After a frustrating afternoon of fighting a misfire in his Wayne Anderson owned NASCAR Modified, Shawn Solomito of Center Moriches and his team rebounded in the 40-lap main event on Grand Opening Night at Riverhead Raceway to claim the victory on the strength of a late race pass of Tom Rogers Jr. New track owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz along with their NASCAR Whelen All American Series officials moved the seven division program along with threatening weather on the horizon and the features were completed in under three hours.
Heat races were used to qualify all divisions with Shawn Solomito and Howie Brode winning the two NASCAR Modified qualifiers earning them the front row for the main event. At the throw of the green Solomito and Brode fired off turn four and ran side by side for the first lap but the driver with the best start turned out to be Tom Rogers Jr. who quickly worked his was under Brode for second going into the first corner. Rogers momentum carried him under Solomito as well heading into the third turn allowing him to take the race lead on lap 2.
Solomito would then spend the next 29 laps shadowing Rogers staying glued to the rear spoiler of the leader appearing to have the better car. Biding his time Shawn, the 2012 NASCAR Modified champion at Riverhead saw an opening under Rogers as the duo exited the fourth corner on lap 29 and by the time they raced into the first turn to start the 30th lap Shawn indeed reclaimed the lead. Once out front for good Solomito drove away to a comfortable margin of victory.
“We had a terrible misfire in practice and we were all pulling our hair out” Shawn admitted afterwards, “but we kept after it and discovered it was a valve train issue we were able to address and the hard work paid off” Shawn also noted, “We have to thank the Corwin family of Eastport Feeds, they make all of this possible for us and of course Wayne and Joette Anderson, there is just something special about winning here for Wayne”
Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead was runner-up and afterwards discovered a broken rear suspension on his Jessup Landscaping Chevy with Howie Brode third in the Peter Clark Motorsports entry. Dave Brigati of Calverton and Kyle Soper of Manorville rounded out the top five.
The 25-lap late Model feature would turn out to be a classic between Scott Kulesa and Roger Oxee with the two former champions racing side by side for the better part of the first 17-laps. In the end however it would be Charger transplant Chris Turbush of Wading River who’d sit in victory lane at the conclusion of the contest. Right from the outset the Kulesa and Oxee tussle took center stage with Scott running the inside and Roger hanging it out upstairs for the first ten laps. The on lap 11 Kulesa was able to inch out front but a caution flag on lap 14 would put the dueling duo side by side once again. This time however on lap 17 exiting the fourth turn they got too close and made contact sending both into a spin drawing a yellow flag. Chris Turbush had a birds eye view of the incident and he quickly found himself the new race leader. When the race resumed Chris wheeling the Marcello Masonry Chevy remained out front over the final eight laps to claim the win, his first ever in the class. “Radiant” Ray Minieri of Bay Shore rebounded from a trip to the rear of the field early in the race to claim runner-up money in the Sunrise Chiropractic Chevy while Eriz Zeh of Selden crossed the line third in the Corwith’s Auto Body machine.
Dave Brigati of Calverton made history Saturday night when he won the first ever Riverhead Modified Crate feature event in a 20-lap affair. Brigati lined up on the outside pole alongside 2015 Legend Race Car champion Dylan Slepian and when the race went green Dave drove his car deep into the first corner to take the race lead. Slepian was able to keep pace with Brigati over the entire distance and at time took a look both to the inside and outside hoping to make a pass. However in the end Dave Brigati with plenty of open wheel racing under his belt would remain out front to post the victory in the JDL Environmental Chevy. Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills was runner-up in his Hurricane Grill & Wings of Manorville entry with CJ Lehmann of Shirley crossing the line third in the Baldwin Automotive racer. CJ’s journey to the podium finish was not an easy one as the team had to swap crate motors after practice with team sponsor and Sprint Cup team owner Tom Baldwin Jr. even stopping by to lend moral support.
There would not be a more emotional win on Grand Opening Night than the one Ken Hyde Jr. of Mastic Beach scored in the 15-lap Figure Eight main event. It was Ken’s first trip to the winners circle since the sudden passing of his Dad, Ken Hyde Sr. Early on Scott Pedersen and Tom Ferrara ran first and second but both would have their run for the win end suddenly. Lap 7 saw Ferrara spinning from second after contact from behind and one lap later a lapped car ruined race leaders Pedersen’s night as he spun after contact from the back marker. On the 8th lap restart Roger Maynor and Ken Hyde lined-up side by side with Hyde getting the measure of the all time leading winner Maynor when the green light winked back on. Once out front Ken Hyde Jr. who had gone without a win since his fathers passing was not going to be denied taking the checker flag in the Kings Park Contracting racer. Roger Maynor of Bay Shore was runner-up in the Barrasso & Sons Mason Supplies Ford with Mike Mujsce Sr. of Quogue third in the Mike’s Auto Service mount.
Make it four opening day wins in a row in the Blunderbust ranks for Jack Handley Jr. of Medford who again topped their 20-lap lid lifter. By virtue of their respective heat race wins Eric Zeh and Handley made up the front row of the feature and they would also wage a classic side by side battle for the race lead. Handley by a mere inches would take the race lead on lap one on the outside with Zeh keeping the pressure on him from the inside. The tandem ran nearly the entire first half of the race door handle to door handle before Handley was able to pull away. Zeh not only found himself looking at the back bumper of race leader Handley but also under attack for second late in the race from Tom Puccia Jr. With Zeh and Puccia racing for second that allowed Jack Handley Jr. to claim his fourth straight opening night win in his Liccardi Builders Chevy. Tom Puccia of Shirley indeed made a late race pass with just over a lap remaining to claim second in the Ferrandino & Sons Contracting entry while Eric Zeh of Selden placed third in the Westhamton Auto Salvage Cadillac.
