There is an old adage in short track racing that says you can’t win a race in the first few laps but that theory didn’t hold water this past Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway as Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. scored the 35-lap NASCAR Modified victory. The first five laps of the race found Preece fighting side by side for the lead with first Timmy Solomito and then Tom Rogers Jr. before edging out front.
As has become customary in past race qualifying Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead set fast time with a lap of 11.897 but would redraw third for the feature behind the front row of Timmy Solomito and Ryan Preece. At the throw of the green flag it would be Solomito and Preece jockeying nerf bar to nerf bar for the lead with a quick caution waving on lap 2 for Jason Agugliaro who came to a halt in the fourth turn with a flat.
Transponder scoring showed Preece riding the outside of Solomito as the race leader and then suddenly under yellow Solomito’s car came to a halt just past the start finish line. Unfortunately for Timmy as well as the fans his night was done with a distributor issue. That turn of events lined Tom Rogers Jr. who ran third for the first two laps alongside Preece for the restart with John Fortin Sr. now third.
When the green light winked back on Preece found himself in another side by side duel with Rogers for the lead with the fans looking on with approval. Rogers remained on the outside trying to out gun Preece off the corners but the race leader was having none of it. Then racing off turn 2 on lap 5 John Fortin saw an opening under Rogers which he quickly filled to take over the second position with rookie Kyle Soper soon thereafter making his way under Rogers for third. As the race wore on the battle for third between Soper and Rogers would remain the most intense for nearly the remainder of the race as Rogers, a three time winner in 2015, peppered Soper for the position.
As the laps clicked off Ryan Preece making only his second start of the season for Bill & Barbara Park in the East West Marine Chevy, was able to drive off after those early race challenges to claim not only the victory but also the track championship lead by one point over Tom Rogers Jr., 105-104. Preece who had made 4 previous Riverhead starts for his new WMT car owners Eddie & Connie Partridge joked after the win, “I hope I still have a ride after what Connie told me earlier today”. As to the early battles with Solomito and Rogers the winner reflected, “I don’t know what happened to Timmy and as for Tommy we just seem to be able to race each other really hard without going over that line. He is the man to beat here this year”.
John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville enjoyed his best outing of 2015 in the John’s Fuel Oil Chevy with a runner-up showing while Kyle Soper of Manorville continues to impress with a third place finish in the Touch Adjust Clip Chevy. Shawn Solomito of East Moriches and defending champion Howie Brode of East Islip completed the top five.
Jarrod Hayes of Calverton topped the 30-lap Late Model feature event and this win had to be extra sweet for the driver known as “J-Rod” after he lost a car last fall at the Thompson Motorsports Park and was forced to buy a new car out of that same New England area in the off season. Scott Kulesa topped the charts in qualifying with a lap of 12.479 with Hayes timing second and on the redraw they’d swap positions with Hayes starting on the pole.
When the green flag waved Hayes wasted little time moving out to the race lead with defending champion Mike Bologna quickly coming to second from the third starting spot. The duo would run single file for much of the remainder of the race but a late race caution for a Jack Orlando spin on lap 22 did make the final three laps a bit more interesting. When the green waved Hayes in an effort to back the field up behind him was a tick late on the gas, Bologna saw this and darted for a second to the inside. However Mike, well aware of the track rule that passing on single file restarts must be to the outside until the start/finish line, had to fall back in line. That would be enough for Jarrod Hayes in his Chuck Deon Race Engines Chevy to drive off to his 12th career Late Model victory. Mike Bologna of Melville was runner-up in the Russell H. Nill Roofing entry while Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead crossed the line third in the Statewide Roofing Chevy.
Over his long Charger career “Radiant” Ray Minieri of Bay Shore had to earn every bit of his 21 career wins coming into this Saturday’s 20-lap tilt and when the race was over this victory would be one where lady luck played a role. After “Rocking” Rich Wilson led the first lap of the race Cory Midgett made his way to the lead on lap 2 and looked strong in doing so. Midgett was settling in nicely as the leader of the race when the caution flag waved on lap 5 for a stalled Chris Turbush. During that yellow flag period just as the field was being given the command to go double file for the restart Midgett suddenly headed for the exit gate to the pits surrendering the race lead. Ray Minieri who made his way under Rich Wilson for second on lap 3 would now find himself the new race leader with Owen Grennan now running second. When the race went back to green Minieri was able to stay out front over the remaining distance to claim the win in the Hometown Taxi Chevy. After the win Ray noted “I’ve lost a few races having to pit while leading, I know how it feels”. Just prior to halfway defending champion Eric Zeh of Centereach motored his way to second where he’d finish in the S&P Carting Chevy while CJ Lehmann of Shirley drove his Your Floor Store Monte Carlo back to third after a one spot penalty for passing under the line earlier in the race.
