The Tour-Type Modified feature at Turkey Derby XLI was a race chalk full of the biggest names in Modified racing with several NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and RoC Modified champions in the field, but it was a track regular who survived the wild 150-lap feature to score the win.
Eric Mauriello, who hails from Howell, NJ, about 15 minutes west of Wall Stadium Speedway, took the lead for the first time with 50 laps to go and prevailed in the later stages of the race to score his first career Tour-Type Modified Turkey Derby win.
“It’s absolutely unreal,” said Mauriello. “I can’t believe that just happened. It’s probably not going to set in for a while. When it does it’s going to be great.”
Dave Sapienza won the pole for the race earlier in the day led the first 98 laps before heading to pit road under caution and surrendering the lead to Mauriello. Mauriello would end up being passed by Bowman Gray Stadium champion Danny Bohn, but he took the lead back a few laps later and was able to stay in the top spot all the way to the checkered flag.
But Mauriello didn’t have an easy road to victory after taking the lead. He had Les Hinckley all over his back bumper and had to hold off multiple challenges on restarts during the closing stages of the race. He also had to start thinking about the hard-charging Jimmy Blewett, who was flying through the field after his pit stop.
Mauriello and Hinckley caught lapped traffic with about seven laps to go and that allowed Blewett to close in on Hinckley’s back bumper. His charge through the field was so fast that just about everybody in attendance was expecting him to be able to get by Hinckley and make a late move on Mauriello, but that wasn’t the case.
After the leaders cleared the lapped traffic, Blewett lost about a car length to Hinckley and had to settle for third.
Hinckley made one final charge on Mauriello but it wasn’t enough as Mauriello was able to hold him off and score the win.
Mauriello said that at no point during the closing laps was he worried about either driver behind him.
“They told me Jimmy was charging through,” said Mauriello. “And I knew Hinckley would be fast, but he’s a clean driver.”
Hinckley said he was satisfied with a second-place finish after the year he has had on and off the track.
“This is only the fourth time we’ve raced, but we’ve had a terrible year racing and personally,” said Hinckley. “We had a lot of issues health-wise with my son. I’m happy it’s in one piece and I’m happy that we finished second cleanly to a good group of guys in front of us. Yes I want to win and yeah I’m a little disappointed about that. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t win, as you always are when you don’t win, but I’m not upset with second.”
The SK/Wall Modified race took place at the end of the evening and it was Jimmy Blewett who took the win after a podium finish earlier in the day in the Tour-Type Modified feature. Blewett ran up front most of the race right on the back bumper of polesitter Matt Hirschman.
Hirschman led most of the race before he spun in turn one on lap 89 after contact from Zane Zeiner. It was deemed a racing incident and Zeiner moved into the lead, while Blewett jumped into second.
Blewett and Zeiner raced hard for the lead with Blewett on the outside before he and Zeiner got together entering turn three. Zeiner took a wider arc into turn three and made contact with Blewett. Zeiner got hooked and sent into the wall.
The incident between the two leaders was deemed by race officials to be a racing incident, and after the race Zeiner himself admitted that he was the driver at fault.
Blewett was able to hold off Jonathan Mandato over the course of the final 10 laps and went on to score his 15th overall Turkey Derby win.
“It’s special every single time,” said Blewett. “Like I said to my spotter, Freddie Kraft, last night at dinner, we made a pact that even if we’re both 50 years old, as long as I can race and he can spot we are going to come here to try to win a race.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Regional Editor (Long Island, CT and NJ) -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Feature Photo Credit: Speed51.com(powered by 51's Third Turn)
| 1||2||14||Eric Mauriello||150|
| 2||6||06||Les Hinckley, III||150|
| 3||4||7ny||Jimmy Blewett||150|
| 4||16||1||Anthony Sesely||150|
| 5||17||20||Doug Coby||150|
| 6||23||54||Shaun Carrig||150|
| 7||13||0||Andrew Krause||150|
| 8||9||98||Ryan Preece||150|
| 9||8||14||John Beatty, Jr.||150|
| 10||3||65||Danny Bohn||150|
| 11||19||15||Timmy Solomito||150|
| 12||15||66||Shawna Ingraham||150|
| 13||24||51||Justin Gumley||149|
| 14||10||63||Ronnie Silk||149|
| 15||21||99||Jamie Tomaino||149|
| 16||26||95M||John Markovic||143|
| 17||25||42||Woody Pitkat||130|
| 18||18||33||Jason Treat||128|
| 19||22||17||Kyle Ellwood||109|
| 20||7||44||Tim Arre||105|
| 21||1||36||Dave Sapienza||95|
| 22||5||60||Matt Hirschman||90|
| 23||20||92||Anthony Nocella||46|
| 24||12||73||Andy Jankowiak||7|
| 25||11||0||Zane Zeiner||7|
| 26||14||19||Billy Pauch, Jr.||7|