Despite some stubborn weather systems that hung over Riverhead Raceway until late afternoon, promoters Barbara and Jim Cromarty beat Mother Nature on Saturday to get the entire NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program in the books.
In the 35-lap NASCAR Modified feature, Jason Agugliaro of Islip fended off a hard-pressing Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead to win his second career feature event.
Rogers Jr., as he has all season long, led the way in qualifying, with a lap of 11.945 seconds, but in the redraw picked fifth, while Agugliaro and Ryan Preece drew the front row. To date, the 2014 season has been a tough one on Agugliaro and his race team, mainly due to engine issues that actually led to Agugliaro running as a teammate to Rogers Jr. earlier in the season, and it was no surprise to anyone that Agugliaro vaulted out front at the throw of the green.
Championship leader Howie Brode sneaked into second for the first two circuits before he was overtaken by Preece. Early on, the race hit an extended green flag run that allowed Agugliaro to pull out to a comfortable lead while Preece, Brode and Rogers Jr. battled for position. Rogers Jr. eventually passed Brode for third, but passing Preece for second would take some time, as the talented duo raced hard but clean for the spot.
Rogers Jr. made a textbook inside pass of Preece entering the third turn to come to second, but his chances of catching race leader Agugliaro would be zero without a caution flag. Much to Agugliaro’s dismay—but to Roger Jr.’s delight—that yellow would wave on lap 24 for Jerry Solomito Jr., who spun after contact from Eddie Brunnhoelzl III, who was sent to the rear for rough riding. With 11 laps remaining in the race, those who did come out despite the elements figured it was a matter of time before Rogers Jr. got by Agugliaro for the lead.
However, Agugliaro had a different ending in mind. Over those last 11 laps, Rogers Jr. drove his car in high entering the first turn and dove low exiting turn two, trying to sneak under Agugliaro, but the race leader was wise to that game plan and kept his car tucked tightly on the inside line.
What resulted was a classic NASCAR Modified race on a humid and damp summer evening, as a second battle erupted for third between Preece and Brode that was every bit as intense as the race for the lead.
When the race concluded, Agugliaro, in the Tom O’Keefe & Sons Chevy, withstood all the challenges from Rogers Jr. to score a much-needed win. When asked whether he’d expected a teammate “discount” from Rogers Jr. in the closing laps Agugliaro replied, “No sir. Tom raced me as hard as he’d race anybody, and did it cleanly—and you can’t ask for more than that.”
As to his roller-coaster season, the race winner admitted it has been a tough year. “We lost our new motor in week two, but thanks to Tom and his car owner at the time, Joe Ambrose, we never missed a race, and I learned a lot from them and thank them.” Agugliaro also announced in victory lane that the big win came 24 hours after he and fiancée Theresa were married on Friday. “Theresa puts up with a lot, and to win on the weekend we got married, well, it makes this all the more special.”
Rogers Jr. saw his two-race win streak come to an end in his Jessup Landscaping Chevy and was runner-up. Brode, of East Islip, made a late-race inside pass of Preece, of Berlin, Connecticut, but that pass was called back as NASCAR officials ruled that Brode dipped under the line to make the pass. Preece was third, in the East West Marine Chevy, with Brode fourth, in the RW Truck Equipment Chevy; Vinny Biondolillo of Farmingville completed the top five, in the Premier Utility Service entry.
Mike Bologna of Melville earned his second Late Model win of 2014 the old-fashioned way, as he drove to victory after starting seventh in the 25-lap feature event.
Chris LaSpisa, another driver at Riverhead in 2014 besieged by engine woes, raced his way from the pole to the race lead when the green flag waved. Defending champion Jeremy McDermott chased LaSpisa over the first five laps of the race, but lap 6 saw Bologna, who charged his way to third from seventh in the those first five laps, pass McDermott for second.
The first task for Bologna was to erase the lead that LaSpisa had built early on in the contest, which he accomplished. Once to the rear bumper of the leader, the trick then became how to get by for the race lead. As the tandem raced off the second turn on lap 18, Bologna ducked under LaSpisa, who left the door open, perhaps too much, and Bologna drove to the race lead with a half dozen laps remaining.
