John Beatty Jr. Tops Opening Night Modified Feature At Riverhead Raceway Saturday

The gates swung open Saturday evening for the 71st season of stock car racing at Riverhead Raceway and when the checker flag waved on the 50-lap Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modified feature John Beatty Jr. of Merrick sat in the winner circle after surviving a late race restart with 11 laps remaining in the race to post his 9th career victory. A solid and talented field of 20 Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modifieds signed in for the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series opener.

By Bob Finan

With opening night handicapping relying on heat race results John Beatty along with former two time champion Kyle Soper of Manorville both found themselves with a rare front row starting berth and they were happy to take advantage of the rarity. When the green flag dropped on a race dedicated to long time fan Louise Mangels who passed away in the off season from Blood Cancer it would be Soper actually leading the first lap while Beatty roared back to take the top spot on lap 2. More often than not opening night races can be a bit sloppy but such was not the case in this 50-lap tilt that saw a long extended green flag run to start the new season.

Beatty as the laps clicked off opened himself a very sizeable lead over Soper who was basically running uncontested in second. The only real battle early on would be for third as Chris Young and CJ Lehmann battled with Lehmann eventually working by Young for position. A minor spin on lap 39 drew the first and only caution of the race and much to Beatty’s dismay erased a very comfortable cushion. Soper on the other hand was delighted at a second breath of life in the race took full advantage and over the final 11 circuits he glued himself to the leader’s rear spoiler trying to find a way by as a classic short track game of cat & mouse unfolded.

In the end John Beatty Jr. would handle all of Kyle Soper’s pressure and drove of to victory in his MSM/Elite Motorsports Chevy. “I sure didn’t want to see that caution” Beatty reflected afterwards, “Kyle is one of the best out here and he tested me, it was a pleasure racing with him”. Coming into 2021 the team Beatty drives for had undergone some changes which he also addressed, “I can’t thank my owner Mark S. Mina enough and all my returning guys. I now have Greg Kleila on the radio spotting and Ken Matlach will be with us when he isn’t racing at Wall Stadium so we have some new faces good to get them a win right out of the box”.

Kyle Soper was runner up by just 0.191 in his Eastport Feeds Chevy with CJ Lehmann of Lake Grove having a solid first race of the year with a third in the Shore Mechanical Chevy. Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills and Chris Young of Calverton were fourth and fifth.

Defending Late Model champion Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead scored the win in the 40-lap Late Model lid lifter the second year in a row he has won on opening night. Veteran Kevin Metzger broke out front at the throw of the green and led the first two laps before the yellow flew for an incident involving Ryan Zukowski. On the ensuing restart McDermott lined up alongside leader Metzger and when the green waved Jeremy put his Eastport Feeds Pontiac out front. Metzger chased McDermott until the 12th lap when he was overtaken by rookie driver Joe Warren Jr. who executed an inside pass in the second turn. However there would be no stopping Jeremy McDermott in this race as he would lead the remainder of the way to collect his 22nd career win that puts him one back of Scott Kulesa (23) for fifth on the all time win list. Joe Warren Jr. of Ridge impressed with his runner-up finish in the NYBernedoodles entry while Gerald Giordano of Freeport made a rare Riverhead visit in his LM to come home with a third place tally in his K-1 Logistics machine.

Defending Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modified champion Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches may not have participated in the two pre-season practice days in late April but that surely did not slow his roll as he won the 25-lap opening night feature even for his third career win. After Owen Grennan led the first portion of the race Davidowitz made a power move coming off the fourth turn to take the race lead on alp 6. Unfortunately during the race the “big one” happened on the backstretch as several cars were involved in a grinding crash heavily damaging several of the 24 starters. Luckily nobody was injured. When the race resumed Richie Davidowitz stayed out front the rest of the way and drove to victory in the Benimax trucking Chevy. Owen Grennan of Glen Cove was runner-up in the Dillner precast Chevy while Eric Hersey of Commack made a late week decision to run his Crate Modified and was glad he did finishing third in the Epic Tools racer.

Tom Ferrara of Patchogue topped the 15-lap Figure Eight feature event to notch his 18th career win tying him for ninth on the all-time win list with former car owner Mike Mujsce Sr. It was a convincing performance for Tom as he led green to checker in his Beach Auto Collision Cadillac. Joe warren Jr., Ferrara’s teammate and the defending class champion tested Tom along the way but his night took a turn for the worse after the race after he was disqualified for coming up light at the scales. Scott Pedersen of Shirley was second in the Vecchio Motorsports Chevy while Gary Fritz of Mastic Beach crossed the line third in his ’57 Chevy bodied racer.

The 20-lap Blunderbust main event was a non-stop affair with Cody Triola of Bay Shore for the second year in a row winning the opening night feature. Defending champion Tom Pickerell jumped to the early race lead and with a new power plant under the hood was feeling good about his chances at victory. However Triola came calling on lap 8 and slipped under Pickerell exiting the second turn and by the time the tandem started the 9th lap Cody was the new race leader. Once out front in the Cesspool Pros mount Cody Triola never looked back and drove off to his fourth career win. Tom Pickerell of Huntington was runner-up in his Encore rentals Chevy with Jim Laird Jr. of Ridge third in the MY Country 96.1 FM Caprice.

