It had been since July 14th, 2007 since JR Bertuccio of Centereach had visited victory lane at Riverhead Raceway after a NASCAR Modified event but that all changed Saturday when the former champion returned to the hallowed ground after the 50-lap feature event.
During those 15-years, JR, the 2002 champion at Riverhead had spent time either chasing the NASCAR WMT, Southern NASCAR WMT or on the sidelines. Prior to the 2022 season Bertuccio and his father Joe decided to return to their racing root to have some fun.
Jason Agugliaro jumped to the early lead after choosing the outside lane for the start but a quick caution would wave as the field raced off the fourth turn to start lap 2. Jack Handley Jr. and JR Bertuccio were side by side when it appeared both cars got free and contact was made sending Handley hard unto the wail under the starters stand. Race control deemed the contact was incidental. It wouldn’t take long for a second caution to wave after the restart with Agugliaro still on top after choosing the inside lane. On lap 3 Chris Turbush who was running among the leaders and Eddie Brunnhoelzl III got together off the second turn slowing the race. When the field was reset Augugliaro again chose the inside with JR Bertuccio who came to second on the first restart lined up alongside. This time when the green flag dropped Bertuccio got a big run on the outside to move his Gershow Recycling Chevy out front with Agugliaro now giving chase.
While the fight for the lead took place, Kyle Soper was busy making his way from a 10th starting berth to third, quickly reeling in Agugliaro for second while Bertuccio started to open a comfortable lead. On lap 7 Soper saw an opening under Agugliaro exiting the second corner and made the pass for second. Once to second the large crowd on hand figured it would just be a matter of time before Kyle, recent WMT winner at his home track would pull up to challenge Bertuccio for the win. Indeed Soper was able to cut into the cushion JR had built up as the race hit halfway. However as the race continued to move along as close as Soper might get to Bertuccio, the leader would start to turn the wick up on his machine keeping a few car lengths between he and his challenger.
When the dueling checker flags waved JR Bertuccio was first over the line for his 29th career win at Riverhead ranking him 11th on the all time win list. When told in the winners circle this was his first win since July of ’07 JR deadpanned, “if you say so” Bertuccio quickly turned the conversation to those behind the scenes, “my father Joe has always provided the best of the best, my guys for working so hard. We shook down a new car earlier and had this one ready to win, they do all of the work”. When quizzed if he was worried when Soper started to reel him in some JR boldly noted, “nah, not all all, I could run the bottom really good, so I knew we had them covered”.
Championship leader Kyle Soper of Manorville was runner-up in the Eastport Feeds Chevy, he too shook down a new car earlier in the afternoon. Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck had his strongest run to date in ’22 racing from an 8th place starting spot to finish third in the Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Chevy. Dave Brigati of Calverton and Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills were fourth and fifth.
In the best race of the night Chase Grennan of Glen Cove survived a three car duel for the win in the closing laps to score his first career 25-lap Crate Modified feature victory. Starting from the outside pole Chase Grennan out ran Eddie Schutze to the first turn to take the early race lead with Kyle Ellwood quickly coming from fourth to second. As the race settled in Grennan continued to show the more seasoned Ellwood the way around with many onlookers figuring it was a matter of time before Kyle made his way by the teenage driver. However Chase was keeping a few car lengths between he and Ellwood hoping all along for the race to go caution free. Unfortunately for Chase the yellow would wave on lap 16 after Eric Hersey hit the wall up the backstretch. Charles Macwhinnie was sent to the pits for the night by race control for his role in Hersey’s crash. On the ensuing restart the veteran Ellwood was able to take over the lead on Chase Grennan, with Owen Grennan now in the mix too. Undaunted by losing the lead Chase Grennan put his head down and kept digging running alongside Ellwood to the inside while older brother Owen waited in the wings. Chase and Kyle run side by side over the final 8 laps without contact. The tp three cars ran under a blanket under the conclusion of the race and youth was served when Chase Grennan in the Dillner Precast Chevy crossed the line first much to the delight of the fans. Sadly for Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead he was disqualified from second for a altered distributor. That turn of post race events moved Owen Grennan of Glen Cove to second in the rundown with his Creative Snow By Cow Bay Chevy, Mike Albasini of Flushing was third in the Utopia Bagels entry.
