After 16 Years JR Bertuccio Returns To Riverhead Modified Victory Lane

(Press Release from Riverhead Raceway)

Nearly 16 years to the day, JR Bertuccio of Centereach returned to NASCAR Modified victory lane Saturday when he led wire to wire in a non-stop 50-lap feature at Riverhead Raceway. Rising driving talent Chase Grennan of Glen Cove scored a clean sweep in the Eagle Chevrolet 100 for the Crate Modifieds for his third win of 2023 after setting fast time in qualifying.

Starting from the front row, former champion JR Bertuccio took full advantage breaking out to the early lead over Michael Rutkoski. With a multi car battle forming for third between Chris Young, Justin Brown, John Beatty Jr. and Mark Stewart the lead tandem of Bertuccio and Rutkoski were able to distance themselves from the pack. During the middle portion Bertuccio set a torrid pace and was able to put some asphalt between he and Rutkoski.

However, with 10-laps remaining in the contest either the challenger Rutkoski hit another gear and starting moving closer to Bertuccio, or JR’s pace fell off. Being able to pull within a care length or two of Bertuccio would be one thing, getting close enough to mount a challenge quite another. Both drivers were equally as hungry for their first win of the campaign. 

Despite seeing his large lead shrink in the final 10 circuits, JR Bertuccio for the first time since July 14th, 2007 sat in Riverhead Raceway victory lane. During the Flo broadcast of the race it was disclosed the Gershow Motorsports team may have made the winning decision at the race shop during the week. Bertuccio had been running a “built” motor up until this week with the team deciding install a Spec Engine for Saturday. “Feels great to be back in victory lane” JR offered post-race, “We’ve had some struggles, but we were fast tonight, can’t thank my Dad enough”. The win was the 29th of Bertuccio’s career tying him with Kyle Soper for 11th all-time. Next win evens JR with Mike Ewanitsko for 10th.

Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck was second in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet-Cadillac machine, Chris Young of Calverton was third in his Ace’s Landscaping racer. Justin Brown of Manorville and Mark Stewart of Riverhead completed the top five. 

The Eagle Chevrolet Crate Modifieds ran their annual 100-lapper Saturday and taking center stage was teenage sensation Chase Grennan of Glen Cove. Grennan topped the 20-cars in qualifying with a lap of 12.359, not far off Dave Brigati’s track record of 12.211 set in 2019. When the green light winked on Chase zipped right out front chased over the first three laps by Kyle Elwood. Lap 4 found Chase’s older brother and defending champion Owen pass Ellwood for second. Over the next 25-laps Owen ran second to his sibling but as the race moved along caution free his pace started to fall of with Ellwood running behind him. Smelling blood in the water Ellwood was able to repass Owen Grennan for second on lap 29.

Just moments after losing second, Owen’s night took a dramatic turn for the worse when his car quit running with a faulty fuel pump stalling just shy of the third turn gate drawing the first stoppage and only stoppage of the race. When the race resumed Kyle Ellwood was draped all over the rear spoiler of Chase Grennan’s rear spoiler. It appeared over the middle to final stages of the race Kyle was comfortable letting the young lion set the pace, However when it was go time for Ellwood, Grennan was able to pick up his pace and rive off to his 5th career Crate Modified victory. The triumph also moves Chase to the championship lead. Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead was runner-up in the Rosemar Industries Spafco. Terry Stiles of Rocky Point worked hard to score third place money in his Van Buren Auto Allison Transmissions Chevy, Stiles, AJ Desantis of Yaphank and most recent winner Michael Berner of Patchogue diced for the duration for the position. DeSantis and Berner were fourth and fifth

Late Model car owner Jennifer JoAnn was at wits end in the sport and ready to pack it in after just one season. Enter Artie Pedersen III of CheckerWon Motorsports who teamed with her in an effort not just for success, but to show her the upside of the sport. In just their fourth race as a team, Pedersen of Center Moriches scored his and Jennifer JoAnn’s first career Late Model victory in a non-stop 25 lap event. Knowing he was starting from the pole and rival Jeremy McDermott, a two-time winner in ’23 was further back on the grid, AP3 knew a good start to the race was paramount. Never one to waste opportunity Pedersen got and amazing launch at the throw of the green taking command of the race from the outset over rising talent Ed Cheslak. With no cautions or yellow flags to fall back on, McDermott had to make his way to the front the old-fashioned way and he did.On lap 11 McDermott passed Cheslak for second, that was the good news for Jeremy. Bad news was Pedersen had a straightaway cushion. McDermott whittled it down but in the end it was too much to overcome. At the checker Artie Pedersen III scored his first LM win with the NY Bernerdoodles Chevy of Jennifer JoAnn. McDermott of Riverhead was second, Cheslak of Rocky Point a strong third in the Native Ceuticals entry.

Race drivers look for motivation to win races anywhere they can find it. Sometimes that motivation finds them. Just a week removed from losing his beloved mother, Marcia to cancer, Jim Laird Jr. of Rocky Point turned sadness into motivation and triumph winning his second race of 2023. The race, second leg of the Miller Lite Triple Crown Series was a 30-lap contest with defending champion Cody Triola jumping to the early lead. Soon Triola was joined at the front by Jim Laird Jr.. As they have done it seems all season long, Triola and Laird raced hard, side by side but with the up most respect for each other. Eventually Laird took the race lead for good and as the laps wore down built a comfortable lead in the Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Caprice. Afterwards Jim admitted, “I completely lost it, coming to the checker flag I could barely see the flag stand through the tears”. The victory was the 14th of Jim’s career, tying him for 7th all time with Ron Harrison. Cody Triola of Bay Shore in the Cesspool Pros racer was second, third fell to Tom Puccia of Shirley in the Ferrandino & Sons Contracting Chevy. 

Joey Braun of Manorville has started a INEX Legend Race Car win streak at the midway point of the season. Saturday, the driver dubbed “Blankets” made some late race moves to top the 20-lap feature event, his second consecutive win, 12th of his career tying him with Timmy Solomito for 5th all-time. Nick Morabito broke out front at the throw of the green and looked like he was headed for the winner’s circle for the second time of his career. Nick fended off challengers Jason Castaldo for the first half of the race, then Riely O’Keefe from laps 11-14. On lap 15 after starting 8th, Joey Braun made his presence known moving to second and two laps later taking the lead in his Uncle Carmine’s Hot Peppers racer, a lead he would keep to the conclusion. Riely O’Keefe of Manorville crossed the line second but was disqualified for unapproved weight percentage in tech. Richie Davidowitz of Manorville was runner-up with his Freddie & Megan Kraft backed machine with Nick Morabito of Miller Place third in the 860 Motorsports Northeast mount.

NASCAR Modifieds: 1. JR Bertuccio 2. Michael Rutkoski 3. Chris Young 4. Justin Brown 5. Mark Stewart 6. John Beatty 7. Tom Rogers Jr. 8. Matt Brode 9. Dillon Steuer 10. Dylan Slepian 11. Chris Rogers 12. Jack Handley Jr. 13. Owen Grennan 14. Allan Pedersen 

Eagle Chevrolet Crate Modifieds 100: 1. Chase Grennan 2. Kyle Ellwood 3. Terry Stiles 4. AJ DeSantis 5. Michael Berner 6. Max Handley 7. Sean Glennon 8. Mike Albasini 9. Eric Hersey 10. Alex Colasanto 11. Vinny Delaney 12. Rich Gerbe 13. Charles Macwhinnie 14. Chevy Rommeney 15. Eddie Schutze 16. Tom Sekulski 17. Owen Grennan 18. Dennis Krupski 19. Chris Sinatro 20. Michael Rutkoski

Late Models: 1. Artie Pedersen III 2. Jeremy McDermott 3. Ed Cheslak 4. Gerard Giordano 5. Kevin Metzger 6. Chris McGuire 7. Alyssa Paprocky 8. Jenn Krpata 9. Jesse St. Clair 10. Keith Rotzi 11. Paul Cummings 12. Shawn Patrick 13. Frank Dumicich Jr. DNS- Ray Minieri 

Blunderbusts: 1. Jim Laird Jr. 2. Cody Triola 3. Tom Puccia 4. Eddie Diaz 5. Bill Wegmann Sr. 6. Tom Sullivan 7. Joe Densieski 8. Brandon Hubbard 9. Gary Caldwell 10. Michael Accordino 11. Ralph Corsini 12. Bill Wegmann Sr. DNS- Emily Hubbard

Legend Race Cars: 1. Joey Braun 2. Richie Davidowitz 3. Nick Morabito 4. Jason Castaldo 5. Brad Van Houten 6. Jim Sylvester 7. Rodney Dowless Jr. 8. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 9. Charlie Hodge 10. Chris Sinatro 11. Mike Van Houten Jr. 12. Eric Hersey 13. Jayden Glennerster 14. Alex Halinar 15. Ryan Lutz 16. Mike Benton 17. Robert Henninger 18. Kevin Ohrnberger 19. Ed Stadtlander 20. Steve Woytysiak 21. Michael Metcalf 22. Kim Daniel 23. Alex Johnson 24. Marc Godnick 25. Ray Fitzgerald DQ-Riely O’Keefe 

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