With the Joe Ambrose owned NASCAR Modified Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead normally drives at Riverhead Raceway on the sidelines Tom strapped into his family owned car for the second week in a row Saturday night promptly steering the car to victory in the annual Baldwin Evans & Jarzombek 77. The victory was the 45th of Tom’s career as he closes in on Jim Malone Sr. (50) for second on the all time win list at the track.
Prior to the feature racing Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. of Levittown a 22 time NASCAR Modified winner at Riverhead along with former three time Figure Eight champion Tom Kraft of Mastic Beach who won 29 times in his driving career and Danny McNamara of Water Mill the leading all time INEX Legend Race Car winner were all inducted onto the Cromarty Wall of Champions. Track owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz debuted a new Cromarty Wall of Champions housed at the turn three entrance gate for all to enjoy.
15-year old Dillon Steuer of Bohemia set the standard in qualifying with a lap of 11.905 with defending champion Shawn Solomito of enter Moriches second at 11.950. In the redraw among the top six Chris Young would pick the pole while Steuer the outside pole. At the throw of the green to start the 77 it would be Young motoring out front with Steuer tucking into second and Shawn Solomito who started fourth settling into third. Solomito on lap 4 made his way by Steuer for second and just three laps later was able to work his way by Young for the lead on lap 7. Solomito once to the lead starting to get away from Steuer who himself completed a pass of Young for second on lap 8. Steuer would soon be entrenched in a fight for second a third of the way through the race with Tom Rogers Jr who started the contest in 6th.
After testing Steuer for several laps Rogers was able to slip by the teenage sensation on lap 34. Rogers then quickly turned his attention on catching race leader Solomito who was seeking his third win of 2017. Once he got to the back bumper of race leader Solomito little time was wasted by Rogers making a bid for the top spot as he raced his way under Shawn entering the third turn on lap 48. Just laps later Solomito’s race would end with a spin off turn two with his team pointing to a broken wheel as the culprit. A highly motivated Eddie Brunnhoelzl III made his way to second on lap 53 and for a spell seemed poised to make a run at Rogers for the win. However as the race hit it’s final stage Brunnhoelzl would actually try to fend off John Fortin Sr. for second allowing Rogers to pull away. Fortin was able to get by Brunnhoelzl for second with five laps remaining in the race.
After taking the checker flags and being presented the prestigious Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek trophy by Tom Baldwin III the race winner reflected on the past two weeks of the season, “we wish Joe (Ambrose) was here with us for this and hopefully we’ll do some racing again later this year. I wasn’t happy with our family car last week so during the week I threw a bunch of shock and spring changes at it”. Back driving in a car he and his family fund Tom admitted racing life is different for he and his team, “we’re going race by race with the purse money we earn and some great sponsors like SGS Stone Works & Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm hopefully we can finish out the year strong”.
John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville the 2016 winner of the 77 was runner-up in his John’s Tree Removal Chevy while Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown crossed the line a solid third in the JTEC Electrical Contractors Chevy with many family members and friends watching on this special night. Brendon Bock of Franklin Square and Dave Brigati of Calverton completed the top five.
The 25-lap Late Model feature event was a caution marred affair with Eric Zeh of Selden rising above all that went on behind him to score his second win of 2017 in the Angela’s House Chevy. Ray Minieri paced Shawn Patrick when the race got underway but the first of many yellows waved on lap 2 setting up a double file restart. When the race resumed Minieri stayed out front with Eric Zeh sliding under Shawn Patrick for second as the field started the third circuit. One lap later Zeh moved his car to the outside to work his way by Minieri for the race lead. Minieri ran second until lap 6 when he was overtaken by Ken Matlach who in turn two laps later was passed for the position by defending champion Jeremy McDermott on lap 8. While McDermott was able to stay in Zeh’s tire tracks he’d never get close enough to make a bid for the lead allowing Eriz Zeh to take down the win. Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead was runner-up in the JDP Mechanical entry while championship leader Kyle Soper of Manorville was third in the Eastport Feeds Pontiac.
Jim Laird of Riverhead scored his first Blunderbust win of the season when he topped their 20-lap main event in his My Country 96.1 FM Caprice. Popular Tom Sullivan broke out to the early race lead with Tommy Walkowiak tucking into second. Walkowiak, the all time leading winner in the class with 61 wins was able to make his way by Sullivan for the lead on lap 8 with an inside pass exiting the fourth turn moving Sullivan to second. The car on the march belonged to Jim Laird who made his way from a 6th starting position to third and with Walkowiak & Sullivan dicing for the lead on lap 11 Laird made a bold move to pass the top two cars in one clean sweeping move. Walkowiak ran second until lap 15 when he was passed by Tom Pickerell to the inside in turn two. The only hope Pickerell would have at making a run at Laird would be for a late race yellow to bunch up the field and low and behold that yellow waved after the 16th lap was completed. With 20-time winner Pickerell lined-up to his right Laird would need to have the restart of his young career and indeed he did as he kept the lead fending off the multi-time track champion. Tom Pickerell of Huntington was runner-up in the Makely Industries Chevy while Eric Zeh of Selden was third in the Westhampton Auto Salvage Cadillac.
