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"EYE ON RIVERHEAD" by Bob Finan
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
It perhaps was the most exciting NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race of the 51 that have been contested at Barbara & Jim Cromarty's Riverhead Raceway. This exciting race featured some great side by side racing, extended green flag runs with minimal caution laps and a green, white, checker finish that, to say the least, was intense and controversial all in one clean swoop.
Hats off to Barbara & Jim Cromarty who perhaps made the best move of the race on Saturday morning when they approached NASCAR WMT director Chad Little with the request of making the WMT feature 200-laps since the 25-lap qualifying race was not needed. Little, to his credit, wanted to check with NASCAR first, which he did and he later re-visited Barbara & Jim to say it was okay! The big winner in that decision would be all of us who love our NASCAR Modifieds and the drivers didn't disappoint.
Ryan Preece wheeling the Flamingo Motorsports/Diversified Metal Chevy had to survive a 112-lap battle with Eric Goodale #58 and then a green, white, checker finish with Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett #76 before he could claim his 2nd WMT win of 2012 which is also his 2nd career WMT win at Riverhead. Perhaps the easiest part of the day from "Preece Lightening" was winning the Coors Light Pole Award, his 6th of the year, with a lap of 11.904, however after that Ryan had his work cut out for him. In the end however the 2012 Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified champion prevailed to the tune of an $11,000 plus payday which of course includes plenty of bonus money from Jim Schaefer and his assorted sponsors (see press release for details). The win couldn't come at a better time for Preece and his family as his Grandfather, noted NASCAR Modified owner Bob Judkins, had a heart attack the day before. Bob, who introduced the Pinto bodied Modified to NASCAR, is expected to be okay. Ryan of course had won two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series features at Riverhead in 2012 driving for Bill & Barbara Park, one of which was the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77.
Bothered by "flu like symptoms" Justin Bonsignore #51 was runner-up in the M3 Technologies Chevy driving a heads-up race over the first half before turning up the wick in the second portion of the race. With a 4th, a win and this runner-up finish in the last three WMT races Justin and car owner Ken Massa are on a roll heading to New Hampshire this Saturday afternoon. Associate sponsorship for the race came from the Jon Thomas Inne of Brightwaters. Folks, this fine eatery is just down the block from where I reside and I highly recommend you visit the "JTI". Justin tells me if you mention his name you might even get a free cocktail. After the race Justin admitted if he knew NASCAR was posting the #76 of Blewett for beating the leader to the line he would have pressed the issue with eventual winner Preece.
Todd Szegedy #2 was third in his Delicacies Gourmet Ford and has told those close to him he now really likes coming to Riverhead Raceway. Todd was very vocal in his support of Jimmy Blewett, noting if the leader spins the tires what's the second place car supposed to do, Todd did follow that comment up by saying it was nothing against Ryan, but rather the rule.
Great run for Howie Brode in the Freightliner of Long Island #96 Chevy, Brode just kept his rhythm all race long and didn't get caught up in anyone else's issues to cross the line 4th. The former Riverhead Raceway champion had a good 2012 at the quarter mile and we can only hope he runs a full slate of races next season as well.
Coming back from a two-laps down Ted Christopher #15 showed everyone why he is one of the most successful NASCAR Modified or for that matter race car drivers in the land. Wheeling Wayne & Joette Anderson's Eastport Feeds Chevy which was re-numbered 3 for WMT Owner point purposes "TC" carved his way to a 5th place finish to finish up what indeed was a successful season of racing on Long Island. I for one hope the Anderson/Christopher tandem is back for 2013!
Tom Rogers Jr. #9 had a stellar race of his own as he was 6th in the Planet Earth Recycling & Recovery Chevy, one of two cars he ran on the WMT in 2011. Tom mixed it up all race long with the tour drivers and even his boss Frank Vigliarolo Jr. for a spell before he colleted the fine finish.
Eric Goodale #58 will be shown 7th in the final rundown of the race but it was him and Ryan Preece that provided the early race fireworks with a classic short track fight for the lead. The two indeed would rub rails from time to time but the battle is one fans will be talking about for quite sometime. For awhile early on it appeared as though the Riverhead Building Supply driver would earn his first career WMT victory.
