Auto Racing: Turbush, Smith steer toward Wall of Fame

07/28/2014 11:12 PM |

Legendary drivers Dan Turbush of Riverhead, Peggy Smith of Jamesport and Paul McElearney of Commack will all be enshrined when they are added to Riverhead Raceway’s Wall of Fame on Aug. 16.

Turbush began his long driving career at Riverhead in the Figure Eight division where he posted six career feature event wins. The first of his six track championships came in 1982 when he drove his famed No. 8 car to the Novice Division championship over a stellar field that included his brother Rusty.

But Dan Turbush enjoyed most of his success in the Charger division where until this day he remains the all-time leading winner with 52 victories under his belt. His son, Chris, is second on that list at 39 and counting.

Dan Turbush is a four-time champion in the class, taking his first crown in 1990 and then three straight from 2005 through 2005. In addition, he won the 2007 Late Model title.

Dan Turbush hasn’t officially retired from driving, and the Turbush racing tradition lives on with his sons Chris, who himself has won four Charger crowns, and Roger, a two-time Super Pro Truck champion. Add grandson Mark Stewart to the list of Turbush winners at Riverhead Raceway. Over the past two seasons he has won multiple features in the Super Pro Trucks.

Dan Turbush will join his racing father, Charles Turbush, on the Wall of Fame, making them the first father-son combination on the wall.

Smith won the 1981 Grand Am championship at Riverhead Raceway in her always immaculate No. 21 red Chevelle. Her place on the Wall of Fame will honor that lone championship but also the trail she blazed for female drivers at the track. She is currently in the race for her life these days as she fights off Stage 4 cancer that started as breast cancer and has now moved to her brain.

Despite being underfunded and undermanned, Smith faithfully towed her NASCAR Modified to the track to give it a go against many legends of the sport, including Charlie Jarzombek and Tom Baldwin, both of whom took her under their wing at times, She was an inspiration for many females drivers who have raced or still race at the track.

Erin Solomito, for example, leads the Super Pro Truck points and hopes to be the first female driver since Smith in 1981 to win a Riverhead Raceway championship. Smith’s sister, Linda Reyer, indicated that many former members of the Peggy Smith Fan Club will be at Riverhead Raceway to see their driver stand in victory lane one more time with her restored NASCAR Modified.

McElearney was a five-time Riverhead Raceway champion, scoring two Street Stock titles in 1982 and 1984 when the track raced on Friday nights. His maroon-colored No. 100 Mustang was not only a winner at Riverhead Raceway but also at Islip Speedway and Freeport Stadium, racking up countless wins at those two venues.

McElearney’s biggest success at Riverhead came in the Late Model class. He earned three straight Late Model titles from 1990 through 1992 and 45 overall feature wins along the way, ranking him third on the all-time win list. That win list is headed-up by two drivers who remain active to this day and who will race in front of McElearney on the 16th, Roger Oxee, 64, and Peter Eriksen Jr., 48.

The festivities will be part of an Old Timers Night.