It was a magical night September 19th, 1992 at Riverhead Raceway with an ending not even the best Hollywood script writer could have ever imagined. Prior to the ’92 NASCAR Modified season at Riverhead Raceway, Harbach, then 55 announced that year would be the last of his storied 40 plus year driving career. In typical “Flying Dutchman” fashion Fred not only went out and won his final race but sewed 1992 NASCAR Modified championship to boot in his final race.
By Bob Finan
Longtime track announcer Bob Finan recalls the circumstances well, “it was a typical Fred Harbach season, always in the top five taking care of his equipment” Finan recollected.”However as we raced through August the championship chase came into focus and heading into that final night it was the tested tough veteran in Harbach against the up and coming young driving stud Brian Miller for the title” Bob further recalled. In the final 35-lapper Fred Harbach would find his way to the race lead and earn his 21st career Riverhead Raceway win and the track championship, Fred’s second at the eastern long Island bullring.
This Saturday June 4th Riverhead Raceway owners Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Fred Harbach’s final race and all that went with it presenting The Flying Dutchman 90, the first of six races in the 2022 Crown Jewel Series for the Ted Christopher Cup. “No matter the level of Fred’s success he remained very popular with his competitors and the fans, oh how they loved being around the X-90 after the races” Finan added. Aside from his exploits at Riverhead Fred attained much in the way of success at both Islip Speedway and the New Egypt, NJ Speedway where he was multi time champion pocketing numerous race wins along the way.
Finan also revealed a special treat for the race Saturday, “Alex Kitzen, Fred’s son in law is hopeful of having the X-90 Cavalier that Fred win his final race and track title in on hand Saturday for the race. This is not a replica or mach-up, this is the actual Cavalier that was soaked in champagne after the last race in 1992”. Alex, known as AJ Kitz in the Vintage race car world recently had the McBetts Race Engine redone in the car and hopes to compete in the Eddie Partridge Vintage All-Stars 15 lap feature with it. Alex and his wife JoJo Harbach Kitzen also own the Miceka #18 blue coupe that Fred won many a race in and are also currently refurbishing one of Fred’s Pinto race cars after receiving it back from Carl Miller. The enclosed trailer that transports the cars also doubles as a museum to Fred Harbach and will be at Riverhead Saturday.
Looking ahead to Saturday and The Flying Dutchman 90 two teams will especially be ready to go all out for the win having ties over the years with Harbach. Kyle Soper of Manorville, the reining NASCAR Modified champion drives for Wayne Anderson with whom Harbach had many a bullring battle. No matter if it were Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, Anderson and Harbach were swapping paint at New Egypt, Riverhead or Islip and a victory in the Flying Dutchman 90 would be very special for Wayne and his Eastport Feeds team.
“The Fancy Farmer” Dave Brigati of Calverton is another driver whose racing career was influenced by Fred Harbach. When Dave began his driving career in the Charger division he did so in a car that was painted and lettered to mirror the X-90 NASCAR Modifieds. Brigati grew up in Melville, just south of Fred’s hometown of Huntington Station with Brigati stopping by T&F Auto Body picking Harbach’s brain for driving tips, Fred always obliged as he did with so many young drivers over the years. Dave recently won the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77, a victory in The Flying Dutchman 90 would be just as special. Not that long ago for the Islip 300 Brigati wrapped his 98x NASCAR Modified duplicating the X-90 in tribute to his racing hero.
Other teams wanting to take home the special trophy for the Flying Dutchman 90 include Chris Young of Calverton, Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead, John Baker of Brookhaven, Justin Brown of Manorville, John Beatty Jr. of Merrick, Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills, Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown, Artie Pedersen III, Chris Turbush of Wading River and Jack Handley Jr. of Medford.
Complementing The Flying Dutchman 90 for the NASCAR Modifieds Saturday June 4th are the Crate Modiifeds, Figure Eights, INEX Legend Race Cars, Eddie Partridge Vintage All Stars and a Truck Enduro. Spectator gates will open at 4:00 pm, adults $30, kids 6-12 $10, 5 & under free. Pits will open at 2:00 pm, pit admission is $40 with NASCAR/INEX license, $60 without.