When defending Islip 300 race winner Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. walks through the gates of Riverhead Raceway Saturday November 13th to defend his 2020 race victory, a flood of emotions are bound to come over the popular driver. It will mark the first time that Ryan has strapped back into the Eddie & Connie Partridge owned Tour Type Modified since that fateful Friday night in Richmond, Virginia. Shortly after Preece’s win in the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 150 WMT event, triumph turned to tragedy when car owner Eddie Partridge was stricken with a fatal heart attack after leaving the race track for the trip home.
By Bob Finan
Anyone who has spent any amount of time around Ryan Preece is keenly aware he can turn emotion into motivation. The Islip 300 concept was the dream and vision of Eddie Partridge. Bring a high paying, open competition Tour Type Modified race to Long Island, in 2017 Eddie & Connie and Tom Gatz turned Eddie’s dream and concept into reality. With that in mind, along with Ryan being the only two time winner of the Islip 300, Preece will not require any pep talks prior to the 2021 Islip 300.
There are many who credit Eddie Partridge for their current status in the higher levels of NASCAR racing, Preece chief among them. During the funeral procession prior to the September WMT race at Riverhead, Ryan suggested to NASCAR Cup spotter Freddie Kraft, another graduate of the Partridge TS Haulers team, he spot the Islip 300 for him in an effort to get one more win for the big guy. It took Kraft less than a second to agree.
Before any Hollywood ending can be written by Ryan Preece at the Islip 300, he will have to contend with an all star caliber roster of drivers standing in his way. Among those who have verbally or electronically indicated to Riverhead Raceway management their intentions of competing in the Islip 300 include 2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore. Shut out of victory lane in the three Riverhead WMT events in 2021, Justin would love to cap his third championship season off with a victory. Bonsignore and Partridge had a long standing side wager when the WMT came to town, if either of their teams won they’d have to buy the post race ice cream for the other.
Just last week Tommy Baldwin Racing announced they are heading to the Islip 300 with a two car effort for Michael Christopher of Plainville, Ct and “Showtime” Jimmy Blewett of Howell, NJ. Blewett, like Preece and Kraft credits Eddie Partridge for not just his racing successes but those in life as well. The Baldwin/Blewett pairing is of particular interest given the fact many years ago in the early 80’s their fathers, “Tiger” Tom Baldwin and John Blewett Jr. raced side by side as many as three times a week. They would go toe to toe at bullrings like Islip Speedway, New Egypt Speedway and Riverhead Raceway chasing the NASCAR National Modified championship points while Tommy Jr. and Jimmy looked on.
Other WMT teams expressing intentions of racing in the Islip 300 include Eric Goodale of Riverhead, Craig Lutz of Miller Place and Dave Sapienza of Riverhead. Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford, Ma., who will bring his new WMT team he and Rob Fuller are putting together for 2022. Former NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National champion Keith Rocco of Berlin, Ct., will make his second start in the Islip 300, fresh off a huge Thompson 300 victory.
A solid contingent of Riverhead Raceway regulars are ready to do battle with invading teams led by 2021 Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper of Manorville, winner of the 2019 Islip 300. Kyle won an impressive one third of the 15 events contested in 2021 in route to his third championship in four years for car owner Wayne Anderson. John Baker of Brookhaven enjoyed a career year in ’21, visiting the winners circle three times, a Islip 300 victory would be icing on the cake to a great season. Rising star Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck won his first career race during the summer and he along with another winner in ’21, veteran Dave Brigati of Calverton are preparing for a run at the $7,000 victory. Opening night winner John Beatty Jr. of Merrick and the MSM Elite Motorsports team will return to action for the 300.
Having gone without a win during the regular Riverhead season several drivers are hopeful of grabbing the Islip 300 honors. Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills, Chris Young of Calverton, Roger Turbush of Riverhead, Justin Brown of Manorville, Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown, Chris Turbush of Wading River and Artie Pedersen of Center Moriches all hope to make the biggest race of the year their first victory of the year.
As of press time both Ellwood and Finan are in communication with several teams still deciding their status for the Islip 300. The Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds and INEX Legend Race Cars will compliment the Islip 300 Saturday November 13th. in the event of rain the program would be run Sunday November 14th, with a Saturday November 20th date in reserve if needed.
Pits will open at 8:00 am. The INEX Legend Race Cars will have a continuous 30 minute practice from 10:00 am until 10:30 am, the Crate Mods will do the same from 10:30 am through 11:00 am. Islip 300 Tour Type Modified practice will run from 11:00 am until 12 noon, spectator gates will also open at 11:00 am. Qualifying for all three divisions will be via time trials with INEX Legend Race Cars kicking things off at 1:00 pm, Crate Modifieds and Tour Type Modified qualifying to follow. Time has been allotted for B-Mains for the three classes, only if necessary.
Campers are welcome at Riverhead Raceway with no charge. The camping area is confined to the area behind the pits, there are no hook-ups. For further information visit us at http://www.riverheadraceway.com, e-mails reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, our phone number is 631-842-RACE.