At Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night, it was Old-Timers’ Night, an evening to recall many driving legends who have passed through the pit gate, as well as the annual Wall of Fame induction ceremony.
As far as racing action, Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead showed everyone why he is quickly becoming a driving legend in his own right, sweeping the Twin 30 NASCAR Modified features. The wins were his sixth and seventh victories of 2014, giving him a career total of 31, tying him with Tommy Washburn and Jackie Reinhard for sixth on the all-time win list.
Midway through the race card, Barbara and Jim Cromarty honored Paul McElearney, “Dynamite” Dan Turbush and Peggy Smith, as the trio were enshrined on the Wall of Fame that greets guests of the track by the turn-three entrance gate. The highlight of the ceremony was when Dan Turbush took Peggy Smith, who is battling cancer, for a victory lap around the track on a golf cart complete with a checkered flag. Those on hand gave the duo a standing ovation.
No fewer than 10 Vintage Race Cars put on a display prior to the Wall of Fame inductions, and that proved very popular with the fans as well.
Once again, Rogers Jr. was fastest in qualifying, with a lap of 11.898 seconds, and drew the third starting spot for the first feature, with Jason Agugliaro and Howie Brode picking the front row. When the race got under way, Agugliaro, who struggled with his car all afternoon long in practice, jumped out in front, with Rogers Jr. quickly coming underneath Brode in a battle for second.
After completing the first lap, Rogers Jr. made a bold inside move going into the first corner, and that not only allowed him to get past Brode for second, but his momentum carried him inside of Agugliaro for the race lead. Once out front, Rogers Jr. was able to pull away from Agugliaro and Brode, who started racing each other for second. Ryan Preece, who started the race seventh, made his way to fourth, while John Fortin came from eighth to fifth, and they too would have their own race for position.
At the conclusion of the first 30, it was Rogers Jr., in the Jessup Landscaping Chevy, scoring a convincing win, with Agugliaro, of Islip, second in the Tom O’Keefe & Sons entry. Brode, of East Islip, crossed the line third in the Petro Fuel Oil Chevy. Preece and Fortin completed the top five, respectively.
With the cars lining up in the finishing order from the first race for the second 30, Rogers Jr. sat on the pole, and when the race went green, Preece made a bold early move. Brode started the second race third but didn’t get the start he was looking for; realizing this, Preece quickly slipped to the inside of Agugliaro going into the first turn to quickly come to second, and race two looked as though it would be a repeat of the Twin 50s from the week before.
Once again, Rogers Jr. kept just enough distance between himself and Preece, but this week several late-race cautions for minor spins would give the challenger a few more cracks at the race leader. The cagey veteran Rogers Jr. was smart to stack the field up behind him coming off turn four, and, try as he might, Preece was unable to find a way by.
When the final checkered flag of the night waved, it was Rogers Jr. enjoying another successful night. “Have to send this one out to my crew member Helmut and his girl, Lynn—she is in the hospital with some serious heart issues, and we are all thinking of them,” Rogers Jr. noted before speaking about where he now sits on the all-time win list. “It’s pretty cool being among the great names like Park, Anderson, Young, Washburn and Reinhard,” he offered. “My brother-in-law Mike has figured out these tires—other than that, we haven’t done anything but basic maintenance on the car.”
At the pace he is currently on, Rogers Jr. could surpass Chris Young (33) for third on the all-time win list before the season is over.
Preece, of Berlin, Connecticut, was runner-up in the second race in the East West Marine Chevy, while championship leader Brode was third. Brode saw Rogers trim four points off his point lead, as Rogers Jr. is now just 17 back with five point races remaining on the season. Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead and John Fortin of Holtsville rounded out the top five in the second Twin 30 feature.
Mike Bologna of Melville notched his second straight Late Model win of 2014, as he topped their 30-lap feature event for his third win overall in 2014.
Jeremy McDermott set fast time in qualifying, with a lap of 12.500 seconds, but would redraw fifth on the field, while veterans Roger Oxee and Kevin Metzger picked the front row.
