Series round six preview

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - Riverhead * Whelen Modifies Return To Long Island Bullring * Goodale Brothers Enjoy Home Cooking * 25 Seasons Running: Riverhead Unique To Tour Whelen Modifieds Return To Long Island Bullring In...

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - Riverhead

* Whelen Modifies Return To Long Island Bullring
* Goodale Brothers Enjoy Home Cooking
* 25 Seasons Running: Riverhead Unique To Tour

Whelen Modifieds Return To Long Island Bullring

In 25 seasons, just two venues have been on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule each and every year. On Saturday, Aug. 1, one of those historic tracks will once again welcome the Tour back to town.

Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway will play host to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2009. While NASCAR Modified racing existed at Riverhead long before 1985, the track and the Tour have forged a history of their own together. Saturday's Riverhead 175 will be the 48th all-time race at the Long Island landmark.

Riverhead is not only one of the staples on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, but also one of the more unique stops. The quarter-mile bullring is the shortest track among the eight that the Tour will visit, and provides many challenges for those that race there, including a Tour driver that got his start in racing at the track, Donny Lia.

"It's definitely challenging. I've run there quite a bit, and I still don't feel like I have it figured out," Lia said. "I don't know that you ever have Riverhead figured out. There's such a fine line there of over-driving the corners. The old adage of 'slower is faster' applies there to the fullest extent."

Maybe the Long Island native (Jericho) doesn't feel he's mastered Riverhead yet, but he sure seems to have a leg up on the competition in recent years. Since 2003, Lia has won four of the last eight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at the track.

While running in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full time last year, Lia made a point to rejoin the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for it's stop at Riverhead, and promptly recorded a top-three in his first Modified race of the year.

Lia is currently third in the championship standings and will have plenty of competition this week at Riverhead. Current points leader Ted Christopher has four career wins at Riverhead as well, and is currently riding a streak of 10-straight top-10 finishes dating back to 2008.

Action on Riverhead 175 race day will commence with afternoon practice followed by time trials and a 25-lap qualifying race. The 150-lap main is set to go green at approximately 8:30 p.m.

***

Fast Facts

The Race: Riverhead 175
The Place: Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway

The Date: Saturday, August 1
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 150 laps / 37.5 miles

2008 Winner: Jimmy Blewett
2008 Polesitter: Bill Park

Event Schedule:
Practice: 2-3 p.m., Time Trials: 4:30 p.m., 25-Lap Qualifying Race: 6 p.m.

***

News & Notes

The Race ... The Riverhead 175 at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway will be the sixth of 14 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 2009 schedule and the second of three races in the Empire State.

The Procedure ... The 16 fastest cars from time trials will comprise the first eight rows in the 150-lap main. The top seven finishers from a 25-lap qualifying race will determine starters 17-23 and five provisionals will fill out the 28-car field.

The Track ... A quarter-mile banked asphalt oval, Riverhead Raceway opened in 1949. The track has held a total of 47 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races since the series began in 1985, and is one of only two venues to play host to the Tour in each of its 25 seasons.

Race Winners ... There have been 22 different drivers to reach Victory Lane at Riverhead, led by Mike Ewanitsko's 11. Jimmy Blewett took the checkers last year, and among active drivers, Mike Stefanik has the most wins with 6.

Pole Winners ... Twenty-six different drivers have won the pole at Riverhead, led by Ewanitsko's seven. Ed Flemke Jr. leads active drivers in the category with four and Long Island's Bill Park was last year's pole winner. Stefanik holds the qualifying record at 11.562 seconds (77.841 mph).

***

Goodale Brothers Enjoy Home Cooking

While the majority of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racers reside in Connecticut and are just a short drive from Thompson International Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway, sites for half of the season's schedule, the handful of competitors from New York's Long Island get well accustomed to the ferry service crossing the Long Island Sound. The Tour's annual stop at Riverhead Raceway provides those drivers with their one and only home date of the year, something that Kevin and Eric Goodale - Riverhead natives - look forward to.

"It does make it more special to be at Riverhead," Eric said. "You have so many friends and family who aren't at the other Tour races and are always asking about - or are involved in - your racing career and never get to see how it ends up."