Brendon Bock of Franklin Square is on fire winning his third straight INEX Legend Race Car 20-lap main event. Pole sitter Ed Cheslak leaped out front at the throw of the green with Eric Hersey giving chase. Lap 4 saw Hersey dive under Cheslak for the lead entering the first turn moving the early leader back to second. tested tough veteran Kevin Nowak who started the raced from 7th flexed his muscles prior to the halfway point of the tilt racing by Cheslak for second on lap 7. However Brendon Bock is on a tear and after starting 9th on the gird Bock as the field received the halfway signal moved to second to the outside of Nowak. With the momentum he built up to pass Nowak he was able tot sustain that forward motion as he race by Hersey for the race lead to the outside on lap 11. Once out front Bock in the Jim Sylvester owned Oval Speed machine never looked back earning his 7th career win in the class. Kevin Nowak of Medford in his self funded racer was runner-up while championship leader John Beatty Jr. of Merrick crossed the line third in the Giella Electric mount.
Could be the Long Island Vintage Auto Racing Series group might put a bounty on former five time NASCAR Modified champion Don Howe of Water Mill who is now three for three on the season with LIVARS. Mark Miller did a great job leading the way in his Tony Hirschmann tribute car before yielding to Don Howe just prior to the halfway mark of the 20-lap race. Once out front Howe steering the Carl Zeh Auto repair Cavalier stayed out front for the win. Jim Kelly of East Moriches was third in the East End RV Pontiac while Frank Saladino of Huntington was third in his Richie Evans Rusty Nail Special tribute coupe.
Gene Burbol of Brookhaven crossed the line first in the 40-lap Truck Enduro but in post race tech inspection would lose that win for an unapproved exhaust. It was Gene’s contention his exhaust pipe broke during the race in which he took the lead on lap 13. However the track officials deemed the rule is a rule and Burbol was stripped of the victory and moved to last place. Championship leader Don Nelson Jr. of Rocky Point who finished second was declared the race winner in his Abner Tree Experts Chevy. Hank Hallock of Riverhead was second in the Westhampton Auto Salvage Chevy while Bobby Pease of Medford was third in his Fit Spot Gym entry.
Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77: 1. Tom Rogers Jr. 2. John Fortin Sr. 3. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 4. Brendon Bock 5. Dave Brigati 6. Howie Brode 7. Vinny Biondolillo 8. Dillon Steuer 9. Craig Lutz 10. John Baker 11. David Schneider 12. Shawn Solomito 13. Ronnie Williams 14. Chris Young 15. Ken Heagy 16. Cory Midgett 17. John Fortin Jr.
Late Models: 1. Eric Zeh 2. Jeremy McDermott 3. Kyle Soper 4. Shawn Patrick 5. Ray Minieri 6.Chris Lescenski 7. Kevin Metzger 8. Chris Turbush 9. Daryn Miller 10. Jason Kretch 11. Roger Oxee 12. Steve Mastro Jr. DQ- Ken Matlach
Blunderbusts: 1. Jim Laird 2. Tom Pickerell 3. Eric Zeh 4. Derek Wegmann 5. Max Handley 6. Tom Sullivan 7. Wayne Mayer 8. Bill Wegmann Sr. 9. Tim Mulqueen 10. Tom Puccia 11. Joshua Creel 12. Alyssa Paprocky 13. Tommy Walkowiak
Legend Race Cars: 1. Brendon Bock 2. Kevin Nowak 3. John Beatty Jr. 4. George Tomko Jr. 5. Kyle Ellwood 6. Ray Fitzgerald 7. Ed Cheslak 8. Mike Van Houten Jr. 9. Jeff Otto Jr. 10. Vinny Delaney 11. Jerry Curran 12. Chris Rogers 13. Jim Sylvester 14. Steve Bolland 15. Eric Hersey 16. Dennis Kurras 17. Mike Benton 18. Silas Hiscock Sr. 19. Jonathan Parsons 20. Bryan Kelly 21. Matt Brode 22. Kenny Southard 23. Riley O’Keefe 24. Mike Mortimer 25. Don Conradis DNS- Bobby Jones DNS- Jason Castaldo
Truck Enduro: 1. Don nelson Jr. 2. Hank Hallock 3. Bobby Pease 4. Steve Betcher 5. Dustin Cole 6. Mariah Lawrence 7. Paul Cummings 8. Emily Hubbard 9. Danielle Cohen 10. Mike Benton 11. Justin McGrady 12. RJ Gage 13. Gary Voight 14. Phil LaManna 15. Jarrett Campbell 16, Gene Burbol
Riverhead Raceway Press Release. Photo Credit: Michael Jaworecki