Donny Lia #4 had some rough going along the way in the Mystic Missile Dodge but in the end the former two-time WMT champion held on for an 8th place showing. Donny got a tad ticked off at the lapped car of Ed Flemke who tapped Donny, who was on the lead lap and I have to say it was the first time I've seen Lia lose his cool. However he gathered himself up and got his top ten finish.
Ron Silk, the defending WMT champion might have used up his TS Haulers Chevy over the first half of the race but the winner of the Evans NASCAR Hall of Fame 100 in May at Riverhead still had a good points night, more on that later.
Eric Berndt #46 completed the top ten in the North End Auto Parts Chevy; Eric didn't seem too comfortable right from practice on but none the less had a top ten run.
Rough night for WMT point leader Doug Coby #52 as his Reynolds Auto Wrecking Chevy had engine issues on lap 55 forcing him to the infield and a 22nd place finish. That coupled with Preece's win means Coby's lead is now just 9 over Ryan, while Silk who sits third in WMT points is now just 16 back.
Tough call against Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett in the John Blewett Inc. #76. NASCAR WMT Officials ruled he beat the leader of the race to the line on the green, white, checker finish which is a no-no by race procedure, even if the race leader spins the tires. Jimmy looks great having shed a ton of weight in the off-season and he still managed a smile when I visited with him in the pits. Jimmy was placed last of the lead lap cars, 12th in the finish. He did however win the $500 Mike Ewanitsko Hard Charger of the Race award.
Nice touch by Jim Schaefer on his associate sponsor to present Jamie "The Jet" Tomaino with $548 in honor of his 548th start on the WMT in his Supreme Manufacturing Chevy. Tomaino was off the pace most of the night and was 19th.
Former two-time Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified champion Frank Vigliarolo Jr. was 13th in the Frankie's Towing Chevy telling me after the race if he could only bolt on two tires, which of course you can't unless they are flat. Frank did want to thank Finishline Speed Sport & Repair for their help.
Eddie Brunnhoelzl III was in the Ralph Solhem owned, Long Island Mod Maniac #0, he was in and out of the pits a few times before crossing the line 16th. Eddie and his team will be hitting the road in their own Senix Creek Inn #8x in the weeks to come, mainly racing in Pennsylvania.
Nice gesture by Johnny & Charlene Bush to allow Ken Heagy to take over their Two Brothers Scrap Metal Chevy. The car was making its 2012 debut but with Heagy 19th in WMT points and his own #33 having an oil pump issue the night prior when they fired the car at the shop, Johnny & Charlene turned their car over to Ken. Timing in a solid 8th Heagy would have to drop out of the race when the water pump pulley went sour and finish 23rd.
The Riverhead 200 WMT race always brings out some old familiar faces and among them that I saw last week were, Marty Mangels, Larry LaFountaine, Keith "Flash" Gordon, Mike Curtis, Geri Harbach and her sister Gert, Richie Harbach, JoJo Kitzen (Harbach) and her husband Alex plus many others. A fun night indeed.
Jimmy "The Kid" White Jr. scored his second Blunderbust win of 2012 when he won a non-stop 30-lap Buzz Chew Chevrolet-Cadillac feature. What a year it's been for the driver of the Busy Bee Pest Control machine as on July 7th he notched his first career victory. With this Saturday's Miller Lite night 30-lapper also a time trial show don't count out White, who set fast time for last week's race with a lap of 15.082, from making it two in a row.
When Jack Handley Jr. fell out of the race with engine woes Scott Maliszewski #22 came to second on lap 22 but by the time he got there White was long gone and the driver of the Thomas J. Stock Attorney At Law Caprice would settle for second. Maybe a different story if there was a yellow but that flag never waved all race. Scott really wants to sell his Blunderbust car, so make sure you see him this week.
2012 Blunderbust champion "Slick Pick" Tom Pickerell #4 was third in his Premier Utilities Chevy and after White's interview, Pickerell was given his champion's interview. Tom had a stellar season and he and his team will celebrate this Sunday at Tom's house. Congratulations to Tom, his dad Ron and the entire Pickerell Clam crew!