Kevin, the older of the two racing Goodale brothers at 28, made his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut with a limited schedule in 2003. He's made 77 career Tour starts after beginning his racing career in Riverhead's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division in 2001.

While Kevin hasn't raced extensively at Riverhead, his racing roots are strongly tied to his hometown track.

Chris Young, a Modified driver at Riverhead, is a longtime friend of the Goodale's father, Edgar. Kevin was first exposed to racing while working on Young's race cars and learned about mechanics. One day Young let Kevin take a few laps around Riverhead in his Modified and Kevin's racing career just developed from there.

Eric's career didn't begin at Riverhead, but that's where he debuted in full-sized cars. He started racing go-karts at the age of 13 on Long Island and eventually branched out to compete all over New England.

Now 23, Eric started racing at Riverhead in the Charger division the same year Kevin did in the Modifieds and is now in his first full year in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Through five races he is 17th in points and is the frontrunner in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Eric attributes some of his racing development to his time as a weekly competitor at Riverhead.

"You definitely learn a lot of control of your car there, so it was a good experience to start there," Eric said.

Kevin and Eric are teammates on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as they run family-owned cars. While they don't work together during the day - Kevin works at Riverhead Building Supply and Eric is now in construction after graduating from York College in Pennsylvania in May - they work hand-in-hand in the garage and at the race track.

"The cars are at my house, which is real close to the track [Riverhead]. We've got the cars right next to one another with the rig and everything," Kevin said. "Everybody is over here working on the cars, and we go to the track with the same setup."

Racing - whether at Riverhead or on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour - has been a weekly affair for the Goodales. Before they were behind the wheel, they were heading over to the track on Saturday nights to catch the action.

"We've been going to the race track ever since I can remember," Eric said. "The biggest punishment my parents could give me was to tell me I couldn't go to the races on Saturday. I looked forward to it all week."

With this year's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stop at Riverhead next on the schedule, the Goodale's got a tune-up in the recent Baldwin, Jarzombek, Evans Memorial 77 on July 18.

"We learned a lot," Kevin said. "It was good to race there, and it was good to get back in the rhythm of running Riverhead."

But their motivation wasn't entirely focused on getting practice, as they wanted to participate in the special event.

"It's a good tune-up for the Tour race, but it's a fun race to race," Kevin said.

Kevin and Eric will get a chance to show whether their recent run and background at Riverhead will give them a leg up on the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers in the Riverhead 175 this Saturday.

***

Tour Tidbits

Rudolph is Youngest Winner ... Last time out at Spencer Speedway on July 11, Erick Rudolph became the youngest race winner in the 25 years of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing. Rudolph, at 17 years, 6 months, 3 days, eclipsed the previous mark set by Ryan Preece last year. Preece was 17 years, 10 months, 25 days when he won at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The win for Rudolph came in his 14th career start. His best previous finish was fifth in the 2008 season finale.

Rain Aids Lia ... Due to a scheduling conflict, Donny Lia was expected to miss the last race at Spencer Speedway to attend the wedding of his sister. Lia, who was third in points after a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, would have been hard-pressed to stay in championship contention this year, but rain came on race day in Williamson, N.Y., and the race was pushed back to Sunday. Lia was able to make the trip up Sunday morning and finished sixth in the race to maintain his points position.

Most Popular Driver Voting Now Open ... For the second year in a row it will be up to the fans to determine the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Most Popular Driver. In the inaugural season of online balloting, Ted Christopher came away victorious in a close vote. Fans can vote now through the end of the season on Oct. 18. Just go to www.nascarhometracks.com to vote for your favorite NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver, and cast votes for NASCAR's other touring series as well while you're there.

Chemung Details ... The second visit in as many years - and just the third overall - for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome will come on Aug. 29. The Chemung 120 will be the third and final qualifying format race of the year. Like last year's event at the .375-mile banked oval, the 2009 edition will feature two-lap time trials that set the lineups for two 25-lap qualifying races. The top 12 finishers in the first heat will comprise the inside row of the 120-lap main, while the top 11 in the second heat will make up the outside row. The 28-car field will be filled out through provisionals. Matt Hirschman was the pole, heat and race winner at Chemung in 2008.

