Despite the unthinkable tragic loss of Riverhead Raceway owner Eddie Partridge less than 24 hours prior the decision on whether to run Saturday night’s Tribute To Heroes by Optimum Business would have to be made. During the process those involved asked themselves one question. What would Eddie do? The answer was clear, he’d race and so the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series program was presented as scheduled. Enjoying a career season John Baker of Broohkaven won his third Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modified 50-lap feature of the season.
By Bob Finan
After celebrating his NASCAR WMT teams victory in the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 150 at Richmond Raceway Friday night with Ryan Preece at the wheel Eddie Partridge, his brother Scoop and Jay Mignona a long time family friend of the Partridge’s started what was to be an overnight trip to return for the Saturday night Riverhead program. Sadly not too far into the trip Eddie experienced a medical episode and passed away despite heroic efforts of the EMT’s and firefighters. Fighting through heartbreak and extreme shock Eddie’s wife Connie and their nephew Tom Gatz decided to press on with the tribute To Heroes by Optimum Business later Saturday evening.
A heavy law enforcement, firefighter, EMT and military presence was schedules for on track opening ceremonies to mark the 20th anniversary of September 11th, 2001. Those ceremonies sadly now included a tribute the our friend and leader at Riverhead Raceway. The entire pit population walked onto the front straightaway with all drivers lining up on the inner line, their teams behind them. Long time announcer Bob Finan led a tearful tribute to the man many called either “Big Ed” or his longtime nickname “Palmtree” Pastor Scott Kraniak of Racing With Jesus led a prayer session followed by the national anthem. Then from over the first turn the Suffolk County Police Aviation Until chopper flew over the ceremony below, there was not a dry eye in the house. It was then as Eddie would have wanted time to go racing.
In the 50-lap Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modified feature Eric Zeh raced his way into the early lead chased by Artie Pedersen III and Roger Turbush. As the race moved along John Baker who started 6th on the grid started to flex his muscles and made his way into the fight for the lead. With a flawless performing Staria Automotive Chevy beneath him Baker moved up to the outside lane to pass early leader Zeh for the lead on lap 17. One lap later Dave Brigati also got by Zeh to come to second after starting 7th.
While Baker and Brigati raced in the top two spots most recent winner and defending champion Tom Rogers Jr. was on the move from his 11th starting spot. When the race entered it’s later stage Rogers moved around Brigati and set sail for race leader Baker. Entering competition Baker had 4 career wins under his belt while the fast closing Rogers 61 wins. Rogers at first started looking down low on Baker and at time would drawn a wheel on him only to have Baker power away off the corners. With that game plan not panning out Rogers then went to the outside and there too Baker was able to ward off challenges from the five time track champ. Dave Brigati just about a car length back was watching from third hoping that maybe the two hard charging drivers would make a mistake and he would capitalize.
In the end John Baker would prevail to take down the win in the Elite Towing Chevy but afterwards his thoughts quickly turned to the Partridge family, “my and my team’s thoughts and prayers are with Connie, Tom Gatz and the family of Eddie. He was a racer who saved racing for us here on Long Island”. John reflected. As for the race Baker looked back, “man to hold off a 61- time winner in Tommy and a driver of Dave’s caliber is a true statement to how far out team has come this year led by my Dad (Daryl), he puts so much into this”.
Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead was runner-up in the License To Chill Chevy while the Coors Light Silver Bullet of Dave Brigati of Calverton was third. Championship leader Kyle Soper of Manorville and Justin Brown of Manorville were fourth and fifth.
