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Riverhead Raceway: Traffic works to Solomito’s advantage

After losing the lead to defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby of Milford, Ct., with 45 laps to go, Timmy Solomito of Islip used that same lapped traffic to take the lead back from Coby with four laps to go. That is how he won the Miller Lite 200 Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway. The win was Solomito’s fourth of the 2017 WMT campaign.

During opening ceremonies, the somber news of the death of Ted Christopher, who was to drive in the race, in a plane crash en route to the raceway was relayed.

Entering the first turn to start the 155th lap, Coby powered his way under Solomito in lapped traffic to take over the lead. For a while it appeared as if Coby would be on his way to his first career Riverhead Raceway triumph. However, Solomito, author of 18 career Riverhead wins in both the NASCAR Whelen All American Series as well the WMT, never gave up. On Lap 196 he slid underneath Coby to reclaim the lead. Over the final mile of the race, Solomito stayed out front to earn his 19th career victory at the track.

“While it is a great win for myself and our Starrett Tools team, our thoughts are with Ted Christopher’s family on this very sad day,” said Solomito. As for the race itself, Solomito said: “Doug is a great racer and he got by us in lapped traffic but I never quit. I knew if I played my hand right that lapped traffic might be to my advantage later on, and it was.”

After the checker flag waved, Coby sat dejected and collected his thoughts before exiting his car. “Given the circumstances of today, it would have been nice to have a Connecticut-based team win, but alas it was not to be,” he said.

Kyle Soper of Manorville came in third. “We were in the mix for most the race and to finish behind these two great drivers is like a win for us,” he said.

Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct., and Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville were fourth and fifth.

Aside from Soper’s third-place tally, Riverhead Raceway regulars had a strong night, including a sixth-place place finish for C.J. Lehmann of Shirley. Right behind Lehmann in seventh was Dillon Steuer of Bohemia while Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead was eighth.

Earlier, Soper notched his sixth Late Model win of 2017 in a 25-lap contest, Justin Brown of Manorville scored his first career Modified Crate win in a 25-lapper, and John Beatty Jr. of Merrick clinched the Legend Race Car championship when he won his third feature of the season in a 20-lap affair.

Soper extended his Late Model championship point lead to 28 points entering the final two weeks of the season over Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead, who was third in the race. John Baker of Brookhaven was second.

Brown, a rookie Modified Crate driver, led all 25 laps. Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck was second across the line before the championship leader, Dave Brigati of Calverton, placed third. Going into the final two races of the season, Brigati holds a 30-point advantage over Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills for the title.

In the Legend Race Car race, Beatty was followed by the second-place Ray Fitzgerald of Manorville and third-place Jeff Otto Jr. of Deer Park.

Photo caption: Timmy Solomito celebrates after the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Miller Lite 200 at Riverhead Raceway Saturday. (Credit: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)