Max Zachem of Preston, Ct. scored his first career NASCAR Tour Type Modified win Saturday night in perhaps the unlikeliest of places when he won the 40-lap Whelen All American Series opener at Riverhead Raceway. The popular win came in a chassis that was designed and home built in the shops of Meade's Welding and Fabricating of John & George Meade for car owner Ken Vogel Sr. Race director Scott Tapley once again ran a swift race card with bad weather approaching and sure enough rain hit the area just as the final event concluded.
Third generation driver Eddie Brunnhoelzl III and former three time champion John Fortin brought the 19 car field to the green flag with the duo running one-two over the first six circuits of the race. On the start of the 7th lap which came in the form of a double file restart the leading tandem made contact shuffling Fortin back into the field while Brunnhoelzl lost the lead of the race to Tom Rogers Jr. who roared his way out front from third when the contact ensued. One lap later defending NASCAR Modified champion Shawn Solomito raced his way by Brunnhoelzl for second behind Rogers.
Over recent years Rogers and the Solomito clan whether it is Shawn or Timmy have had history between them but for awhile things seemed pretty quite as Tom would pace Shawn for the following 22 laps. Exiting the fourth corner to start the 31st lap Solomito made a bold inside move on Rogers and by the time the leaders hit the first turn had the lead of the race. Witnessing all this from third was Max Zachem who made his way to the position after starting 7th in the field. Max was content watching the rivals race for the lead, a strategy that would prove to be a wise on.
With just three laps to go Rogers had a run on Solomito going into the third turn and contact would be made sending the leader into a spin with Rogers forced to stop with nowhere to go drawing a caution flag. That turn of events moved Zachem to the race lead with fellow NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship contender Justin Bonsignore alongside for the double file restart. Justin worked his way to second from his 11th starting spot. When the race went back to green for a three lap dash to the checker Max Zachem had Bonsignore and others covered driving off to victory.
"I just can't say enough about John & George Meade along with car owner Ken Vogel" an elated Zachem boasted in victory lane, "right out of the trailer we were good today". When quizzed if the race was a tune-up for the $7,000 to win Islip 300 at Riverhead on May 27th Max was quick to reply "you bet we'll be here going after the big payday".
Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville in the M3 Technology Chevy would cross the line second while Vinny Biondolillo of Farmingville was third in the Sequel Group Chevy after running at the front of the field for the duration of the hotly contested race. John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville and Ken Darch of Riverhead completed the top five.
In order for Eric Zeh of Selden to collect his third career late Model win all he would have to accomplish in their non stop 25 lap feature would be to hold off 64 time winner Roger Oxee of Peconic. Mission accomplished by the driver of the Krantz Motorsports/Angela's House Chevy. At the throw of what would turn out to be the only green flag of the race Zeh motored out front from the pole while Oxee quickly ducked under Kevin Metzger to race his way from third to second. The opening night crowd watched as the upstart Zeh led the professor Oxee around the quarter mile oval with the challenger able to draw up to the rear bumper of the race leader at times. Zeh never faltered and would drive his way under the checker flag first to notch the victory. Roger Oxee in the Sophie's Rest Pontiac was runner-up while Chris Turbush of Wading River charged his way from 8th to a third place finish in the Eastside Builders entry.
Defending Eagle Auto Mall Modified Crate champion Dave Brigati of Calverton topped the 25 lap main event for the second year division to earn the opening night triumph for the second year in a row. From the pole "The Fancy Farmer" Brigati leaped to the race lead with CJ Lehmann making his way from third to second at the drop of the green. For the first 18 laps of the contest Lehmann was content to stay in the tire tracks of Brigati but that would all change during a 18th lap double file restart. Lehmann found some grip outside of Brigati and made a run for the lead. However Brigati, a cagey veteran was equal to the task and would ward off the challenge to take the win in the Quest Fabricating & Machining Chevy. CJ Lehmann of Shirley was second over the line in the IGA Food Markets Chevy while Dylan Slepian of Dix Hill was third in the Hurricane Grill & Wings machine.
Gary Fritz Jr. of Mastic Beach topped the 15-lap Figure Eight main event leading from green to checker in the process. With Fritz breaking out front early Johnny Vullo chased the leader early on before he was overtaken by Scott Pederson. Like Vullo before him Pedersen could not make a run at leader Fritz and in the later stages of the race he'd be passed by Tom Ferrara for second. Not even a late race restart with five laps to go would rattle leader Gary Fritz as he drove his Northeastern Office Equipment 1957 Chevy to the winners circle. Tom Ferrara of Patchogue was runner-up in the Extreme Auto Body machine while Scott Pedersen of Shirley placed third in the Reliable Auto Sales Chevy.
