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Riverhead Raceway To Salute Mike Ewanitsko During June 24th Miller Lite 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Event

Photo: Stafford Motor Speedway
He was one of the most successful NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers of his generation, complete with rock star looks and matching charismatic personality. When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Riverhead Raceway June 24th they will compete in the Miller Lite 200, Salute to Mike Ewanitsko.

Mike, the all-time leading WMT winner at Riverhead will be on hand having an active role during the evening, an evening that could very well wind up with Justin Bonsignore tying him atop the Riverhead WMT win list.
During the off-season Riverhead Raceway GM John Ellwood thought it would be great to salute Mike Ewanitsko during the 2023 race season. With Mike enjoying equal amounts of success at both Riverhead Raceway and on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the concept of showcasing Mike’s racing career during a WMT event came into focus. Riverhead owners Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz were immediately on board with Jimmy Wilson of NASCAR quickly signing on. “Mike was truly one of the best seat of the pants drivers to ever strap into a Modified”, Ellwood offered. John also disclosed plans for Mike during the Miller Lite 200, “Mike will participate in the WMT autograph session, give the command to fire engines pre-race and present the race winning trophy. We are honored to have Mike as part of the 200, it will be great to see him interact with his fans again.”
After cutting his eye teeth with the Nassau Quarter Midget program, Mike was elevated into the Ira Bromley owned Mutual Engraving NASCAR Modified at Islip Speedway just before the famed 1/5 of a mile shuttered in 1984. When Saturday night racing shifted east to Riverhead Raceway, it didn’t take Mike long to find victory lane as he won his first NASCAR Modified feature at 18 years and two months old on June 14th,1985. It would be the first of 30 overall victories for Mike at Riverhead ranking him 10th on the all-time win list.
It wasn’t long before Mike and his later father Lew made the decision to move their racing focus to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour where i again it didn’t take Mike long to find his way to victory lane. His first of his 11 WMT wins at Riverhead came during the July 8th,1987 CAM2 Motor Oil 151. Ewanitsko quickly backed that first win up on August 6th,1987 when he topped the 7-Up 151 at the demanding quarter mile. Mike would then pick up one Riverhead WMT win per season during the 1988, ’89, ’90, ’92. ’95. ’97, & ’98 seasons. His final home track win came during the CARQUEST Auto Parts 200 August 5th.2000.
Early on the Ewantisko team would continue running some weekly Riverhead shows when their WMT schedule permitted. However, car owners and sponsors were noticing Mike’s natural ability and his racing horizons soon expanded. After his first WMT triumph at Riverhead in 1987, Mike drove to a career total of 28 WMT wins placing him 8th in the WMT all-time rankings. His final visit to WMT victory lane would be a very special one, a win at Martinsville Speedway on October 13th.2001. For his father Lew and family, Mike winning that Martisnville event was among his career highlights as the Virginia oval held a special place in their hearts.
Through it all Mike remained one of the most popular personalities with the fans of the WMT as well his fellow competitors. Many wondered, if not for some health issues Mike pushed through since youth, what more could he of accomplished on the NASCAR WMT and beyond. Today at 56, Mike remains a humble man and when notified by Riverhead Raceway about the Miller Lite 200 Salute to Mike Ewanitsko, Mike’s first response was, “Looking forward to it, I don’t feel like I really did enough to deserve a race, but I am honored”.
Mike is looking forward to the possibility of handing the Miller Lite 200 trophy to Justin Bonsignore in victory lane and welcoming Justin to the top of the track WMT win list. After winning the rain delayed Buzz Chew Chevrolet-Cadillac 200 on May 21st at Riverhead for his 10th win at the bullring, Justin admitted “really hoping to win the salute to Mike Ewanitsko race when we come back in June, that would be pretty cool”. Justin’s trek to the top of the Riverhead WMT win list began with a win July 30th,2011 in the Lighthouse Mission 200.
Will a Hollywood type end to the Miller Lite 200 Salute to Mike Ewanitsko be in the offering Saturday June 24th at Riverhead Raceway? Make sure to either join us at the track or watch on Flo Racing for the answers to that and many more questions.
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Photo:   Stafford Motor Speedway