making up the second row. When the race got underway McDermott took advantage of his pole position to race to the early lead with Roger Oxee in tow. The class which had a rough and tumble race the week prior clicked off a smooth race Saturday. Oxee seeking his 65th career win would chase McDermott until a 40th lap double file restart that would not only see a change for second but also be the start of several position changes in the top 4. Chris Turbush would make his way under Oxee for second when the field started the 41st lap and he set sail for leader McDermott. The duo went toe to toe for the lead and as they raced hard Kyle Soper was able to make an inside pass of both leaders on lap 45 to claim the top spot with Turbush moving by McDermott for what would new be second.
The second he got to second Turbush went right to work on Soper as they ran nose to tail with less that five laps remaining. Turbush was working the inside lane as they raced off the corner with the race coming down to the white flag lap. After taking the one to go signal Turbush started his inside pass of Soper off turn two as the tandem ran door handle to door handle. Entering the third turn Turbush muscled his way under Soper and it would be a drag race off turn four to the checkers. Chris Tubush steering his East End Building Chevy would collect his 6th career Late Model win in a thriller. “What a team I have” boasted Turbush after the hard earned win, “we’ve had to rebuild this car twice since opening night and my guys and especially Bootsy never say die, they just keep digging”.
Kyle Soper crossed the line second but was moved back to last of the lead laps cars (6th) for after race contact with Turbush. That turn of events moved Kevin Metzger of Massapequa to second his best effort of 2017 in the Complete Well & Pump Chevy with Eric Zeh of Selden coming home third in the Angela’s House racer. Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead and Scott Kulesa of Georgetown, Ma. completed the top five.
After honing his racing skills in the competitive INEX Legend Race Car division Michael Rutkoski and his grandfather & car owner Buzz Chew decided the next step for Michael would be the Eagle Auto Mall Modified Crate class and Buzz was all in purchasing an all new Troyer Engineering built car for his grandson. Saturday that decision paid dividends as Michael Rutkoski led from green to checker for his first career win. Defending champion Dave Brigati broke his own track record he set on June 24th of this year when he toured the track at 12.615 with Dylan Slepian second quick with a time of 12.660. The top six from time would redraw with Rutkoski pulling the #1 pill with Dennis Krupski drawing the outside pole.
When the green flag waved Rutkoski broke our front with Dave Brigati coming from his third place starting berth under Krupski for second. For the remainder of the race Brigati the leading winner in the Crate Mods with 7 victories between 2016 and this season would stay right in the tire tracks of the freshman driver Rutkoski. For the race leader even though there were no caution flags during the race with a driver of Brigati’s caliber filling his mirror Michael might have thought the laps were clicking off slowly. As the race hit it’s second half Rutkoski in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet machine was hitting his marks and if Brigati was going to get by him it would have to be the the outside as the leader did a masterful job of protecting the inside lane.
At the finish it was the thrill of a first career win for Michael Rutkoski as his grandfather, long time track pace car sponsor Buzz Chew & their family looked on with pride. Dave Brigati of Calverton put the pressure on the young driver but had to be content with runner-up money in the Quest Machining & Fabricating Chevy while CJ Lehmann of Center Moriches was third in the IGA Food markets entry.
Tom Rogers Jr. scored his second consecutive Figure Eight win his third overall this season as well the 29th of his career tying him with Tom Kraft for 4th on the all time win list. Rookie talent Greg Harris broke to the early race lead at the throw of the green with Charles Macwhiinie in tow for the first lap before a quick yellow came out. On the restart Tom Rogers Jr, who started the race from 8th quickly made his way to second with Harris still leading the contest until a lap 3 yellow set up another double file restart. On that restart Tom Rogers Jr. in his Bays Bar & Grill coupe made his way to the race lead with Tom Ferrara racing his way to second. For the remainder of the race Ferrara would fill the rearview mirror of Rogers but was never able to mount a serious bid for the lead. When the race concluded championship leader Tom Rogers Jr. padded his point lead over Tom Ferrara of Patchogue who was second in the Extreme Auto Body Cadillac. Early leader Greg Harris of Riverhead was third in the SGS Stone Works machine of Ken Hyde Jr.
In the 20-ap Blunderbust feature event popular Tom Sullivan of Massapequa seemingly had won his first race of the season but post race inspection would find his car being too low and he was moved to last in the running order. That turn of events moved “The Wildchild” Tommy Walkowiak of Ridge into victory lane in his Blaze Fuel Oil Caprice for the 62nd time in his illustrious career. Walkowiak moved by Bill Wegmann Sr. on lap 2 for second with an inside pass entering the third turn which would prove to be the winning pass of the race. Championship leader Tom Pickerell of Huntington was second in the Sequel Group Chevy while Max Handley of Medford was third in the Liccardi Builders Caprice in just his third start of his career.
On the strength of a late race pass Jack Handley Jr. of Medford scored his first Super Pro Truck win of 2017 in their 20-lap feature. Sophomore driver Sean Glennon led the way for the first lap of the race before he was passed by Jimmy Rennick Jr. on lap 2. Glennon chased Rennick until the 4th circuit when he was passed by Lou Maestri who’d run second until lap 9 before he was overtaken by Owen Grennan. Meanwhile Handley who started the race 7th was making his way towards the front of the pack and on the 18th lap made his way by Grennan for second. Once he got to leader Rennick’s rear deck lid Handley, the 2016 Blunderbust champion wasted no time in making a bid for the race lead. With the laps winding down Jack ducked inside of Jimmy to take the lead for good in the Hollis Court Collision Chevy driving off in his Mike Albasini owned truck. Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach had his best run of the year coming within laps of his first career win before settling for second in the Metropolitan Recycling Chevy. Early leader Sean Glennon of Northport took home third place money in the Rib’s Deli machine.