***

25 Seasons Running: Riverhead Unique To Tour

As the 25th season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is celebrated in 2009, events and individuals who have carried the series from its historic first season in 1985 to the present day will be recognized. Highlighted in the follow paragraphs is Riverhead Raceway, a unique annual stop for the Tour.

Riverhead originally opened in 1949 - one year after the establishment of NASCAR and the Modified division. Since the Tour was established in 1985, Riverhead has held 47 races, fourth-most of any venue in that timeframe. There were three races a year at Riverhead during the first four years of the Tour, and two trips annually from 1989-2005, with the lone exception being one race in 2003.

Today, Riverhead is the smallest track the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour annually visits. At just .25 miles, the Long Island bullring could be referred to as the Tour's version of Bristol Motor Speedway with the tight racing, frequent contact and the possibility for inflated tempers.

Aside from the track's tight racing, perhaps the aspect of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing at Riverhead that is also unique is the tradition of the track's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competitors that compete alongside the Tour's full-timers.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's all-time wins list at Riverhead includes such local regulars as Dan Jivanelli, Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr., Bob Park and Don Howe. The Riverhead regulars have been traditionally very strong in qualifying too, with guys like Bob Park and his brother Bill Park, Chuck Steuer, J.R. Bertuccio, Joey Caraccia and Jivanelli having won pole awards.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour full-timers who also hailed from Long Island have experienced particularly good results at their home track. Mike Ewanitsko is the all-time wins leader with 11 triumphs and current competitor Donny Lia has four. Ewanitsko also has double the poles won of any driver in Tour history there.

***

Home Tracks: Riverhead Raceway

As the weather heats up on Long Island, so has the points race in the Modified division at Riverhead Raceway.

After last week's action, Dave Brigati holds a slim two-point lead in Riverhead's premier division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Dave Sapienza won on July 25, but it was a fourth-place effort for Brigati that put him at 406 on the year, just two tallies ahead of Chuck Steuer.

First through fourth are currently only separated by 50 points in the competitive Modified division as John Fortin is in third with 384 points and defending champion Bill Park is fourth at 356.

As of racing through July 25, here are the other Riverhead division leaders:
Late Model: Kevin Metzger
Charger: Chris Turbush
Figure Eight: Roger Maynor
Super Pro Truck: Rob McCormick
Enduros: John Cozza
Legends: Tony Naglieri
Blunderbusts: Tony Walkowiak

***

Tour Drivers Compete In Memorial Race

Five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers competed in the Baldwin, Jarzombek, Evans Memorial 77 at Riverhead Raceway on July 18.

Call it an ode to Modified legends, a tune-up for this week's Riverhead 175, or both, but a quintet of Long Island Tour drivers ran at the quarter-mile bullring's recent special event.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Eric Goodale finished sixth and his older brother, Kevin, came home 10th. Both are from Riverhead. Johnny Bush (Huntington Station) was close behind in 11th and Gary McDonald (Ronkonkoma) was 20th. Glenn Tyler (Hampton Bays) rounded out the field in 24th with a start-and-park after getting in some practice.

The race is annually held in memory of Tom Baldwin, Charlie Jarzombek and Richie Evans - all standout NASCAR Modified drivers and New York natives who passed before their time. John Fortin won the 2009 edition.

***

Up Next: Town Fair Tire 150

The third of four trips to Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in 2009 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be the Town Fair Tire 150 on Friday, August 7.

Ted Christopher captured the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race of the year at Stafford on April 26 and Jimmy Blewett was victorious in the second round on May 22. Christopher was the Coors Light Pole Award winner for both races. Blewett got his first Tour win at Stafford in this race last year.

Stafford has held four NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races a year since 2004, and 91 overall since the Tour began in 1985. Mike Stefanik has earned more Coors Light Poles (15) and trips to Victory Lane (20) than any other driver at Stafford.

Race day will begin with practice at 2 p.m. and time trials will follow at 6 p.m. The Town Fair Tire 150 is slated to start at approximately 9:15 p.m.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Joey Caraccia , J.R. Bertuccio , Gary McDonald , Ted Christopher , Donny Lia , Glenn Tyler , Erick Rudolph , Eric Goodale , Ryan Preece
Teams Williams