Reigning Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper of Manorville had to come from the back of the field not once but twice before he could lay claim to his 10th career win Saturday night on a chilly and damp evening.
Being forced to start last in the 18-car field because of a heat race penalty didn’t deter Soper one bit, although his path to victory lane would take a detour just prior to the halfway mark of the race when track officials placed Soper to the rear of the field on a restart for contact with Dave Brigati.
Undaunted by his trip to the back of the field, Soper reemerged at the front of the race once again on Lap 38, making his way by John Fortin for second. Next up for the high-flying Soper was to try and find a way past his best friend at the track and race leader, Dylan Slepian. As the field took the ten to go signal, Soper was able to wrestle the lead away from Slepian and once out front he never looked back, winning the opening night event for the second year in a row.
“The heat race contact, I own that for sure; really not too sure on the other one though,” said Soper.
When asked if he pondered finishing second to his buddy Slepian, Soper quickly extinguished that thought. “He’s my best friend, but when we race, we race,” he said.
Chris Young of Calverton perhaps drove the best race of his budding NASCAR Modified career when he raced his way by Slepian for second on Lap 43. He was the runner-up. Slepian of Dix Hills led for 40 laps of the race before claiming third place. John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville and John Beatty Jr. of Merrick rounded out the top five.
Race car drivers don’t often need additional motivation to win a race, but when they have that motivation they can become almost unbeatable. Such was the case with 25-lap Late Model winner Chris Turbush of Wading River, who drove to his 13th career win.
Turbush’s uncle and former multi-time NASCAR National Mechanic of the Year winner Ray Bouchard was not at the track Saturday but in a local hospital with an intestinal disorder. Bouchard is the driving force behind the scenes for Chris as well his brother Roger Turbush in the NASCAR Modifieds.
Chris Turbush won the non-stop race for his uncle. Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead was second and Chris McGuire of Selden third.
The 2018 Crate Modified championship runner-up, Justin Brown of Manorville, got his 2019 campaign off on the right foot, winning a 25-lap main event. It was the fourth win of his young career. Brigati of Calverton was second and Chris Rogers of Patchogue third.
Defending Figure Eight champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead rebounded from a rough NASCAR Modified race to win a 15-lap Figure Eight feature event, the 44th win of his career. The next two finishers were Gary Fritz Jr. of Mastic Beach and Eric Zeh of Selden.
Defending Blunderbust champion Jack Handley Jr. of Medford picked up his 30th career win in a non-stop 20-lap feature. Cody Triola of Bay Shore came in second, with veteran Tom Pickerell of Huntington third.
During the offseason, Super Pro Truck veteran Jimmy Rennick Jr. made sweeping changes to his team, opting for a new engine program as well as having his chassis reworked in the winter months. Those changes paid a quick dividend Saturday as Rennick nailed down his first career win in a non-stop 20-lap contest. Sean Glennon of Northport grabbed second place. Frank Dumicich Jr. of East Quogue placed third.
Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches drove to his track-leading 21st career victory in a 20-lap Legend Race Car event. Kevin Nowak of Medford was second, with Eric Hersey of Commack third.