On a night where three iconic NASCAR Modified drivers were honored an old school race long duel between eventual winner Kyle Soper of Manorville and defending champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead highlighted the annual Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway with Soper prevailing. For Soper it was his second Buzz Chew Chevorlet NASCAR Modified feature win in a row and Kyle’s first ever in the 77 just two weeks after stating the race was one he’d like to cross off his racing bucket list. Mission accomplished.
By Bob Finan
Qualifying saw Kyle Soper win the JCR Motorsports $177 and Myracenews.com &77 Pole Award turning a lap of 13.341 while Tom Rogers Jr. the current track record holder was second quick at 11.364. The two fierce rivals would bring the 21-car field to the green flag with Soper edging out to lead the first lap with Kyle Ellwood scored second but the first of numerous caution flags would slow the race after just one lap. On the ensuing restart with the choose cone out drivers picked and chose inside/outside, a scene that would play out often during the event. On the first restart Soper remained out front with Rogers quickly moving to second and the race long duel was on. Any veteran Riverhead observer will confirm that in the past Soper and Rogers have not always played nice in the sandbox together and with the yellow flag waving often finding lining up frequently side by side could lead to some sand flying and fans dared not take their collective eyes off the fight for the lead. On lap 15 after a yellow flag had waved it would be Rogers getting the measure of Soper on the ensuing restart with Tommy seeking his 61st career settling into the lead.
In fact Rogers would pace the race over the next 39 circuits pocketing the Halfway Leader bonus of $100 from NASCAR WMT crew chief Doug Ogiejko. Soper after first losing the lead dropped a car length or two back of leader Rogers but as the laps wore down Kyle was ready to close in and make a run for his 22nd career victory. After clearing up a lap 55 caution a double file restart was called to order with Rogers and Soper once again side by side and with the laps winding down many wondered when the fur would fly. When the race resumed Soper was able to gain the advantage from Rogers with the two main combatants again giving each other plenty of room and respect. Jon McKennedy who started the race third returned to that position later in the race and he for one was hoping the Soper/Rogers rivalry would heat up to the point of no return. However the race for the lead never hit the boiling point and in fact turned out to be the kind of race that Richie, Charlie and Tommy all ran against one another at various stages of their careers.
When the the checker flag waved Kyle Soper added a win in the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 win to his resume that includes a Islip 300 triumph. Soper and car owner Wayne Anderson were awarded a $777 Winners Award from Dave Brigati of Outlaw Inc. After receiving congratulations from Rogers in the winners circle Soper reflected on the race long duel, “I really like racing with Tommy, you beat him you beat the best here” Kyle said praising the five time track champ. “When he got me for the lead early there I kinda dropped back and saved our stuff, my Dad (Tom) gives me an awesome car every week and I knew we’d have something for him late” Kyle furthered. Next on Soper’s bucket list is a NASCAR WMT win and he’ll have a chance at that brass ring when the WMT returns to Riverhead September 18th, “it would be really cool to give Wayne and Joette, Doug & Mora of Eastport Feeds and all our sponsors a WMT trophy in a few weeks”.
Not from lack of effort Tom Rogers Jr. was runner-up in the License To Chill Chevy in his first race back after an illness forced him to sit out the July 24th event, “That’s the way we are suppose to race” Rogers deadpanned, “I am sure the fans loved it and we put on a show up front just like Tommy, Richie and Charlie used too Congrats to Kyle, Wayne and their team that was fun” After a third place tally in the GAF Roofing/Riverhead Building Supply WMT the night before at Stafford Motor Speedway another third place finish awaited Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma in the Tommy Baldwin Racing/Ultra Wheel Chevy, “I was hoping for another shot at the leaders with hoping for one more restart, I felt we had a good car but two thirds in one weekend, we’ll take it”. John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville was fourth and won the JCR Motorsports $177 Hard Charger award after starting 12th in the field while Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead was fifth.
Michael Berner of Patchogue nailed down his first Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified win of 2021 when he won their 25-lap main event holding off defending track champion “Big Money” Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches. Early on Dennis Krupski who looked strong in winning his heat race broke to the early lead with Alex Colasanto in tow. After Steve Ratti’s broken front suspension drew a caution flag on lap 3 when the race resumed Colasanto got the better of Krupski to take the race lead. Berner, who started the race from fifth worked his way by Krupski for second on lap 5 and set sail for leader Colasanto. As is often the case with double file restarts the next change for the lead would come on a restart on lap 8 as Michael Berner was able to power his way by Alex Colasanto for the race lead. Colasanto still searching for his first career win ran second until lap 17 when he was passed to the outside by Richie Davidowitz who had started the event tenth. Once to the challengers position Davidowitz went to work on Berner for the lead but much like the NASCAR Modified event the battle for the lead was a hard but yet clean affair. In the end 18-year old Michael Berner and his Pro Diesel Chevy would prevail and after exiting the car he quickly dedicated his race win to Louise Mangels, one of his biggest fans and family friend who passed away over the off season. Richie Davidowitz brought the Benimax Trucking entry home second padding his championship lead along the way with Owen Grennan of Glen Cove third in the Excellence East Automotive Chevy.
