Racing season kicks off at Riverhead Raceway

When Riverhead native Jeremy McDermott welcomed his first child, Cam, right before racing season last year, he knew it was time to take a break and spend some time with his family. The 6-time Late Model champion had won three titles in a row before he decided to walk away.

“His first birthday is actually this coming Friday,” McDermott said before the feature event. “Family is more important to me, and as much as I love being here and racing, Cam is my world now.”

McDermott was planning on potentially taking a few years off before getting back into the driver’s seat of another Rob Pelis race car. But seeing a season pass and coming off perhaps his best years as a race-car driver, the itch was certainly there to resume his career.

“I was going to take more time off but my wife finally said, ‘I want you to go race,’” McDermott said. “‘I want you to hang out with your guys and do what you love.’ So yeah we’re back.”

McDermott started the Late Model event at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday evening in 6th place at the outset. In every event to that point, the pole or first-car in the lineup cruised to victory with little to no effort, holding off potential competitors — so McDermott had quite the uphill battle to secure the checkered flag this time around.

“You just have to be patient in a situation like that,” McDermott said. “It’s a long race. You have to pick your moves when the time is right and hope it works out. A lot of it is somewhat luck if guys are crashing and you have to get around them without you tearing your own car up.”

Within the first seven laps, McDermott maneuvered his way to third place and was on the verge of overtaking the second place car before a wreck stopped the race. On the restart, he quickly took second and started battling for the lead, but nobody looked likely to catch Artie Pedersen III in the No. 30 car, who was several car lengths ahead for multiple laps.

But another three-car pileup ensued, which gave McDermott a fresh start next to Pedersen on the outside lane with 12 laps to go.

Riverhead’s Jeremy McDermott in the winner’s circle on opening night. (Credit: Bill Landon)

“I pulled back a bit [from] chasing Pedersen and just watched what he was doing in front of me,” McDermott said. “I wanted to recognize where his car is weaker than mine and pounce on that situation. If I see I’m faster through the corner than him, I’ll try to move around him a little bit and get a good run off of it.”

During an extended delay — with the raceway crew needing to clean the oil spills off the track — McDermott just sat and waited, talking to his crew chief and devising what the best plan of attack was to take the lead. He felt like he was quicker on the turn and wasn’t going to wait to take it.

“The plan was originally to beat him on the outside,” McDermott said. “But he kept pulling away, so I got in behind him and worked my way underneath.”

Sure enough, on the second turn of the restart, McDermott jumped from the outside lane to the inside and hit the throttle, leaving Pedersen in the smoke on the next straightaway. Once ahead, there was nobody who could stop him. McDermott cruised to his 26th career win, which is good for fifth on the all-time win list. It was just business as usual. McDermott proved he had no rust from the layoff.

“I think it would take longer than a year to lose that racing touch,” McDermott said. “I just jumped back in like how we left off. I was fast all day. Won the heat race and won the feature. Couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”

Then it was time to go home.

“I know my son is watching back home with Mom,” he said, ”and I can’t wait to see them.”

Opening Day results:

Blunderbusts: 1. Cody Triola 2. Brandon Hubbard 3. Jim Laird Jr. 4. Bill Wegmann Sr. 5. Eddie Diaz 6. Gary Caldwell 7. Bill Wegmann Jr. 8. Tom Sullivan 9. Michael Accordino 10. Joe Densieski

Legend Race Cars: 1. Kevin Nowak 2. Richie Davidowitz 3. Chase Van Houten 4. Jeffrey Farruggia Jr. 5. Christopher Coleman 6. Eric Hersey 7. Jason Castaldo 8. Jim Sylvester 9. Pat Moore 10. Ryan Lutz 11. Chris Sinatro 12. Charles Hodge III 13. Jayden Glennerster 14. Ray Fitzgerald 15. Michael Metcalf 16. Rodney Dowless Jr. 17. Mike Van Houten Jr. 18. Kevin Ohrnberger 19. Rodney Dowless Sr. 20. Brad Van Houten 21. Nick Morabito 22. Riely O’Keefe 23. Donald Doran 24. Peter Fallon 25. Michael Benton 26. Alex Halinar

Super Pro Trucks: 1. Jack Handley 2. Lou Maestri 3. Matt Triola 4. Joe Cerabino 5. Frank Dumicich Sr. 6. Chris Lescenski 7. Erin Solomito 8. Liam Patrick 9. Gerard Giordano 10. Rob Corwin

Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds: 1. Chase Grennan 2. Alex Colasanto 3. Sean Glennon 4. Max Handley 5. Chris Young 6. Owen Grennan 7. Eddie Schutze 8. Terry Stiles 9. Stephen Coleman 10. DJ Doyle 11. Eric Hersey 12. Michael Berner 13. Chris Sinatro 14. Vinny Delaney 15. Dennis Krupski 16. Mike Albasini 17. Chevy Rommeney 18. Mark Wolf 19. AJ DeSantis 20. Lou Maestri DQ-Kyle Ellwood

Late Models: 1. Jeremy McDermott 2. Artie Pedersen III 3. Chris McGuire 4. Gerard Giordano 5. Jesse St. Clair 6. Kevin Metzger 7. Keith Rotzi 8. Alyssa Paprocky 9. Brian Doyle 10. Mark Stewart 11. Pat Brown 12. Ray Minieri 13. Paul Cummings 14. Dave Brigati 15. Ed Chesalk 16. Brandon Turbush DQ-Jimmy Rennick Jr

NASCAR Modifieds: 1. Timmy Solomito 2. Kyle Ellwood 3. Tom Rogers Jr. 4. Dylan Slepian 5. John Beatty Jr. 6. Michael Rutkoski 7. JR Bertuccio 8. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 9. Roger Turbush 10. Allan Pedersen 11. Jack Handley Jr. 12. Dave Brigati 13. Chris Young 14. Chris Rogers 15. Chris Turbush 16. Dillon Steuer 17. Matt Brode 18. Jason Agugliaro 19. Wes Gilbert DNS-Artie Pedersen III

Figure Eights: 1. Allan Pedersen 2. Scott Pedersen 3. Ken Hyde Jr. 4. Cody Triola 5. Artie Pedersen III 6. Bryan Quilliam 7. Bob Dalke 8. Kim Hyde 9. Paulo Miquel 10. Gary Fritz Jr. 11. Ryan Warren 12. Joe Warren Jr.