It may have come three months later than expected because of COVID-19, but opening night Saturday found anticipation and excitement in the air at Riverhead Raceway. When the checker flag waved for the 50-lap NASCAR Modified feature, a familiar face sat in victory lane.
Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead made an early-race pass to lay claim to his 58th career triumph. He now sits five behind Charlie Jarzombek’s 63 wins for the top spot on the all-time win list.
Rogers indicated his car might even have more to offer. “This is a totally new set-up we threw at the car this offseason, new to me for sure but it is not quite where we want it to be,” he said with a smile.
Howie Brode of East Islip scored the runner-up finish. Defending champion Kyle Soper of Manorville crossed the line third, Roger Turbush of Riverhead was fourth and Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills fifth.
As was the case on opening night 2019, Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead and Chris Turbush of Wading River served notice that they will be the two drivers to beat in the Late Model class. The two drivers who utilize crate motors in their machines were able to motor away from the small field at the outset of the nonstop 25-lap race. McDermott ducked to the inside of Turbush entering the first turn on lap 12 and went on to claim his 18th career win in the class. Turbush was second and Jarrod Hayes of Calverton third.
Ever since he was 5 years old, AJ DeSantis of Yaphank wanted to be just like his grandfather, the late Tom Tillotson, and drive a Modified car at Riverhead Raceway. With the evolution of the Crate Modified class a few years back, DeSantis and his grandfather were all in since the NASCAR Modifieds were financially out of the question. Tillotson died last year, but that just made DeSantis more determined than ever to score his first career win.
He did just that Saturday in a 25-lap event. Lou Maestri of Deer Park was second, one place ahead of Terry Stiles of Rocky Point.
Scott Pedersen of Shirley ended a two-year dry, leading all 15 laps for a Figure Eight win. He finished ahead of Tom Ferrara of Patchogue and CJ Lehmann of Shirley.
Cody Triola of Bay Shore made it two Blunderbusts wins in a row. Triola, who waited until the final race of 2019 to win his first career race, wasted no time in claiming his second. Bill Wegmann Sr. and Max Handley were second and third, respectively, in the 20-lapper.
Just call Jack Handley Jr. of Medford “Mr .Opening Night.” In recent years, Handley has managed to find his way to victory lane. He did so again Saturday in a nonstop, 20-lap Super Pro Truck race for his eighth career win. Sean Glennon of Northport was second and Lou Maestri of Deer Park came in third.
Jim Sylvester of Massapequa notched his eighth career win in a hotly contested INEX Legend Race Cars 20-lap main event. Colin Hoeffner of Hauppauge and Jason Castaldo of Shirley were the next two finishers.