The third and final installment of the Miller Lite Triple Crown Series was on tap for the Figure Eights with the starting line-up set by second round practice speeds. Tom Ferrara of Patchogue was quickest (16.957) and won the National Collision Co., USA, Inc. Pole Award. The 20-lap feature was marred several mishaps and yellow flags but in the end turned out to be a Pedersen family affair. INEX Legend Race Car standout Allan Pedersen took over the lead from Vinny Biondolillo on lap 7 putting himself in position to win his first career Figure Eight race. Biondolillo who won the $100 Top Notch Performance Lap 3 Leader bonus had to say the least an adventurous race getting spun from second only to race his way back up to the spot to challenge Pedersen late in the race. When the dust settled Allan Pedersen in the Puma Law Group Chevy owned by Chris Elliott took home his first career Figure Eight winners trophy earning Elliott the Alan Van Ness Crew Chief of the Race Award from AJ Van Ness and family. Vinny Biondolillo of Farmingville was runner-up in the McBetts Racing Engines entry while Bryan Qulliam of Shirley in the velocity Race Engines machine was a solid third. With a sixth place finish Scott Pedersen of Shirley clinched the 2021 Miller Lite Triple crown Series championship in the Land ,Air & Water Environmental Chevy for car owner Benny Vecchio.
The Super Pro Trucks also ran their third and final Miller Lite Triple Crown Series race with defending champion Jack Handley Jr. of Medford sitting on a slim one point lead in the MLTCS ranking over younger brother Max. In qualifying Jack Handley Jr. topped the charts with a lap of 13.261 despite being the first truck to take time, Ethan Brown of Floral Park was second quick at 13.328. The qualifying effort coupled with Max Handley’s timing in fourth gave Jack a four point cushion in the MLTCS over Max going into the 30-lap main event. When the green flagged wave a non stop event ran without interruption which played right into the hands of Jack Handley Jr. and his River Walk Bar & Grill team. Over the first 9 laps Mark Stewart ran second to Handley before he was overtaken on lap 10 by Max Handley. The remainder of the race saw the brothers Handley run one-two until the checker flag where Jack enjoyed his third win of the season, 12th of his career ranking him 9th on the all time win list and the 2021 Miller Lite Triple Crown Series championship. “Mad” Max Handley of Medford was second in the Hollis Court Collision Chevy while the returning Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach drove to a third place tally in his Metropolitan Recycling Chevy after starting 6th.
2021 INEX Legend Race Car championship leader George Tomko Jr. of Aquebogue picked a perfect time to score his first win of the season when he won the 30-lap finale for the Miller Lite Triple Crown Series earning him the 2021 championship in the three race series. Up and coming talent Jason Castaldo of Shirley broke the track record held by Tomko in qualifying with a lap of 13.350. At the throw of the green flag Castaldo broke to the race lead with Tomko who was second quick in time (13.394) in tow. Things were going along just fine for Castaldo until a lap 14 caution for a Dave Strohmeyer spin slowed the race. During the yellow flag period Castaldo was forced to pit with a loose fender surrendering the race lead to Tomko. When the race resumed Eric Hersey was now second to Tomko and he’d chase the leader until his car got loose exiting the second turn on lap 19 moving Anthony Marsh to second. Marsh who started 7th in a ironic twist has his car set up by George Tomko Jr. and his father now found himself having to figure out first of he would challenge George and then how. Unlike F1 racing no team orders in place as Marsh turned up the heat on Tomko in an effort to win his third race in the last five starts. George Tomko Jr. would hold off his friend to score the win in his Montauk Distilling Co. racer with Anthony Marsh of Riverhead runner-up in the JAM Computer Systems machine. Three time winner Ray Fitzgerald of Manorville was third in the Benimax Trucking mount.
The Mini Stocks turned in a non stop 20-lap feature event with Joe Cooke Jr. of Shirley winning his second race in less than a month. James O’Connell moved out front at the start but it didn’t take Joe Cooke Jr. long to make a bid for the lead which he took with an inside pass entering the third turn tyo start the third circuit. O’Connell held second until lap 5 when he was passed by Andrew Farnham with Ryan Warren quickly coming to third. When Farnham and Warren got to racing for second that coupled with the lack of a yellow flag was all Joe Cooke Jr. in the Island Technology Honda needed to drive to his second career win. The fight for second saw Farnham and warren swap the position with Andrew Farnham of Baldwin taking the runner-up honors in his self funded Honda. Ryan Warren of Ridge was third in the Schmidt’s Produce & Market Cavalier.
