During the off season on Long Island the whispers grew louder and louder on the status of the four time and defending Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified championship pairing of Wayne Anderson and driver Kyle Soper. With a short, simple Facebook posting published April 3rd. Anderson gave the first indication writing, “plenty of race car equipment for sale, also tools, air & electric”.
By Bob Finan
Just days later Wayne Anderson confirmed after 58-years in the racing game he was indeed liquidating his race shop inventory, preparing to retire. With Anderson’s retirement, plus Kyle Soper having no current racing plans, the 2023 Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified title fight will be wide open starting opening night Saturday May 6th.
“Kyle indicated he wanted to pare back to a part-time schedule for 2023” Anderson revealed, “I understand, he just got engaged, is flourishing in his business career and wants to focus his energy there, but I wanted to continue full time”. Right after celebrating their fourth Riverhead Raceway Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Riverhead Raceway and New York State championship in early January it was clear the tandem, who won 25 features together including the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77, Islip 300 and Miller Lite NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event last summer were not going their separate ways. It was at this point Wayne, 76 had to make some hard decisions, “we thought about putting another driver in the Anderson Motorsports/Eastport Feeds #15, but at this stage of the game my family, friends and sponsors and I figured this was good a time as any to call it a day”.
Wayne praised the effort Kyle Soper and his family brought to his team, “Kyle, his father Tom and the entire Soper family are first class” Wayne noted, “what a magical racing carpet ride we rode together” Indeed the Anderson/Soper combination that came together midway through the 2017 enjoyed instant success winning the 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022 track championships while combining for 25 victories.
For his part Kyle Soper reflected on his time at Anderson Motorsports, “I am grateful for Wayne and Joette Anderson, Doug and Maura Corwin of Eastport Feeds, they let me achieve things most people only dream about”. Kyle, 27 furthered, “yeah, I wasn’t too interested in full time anymore, work is really busy and real life for me is starting. I don’t have any plans to race as of now in 2023, but honestly have not looked either”. Soper’s NASCAR Modified has won 29 NASCAR Modified events (4 with family team) ranking him 11th on the all-time win list.
The word iconic might not do justice to the accomplishments of Wayne Anderson during his illustrious career that began with winning the 1965 Rookie of the Year at Islip Speedway, racing alongside his famed father Axel. All told won 32 features driving at Riverhead, earning him five track championships along the way in 1982,’87,’88,’90 & ’91. The 32 wins ties him with Bill Park for 6th on the all-time win list. As much success as Wayne, who was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 enjoyed as a driver, his statistics as an owner at Riverhead are as impressive. Wayne enjoyed an additional five championships as an owner for Shawn Solomito in 2016 along with the four Kyle Soper earned in 2018, ’19, ’21 & ’22. Four drivers would combine to give Wayne 45 victories at the wheel of the Eastport Feeds Chevy led by Soper’s 25 wins. Timmy Solomito won 10 times, while brother Shawn added 8 wins while Donny Lia and the late Ted Christopher winning once.
In addition to his Riverhead Raceway exploits Wayne Anderson won the 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship and was a two-time track champion at both Islip Speedway and New Egypt Speedway.
Looking back at all he accomplished Wayne was quick to share the credit, “I was blessed during my career with some great marketing partners along the way. Sayville Ford, Insula-Dome Skylights and Eastport Feeds paved the way for those wins, championships and all the accolades”. Wayne also thanked his family, “my wife Joette, daughter Melissa sacrificed so much for me so we could do what we did, it was a heck of a ride”.
Riverhead GM John Ellwood has announced that the prominent first pit stall along the fence at Riverhead Raceway, occupied for so many seasons by the #15 will be titled The Wayne Anderson Championship Pit Stall, awarded annually to the championship team from the previous season. With Wayne Anderson and Kyle Soper not returning that stall will go to 2022 runner-up John Beatty Jr. and his car owner Mark Mina of MSM Elite Motorsports. There will be more tributes during the 2023 season that Ellwood and staff will announce at a later date.
With the vacating of the NASCAR Modified championship by the Anderson/Soper combination the race for the 2023 title is expected to be wide open starting with the Saturday May 6th opening night 50-lap feature event. The NASCAR Modified are joined on opening night by the Late Models, Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds, Figure Eights, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks and INEX Legend Race Cars.
The complete 2023 schedule of events can be viewed at http://www.riverheadraceway.com, e-mails reach the track at [email protected] while out phone number remains 631-842-RACE.
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