The Late Models were to run a 50-lap Miller Lite Triple Crown Series event but due to numerous cautions that wiped out nearly half of the 19 car starting grid the race was cut to 31-laps with Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach scoring his first career LM win. Brian Brown of Calverton was quickest in qualifying with a lap of 12.711, however during the race Brown was among those caught up in a wreck losing laps in the pits. When the green flag dropped Brown would lead the first lap but a Shawn Patrick spin while running second slowed the race before lap 2 was complete. On the ensuing restart Brandon Turbush was able to outrun Brown for the race lead with Brian settling into second. When the race was green the car on the move was that of Jimmy Rennick Jr. who started fourth, after coming to third Rennick was able to slip under Brown for second entering the first turn on lap 12. Rennick spent all of one lap running second as he quickly went on the attack racing his was under Turbush for the lead entering the third turn on lap 14. Once out front Rennick, who clearly had the fastest car would have to survive several double file restarts against Turbush to remain out front. With a caution flag waving on the 31st lap race control warned the LM drivers next flag would end the race. On that restart Frank Dumicich Jr., making his first start in two years spun harmlessly on the home chute ending the race with Jimmy Rennick Jr scoring the popular win in the Metropolitan Recycling Chevy. Brandon Turbush of Manorville was runner-up in the Sea Pro Marine Dock Builders mount, while Shawn Patrick of Brightwaters rallied from his early race spin to claim third in his Matlach Fabricating racer.
In a non stop 20-lap Super Pro Truck event Sean Glennon of Northport won his second race of 2022 in a non stop affair. Joe Cerabino and Ethan Brown made up the front row for the start with Cerabino breaking out to the race lead over Brown. On lap 4 Mark Stewart was able to work his way by Brown for second while Cerabino led. On lap 12 Sean Glennon who started 6th on the grid passed Stewart for second and set sail for leader Cerabino. It took Glennon five laps to catch Cerabino and on lap 17 as they raced to the two to go signal Glennon ducked under Cerabino foe the race lead. Over the final two laps Sean Glennon in the R&R Brothers Electric Chevy showed the way earning his 6th career SPT win. Joe Cerabino of bay Shore was runner-up in the Victory Mixed Martial Arts entry with sophomore driver Matt Triola of Bay Shore third in his Cesspool Pros Chevy.
Defending INEX Legend Race Car champion George Tomko Jr. of Aquebogue pocketed his second win of 2022 when he topped the 20-lap feature. At the throw of the green Mike Benton quickly took control of the race from the pole, with Chris Sinatro coming from third to second on the initial start. Sinatro chased Benton over the first 6 laps before former champion Jim Sylvester raced his way by on the inside on lap 7. On lap 12 a Jeff Farruggia and Jake Curran tangle in turn four slowed the race setting up a double file restart. On that restart George Tomko Jr. who started 9th made his way past Sylvester for second to start lap 13. After testing Benton for two laps Tomko made his bid for the lead payoff with an inside pass exiting turn four to start lap 15, Sylvester followed Tomko to take second. Once in the lead George Tomko Jr. in the Montauk Distilling entry led the rest of the way for the win. Anthony Marsh of Riverhead made his way to second in the Riverhead Trailer machine with two laps left in the contest and would finish there with Jim Sylvester of Massapequa settling for third in the Joe Ryan Race Cars mount.
The Mini Stocks ran their second Miller Lite Triple Crown Series race of the year and turned in a non stop 30-lap race. However the story was not what happened on the track, but rather in post race technical inspection. Defending champion Paul Wojcik of Patchogue set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 14.889. Wojcik and Tony Collinsworth made up the front row for the start of the race with Collinsworth taking the early race lead and leading all 30-laps for an apparent second win of 2022. However Collinsworth along with third place James O’Connell, fourth place Ryan Warren and fifth place Joe Cooke Jr. all failed post race inspection for unapproved camber. Runner up Wojcik was DQ’D for drilled brake rotors. Those turn of events moved Mike Mujsce Jr. of Hampton Bays from 6th to victory lane in his RFC Electrical Contracting machine. CJ Zukowski of Riverhead was second in the Walls of Fame Cavalier while Chris Elixson of Riverhead was third in the Mike’s Auto Service of Quogue entry.
