The old saying that good things come to those who wait rang true on Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to Long Island to run the Riverhead 200, a race that was rained out on July 28. It was the 51st WMT race in Riverhead, and arguably the most competitive of them all. Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., survived a green, white checker to collect his second WMT victory of the season. Jimmy Blewett Jr. of Howell, N.J., actually took the checker flag first, getting the jump on Preece on the final restart, but NASCAR officials ruled that Blewett got to the line first and dropped him to last of the lead-lap cars, 12th.
Preece, a two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series winner at Riverhead in 2012, won the pole position for the 200-lap race.
A late-race caution for a minor spin set up the green, white and checker finish. When the green light came on, Blewett got the better of Preece as the crowd went wild for the former Riverhead Raceway regular.
After being declared the winner, Preece said he knew that when Blewett beat him to the line on the restart, NASCAR would address the issue. “They preach to us at every meeting, the leader has to be the first to the line, so I knew NASCAR would handle it,” he said.
Preece also took a moment to dedicate the race to his grandfather, famed former car owner Bob Judkins. “My grandfather had a heart attack yesterday, he’s going to be fine but this win is for him,” said Preece.
Justin Bonsignore of West Islip was second and Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Conn., was third. Howie Brode of East Islip led the Riverhead Raceway regulars with a fourth-place finish.
Brode was in the mix all race long. He placed second in the final Riverhead Raceway standings and did a good job managing his tires to post the finish. Many teams were thrown by the minimal cautions flags and caution-flag laps during the race that had two extended green-flag runs.
Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn., fought back from a two-lap deficit to come home fifth.
Tom Rogers Jr. of Patchogue, a six-time feature event winner, was sixth. Former two-time Riverhead Raceway champion Frank Vigliarolo Jr. of Mount Sinai was 13th. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown was 16th.
The Mike Ewanitsko Hard Charger of the Race Award went to Blewett. Ewanitsko, an 11-time NASCAR WMT winner at Riverhead, was impressed with the youth on the current tour. “Man, I’m feeling really old watching guys like Ryan Preece … and Justin Bonsignore go at it the way they do,” he said. “The WMT is in good hands with all these young guys running today.”
In other races:
Jimmy White Jr. set the fastest qualifying time, drew the pole and then led all 30 laps of Saturday night’s Blunderbust feature at Riverhead Raceway to score his second win of the year. Paul Dodorico of Miller Place waited until the final Legend Race Car event of the year to post his first win of the year in a 30-lap INEX Legend National Qualifier. The two races were a prelude to the Riverhead 200.
Following White to the finish line were second-place Scott Maliszewski of Deer Park and division champion Tom Pickerell of Huntington, who placed third.
For the second year in a row, Dodorico won the class’s final race of the year, wheeling to his second career victory. Brendon Bock of Franklin Square was second, and Vinny Delaney of Holtsville was third.