Cody Triola of Bay Shore had not scored a Blunderbust win since opening night May 1st but the soon to be father changed all that with his sixth career win in a 20-lap affair Saturday. The race got off to an auspicious start on lap 1 when Kyle Halpin, CJ Lehamnn and Alyssa Paprocky all came together in turn four to force a second attempt at starting the feature. Once the race did get going Bill Wegmann Jr. was out front with popular Tom Sullivan second. Aided in part by the three car tangle at the start of the race Cody Triola who started eight was on the move coming to third behind Wegmann and Sullivan. After the field completed the 8th lap things changed in a hurry on lap 9 as Triola made a bold move pay dividends when in one clean sweep he raced his way from third to the race lead surprising both Wegmann and Sullivan. Wegmann two laps later on lap 12 was passed by Sullivan for second but Tom’s stay lasted only two laps after he was passed by “Mad” Max Handley on lap 14. Max who started scratch on the field in 11th clawed his way to the front but in the end would have nothing for the eventual race winner Cody Triola in the Cesspool Pros entry. Max Handley of Medford was runner-up with his Licciardi Builders Caprice while “Turbo” Tom Sullivan of Massapequa was third in the Island Trees Automotive Chevy.
Every once in awhile in short track racing a fell good story will unfold on a Saturday night, such was the case in the Super Pro Truck 20-lap feature event. Joe Cerabino of Bay Shore a couple of seasons ago decided after 17-years away from the game to go back racing with the Super Pro Trucks. Joe had last won a Late Model race at Riverhead on April 29th, 2000 and some 21 years later Cerabino made a triumphant return to the winners circle in a truck once raced by the late Larry “The King” Costa. Starting from the pole after a heat race win Joe Cerabino broke to the race lead at the throw of the green with 25-time SPT winner and former two time champion Mark Stewart in tow. Over the first 15 laps of the contest Stewart chased Cerabino but soon the challenger was being challenged himself by Lou Maestri for second. Cerabino, despite having two drivers who have won a collective 61 SPT races between them kept hitting his marks out front and soon things would change right behind him for second. On lap 15 Max Handley who came to fourth and joined the Stewart/Maestri tussle muscled his way into the fray and with some slight contact raced his way from fourth to second on lap 16. Handley quickly closed on leader Cerabino but with only a mile remaining in the race it was Joe Cerabino in the Amore Pizza Chevy writing the feel good story. During his victory lane celebration Joe dedicated the win to his crew chief Keith Rotzi’s father Peter a former SPT racer who passed away in the winter. Max Handley was second in the HCC Collision Chevy while brother Jack also of Medford was third in the River Walk Bar & Grill Chevy.
Another driver getting hot at the right time of the year is “Blankets” Joey Braun of Manorville who won the US Legend Cars INEX Legend Race Car 50-lap National Qualifier for his second win in two weeks and third of the season all since June 20th. Qualifying found George Tomko Jr. of Aquebogue quickest winning the Myracenews.com Pole Award of $100 with a lap of 13.550 just a tick off his track record of 13.490. Braun was second fastest with a circuit of 13.584. When the race went green Braun was able to get the advantage on Tomko for the race lead with George the 2021 championship leader coming into the race tucking into second. While staying within shouting distance of Braun for the lead Tomko seemed content riding in second over the first half of the race. That decision was made easier as the race moved along with George’s nearest championship rival Eric Hersey suffering some early race misfortune with a spin. Tomko after qualifying had a 26-point margin over Hersey starting the 50-lap tilt and pushing the envelope for the lead with Braun may not serve his best interest big picture. The race saw several caution flags slow the race with Joey Braun in the Miller & Caggiano entry able to keep George Tomko Jr in the Montauk Distilling Co. machine at bay to score his 6th career win. Without question the most impressive performance of the race honors went to Anthony Marsh of Riverhead who despite starting 26th came home third in his Riverhead Trailer racer earning the Hard Charger Award for the race hands down.
