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Auto Racing: Rogers is first in 56 years to win two titles in one year

Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead became the first Riverhead Raceway driver in 56 years to win two stock car titles in the same year at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night.

Rogers won both the 50-lap NASCAR Modified and 15-lap Figure Eight main events, making him a three time champion in both classes.

Buzzy Hedges of Wainscott was the last one to achieve the feat in 1959.

The Modified triumph was the 40th of Rogers’ illustrious career while the Figure Eight win was his 24th.

In the Modified event, Rogers captured his ninth win of the year, just one win shy of tying the single-season record of 10 wins in a year set by Gary Winters (1962) and Charlie Jarzombek (1976 and 1977). The 2015 title joins Rogers’ 2004 and 2010 championship seasons, but was the first championship for veteran car owner Joe Ambrose.

Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., raced his way from eighth to finish second in the race. Kyle Soper of Manorville capped off a successful rookie year with a third-place finish. Shawn Solomito of East Moriches and Dave Sapienza of Riverhead completed the top five.

Racing out front on a Lap 2 restart was all Rogers needed to drive off to his fourth Figure Eight win of 2015 and start his third career championship celebration. Roger Maynor of Bay Shore was second, with Scott Pedersen of Shirley third.

Going into the 50-lap Late Model finale, former champion Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead came in with a gameplan of winning the race and letting the chips fall where they may. He had entered the race 10 points behind the defending champion, Mike Bologna.

McDermott inherited the lead in the race on Lap 14 during a caution period when race leader Jarrod Hayes pitted with a right front flat. Once in the lead, all McDermott could do was hope the championship leader, Mike Bologna, would finish six spots behind him.

Bologna had one of the worst nights of his career, pitting twice and being sent to the rear of the field for rough riding. When the race was called at Lap 26 because of a time restriction, McDermott was not only declared the race winner but also the class champion. Chris Lescenski of Riverhead drove in second and Hayes of Calverton claimed third.

John Baker of Brookhaven knew he had to win the 30-lap Charger race for any chance at the championship, and he did just that.

Baker muscled his way out front with less than five laps to go. While taking his victory lap, track officials sorted out the points between him and Eric Zeh who entered the race with a 14-point lead over Baker. Both drivers earned 612 points during the 14-race season. Baker was declared the champion with five wins to Zeh’s one. Zeh was eighth in the final race. Jimmy White Jr. of Southampton finished second in the race and third went to Chris Turbush of Wading River.

White scored his second win of the year in a 20-lap Blunderbust feature, but Tom Pickerell of Huntington, with his fourth-place tally, notched his second championship in a row and fourth overall. White, who missed the first three months of racing because of shoulder surgery, took full advantage of a rare pole starting position. Scott Maliszewski of Deer Park came in second and Tim Mulqueen of Levittown placed third.

Mark Stewart of Riverhead won a 20-lap Super Pro Truck race, the 11th of his young career, while Lou Maestri of Deer Park secured his second championship in a row and fifth overall in the class. With his eighth-place finish, Maestri clinched the title. Stewart’s grandfather, Dan Turbush of Riverhead, was second in the race. Dave Brigati of Calverton was third.

Kevin Nowak of Medford zipped into victory lane for the first time this year in a 40-lap Legend Race Car feature. Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches finished second. Allan Pedersen of Center Moriches capped off his season with a third-place tally.

Dylan Slepian of Dix Hill came into the race as the 2015 Legend Race Car champion on the strength of six wins and despite a subpar night celebrated his first career championship.