It might have taken a couple of years to earn his 10th career Super Pro Truck win but a sweet win it would indeed turn out to be for “The King of Queens” Mike Albasini of Flushing. The 20-lap main event would be rough and tumble early on but up front Lou Maestri and Albasini raced side by side for the race lead for the first three laps before the yellow waved for an incident. On the ensuing restart Albasini was able to get the better of Maestri to the outside and race his way into the lead on lap 4. With the milestone victory in sight Mike Albasini remained out front over the remaining laps to post the win in his Hollis Court Collision Chevy. In celebration of his win Mike promised to buy 66 Miller Lite brews at the new turn three Beer Garden to mark the occasion. Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach raced his was into second on lap 8 as well where he would finish in the Sonny’s Collision Center racer with defending champion Lou Maestri of Deer park third in the Star Car Repair Center truck.
“Big Money” Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches topped the 20-lap INEX Legend Race Car feature besting a stellar 29-car starting field. Bryan Kelly showed the way over the first 6 laps of the tilt before he was overtaken by Richie Davidowitz with an inside pass entering the first turn on lap 7. Once out front Davidowitz was able to get away from the pack somewhat thanks in part to a battle for second between Kelly and John Beatty Jr. that lasted some six laps. Beatty got by Kelly for the position on lap 14 and then tried to make a run at the race leader. However it would be Richie Davidowitz in the Thriftway Auto Body racer posting the win with John Beatty Jr. of Merrick runner-up in the D&D Auto Body entry. Brad Van Houten of Wading River turned in the drive of the night racing his way from 28th to a third place finish in the Riverhead Building Supply mount.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. Shawn Solomito 2. Tom Rogers Jr. 3. Howie Brode 4. Dave Brigati 5. Kyle Soper 6. Vinny Biondolillo 7. Ken Darch 8. Dave Schneider 9. John Fortin Jr. 10. John Fortin Sr. 11. Chuck Steuer 12. Cory Midgett 13. John Baker Heat winners- Shawn Solomito, Howie Brode
Late Models: 1. Chris Turbush 2. Ray Minieri 3. Eric Zeh 4. David Roys 5. Chris Lescenski 6. Kevin Metzger 8. Roger Oxee 9. Daryn Miller 10. Mike Bologna 11. Charlie Macwhinning 12. Shawn Patrick 13. Steve Mastro 14. Peter Eriksen Jr. 15. Scott Kulesa 16. Chris McGuire 17. Jack Orlando 18. Kyle Ellwood 19. Brandon Turbush 20. Kyle Soper Heat winners- Scott Kulesa, Roger Oxee & Peter Eriksen
Rivehead Modified Crates: 1. Dave Brigati 2. Dylan Slepian 3. CJ Lehmann 4. Dillon Steuer 5. Jason Hanson 6. Dennis Krupski 7. Peter Bertuccio 8. Terry Stiles Heat winner- Dylan Slepian
Figure Eights: 1. Ken Hyde Jr. 2. Roger Maynor 3. Mike Mujsce Sr. 4. Gary Fritz Jr. 5. Tom Ferrara 6. Chris Elixson 7. Scott Pedersen 8. Mike Mujsce Jr. 9. Bob Dalke 10. Artie Pedersen III 11. Brian Hansen 12. Tom Kraft Jr. DQ-Tom Rogers Jr. Heat winners- Tom Ferrara & Scott Pedersen
Blunderbusts: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Tom Puccia 3. Eric Zeh 4. Tom Sullivan 5. Tim Mulqueen 6. Jim Laird 7. Bill Wegmann Sr. 8. Tom Pickerell 9. Chris Busick 10. Bill Wegmann Jr. 11. Dennis Scott 12. Rob Bader 13. Derek Wegman 14. Cassandra Denis 15. Alyssa Paprocky Heat winners- Eric Zeh & Jack Handley Jr.
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Mike Albasini 2. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 3. Lou Maestri 4. Owen Grennan 5. Rob McCormick 6. Frank Dumicich Sr. 7. Frank Dumicich Jr. 8. Dave Brigati 9. Kevin Scharfenberg 10. Amanda Anderson 11. Roger Turbush 12. Sean Glennon 13. Rich Campo Heat winners- Lou Maesti & Frank Dumicich Sr.
Legend Race Cars: 1. Richie Davidowitz 2. John Beatty Jr. 3. Brad Van Houten 4. Bryan Kelly 5. Ray Fitzgerald 6. Vinny Delaney 7. Dylan Slepian 8. Michael Rutkowski 9. George Tomko Jr. 10. Eric Hersey 11. Greg Harris 12. Chris Rogers 13. Kevin Nowak 14. Jim Sylvester 15. Kyle Ellwood 16. Jerry Curran 17. Silas Hiscock 18. Anthony Marsh 19. Johnnie Gloor 20. Mike Van Houten 21. Jeff Otto Jr. 22. Will Hiscock 23. Kyle Kwansa 24. Kenny Southard 25. Allan Pedersen 26. Joe Warren 27. Ed Cheslak 28. Steve DeFriest 29. Bill Fitzgerald Heat winners- Bryan Kelly, Greg Harris & Richie Davidowitz
-Riverhead Raceway Press Release. Photo Credit: SS Motorsports Facebook