Phil LaManna of Smithtown scored the 40-lap Truck Enduro win after starting 11th in the field for his first win of 2022. Jarrett Campbell of Yaphank broke to the early lead and seemed to be on his way to his second win of the season but just after lap 15 ducked to the infield with mechanical woes. Mariah Lawrence led for a few laps before Phil LaManna in his EP Milling & Sweeping S-10 took the lead on lap 19 and the eventual win. Mariah Lawrence and her brother Woot both of Southampton were second and third in their Gregor Well Drilling trucks.
NASCAR Modifieds (6-18 make up) 1. JR Bertuccio 2. Kyle Soper 3. Michael Rutkoski 4. Dave Brigati 5. Dylan Slepain 6. Jason Agugliaro 7. Chris Young 8. Matt Brode 9. John Beatty Jr. 10. Justin Brown 11. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 12. Chris Rogers 13. Owen Grennan 14. Jeffrey Goodale 15. Roger Turbush 16. Glen Steger 17. Kyle Ellwood 18. Brian Brown 19. Ken Heagy 20. Chris Turbush 21. Jack Handley Jr. DNS- Eric Zeh, John Baker, Allan Pedersen
Crate Modifieds: 1. Chase Grennan 2. Owen Grennan 3. Mike Albasini 4. AJ DeSantis 5. Alex Colasanto 6. Sean Glennon 7. Eddie Schutze 8. Michael Berner 9. Mark Wolf 10. Dennis Krupski 11. Eric Hersey 12. Terry Stiles 13. Vinny Delaney 14. Chris Rogers DNS- Stephen Coleman DQ- Kyle Ellwood, Max Handley, Charles Macwhinnie
Late Models: 1. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 2. Brandon Turbush 3. Shawn Patrick 4. Ethan Brown 5. Ray Minieri 6. Chris McGuire 7. Kevin Metzger 8. Paul Cummings 9. Frank Dumicich Jr. 10. Jeff Otto Jr. 11. Rusty Turbush 12. Brian Brown 13. Brian Doyle 14. Alyssa Paprocky 15. Scott Cheslak 16. Ed Cheslak 17. Russ Jansen 18. Gerard Giordano 19. Dave Briagti
Super Pro Trucks: 1. Sean Glennon 2. Joe Cerabino 3. Matt Triola 4. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 5. Jack Handley Jr. 6. Lou Maestri 7. Mark Stewart 8. Frank Dumicich Sr. 9. Ethan Brown 10. Matt McGrath 11. Rob Corwin 12. Daniel Creegan
Legend Race Cars: 1. George Tomko Jr. 2. Anthony Marsh 3. Jim Sylvester 4. Jason Castaldo 5. Mike Benton 6. Ray Fitzgerald 7. Eric Hersey 8. Chase Van Houten 9. Richie Davidowitz 10. Chris Sinatro 11. Joe Costello 12. Jerry Curran 13. Jeff Farruggia 14. Pat Moore 15. Cody Triola 16. Jayden Glennerster 17. Michael Metcalf 18. Mike Van Houten Jr. 19. Kevin Ohrnberger 20. Nick Kocis 21. Mark Godnick 22. Colin Hoeffner 23. Jake Curran 24. Billy King Jr. 25. Nick Morabito 26. Ray Stulz
Mini Stocks: 1., Mike Mujsce Jr. 2. CJ Zukowski 3. Chris Elixson 4. Chris Olivari 5. Jesse St. Clair 6. Mike Mujsce III 7. Andrew Farnham 8. Charles Astacio 9. Scott Phillips 10. Justin Squires DQ- Tony Collinsworth, Paul Wojcik James O’Connell, Ryan Warren, Joe Cooke Jr.
Truck Enduro: 1. Phil LaManna 2. Mariah Lawrence 3. Woot Lawrence 4. Kerry Botts 5. Gary Voight 6. Whitney Williams 7. Brandon LaManna 8. Jackie Germuth 9. Kevin Feeney 10 Dusty Cole 11. Steve Reisert 12. Danielle Cohen 13. Mark Russo 14. Jennifer Hohwiesner 15. Chloe Phillips 16. Chris Grover 17. Emily Hubbard 18. James Kelly 19. Nikki Giordano 20. Jarrett Campbell 21. Peter Cohen 22. Kayla Kelly