When the race went green, Oxee, the all-time leading Late Model winner, wasted no time taking the race lead, with Bologna coming from third to second under Metzger on the start. Lap 4 found Oxee and Bologna quickly joined by Jarrod Hayes, and as the three drivers raced in turns three and four in close quarters, the complexion of the race would indeed change. Hayes shot under Bologna while hot on the heels of race leader Oxee, but his forward momentum carried him into Oxee, who spun off turn four. NASCAR officials quickly put Hayes to the rear for his role in the spin, leaving Bologna all alone in the race lead.
Scott Kulesa ran second to Bologna for nearly the remainder of the race, staying within shouting distance, while Hayes was making an exciting drive from the rear to again play a role in the outcome of the race. Lap 23 found Hayes working his way to, and then by, Kulesa for second. Once there, Hayes had to first erase the lead Bologna had built up, which he did, but catching Bologna was one thing—passing him would be another story. Hayes got to Bologna and was peeking to the inside off the corners, but the race leader was wise to the tactic and was able to protect his line for the rest of the race.
At the checkered flag, it was Bologna in the Gershow Recycling Chevy racing to his 12th career win, a career he noted started thanks to Paul McElearney. “When I was younger, Paul, Joel and Casey let me hang around and do tires. They got me going,” he said. Hayes, of Calverton, was a close runner-up in the Dialed In By J-Rod entry, with Kulesa of Georgetown, Massachusetts, crossing the line third in the Eastport Feeds Pontiac.
Suffice to say, Blunderbust talent Jimmy “The Kid” White Jr. of Southampton loves 30-lap races, as he swept all extra-distance events in 2013, and this past Saturday he topped another 30-lap contest.
Point leader Jack Handley Jr. topped the charts in qualifying with a lap of 15.050 seconds but drew the worst possible pill in the redraw, eighth. The front row would be White Jr. and newcomer Joe Warren Jr., with White Jr. bolting out to the race lead at the start.
Warren Jr. gave chase to White Jr. over the first dozen laps of the race, before Johnny Cricchio worked his way by with an inside pass off turn four. Cricchio’s stay in second would be short, as just two laps later championship contender Tom Pickerell, who started the race seventh, passed him for second.
The second half of the race found White Jr. tiptoeing through lapped traffic, along with Pickerell, who held a narrow lead built up by Cricchio as the race wore on. In the end, however, it was White Jr. in the Busy Bee Pest Control Cadillac posting his third win of 2014. “I have to thank Frank Curtis Jr., who gives me advice—he really knows these Caddys,” White Jr. said. Pickerell, of Huntington, was second in the Northportpower.com Chevy, with Cricchio, of Ridge, completing the top three in his 5 Brothers Deli entry.
After burning the midnight oil all week long to repair a wrecked race truck, “Dangerous” Dave Koenig of Freeport rewarded his loyal team with a wire-to-wire win in the 30-lap Super Pro Truck feature. Koenig took full advantage of his pole-starting position to take the race lead at the drop of the green flag. Jimmy Rennick Jr. and Frank Dumicich Sr. gave chase to Koenig but then got to racing each other for second, allowing Koenig to pull away.
Lap 9 found Frank Dumicich Jr. working his way by Rennick for second, this just after passing his dad for third. Dumicich Jr. ran second until lap 22, when Roger Turbush, who started the race eighth, worked his way by after he and Dumicich Jr. went toe to toe for a few laps. By the time Turbush got to second place on lap 23, Koenig was long gone in his Nelson’s Auto Salvage Chevy, driving off to his second win of 2014.
“This truck was junk,” Koenig admitted in victory lane. “But my guys and gals never stopped working. This is a sweet win.”
Turbush, of Riverhead, was runner-up in the Rheem Air Conditioning racer, while Mike Albasini, of Flushing, was third in the Hollis Court Collision Chevy after starting the race ninth.