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Auto Racing: Fortin motors to 34th career win

A near-capacity crowd turned out for the “I Love America Night” program at Riverhead Raceway Saturday night and they saw some show. When the 50-lap NASCAR Modified feature event was checkered, former three-time champion John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville earned his 34th career victory, breaking a tie with the late Chris Young for fourth on the all-time win list.

In a twist of irony, the driver Fortin had to ward off for his first win of 2019 was Young’s son, Christopher Young of Calverton.

Afterward, Fortin, 55, who admits he is tough on himself at times, said: “I was starting to wonder if I’d win another one. I know Chris is knocking on the door for that first win, but not tonight.”

Young settled for runner-up money. John Baker of Brookhaven, enjoying a solid season, was third. The championship leader, Kyle Soper of Manorville, finished fourth and Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead was fifth.

Breaking news: A driver other than Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead or Chris Turbush of Wading River won a Riverhead Raceway Late Model race. In a 25-lap thriller, Jarrod Hayes of Calverton made a late-race pass of McDermott exiting the fourth turn as the field took the two-to-go signal to score the win in his first start of the year. It was the 16th win of Hayes’ career, tying him with runner-up McDermott for fifth on the all-time win list. Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills was third.

For the sixth time in nine Figure Eight races, Tom Rogers Jr. drove to victory in a 15-lap event for his 49th career win. When it was mentioned to Rogers afterward that he is four wins back of Joe Biondolillo Jr. for second on the all-time win list, Rogers paused and said, “To have my name mentioned in the same breath with guys like Joey or George Brown is an honor.” Ken Hyde Jr. of Yaphank was second, with Tom Ferrara of Patchogue third.

In a wild conclusion to a 20-lap Super Pro Truck feature, defending champion Mark Stewart of Riverhead scored a close win over Lou Maestri of Deer Park, with the duo crossing the line sideways following contact on the final turn. The win was Stewart’s third of 2019 and the 23rd of his still budding driving career, moving him into sole possession of third on the all-time win list.

“It was fun racing with Lou; it always is,’ Stewart said. “He did what he had to do and so did I. It was fun!”

Jack Handley Jr. of Medford crossed the line third, but following a post race inspection, Eddie Schutze of Oyster Bay was moved into third.

There may not be a hotter driver on the east coast in Legend Race Car competition then veteran Kevin Nowak of Medford, who posted his third win of 2019 at Riverhead Raceway as well his third win in a one week, including other tracks. The win was the 12th of Nowak’s career, tying him with Timmy Solomito for fourth on the all-time win list. George Tomko Jr. of Aquebogue was second and Jeff Otto Jr. of Deer Park third.

In a 25-lap Mini Stock event, Tom Puccia of Shirley seemingly had his third win of the season when the race concluded, but his car was found to have unapproved upper control arms, handing the win to Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge. The win is the fourth of the season for Warren and ties him with Bryan Kelly and Mike Mujsce Jr. for all-time wins in the new class. Chris Elixson of Riverhead was second and Justin Squires of Flanders third.

Second generation daredevil Joe Palmeri Jr. of Lindenhurst won in a hard-hitting 4/6-Cylinder Demolition Derby.

Photo caption: John Fortin Sr. (84) drives to the inside of Eric Zeh on the way to his 34th career NASCAR Modified victory at Riverhead Raceway. (Credit: Bill Landon)