Over the first 115-laps of the Miller Lite 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Raceway Saturday a combination of Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead, Dave Brigati of Calverton and Kyle Soper of Manorville showed the way. For awhile it appeared Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. who was the last Riverhead regular to win a WMT race in 1995 would witness that 26-year mark erased. Then the second half of the race unfolded with WMT championship contender Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY taking the lead on lap 116 from Soper to score the victory.
By Bob Finan
With a lap of 11.510 (78.193) Tom Rogers Jr. won the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award along with a special pole award in the name of Ted Christopher from Dave Sapienza of Sap Enterprises. Doug Coby of Milford, Ct. going for a sweep of the three Riverhead WMT races was second quick with a lap of 11.582. Dave Brigati of Calverton was third quick with a lap of 11.647.
When the 200 lap event went green Tom Rogers Jr. quickly bolted to the race lead with Doug Coby second. As is often the case with WMT events at Riverhead the early portion of the race finds drivers trying to pace themselves and save tires until the later stages of the race. Rogers was setting a pretty quick early race pace, one that Coby kept pace with. The first of seven caution flags appeared on lap 44 when Tyler Rypkema spun in a single car incident. When the race went back green on lap 51 Coby started to dial up the pressure on Rogers for the race lead. After a few laps of looking low Doug decided to go back up top with Rogers playing defense. On lap 53 Coby gained a run on Rogers exiting the second corner with the duo running in tight quarters. Midway up the backstretch Rogers inched up and caught Coby who hit the wall in turn three suffering heavy right fron suspension damage ending his bid for the Riverhead clean sweep.
When the field was called to order it was Rogers to the inside for the restart with Dave Brigati alongside in second and when the Buzz Chew Chevy pace truck dropped off the track and the race resumed Brigati powered his way by Rogers for the lead. It had been a few years since Brigati had entered a WMT race at his home track but he was fast while out front leading. On lap 89 Craig Lutz driving in a one off deal for Danny Watts Racing had a oil line fitting malfunction spraying the first and second turn with oil. JB Fortin who had a strong run going as did Kyle Bonsignore and Kyle Ellwood all were caught up suffering damage. An extended 13-lap caution flag period ensued.
When the race resumed on lap 103 Rogers was able to reclaim the lead by inches as he and Brigati raced side by side swapping paint, Brigati came out on the short end of that tussle spinning to the infield with front end damage. The Brigati/Rogers skirmish left the door open for Kyle Soper sneak by into the lead becoming the third Riverhead regular to lead on lap 104. Soper would lead until Austin Beers drew a caution with with a right front flat on lap 112.
With the field reset Soper was the new race leader with Patrick Emerling alongside in second. Emerling qualified 7th and early on dropped back some waiting on things to unfold before starting to work his way towards the front. When the green flag waved Patrick Emerling got the better of Kyle Soper to race his way out front. Soper soon was under pressure from and would surrender second to Justin Bonsignore. Coming into qualifying Bonsignore had a 22-point lead over Emerling for the 2021 WMT drivers title.
Bonsignore, an 8-time WMT winner at his home track was able to keep pace with Emerling but never able to pull up to the leaders rear spoiler. With the race ending with a 62-lap green flag run and Emerling and Bonsignore out front the Riverhead Raceway hopes turned to Roger Turbush who made his way to third in the final stage of the race. Roger, who has suffered through a tough 2021 campaign weekly perhaps had the fastest car among the three. All Roger needed was for a late race caution but after seven cautions waved in the first 133-lap of the contest, that late yellow never flew.
After two runner-up finishes in the first two WMT Riverhead races this year Patrick Emerling parked the Captain Pip’s Hideaway & Marina Chevy in the winners circle. Track GM John Ellwood presented Patrick with a special tribute trophy dedicated to the legacy of Eddie Partridge. Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville was runner-up in the Phoenix Communications Chevy and takes a 16-point lead over Emerling into Saturday’s NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Roger Turbush of Riverhead drove the race of his NASCAR Modified career coming home third in the Kennedy L.I. Realty Chevy.
Kyle Soper of Manorville after his stint in the lead finished fourth in the Eastport Feeds Chevy, while Eric Goodale of Riverhead was fifth in the Terra Vite Winery & Vineyard Chevy.
Tom Rogers Jr. finished 7th in the License To Chill Chevy while Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills placed 11th in the Eastport Feeds Chevy. For three other Riverhead Raceway drivers of seven in the 26-car field, their night did not turn out as planned. Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead was 20th, Dave Brigati 22nd and John Baker of Brookhaven 25th.
Miler Lite 200: 1. Patrick Emerling 2. Justin Bonsignore 3. Roger Turbush 4. Kyle Soper 5. Eric Goodale 6. Woddy Pitkat 7. Timmy Solomito 8. Tom Rogers Jr. 9. Kyle Bonsignore 10. Andy Jankowiak 11. Dylan Slepian 12. Tyler Rypkema 13. Chuck Hossfeld 14. Mike Christopher Jr. 15. Austin Beers 16. JB Fortin 17. Ron Silk 18. Dave Sapienza 19. Walter Sutcliffe Jr. 20. Kyle Ellwood 21. Ken Heagy 22. Dave Brigati 23. Craig Lutz 24. Doug Coby 25. John Baker 26. Melissa Fiffield