The defending NASCAR modified champion, John Fortin of Holtsville, escaped a close call late in Saturday’s 35-lap feature event at Riverhead Raceway to drive to his 23rd career victory before a chilled and windswept collection of diehard fans. The win moved Fortin into sole possession of 11th on the track’s all-time win list, four behind Don Howe and John Berkoski, who share ninth at 27 victories.
On a double-file restart on the 23rd lap, Fortin powered his Chevy to the front from the outside. Over the final 12 laps Fortin warded off intense pressure from Tom Rogers Jr. to cross the line first. Rogers seemingly scored a second-place finish.
In victory lane, Fortin’s car sported a heavily damaged left rear wheel from his close call on lap 22 and the team was amazed that it held air at all.
After a postrace technical inspection, Rogers was disqualified for being light at the scales, moving Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown to second. The opening night winner, Chuck Steuer of Bohemia, pocketed third-place money. Al Ermmarino of Brookhaven was fourth and Howie Brode of East Islip fifth.
The race got off to a difficult start when the front row cars of Chris Young and Timmy Solomito got together going into turn one on lap one, with Solomito ending up against the wall, done for the night. Young was sent to the pits by NASCAR officials for the night for his part in the incident.
Chris LaSpisa of Shirley arrived to the track late Saturday after attending his son’s First Communion, and his efforts paid off with his first victory in 13 years in the 25-lap late model feature event. Kevin Metzger of Massapequa, the defending champion in the class, was second. Peter Eriksen of Baldwin made a late-race move for third.
Chris Turbush of Riverhead, the two-time defending charger champion, collected his 19th career victory when he topped the 30-lap event that paid double points. His father, Dan Turbush of Riverhead, was second, with third place going to Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead. Former champion Tom Pickerell of Huntington claimed the gold when the checkers waved in the 20-lap blunderbust feature.