Rob Bader #92 was 4th in his TDC Family Plan Chevy; Rob too would like to sell his car as he'd like to move up in class for 2013. This is also a very successful mount with Bader and its original owner Wayne Okula winning many a race in it. 2012 SPT champion Roger Turbush was shaking down Bader's car in practice, as Rob arrived late after work.
"The Wildchild" Tommy Walkowiak #00 was 5th in his Blaze Fuel Oil Chevy and to my eye seems as though his handling woes are still present. Tommy's night in the Hampton Fleet Service Legend #99 was even worse, so look for Walkowiak to try and rebound this week.
Gary Caldwell in a rare 2012 start in his United Exhaust Shop #21 was 6th.
Bill Wegmann Jr. #76 and Bill Wegmann Sr. #79 were 7th and 8th in their Crackerjack Auto Stores racers.
"Krazy" Ed Mistretta #27 was 9th in the Busy Bee Pest Control entry, while "Turbo" Tom Sullivan #7 in his Custom Exteriors Lincoln was 10th.
Spoke with Jack Handley Sr. as to what might have gone wrong for Jack Jr. in the Relle Electric Chevy and he told me the engine just "laid down", he also told me he hopes it's only a clogged filter or something along those lines.
When the 2013 Riverhead Raceway schedule is released look for Paul Dodorico #55 to circle the last Legend Race Car race on the slate. For the second year in a row the driver of the Titan Global Security machine won the last race of the year, this year's being an INEX National Qualifier, 30-lapper. Dodorico had two young lions testing him the entire way in Kyle Ellwood and Brendon Bock but Paul tightened his belts and held off all comers to post his second career win.
Brendon Bock #33 was runner-up in his Bock Motorsports racer which is where he finished Sunday afternoon at the Mountain Speedway to race winner Matt Pappa. Bock is in the mix to win the INEX National Championship in his class and will race well into the fall. At 15 this soft spoken driver showed a lot of talent this year and his future is beyond bright!
Vinny Delaney #17 was 3rd in the Joe Sole Motorsports racer. Prior to the races Sole, a big NY Rangers fan as am I, were bemoaning the fact there was to be another work stoppage for the NHL. Joe, who lives in Orlando, Florida, will get to see some hockey though as an East Coast Hockey League team is coming to his hometown.
Kevin Nowak #53 returned after a week off to attend a wedding and he was 4th in the J-Tech Electric racer.
Chris Young #49 was 5th in the Ray The Plumber machine after starting 11th in the feature. His teammate for the night Ted Christopher #48 had a rough night tagging the 1st turn wall in the Bridgehampton National Bank car, the car was damaged beyond repair and "TC" was 27th.
Kyle Soper #12 was 6th in the News 12 Long Island racer, while Richie Davidowitz was 7th in his SAM Mechanical #25.
Completing the top ten were Dylan Slepian in the On The Road Again Motorcycle School #63, Allentown, Pennsylvania's Raven Schrantz was 9th in her #144 with Greg Harris recovering from a spin to finish 10th in the Lowell Electric #65.
2012 Legend Race car champion Kyle Ellwood #71x didn't have the final race of the year he'd like in the feature as a dragging bumper saw him being given the black flag dropping him to a season worst 21st place finish. The good news for Kyle and the Riverhead Building Supply team is he broke his own track record in qualifying with a lap of 13.661!
Another INEX National points chaser on hand was David Schilling of E. Greenbush, NY, a suburb of Albany and Davis had a good run going until the final turn of the race as he got into a tangle and was 19th in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK #20.
Great car counts for the support divisions last Saturday, 27 Blunderbusts and 34 Legend Race Cars.
This Saturday it's the granddaddy of Demolition Derbies as it will be the $1,500 to win Miller Lite National Demolition Derby Championship it. This bone jarring, car destroying party is one you don't want to miss. Features will start at 5:30 pm with Late Models going 50-laps, the Chargers, Blunderbusts and Super Pro Trucks will go 30-laps each and the Figure Eights 20 circuits all will qualify through time trials. The Grand Enduro racers are also on the card and also go 50-laps.
Until next time - BF
2012 Eye On Riverhead Archive
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