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Auto Racing: Beatty lays caution aside for opening night win

John Beatty Jr. of Merrick survived a restart with 11 laps remaining to achieve victory in the season-opening NASCAR Modified feature Saturday night when Riverhead Raceway opened its 71st season.

With his triumph in the 50-lap event, Beatty posted his ninth career victory.

Beatty had opened a sizable lead over former two time champion Kyle Soper of Manorville until a minor spin on Lap 39 drew the first and only caution of the race.

“I sure didn’t want to see that caution,” Beatty said. “Kyle is one of the best out here and he tested me.”

Beatty passed that test. Soper was runner-up, with C.J. Lehmann of Lake Grove third, Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills fourth and Chris Young of Calverton fifth.

Defending Late Model champion Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead was a season-opening winner for a second year in a row, a 40-lap Late Model race. It was his 22nd career win, leaving him one behind Scott Kulesa (23) for fifth on the all-time win list. Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge impressed with his runner-up finish. Gerald Giordano of Freeport made a rare Riverhead visit to place third.

Defending Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified champion Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches did not participate in the two preseason practice days in late April, but that surely didn’t stop him from winning a 25-lapper, his third career win. Owen Grennan of Glen Cove was second and Eric Hersey of Commack third.

Tom Ferrara of Patchogue topped the field a 15-lap Figure Eight race for his 18th career win, tying him for ninth on the all-time win list with Mike Mujsce Sr. Scott Pedersen of Shirley was second and Gary Fritz of Mastic Beach crossed the line third.

The 20-lap Blunderbust main event was a non-stop affair that saw Cody Triola of Bay Shore grab an opening night win for the second year in a row and fourth win of his career. Tom Pickerell of Huntington Jim Laird Jr. of Ridge were the next two finishers.

Just call Jack Handley Jr. of Medford “Mr Opening Night.” The defending Super Pro Truck champion scored a 20-lap triumph. Handley’s 10th career win ties him with Ronnie Humes for 10th on the all-time win list. Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach was second and Lou Maestri of Deer Park third.

Ray Fitzgerald of Manorville warded off defending champion Kevin Nowak of Medford to win a 20-lap INEX Legend Race Car main event. Joey Braun of Manorville was third.

First victory, then tears

During the offseason, former Blunderbust driver Rob Bader wanted to return grassroots racing in 2021 and acquired a Street Stock for competition at Riverhead Raceway. Among the goals Bader set was for the car to be a tribute to his late uncle, Jay Hulse, a former Charger driver. Then unexpected wrist surgery put Bader on the injured. Undaunted, he tabbed good friend Brian Brown of Riverhead to steer the car in Sunday’s May Meltdown event. In a storybook finish, Brown delivered an emotional win for Bader and his family.

Car owner Bader could be seen by the finish line with a mixed bag of emotions as Brown took the checkered flag, pumping his fist in the air but all the while with tears in his eyes. “This is for Uncle Jay,” was all he could muster.

Chris Lescenski of Riverhead was second, followed by Dave Antos of Lindenhurst.

Zach Tyler of Cutchogue, nephew of former Riverhead Raceway Late Model standout Glenn Tyler, notched his first career win in a 60-lap 4/6-Cylinder Gut & Go Enduro.

Mike Mujsce Jr. of Mastic Beach made a triumphant return to the Mini Stock wars, winning a 20-lap feature.

Justin McGrady of Stony Brook, the defending champion of the class, scored his first career victory in a 40-lap Truck Enduro.

Sean Fitzpatrick of West Babylon won for the 11th time in his career in a 50-lap, Eight-Cylinder Enduro.