Brian Brown of Baiting Hollow topped the 30-lap Street Stock event for his first career win. Brandon Hubbard zipped out to the early race lead and the second generation driver would lead the first five laps before disaster struck as the field started the 6th lap. Heading into the first turn Hubbard’s throttle hung wide open and the driver known as “Hubcap” was along for the ride hitting the wall hard. Fortunately Brandon was okay but his Royalty Tattoo Chevy was totaled. When the race resumed Brian Brown was the new race leader with Kyle Curtis running second until the 11th lap when he was passed by veteran driver Rhett Fogg. The challenger was able to stay in the leaders tire tracks but that be as good as it would get as Brian Brown drove the Staria Automotive Chevy to victory lane. Rhett Fogg if Westhampton was second in his McBetts Racing Engines Chevy with Anthony Pizzo of Lake Ronkonkoma third in the Fleming’s Landscape Design Caprice.
Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge would win the 40-lap Gut & Go Enduro after starting 17th in the 47 car field. Bryan Kelly showed the way at the throw of the green leading the first 19 laps of the contest before Warren came calling with an inside pass of Kelly racing into the first turn. As per usual once in the lead Joe Warren Jr. put the hammer down leading the reminder of the race. As his customarily does when he wins Warren dedicated the win to ‘Lil Jason Trinca and his mom Keri. The performance of the race belonged to runner-up Brandon Esposito of Farmingville who started the race in the 42nd position in his Hilltop Bagel Café racer. Christian Conklin of Flanders was third.
Late Models: 1. Chris Turbush 2. Kevin Metzger 3. Eric Zeh 4. Jeremy McDermott 5. Scott Kulesa 6. Kyke Soper 7. Shawn Patrick 8. Roger Oxee 9. Ray Minieri 10. Steve Mastro Jr.
Crate Modifieds: 1. Michael Rutkoski 2. Dave Brigati 3. CJ Lehmann 4. Dylan Slepain 5. Peter Bertuccio 6. Justin Brown 7. Kurt Kreiger 8. Michael Rommeney 9. AJ DeSantis 10. Tony Vecchio 11. Cary Rogers 12. Jack Orlando 13. Dennis Krupski
Figure Eights: 1. Tom Rogers Jr. 2. Tom Ferrara 3. Greg Harris 4. Scott Pedersen 5. Gary Fritz Jr. 6. Charles Macwhinne 7. Eric Zeh 8. Tom Kraft Jr. 9. Brian Hansen 10. Bob Dalke
Blunderbusts: 1. Tommy Walkowiak 2, Tom Pickerell 3. Max Handley 4. Eric Zeh 5. Jim Laird 6. Wayne Meyer 7. Derek Wegmann 8. Bill Wegmann Sr. 9. Tom Puccia 10. Alyssa Paprocky 11. Kenny King 12. Tim Mulqueen 13. Tom Sullivan DNS Bobby Ehrle
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Jimmy Rennick 3. Sean Glennon 4. Owen Grennan 5. Dave Brigati 6. Roger Turbush 7. Eddie Schutze 8. Lou Maestri 9. Mike Albasini
Street Stocks: 1. Brian Brown 2. Rhett Fogg 3. Anthony Pizzo 4. Greg Harris 5. Greg Zaleski 6. Brian McCormack 7. Chris Lescenski 8. Glenn Simonin 9. Logan Fogg 10. Kyle Curtis 11. Sal Sinatro 12. Joe Boccia 13. Gerard Lawrence 14. Brandon Hubbard
Gut & Go Enduro: 1. Joe Warren Jr. 2. Brandon Esposito 3. Christian Conklin 4. Mitch Pattern 5. Woot Lawrence 6. AJ DeSantis 7. Tom Pickerell 8. Mike Farrell 9. Tony Collingsworth 10,. Kevin Augustine 11. Bryan Moore 12. Ryan Warren 13. Ryan Dupuis 14. James Johnson 15. Kevin Rommeney 16. Don Laskey 17. John Palmeri 18. Dan Dimodungo 19. Mitch Halfern 20. Eric Germuth 21. Brad Bess 22. John Marino 23. Drew Fohrkolb 24 Rob Dugre 25. Doug Tittle 26 Rob Henninger 27. Scott Phillips 28. CJ Zukowski 29. Alyssa Paprocky 30. Bryan Kelly 31. Charles Astacio 32. Corey Beverly 33. Dan Augustine 34. Kris Dane 35. Mitch Rippe 36. Peter Barlotta 37. Joe Palmeri 38. Angela Bowman 39. Anthony Rennick 40. Dimitra Pickerell 41. George Astacio 42. Preston Prydatko 43. Michael Schlie 44. Joey Palmeri 45. James Volmer 46. Robert Savoy 47. Joseph Gaimo
Riverhead Raceway Press Release. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Rogers