Setting The Scene: Whelen Modified Tour Riverhead 200

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Whelen Modified TourThe NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has long been constituted of accomplished veterans who regularly reach Victory Lane. First-time winners are more of the exception than the rule, but the 2014 season is bucking that trend.

Three of the 10 races this year have featured first-time winners, including the June event at Riverhead Raceway, where the Whelen Modified Tour will return to for Saturday’s Riverhead 200. A fourth in any one of the four remaining dates would be the most since there were five in 2002.

Eric Goodale was the first breakthrough winner this year when he earned a hometown victory at Riverhead in June. Woody Pitkat reached Victory Lane at his home track Stafford Motor Speedway in early August, then last time out at Bristol Motor Speedway rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. captured his first win.

It would be no surprise to see yet another new face in Victory Lane this week at Riverhead. Veterans of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly competition at the rough-and-tumble bullring are on much more of a level playing field at their home track.

Timmy Solomito – now a Whelen Modified Tour rookie, but previously a weekly Riverhead competitor – has finished top-five in the last two tour events at his home track to head a list of first-win contenders that would also include John Beatty Jr., who has led 150 combined laps across the last three Riverhead races. Tom Rogers Jr. should be considered a contender based on the amount of success he’s had in Whelen All-American Series action at Riverhead in recent seasons, and should they officially enter the Riverhead 200, local veterans Howie Brode and Dave Brigati would also be candidates for a first career tour win.

The three first-time winners so far this year are the most the tour has seen since 2010 when there were also three. Two of those were “ringers”, however, as Ryan Newman (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) and Dale Quarterly (Lime Rock Park) joined then-full-time driver Erick Rudolph (Spencer Speedway) as first-time victors. The last time three full-time competitors earned their first win in the same season was 2006 when Jimmy Blewett (Martinsville Speedway), James Civali (Stafford) and Doug Coby (Stafford) accomplished the feat.

RACE: Riverhead 200
PLACE: Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway
DATE: Saturday, Sept. 13
TIME: 8 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .25-mile, banked asphalt oval
2013 POLESITTER: Timmy Solomito
2013 WINNER: Ryan Preece
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 3-4 p.m., Qualifying 5:30 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 6:45 p.m.

Fast Facts:
The Race: The Riverhead 200 will be the 11th of 14 races on the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and the last of two trips to Riverhead Raceway on New York’s Long Island.

The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying and the remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 200 laps (50 miles).

The Track: A quarter-mile banked asphalt oval, Riverhead Raceway opened in 1949. The track has held a total of 55 races since the Whelen Modified Tour began in 1985, and is one of only two venues to play host to the tour in each of its 30 seasons.

Race Winners: There have been 24 different drivers that reached Victory Lane at Riverhead, led by Mike Ewanitsko’s 11. Eric Goodale captured his first career victory there in June.

Pole Winners: Thirty-one different drivers have captured a pole at Riverhead, led by Ewanitsko’s eight. Chuck Steuer set the qualifying record at 11.546 seconds (77.949 mph) in 2000 and John Beatty Jr. earned his first career pole in the June contest.

Riverhead 200 Notes:
Another Streak to End at Riverhead: When Ed Flemke Jr. did not participate in the 2014 season-opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour record for consecutive starts by a driver ended at 382 races. The record for consecutive starts by a car owner will now end at 477 when Bob Garbarino’s No. 4 Mystic Missile Racing Dodge does not attend this week’s event at Riverhead Raceway. The “Mystic Missile” had started every race since the start of the 1989 season through the Aug. 20 event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Driver/owner Jamie Tomaino still retains the mark for the most total tour starts with 579 of the 584 all-time events.

Bonsignore to Vie for a Second Riverhead Win: Justin Bonsignore’s first Whelen Modified Tour victory came at his home track – Riverhead – in 2011. The five checkered flags he has collected since have come at either Thompson (three) or Monadnock Speedway (two). Since that breakthrough Riverhead win, his last four starts there have alternated between good and bad. He was the race runner-up in 2012 and in this event last fall while the last two summer dates have seen a DNF (June 2013) and a finish 16 laps down (June 2014). That last visit to the Long Island bullring is his only non-lead-lap finish of the season.

Preece Looks to Start New Riverhead Run: Ryan Preece had won three Whelen Modified Tour races in a row at Riverhead prior to the last event there in June when he crossed the line fourth and Eric Goodale took the checkers. Preece is unquestionably the tour’s most-successful current competitor at Riverhead with four wins and an average finish of 3.2 in nine career starts. At a track were trouble can find you quickly, and you can easily go down laps with an ill-handling car, Preece has finished on the lead lap in all nine visits.

Large Local Contingent: As of Monday, there were five entries for the Riverhead 200 from among the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified ranks, and that count could very well double by the time Saturday rolls around. Combined with the regular Whelen Modified Tour drivers and owners who also hail from Long Island, upwards of 20 teams will have local ties to Riverhead Raceway and the surrounding area.

Home Tracks: Brode Looks for Riverhead Trifecta
Howie Brode is contending for what would be a fourth Riverhead Raceway championship, and third in a row. The East Islip, New York, veteran earned his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title in 1998, and the second didn’t come until 2012. This year Brode has posted 421 points through last weekend’s event to lead 2010 track champ Tom Rogers Jr. by 25 tallies. Despite missing multiple races, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece ranks third in the standings with 348 points.

Last Time Out: Bristol
The 10th race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was contested at Tennessee’s famed Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 20. Here are some highlights from the Bush’s Beans 150:
Rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. was a surprise winner in the annual combination race with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour as he drove to his first career victory. He became the tour’s first rookie winner since 2006.
Bobby Santos finished as the runner-up while polesitter Justin Bonsignore crossed the finish line sixth.
JR Bertuccio, 13th overall, was the highest-finishing Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitor, and was credited with a win for that tour.

Next Time Out: New Hampshire
As was the case earlier this summer, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will follow a race at its smallest track – Riverhead Raceway – with a trip to its largest facility – New Hampshire Motor Speedway – for the F.W. Webb 100 on Saturday, Sept. 20. Todd Szegedy is the defending winner of this race and Bobby Santos was victorious in the last trip to the “Magic Mile” in July.

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