After winning six times in 2012, NASCAR Modified veteran Tom Rogers Jr. of Patchogue must have thought taking his first win of 2013 at Riverhead Raceway took an eternity, but he did win his first of the season in the Whelen Event Night 35 on Saturday night. For Rogers it was his 21st career triumph at the demanding quarter-mile oval.
Rogers set the standard in pre-race qualifying with a lap of 11.831 but in the redraw among the top eight from time, he drew sixth. Vinny Biondolillo was timed second-fastest and drew the pole with Timmy Solomito on the outside of the front row. When the Whelen Engineering green lights came on to start the race, it was “The Natural,” Timmy Solomito, bolting out front getting the measure of 15-year-old pole sitter Biondolillo off turn two.
As the field came down to start the second lap, Biondolillo’s car got loose off turn four with a cut left rear tire with David Roys, Eddie Brunnhoelzl III, Glenn Logan, Dave Sapienza and Marisa Niederauer all collected, but only Niederauer and Sapienza were out for the remainder of the race. On the ensuing restart it would be Solomito joined by Howie Brode in row one, and when the green flag came back out the duo would run first and second for a lap with Shawn Solomito in the mix as well. On lap 3, Brode spun off the track after contact, drawing a yellow flag and setting up an all-Solomito front row for the restart with Timmy remaining the race leader. When the race was resumed, Rogers Jr. made his presence known to the Solomito brothers early in the contest as he worked his way by Shawn for second on lap 5. Another early race caution would slow the race on lap 7 when Dave Brigati made heavy contact with the wall off turn four. He was okay but his car was heavily damaged in the grinding crash. It would be this restart that would change the complexion of the race, as when the green came back out Timmy Solomito had disaster strike when he broke a pinion in the rear-end of his machine, forcing him to the infield and handing the lead of the race over to Rogers Jr.
Shawn Solomito now sat second and over the remainder of the race kept pace with the race leader Rogers Jr. and at times would appear to draw closer to Tommy Solomito, while Brunnhoelzl III raced his way back to third recovering from his lap 1 contact.
In the end though there was no catching the Relay Communications Chevy of Rogers Jr., who drove to victory on his birthday, the first time he said in 12 years he has done so. When reminded that at one point of the race on a double-file restart he was third surrounded by the three Solomito brothers, Rogers Jr. noted, “I’ve raced with all three before they run clean as I try to run them clean too so it was no issue.
“I can’t say enough about my owner Joe Ambrose,” Rogers Jr. added.
Shawn Solomito of Islip was runner-up in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chevy while Brunnhoelzl of Levittown more than salvaged his night with a third-place tally in the Senix Creek Inn Chevy. Jerry Solomito Jr. of Islip turned in a solid performance, scoring a fourth-place finish with Brode of East Islip taking over sole possession of the point lead with his fifth-place effort, he too recovering from an early race issue.
Figure EightsFor an amazing 109th time in his career, Roger Maynor took the win in the 15-lap Figure Eight feature event. Defending champion Mike Mujsce broke to the early race lead from the front row with Maynor quickly making his way to second from his third starting spot. The two tested tough veterans then staged a torrid fight for the lead that would last the first half of the race. During an extended green flag run, Mujsce’s car seemed to go away ever so slightly and on lap 8 Maynor executed a textbook crossover move that propelled him to the race lead. Once he lost the lead to Maynor, Mujsce’s attention quickly turned to Arne Pedersen who was pressuring Mujsce for second, all of which was music to leader Maynor’s ears. Over the final half of the race, Maynor—wheeling the Barrasso & Sons Ford—drove to victory and afterwards commented on the wining move.
“I saw Mike wasn’t getting through the corners and I was able to cross him up when he opened up a lane.” Mujsce of Quogue was runner-up in the Bill Beener Tree Service entry, while Pedersen of Mastic Beach settled for third in the BNR Home Improvement racer.