In the annual First Responders 4/6-Cylinder Enduro event Suffolk County Corrections officer Zach Tyler of Cutchogue scored the 30-lap victory. Tyler whose grandfather Cliff and uncle Glenn had great success at the track is a regular in the 4/6-Cylinder Gut & Go Enduro class took the lead on the very first lap and never looked back in his Miller & Caggiano Attorneys At Law racer. David Olivari of Selden, a Suffolk County Police Department mechanic was runner-up while Chris Olivari of Coram was third, Chris is a surgery room technician at Peconic Bay Medical center in Riverhead.
In the National Stock Demolition Derby Championship past winner Jason Savoy of Lake Panamoka took down a hard fought victory in his Misery Machine. The event came down to a final three of Savoy, fellow veteran driver Joey Palmeri Sr. of Lindenhurst and Nicholas Malvery of Spring Hill, Florida. Malverty took several hard hits in his Toyota last of which found the second generation driver unable to re-fire his Mermaids Towing car in the allotted time allowed earning him third place money. That allowed Savoy and Palmeri to go toe-to-toes and in the backstretch area of the infield Jason laid a hard hit on Palmeri who like Malverty was unable to re-fire. That gave Jason Savoy in the Monsters Recycling entry the victory while Joey Palmeri Sr. was runner-up in the J&J Towing machine.
NASCAR Modifieds: 1. John Baker 2. Tom Rogers Jr. 3. Dave Brigati 4. Kyle Soper 5. Justin Brown 6. Michael Rutkoski 7. CJ Lehmann 8. Dylan Slepian 9. Jack Handley Jr. 11. John Fortin Sr. 12. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 13. Artie Pedersen III 14. Chris Young 15. Jeffrey Goodale 16. Roger Turbush 17. Eric Zeh 18. Ken Heagy 19. Chris Turbush 20. Matt Brode
Figure Eights: 1. Allan Pedersen 2. Vinny Biondolillo 3. Bryan Quilliam 4. Vinny Delaney 5. Gary Fritz Jr. 6. Scott Pedersen 7. Bob Dalke 8. Tom Ferrara 9. Kim Hyde 10. Paulo Miguel 11. Brian Hansen 12. Paul Cummings 13. Ryan Warren
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Max Handley 3. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 4. Lou Maestri 5. Mark Stewart 6. Matt Triola 7. Joe Cerabino 8. Patrick Glennon 9. Ethan Brown 10. Frank Dumicich Sr.
Legend Race Cars: 1. George Tomko Jr. 2. Anthony Marsh 3. Ray Fitzgerald 4. Eric Hersey 5. Allan Pedersen 6. Kyle Ellwood 7. Riely O’Keefe 8. Richie Davidowitz 9. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 10. Colin Volpe 11. Mike Benton 12. Jason Agugliaro 13. Nick Morabito 14. Charlie Hodge 15. Christopher Coleman 16. Jayden Glennerster 17. Jerry Curran 18. Scott Cheslak 19. Joey Braun 20. Jason Castaldo 21. Chris Sinatro 22. Jeff Otto Jr. 23.Jake Curran 24. Dave Strohmeyer 25. Mike Van Houten Jr. 26. Pat Moore Withdrew- Jim Sylvester
Mini Stocks: 1. Joe Cooke Jr. 2. Andrew Farnham 3. Ryan Warren 4. James O’Conell 5. Paul Wojcik 6. CJ Zukowski 7. Tony Collinsworth 8. Justin Squires 9. Tom Puccia 10. Scott Phillips 11. Bob Dalke 13. Martin O’Connell DNS- Ryan Zukowski
1st Responders Race: 1. Zach Tyler 2. David Olivari 3. Chris Olivari 4. Joe Densieski 5. Bobby Pease 6. Robert Corwin 7. Jeremy Rand 8. Patrick Collins 9. Steve Phillips Jr. 10. Kyle Wright 11. Steve Phillips Sr. 12. Jason Dobry 13. John Lennon 14. Jennifer Siebert 15. Tim Reilly 16. Mark Raynor 17. Fred Grover 18. Chloe Phillips 19. Mike Evers 20. Rich Boulch
National Stock Demolition Derby championship: 1. Jason Savoy 2. Joey Palmeri Sr. 3. Nicholas Malverty