Just call Jack Handley Jr. of Medford “Mr Opening Night” as the defending Super Pro Truck champion scored the win in their 20-lap feature event. Whether it was back in his Blunderbust days or now in the Super Pro Trucks there is just something about opening night that motivates Handley. Lou Maestri the all time leading SPT winner broke to the race lead for the first lap but he was quickly passed by Jack Handley Jr. on lap 2. Maestri ran second until the 9 lap when he was overtaken by Jimmy Rennick Jr. with a inside pass exiting turn four. However all Rennick could do is watch as Jack Handley Jr. drive the East End Building entry to victory the 10th of his career. That ties him with “Hurricane” Ronnie Humes for 10th on the all time win list. Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach was second in the Metropolitan Recycling Chevy while Lou Maestri of Deer Park claimed third in the Hunter Business School truck.

A rivalry of sorts is developing in the INEX Legend Race Car ranks as Ray Fitzgerald of Manorville warded off defending champion Kevin Nowak of Medford to win the 20-lap main event. For the entire distance the duo sliced and diced for the race lead with Fitzgerald scored the leader of every lap. However Nowak was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the race leader in an effort to pass him. Not even a couple of double file restarts could aide Nowak in his quest to pass Fitzgerald fopr the lead and the win and in the end Ray steering the Benimax Trucking entery won out taking his 6th career triumph. Nowak was second in the JTEC Electric machine while “Blankets” Joey Braun of Manorville was third in the Dunrite Pools mount.

Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modifeds: 1. John Beatty Jr. 2. Kyle Soper 3. CJ Lehmann 4. Dylan Slepian 5. Chris Young 6. John Baker 7. Justin Brown 8. Timmy Solomito 9. Tom Rogers Jr. 10. JB Fortin 11. Michael Rutkoski 12. Shawn Solomito 13. John Fortin Sr. 14. Dave Brigati 15. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 16. Eric Zeh 17. Howie Brode 18. Jack Handley Jr. 19. Jarrod Hayes DNS- Roger Turbush

Late Models: 1. Jeremy McDermott 2. Joe Warren Jr. 3. Gerald Giordano 4. Kevin Metzger 5. Brandon Turbush 6. Chris McGuire 7. Brian Doyle 8. Ethan Brown 9. Dave Brigati 10. Ray Minieri 11. Ed Cheslak 12. Ryan Zukowski

Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds: 1. Richie Davidowitz 2. Owen Grennan 3. Eric Hersey 4. Matt Brode 5. Sean Glennon 6. Michael Berner 7. Terry Stiles 8. Eddie Schutze 9. Steve Ratti 10. AJ DeSantis 11. Mike Albasini 12. Chris Rogers 13. Mark Stewart 14. Lou Maestri 15. Vinny Delaney 16. Alex Colasanto 17. Rich Gerbe 18. Mark Wolf 19. Chase Grennan 20. Dennis Krupski 21. Stephen Coleman 22. Peter Bertuccio 23. Kenneth Massa III DQ- Charles Macwhinnie

Figure Eights: 1. Tom Ferrara 2. Scott Pedersen 3. Gary Fritz Jr. 4. Bryan Quilliam 5. CJ Lehmann 6. Kim Hyde 7. Ryan Zukowski 8. Chris Elliott 9. Brian Hansen 10. Paulo Miquel 11. Paul Cummings DQ- Joe Warren Jr.

Blunderbusts: 1. Cody Triola 2. Tom Pickerell 3. Jim Laird Jr. 4. Alyssa Paprocky 5. Bill Wegmann Sr. 6. Eddie Diaz 7. Brandon Hubbard 8. CJ Lehmann 9. Kyle Halpin DQ- Tom Sullivan, DNS- Max Handley

Super Pro Trucks: 1. Jack Handley Jr. 2. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 3. Lou Maestri 4. Matt Triola 5. Max Handley 6. Joe Cerabino 7. Ethan Brown 8. Frank Dumicich Sr, 9. Erin Solomito

Legend Race Cars: 1. Ray Fitzgerald 2. Kevin Nowak 3. Joey Braun 4. Eric Hersey 5. George Tomko Jr. 6. Luke LeBrun 7. Anthony Marsh 8. Allan Pedersen 9. Riely O’Keefe 10. Nick Morabito 11. Jeff Otto Jr. 12. Mike Benton 13. Pat Moore 14. Jim Sylvester 15. Scott Cheslak 16. Sean McElearney 17. Charlie Hodge 18. Mike Van Houten Jr. 19. Frank Hodge 20. Rob Henninger 21. Steven Woytsiak 22. Jason Castaldo 23. Chris Sinatro 24. Michael Metcalf 25. Brad Van Houten 26. Anthony Colandro Jr.

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