Watching all this unfold from third was Roger Oxee, and he made a run at LaSpisa for second. All that was just fine with Bologna, who drove to an impressive win in the Schlaugies Fuel Oil Chevy. LaSpisa, of Shirley, was runner-up, in his McBetts Racing Engines Chevy, while Oxee, of Peconic, crossed the line third in the North Fork Sanitation Pontiac.
Defending Charger champion Eric Zeh of Selden notched his third win of the season in their 20-lap main event. “Radiant” Ray Minieri led the way in qualifying with a lap of 13.239 seconds but would roll snake eyes in the redraw, grabbing the number-six tag. Rookie driver Greg Immerman picked the pole and was joined on the front row by C.J. Lehmann, and when the race went green, it was Immerman taking the lead.
Lehmann was quickly challenged by Chris Turbush for second, who took the position on lap 2. Meanwhile, Zeh, who started the race fourth, was doing some work of his own, and on lap 4, he ducked under Turbush for second down the backstretch. Once to second, the chore for Zeh was to track down Immerman, which he did in pretty quick fashion, and on lap 9, he utilized the inside line once again off turn two to pass Immerman for the lead. Turbush, through the opening created by Zeh, quickly came to second, and once again the two championship leaders found themselves having at it for the win.
In the end, Zeh had them all covered as he drove his S&P Carting Chevy to victory, bringing him to within two points of Turbush in the standings. Turbush, of Wading River, was runner-up in the REMAX Realtors machine, while Minieri, of Bay Shore, crossed the line third in his Hometown Taxi mount.
Former two-time Super Pro Truck champion Roger Turbush of Riverhead scored a milestone victory in the 20-lap feature event, as he won for the 20th time in his career. Veteran wheelman Frank Dumicich Sr. moved to the race lead at the start, chased early on by son Frank Jr. and Mike Albasini. Soon, Turbush entered the picture after starting fifth in the race, as he passed Dumicich Jr. for second exiting turn four on lap 5.
After spending four laps catching and then sizing the elder Dumicich up for a pass, Turbush completed that task on a lap 9 double-file restart; the caution, ironically enough, had waved for Turbush’s nephew, Mark Stewart, who brushed the wall in turn two. When the race went back to green, Turbush rode the outside lane around Dumicich Sr. for the race lead. Once out in front, the driver of the Allied Air Conditioning Chevy never looked back, scoring his third win of the 2014 campaign.
Dumicich Sr., of East Quogue, finished second in the Tonino’s Pizza Ford, while “The King of Queens” Albasini, of Flushing, was third, in the KJ Farrell’s Pub & Grill racer.
Greg Zaleski of Jamesport was in the right place at the right time to win the 50-lap Grand Enduro. After Steve Mastro led the first lap of the race, Rob Bader moved out front on lap 2 and quickly opened up a sizable lead on the field. Mastro chased Bader until lap 12, when he was passed by Jimmy White Jr., who was seeking his third win of the year. White Jr.’s hopes for victory were dashed by a flat tire on lap 19, which moved former champion David Antos to second.
Lap after lap, Antos cut into Bader’s lead and soon was on his rear bumper. Exiting the fourth turn on lap 29, Bader got loose and Antos had nowhere to go, which resulted in Bader spinning, making Antos the new race leader. In the meantime, Mastro and Greg Zaleski were in a torrid fight for third. Unhappy about the contact, Bader waited on Antos to come lap him, and when he did, contact was again made between the duo in the first and second turn, ending the night for both.
Zaleski, who just lapped prior, passed Mastro for second and soon found himself the new race leader on lap 44. Zaleski, in the Peconic Sign Company Chevy, led the final six laps of the race to score the win. Mastro, of Port Jefferson, was runner-up in the NY Auto Giant entry, with rookie driver Cody Triola of Bay Shore netting third-place money in his PCFI racer.