ChargersOver the first three Charger races of 2013, “Radiant” Ray Minieri of Bay Shore had not had the best of luck, but that all changed when he was in the right spot at the right time to win the 30-lap feature event for the class.
Second-year driver Jayson White turned heads when he set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 13.350 and in the redraw he’d pull the outside pole while Eric Zeh grabbed the pole. Zeh wasted no time taking the lead as the race got underway with Jeremy McDermott, the 2012 champion in the class, making his first start of the season coming to second. The duo would run in that order over the first third of the race before Minieri made an inside pass of McDermott for second on the backstretch. Chris Turbush also moved by McDermott for third and things up front quickly heated up. On lap 14, racing through the first and second turn, Zeh, Turbush and Minieri were all in close quarters with Zeh spinning from the lead drawing a yellow moving Turbush, who was scored second the lap prior, the new race leader. However Turbush’s right front fender was peeled back and he was forced to the pits under the yellow making Minieri the new race leader. When the green flag waved Minieri was chased by CJ Lehmann for the entire second half of the race. There would be no catching “Radiant” Ray in this race however as Minieri drove his Sunrise Chiropractic Dodge to the winner’s circle for the 16th time in his career. Lehmann of Mastic Beach was runner-up in the Lido Stone Chevy while “Mr. 3rd Place” Chad Churilla of Hauppauge for the third consecutive race was third in the Angela’s House Pontiac.
BlunderbustsThe Blunderbust class once again thrilled the fans with some late-race excitement as Brian Brown of Baiting Hollow notched his first career win as a result of some wild happenings. Bill Wegmann Jr. raced to the lead when the green flag waved with Brown coming to second. As it would turn out, the race would run without a caution flag which allowed Wegmann and Brown to sneak away from the field. However “The Jack Attack” Jack Handley Jr. was making his way toward the front after starting 11th in the 19-car field, carefully picking his way through traffic. Handley would make his way by Brown on lap 15 and then set his sights on leader Wegmann. Just moments after receiving the two-to-go signal, Handley was looking to the inside of Wegmann in the first turn. Wegmann, however, tried to thwart the effort and contact was made off turn two. While neither driver ever spun they did have to back out of the gas and that opened the door for Brown to take the lead, and his last lap and a half would find Jimmy “The Kid” White Jr. glued to his rear bumper. Brown remained poised at the wheel of his Chet Mistrani Plastering entry and would take down the win in thrilling fashion. White Jr. of Southampton was second in the Busy Bee Pest Control racer, while defending champion Tom Pickerell of Huntington was third in the Premier Utility Service Chevy after coming from 16th starting position.
Super Pro TrucksDefending Super Pro Truck champion Roger Turbush of Riverhead notched his 15th career win in the class when he topped their 20-lap main event. The race got off to a rocky start as on the first attempt to get underway, the outside lane didn’t seem to go and Rob Bader was the odd man out as he was done for the night with damage from the aborted start. Once the race did take the green, it was Turbush taking advantage of a rare pole starting position moving out to the race lead, a lead he’d never relinquish in his Allied Air Conditioning Chevy.
“Dangerous” Dave Koenig would keep step with Turbush over the distance of the race but would have to settle for second in the Nelson’s Auto Salvage Chevy, while Lou Maestri of Deer Park brought his IGA Supermarket of Fort Salonga Chevy home for third place money. The race concluded literally in a ball of fire as Erin Dumicich-Solomito, who was running in the top five, blew the engine after taking the white flag with a flash fire engulfing her truck for a moment. After taking in some oxygen she was okay.
Demolition DerbyWithout doubt, the History Channel picked a good night to tape the 8-Cylinder Demolition Derby at Riverhead Raceway as it was one of, if not the hardest hitting event in the 50-year history of Demolition Derbies. In the end, “Mad” Mike Smith of Kings Park would score the win in his All-Island Towing machine. The “Misery Machine” of Jason Savoy out of Lake Panamoka was named Judge’s Choice, while Andrew Fowler of Wantagh was voted Fan’s Choice in his Timmy’s Towing entry.