There is just something about opening night and defending Blunderbust champion Jack Handley Jr. that is just magical as for the fourth time in his young career he won the first 20-lapper of the season. The win was also a milestone one for Jack as it marked his 20th career victory. Bolstered with the pole for the feature Handley quickly took the lead of the race with Jim Laird in tow. For the first half of the race Laird would give chase to Handley but he'd be passed on lap 11 by Tom Pickerell who completed an inside move off the forth turn. By the time Tom got to second Jack Handley Jr. in the Liccardi Builders Chevy was long gone claiming the win. Pickerell of Huntington was runner-up in the Makely Group Caprice while Jim Laird of Riverhead finished third in the Poolsmith Inc racer.
The 20-lap Super Pro Truck feature would provide Dave Brigati with his first of two wins on the night as he led from wire to wire in his Outlaw Racing Chevy. The two wins were very emotional for Dave who lost his father John during the off season. At the throw of the green Brigati made some early bold moves during the first lap to race his way from a third starting berth to the race lead before the first lap was completed. That was the hard part as for the remaining 19 circuits Brigati had the field covered earning a milestone 10th career Super Pro Truck win. Teenage sensation Owen Grennan of Glen Cove steering the Excellence Automotive East entry was runner-up while Frank Dumicich Jr. of Quogue was third in the Teddy Bear Graphics mount.
John Beatty Jr of Merrick topped the 20-lap INEX Legend Race Car feature event in his D&D Auto Body racer. Armed with a pole starting berth John Beatty quickly whisked his way to the race lead over Bryan Kelly. By the time the field completed the 5th lap Beatty was starting to motor away from Kelly and others but that all changed when Kelly spun on lap 8 drawing a caution flag. "Big Money" Richie Davidowitz who started the race from 8th was now perched in second for the double file restart but Beatty had the hard charging challenger covered when the race resumed driving off to the checker flag. Davidowitz of East Moriches was runner-up in the Thriftway Auto Body racer while Chris Rogers in the Seafood Safari.TV machine scored a podium finish in third.
Making his first ever Demolition Derby start CJ Zurkowski of Riverhead outlasted seasoned veteran "Jumping" Joey Palmeri of Lindenhurst to win the 4-Cylinder event. Palmeri was named Judge's Choice while Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge took Fan's Choice.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. Max Zachem 2. Justin Bonsignore 3. Vinny Biondolillo 4. John Fortin Sr. 5. Ken Darch 6. Howie Brode 7. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 8. David Schneider 9. John Baker 10. Tom Rogers Jr. 11. Shawn Solomito 12. Jerry Solomito Jr. 13. Dave Brigati 14. John Fortin Jr. 15. Cory Midgett 16. Dillon Steuer 17. Chris Young 18. Ryan Preece 19. Jason Agugliaro
Late Models: 1. Eric Zeh 2. Roger Oxee 3. Chris Turbush 4. Kyle Soper 5. Jeremy McDermott 6. Shawn Patrick 7. Ray Minieri 8. Kevin Metzger 9. Steve Mastro 10. Brian Doyle 11. Ken Matlach 12. Dylan Slepian
Modified Crates: 1. Dave Brigati 2. CJ Lehmann 3. Dylan Slepian 4. Dennis Krupski 5. Michael Rutkoski 6. Justin Brown 7. Michael Rommeney 8. Peter Bertuccio 9. Terry Stiles 10. AJ DeSantis 11. Carey Rogers 12. Kurt Kreiger DNS- Jason Hansen DNS Anthony Vecchio
Figure Eights: 1. Gary Fritz Jr. 2. Tom Ferrara 3. Scott Pedersen 4. Tom Rogers Jr. 5. Johnny Vullo 6. Greg Harris 7. Bob Dalke 8. Brian Hansen 9. Eric Zeh
Blunderbusts: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Tom Pickerell 3. Jim Laird 4. Tim Mulqueen 5. Cassandra Denis 6. Tommy Walkowiak 7. Bill Wegmann Sr. 8. Tom Sullivan 9. Wayne Meyer 10. Joshua Creel 11. Eric Zeh 12. Scott Maliszewski 13. Bill Wegmann Jr. 14. Tom Puccia
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Dave Brigati 2. Owen Grennan 3. Frank Dumicich Jr. 4. Lou Maestri 5. Mike Albasini 6. Jack Handley Jr. 7. Tommy Walkowiak 8. Rob McCormick 9. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 10. Sean Glennon 11. Frank Dumicich Sr.
INEX Legend Race Cars: 1. John Beatty Jr. 2. Richie Davidowitz 3. Chris Rogers 4. Jim Sylvester 5. Bryan Kelly 6. Kevin Nowak 7. Vinny Delaney 8. Ed Cheslak 9. Mike Van Houten Jr 10. Jonathon Parsons 11. Eric Hersey 12. Jeff Otto Jr. 13. Dennis Kurras 14. Brandon Esposito 15. Silas Hiscock 16. Mike Benson 17. Ray Fitzgerald 18. John Mackie 19. Jerry Curran DNS- Tony Colandro Jr.
-Riverhead Raceway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Jeffrey Rogers