In the 40 laps 4/6-Cylinder Gut & Go Enduro that started 56 cars John Palmeri of Lindenhurst scored his second win in a row and of the season. The race boiled down to a battle between Palmeri and Zach Tyler, winner of the May Meltdown opener with the duo slicing their way through heavy lapped traffic while running one-two, However the traffic would play a role in the outcome of the race exiting turn two some lapped cars got together right in front of Palmeri and Tyler. Palmeri made contact but was able to keep moving while Tyler suffered race ending damage in the crash that drew a red flag. When the race continued Palmeri in the J&J Towing entry was able to remain out front to score the win but not a moment too soon as during his victory lap his left rear tire went flat from the earlier contact. The Olivari family, Chris of Coram and David of Selden were second and third.
Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77: 1. Kyle Soper 2. Tom Rogers Jr. 3. Jon McKennedy 4. John Fortin Sr. 5. Kyle Ellwood 6. Craig Lutz 7. JR Bertuccio 8. Chris Young 9. JB Fortin 10. Dylan Slepian 11. Shawn Solomito 12. John Baker 13. Roger Turbush 14. Eric Zeh 15. CJ Lehmann 16. Artie Pedersen III 17. Michael Rutkoski 18. Matt Brode 19. John Beatty Jr. 20. Jarrod Hayes 21. Chris Turbush DNS- Jack Handley Jr.
Crate Modifieds: 1. Michael Berner 2. Richie Davidowitz 3. Owen Grennan 4. Stephen Coleman 5. Alex Colasanto 6. Mike Albasini 7. Matt Brode 8. Eric Hersey 9. Terry Stiles 10. Eddie Schutze 11. Dennis Krupski 12. Sean Glennon 13. Mark Wolf 14. Chase Grennan 15. JR Bertuccio 16. Artie Pedersen III 17. Vinny Delaney 18. Ken Massa III 19. AJ DeSantis 20. Mark Stewart 21. Steve Ratti
Blunderbusts: 1. Cody Triola 2. Max Handley 3. Tom Sullivan 4. Eddie Diaz 5. Brandon Hubbard 6. Bill Wegmann Jr. 7. Alyssa Paprocky 8. Gary Caldwell 9. Kyle Halpin 10. CJ Lehmann DNS- Bill Wegmann Sr.
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Joe Cerabino 2. Max Handley 3. Jack Handley Jr. 4. Mark Stewart 5. Matt Triola 6. Lou Maestri 7. Roger Turbush 8. Ethan Brown 9. Russ Jansen 10. Frank Dumicich Sr. 11. Daniel Creegan
Legend Race Cars: 1. Joey Braun 2. George Tomko Jr. 3. Anthony Marsh 4. Jim Sylvester 5. Allan Pedersen 6. Kevin Nowak 7. Riely O’Keefe 8. Nick Morabinto 9. Ray Fitzgerald 10. Mike Benton 11. Eric Hersey 12. Jeff Otto Jr. 13. Sean McElearney 14. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 15. Colin Volpe 16. Ed Cheslak 17. John Beatty Jr. 18. Brad Van Houten 19. Mike Van Houten Jr. 20. Jason Castaldo 21. Scott Cheslak 22. Jake Curran 23. Mike Alcaro 24. Daniel Carter 25. Alex Halinar 26. Jason Agugliaro
Gut & Go Enduro: 1. John Palmeri 2. Chris Olivari 3. David Olivari 4. Bob Haeger Jr. 5. Peter Verwys Jr. 6. Franky Abbatiello 7. Patrick Collins 8. Rafael Stanzione 9. Jeremy Rand 10. Patrick McGay 11. Scott Tufarella 12. Justin Moritz 13. Robert Jett 14. Mariah Lawrence 15. Jack Tessa 16. Cutter Gera 17. Will Garbowski 18. Robert Dalke 19. Vincent Abbatiello Sr. 20. Vincent Ambrosio 21. Will Raynor 22. Kevin Constantine 23. Joey Palmeri Jr. 24. James Grandl 25. Jenn Krpata 26. Frank Raynor 27. AJ DeSantis 28. Michael Bianco 29. Mark Raynor 30. Raymond Rau 31. Hunter Cummings 32. Chris Grover 33. Ed LaSpina 34. Ryan T. Warren 35. Anthony Paretta 36. Chris Constantine 37. Chloe Phillips 38. Zach Tyler 39. Woot Lawrence 40. Michael Serpa 41. Henry Cuesta 42. Eric Marcoccio 43. Jody Fickissen 44. Justin Rienke 45. George Astacio 46. Rocko Fox 47. Steven Reisart 48. Ronald Levesque 49. Robert Lindner 50. Charles Astacio 51. Andrew Cuesta 52. Robert Izzo 53. Alex Endres 54. Robert Sexton 55. Derek Gonnelly 56. Nicholas Johnson