“I’m here to win races. I don’t care or follow the points.”
That was the motto of Calverton’s Chris Young, one of Riverhead Raceway’s all-time greats who died at the age of 62 Saturday after undergoing double knee surgery a few days prior. And that attitude — competitive, down-to-earth, industrious — is something that will always resonate with longtime announcer Bob Finan.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Chris for almost 40 years back from the Islip Speedway days,” Mr. Finan said. “In life and in racing, he was a hardworking, old-school kind of guy.”
At the time of his death, Mr. Young was fourth on the all-time win list for NASCAR Modified races at Riverhead with 33, according to Mr. Finan. He sits behind Charlie Jarzombek, who has 63 wins; Jim Malone Sr., who has 50 wins; and still-active Tom Rogers Jr., who has 34 wins.
In 2010, Mr. Young reached third place on that list, but just two months ago, Mr. Rogers leapfrogged him with a pair of victories.
In addition to NASCAR Modified races, Mr. Young had success in the figure-eight category. He notched his first win in 1971, and he was the Riverhead champion in 1976 and 1977. Altogether, won seven figure-eight features between 1971 and 1977.
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According to a report in the Long Island Traveler-Watchman from June 1976, Mr. Young won three of his first five starts at the track.
After that period, Mr. Young decided to start racing at the Islip Speedway. He returned to the Riverhead Raceway in 1984 when the Islip track closed.
“He loved to race,” said Edgar Goodale, Mr. Young’s cousin. “He was the ultimate competitor.”
Mr. Goodale owns Riverhead Building Supply, where Mr. Young was the head mechanic, but their relationship extends much deeper than coworkers and cousins.
“He was always the teacher,” Mr. Goodale said. “He was a childhood friend right up to the very end. He was not only a family member, but I considered him a friend.”
And when other racers began purchasing high-end trailers and sophisticated equipment in the 1980s, Mr. Young built his own racecar hauler, which to Mr. Finan is evidence that he put hard work over flashiness.
“Instead of spending money, he’d build things,” Mr. Finan said.
Though Mr. Young never officially retired — Mr. Finan was convinced he would soon return to racing — he stopped to help his son, Christopher, win the 2011 Legend Race Car title.
“Off the racetrack, he’d help anybody at any time,” Mr. Goodale said.
His son currently studies at Purdue University, while his daughter Leah — who is “her dad and brother’s number one fan,” Mr. Finan said — is in grade school.
Mr. Young was loved and respected by many of his fellow racers, too.
“I’m devastated,” a distraught John Fortin Sr. told Mr. Finan after Saturday’s race. “Boy, was I trying to win the race for Chris.”
Not satisfied with simply participating in races, Mr. Young and his wife, Ann, wanted to extend that opportunity to others through Bronson Speedway in northern Florida, a track the couple purchased in 2011.
“Mr. Young was a racer himself and a vital part of the dynamics of Bronson Speedway,” a statement on the track’s website reads. “We will miss you.”
Photo caption: Chris Young, pictured, was fourth on Riverhead’s all-time NASCAR Modified wins list. (Photo courtesy of Bob Finan)