“The Real Deal” Mark Stewart of Riverhead drove to victory in the 20-lap Super Pro Truck feature, his first win in the truck formerly driven by his owner “Dangerous” Dave Koenig. After a rocky start to 2015 Stewart found himself on the pole for the race and took full advantage when the race started taking the lead over Brian McElearney. With his nearest rival McElearney soon falling back into a fight for second with Mike Albasini, Stewart was able to pull away from the field as the race hit the halfway point. Albasini was able to make his way to second on lap 10 but the race leader had checked out on the field. Then a late race yellow flag waved on lap 17 and Stewart’s advantage was erased and Albasini was going to have one shot at his 10th career win. However when the green flag waved it was all Mark Stewart who drove the National Metal entry to his 9th career win. Mike Albasini of Flushing had to once again settle for second in the Gardner Specialty Auto Chevy while Dave Brigati of Calverton crossed the line third in the Outlaw Racing Dodge.
Over the off season Legend Race Car driver Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills replaced his older worn out car with a new machine which required much in the way of off season work, all of which he did while completing his sophomore year at Stony Brook University. Well all that hard work and dedication put forth Slepian who is majoring in Economics paid off as he won his first career 20-lap main event. Bryan Kelly started the race on the pole and the veteran driver who move out to the race lead with Vinny Delaney giving chase, while Slepian who started the race 5th was making his way towards the leaders. Just past the midway mark of the race is when business picked up with Slepian ducking under Delaney for second on lap 11. Just two laps later Dylan, who one week earlier lost the lead due to a lapped car made an inside pass of race leader Bryan Kelly to move out front. As was the case a week prior Slepian was once again faced with the task of working lapped traffic and this week he aced that effort driving his Hurricane Grill & Wings of Manorville machine to that thrilling first career victory. Vinny Delaney of Holtsville was runner-up in the Cleary’s By The Water racer while Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches made some late race moves to claim third in the Thriftway Auto Body machine.
“Mad” Mike Smith of Kings Park topped the 8-Cylinder “Bone Stock” Demolition Derby in his Long Island Truck & Equipment Repair entry. “Pistol” Pete Mikos of Lake Ronkonkoma was voted Judge’s Choice with Phil Ebert of Hauppauge named Fan’s Choice.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. Ryan Preece 2. John Fortin Sr. 3. Kyle Soper 4. Shawn
Solomito 5. Howie Brode 6. Dave Sapienza 7. Vinny Biondolillo 9. Ken Darch
10. Jerry Solomito Jr. 11. Tom Rogers Jr. 12. Dave Brigati 13. Timmy
Solomito 14. Kyle Soper 15. Amber Fortin
Late Models: 1. Jarrod Hayes 2. Mike Bologna 3. Jeremy McDermott 4. Chris
LaSpisa 5. Shawn Patrick 6. Chris Lescenski 7. Kevin Metzger 8. Scott
Kulesa 9. John Baker 10. Kyle Harvell 11. Richie Davidowitz 12. Jack
Orlando 13. Kaitlyn Schober 14. Roger Oxee
Chargers: 1. Ray Minieri 2. Eric Zeh 3. CJ Lehmann 4. Owen Grennan 5. Rob
McCormick 6. Daryn Miller 7. John Baker 8. Rich Wilson 9. Jason Hansen 10.
Chris Turbush 11. Steve Mastro 12. Greg Immerman 13. Cory Midgett 14.
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Mark Stewart 2. Mike Albasini 3. Dave Brigati 4. Dan
Turbush 5. Brian McElearney 6. Kevin Scharfenberg 7. Lou Maestri 8. Jerry
Giordano Jr. 9. Amanda Anderson 10. Roger Turbush 11. Jimmy Rennick Jr.
Legend Race Cars: 1. Dylan Slepian 2. Vinny Delaney 3. Richie Davidowitz
4. Bryan Kelly 5. Kyle Ellwood 6. Artie Pedersen III 7. Shawn Wanat 8.
Eric Hersey 9. Chris Rogers 10. Mike Van Houten Jr. 11. Ed Cheslak 12.
George Tomko Jr. 13. Greg Harris 14. Allan Pedersen 15. Kurt Krieger 16.
Steve Hersey 17. Wally Davidowitz 18. Eric Henschel 19. Jerry Curran 20.
Bill Fitzgerald 21. Jeff Ottos Jr. 22. Devin O’Connell 23. Ray Fitzgerald
24. Mike Rutkoski 25. John Beatty Jr. DQ-Kevin Nowak
-Riverhead Raceway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo