Justin Brown Scores Modified Victory At Riverhead Raceway Opener

(Press Release from Riverhead Raceway)

It may have been NASCAR Pack the Track opening night for the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series of Riverhead Raceway, but the on-track action displayed mid season form, featuring two great finishes and exciting racing action all night. When the dust settled, Justin Brown of Manorville sat in NASCAR Tour Type Modified victory lane at the end of 50-laps, however it was veteran Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach stealing the spotlight, as he topped both the Late Model and Super Pro Truck events.

Cagey veteran Dave Brigati raced out to the early race lead in the 50-lap lid lifter for the Modifieds, with rising talent Justin Brown in tow. Early in the contest Brigati was able to control the pace of the race, with Brown seeming content riding in second. When the race hit the 15 lap mark, it was at that point Brown started to close in on Brigati. Two laps later Brown would post a successful challenge for the lead on lap 17. After being the hunted over the first handful of laps, Brigati became the hunter while Michael Rutkoski and Dylan Slepian occupied third and fourth behind the lead duo. 

The opener, to the shock of more than a few would go without caution and as the race hit the halfway junction, all eyes started focusing in on defending champion John Beatty Jr. who was on the march. With Brown out front comfortably, Beatty without aid of a restart started making his way through the top five making his way past Rutkoski for third with just under 10-laps remaining. John, motivated by the passing of former beloved team member Glenn Dixon was on a mission, to win for “Glenno”. Beatty worked under Brigati for second with five laps left in the tilt and was making up ground on the leader, but it was not to be.

As the dueling checker flags waved Justin Brown secured his fourth career win, introducing a new marketing partner to his team in winning fashion.  “This is a great way to introduce Eddie G’s Muscle Car Garage to our team” Brown exulted post-race, “they are here tonight, what better way to start off your relationship”. When asked whether he was worried about the fast-closing Beatty at the end, Brown offered, “I was controlling my pace, if he would have gotten closer, I had more in the tank”. Concluding Justin noted, “big thank you to our returning sponsors Motorcycle Mike Attorney at Law and Kennedy Long Island Realty of Bay Shore. Our plan this year is to win races, this is a good start. Later in the summer if we are in the chase for the championship, so be it”. 

Perhaps never wanting to win a race he has entered, John Beatty Jr of Merrick settled for second in the MSM Elite Motorsports Fury, while Dave Brigati of Calverton completed the podium with a stellar third place tally in the Coors Light Silver Bullet. Michael Rutkoski of Mattituck and Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills were fourth and fifth.

As the 25-lap Late Model feature rolled off, pole sitter Jimmy Rennick Jr of Howard Beach already had one trophy in his pit stall having won a wild Super Pro Truck event an hour or so earlier. The past two seasons for Rennick’s LM effort have been wrought with heavy impacts and complete rebuilds of his always immaculate Chevy.  Jimmy took the lead right from the throw of the green with Gerard “G-Rod” Giordano in pursuit. During a 5th lap restart Giordano took the race lead from Rennick on lap 6, but two circuits later Rennick came roaring back to reclaim the lead on lap 9. Back out front, Rennick never looked back and drove the Metropolitan Recycling entry to victory lane. There he reflected, “since our first career win couple years back we have wrecked this car, hard, twice. All that remains from the car I bought from Baker Racing is the center section. The rest is designed, and built by Chris Busick, I can’t thank him & his wife Michelle enough”. Gerard Giordano of Freeport was second in the K-1 Logistics machine, defending champion Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead completed the podium in the Eastport Feeds Chevy. 

The Eagle Chevrolet Crate Modifieds turned in their own caution free 25-lap feature event with Chase Grennan of Glen Cove taking home the gold. When the field took the green Grennan and Charles Macwhinnie, starting alongside had some minor contact with Chase breaking out to the lead. Grennan would later say, “Charlie Mac and I touched, I don’t like to race that was, sorry to him”. With zero caution lights coming in in this one Chase Grennan steering the Eastport Feeds Chevy drove to his 6th career win. His goal for 2024 is to win the championship, something his older brother Owen has accomplished two years in a row 2022 & 2023. With Owen paring back to a part time schedule with the class, Chase can now focus on other rivals for the championship. Charles Macwhinnie of Southampton was runner-up in the CHM Landscaping machine, AJ DeSantis of Yaphank crossed the line third in the Sunoco Strong Oil Chevy.

Former three-time Figure Eight champion Scott Pedersen of Shirley notched his 12th career victory winning a 15-lap main event. After pole sitter Kim Hyde paced the race for the first two laps, Pedersen, driving with a new ownership team in 2024 took the race lead during a restart to start the third lap. Scott wheeling the Bobby’s One Stop Custom Exhaust & Auto Camaro broke away to a comfortable lead as the race progressed, almost too bug by Figure Eight standards. The win breaks a tie on the all-time win list with brother Arne. Gary Fritz Jr., of Mastic Beach was second after a first lap mishap in the Goodfellas Auto Cadillac, while Bryan Quilliam of Shirley, driving for Vecchio Racing this year was third in the Smoke Shack BBQ Chevy. 

Tom Pickerell of Huntington had sat out the past few years of Blunderbust racing. Why not, he had competed his entire adult life, successfully at that, winning 29 features and 7 Riverhead championships, his first in 2004, most recent in 2020. Pickerell even tried selling and raffling off his Pickerell Clam entry, when it didn’t move, and Tom needed to have some fun, it was time for a comeback. Pickerell was in the right place, at the right time when leaders Jim Laird Jr. and Cody Triola got together on lap 14. Laird spun, Triola was asked to join his at the rear, for an ensuing restart. That left Pickerell, who was third when the leaders collided as the new race leader with six laps remaining. Green reappeared, Pickerell smashed the loud peddle and the result was a milestone career victory number thirty for “Slick Pick”. Joe Densieski of Riverhead made Pickerell earn it over the final laps before settling for second in the Hydro-Action Caprice, Tom Sullivan of North Massapequa was third in the Island Trees Automotive Lincoln. 

The finish to the 20-lap Super Pro Truck feature resembled more a plate race in NASCAR Cup racing. Three trucks joined together, sliding across the start/finish line to find a winner.  When the mayhem settled, Jimmy Rennick Jr. would score the first of his two wins on opening night taking evasive action towards the infield avoiding Jack Handley Jr. and Matt Triola who had come together off the fourth corner. The entire race was a hotly contested affair, early on Rennick and Erin Solomito waged a duel for the lead. Unfortunately, Erin got sideways off the fourth corner on lap 6 ending her run. That moved all-time leading winner Lou Maestri up one to challenge Rennick for the lead, but he was quickly passed by Matt Triola one lap later on the 8th circuit. Meanwhile, defending champion Jack Handley Jr. was on the move towards the front and with five laps to go, Rennick, Triola and Handley were under a blanket. At first there was some give and take, but off the final corner to the checker flag, no giving. Triola and Handley tangled just before the line, their trucks locked together came down the track and Rennick, somehow, someway avoided contact and dove inside. That instinct put Jimmy and the Sonny’s Collision Specialists team into the winner’s circle. Matt Triola of Bay Shore was credited with second in the Long Island debris truck, Frank Dumicich Jr, of East Quogue third in the Okpetroleummarketplace.com entry.  Jack Handley Jr. was set to last place in the event by race control who deemed his move to the inside of Triola in the final turn was too aggressive setting off the last lap skirmish. 

Another winning driver in the right place at the right time Saturday was Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead resulting in his 20th career INEX Legend Race Car victory. Early on Joey Bruan, considered a young lion at 22 found himself racing for the lead of the 20-lap feature with 12-year-old Rodney Dowless Jr. While Braun and Dowless swapped the lead another youthful star made his way to third, Ben Morabito, 13. Bruan, the old man of the trio had the young adult drivers putting the heat on him for the win. Morabito would come to second and on lap 15 he and Braun were side by side for the lead entering the first corner. They both moved for the same piece of real estate and contact resulting with a dual spin and caution. The field relined, Dowless who was third behind the incident was back in the lead with Riely O’Keefe second with another torrid battle for the win shaping up. Again, the two contenders made slight contact on lap 17 forcing them to both layout of the gas, thus allowing Kyle Ellwood to drive through to the lead.  With the two to go signal in the air, Ellwood driving the Millennium Limited Contracting was able to stay out front for the win sending notice he will be a force in the 2024 championship tussle. Defending champion Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches drove from deep in the field in his Freddie & Megan Kraft entry for second, third went to Riely O’Keefe of Manorville in the Crystal Clear Window Cleaning racer who corrected after his late race contact. 

NASCAR Modifieds 1. Justin Brown 2. John Beatty Jr. 3. Dave Brigati 4. Michael Rutkoski 5. Dylan Slepian 6. Chris Young 7. John Fortin 8. Chris Rigers 9. JR Bertuccio 10. Matt Brode 11. Jack Handley Jr. 12. JB Fortin 13. CJ Lehmann 14. Mark Stewart 15. Owen Grennan

Late Models: 1. Jimmy Rennick Jr, 2. Gerard Giordano 3. Jeremy McDermott 4. Allan Pedersen 5. Keith Rotzi 6. Ed Cheslak 7. Brian Doyle 8. Chris McGuire 9. Scott Cheslak 10. Kevin Metzger 1. Ray Minieri 12. Mike Bologna

Crate Modifieds: 1. Chase Grennan 2. Chares Macwhinnie 3. AJ DeSantis 4. Michael Berner 5. Vinny Delaney 6. Terry Stiles 7. Kyle Ellwood 8. Max Handley 9. Eric Hersey 10. Stephen Coleman 11. Chevy Rommeney 12. Andrew Farnham 13. Tom Sekulski 14. Mike Albasini

Figure Eights: 1. Scott Pedersen 2. Gary Fritz Jr. 3. Bryan Quilliam 4. Kim Hyde 5. Ryan Warren 6. Johnny Vullo 7. Bob Dalke 8. Paulo Miquel 9. Allan Pedersen

Bunderbusts: 1. Tom Pickerell 2. Joe Densieski 3. Tom Sulkivan 4. Cody Triola 5. Bill Wegmann Sr. 6. Jim Laird Jr. 7. Brad Bess 8. Emily Hubbard 9. Liam Macwhinnie 10. Tom Puccia 11. Eddie Diaz 12. Joe Boccia 13. Jayden Owens-Bader 14. Bill Wegmann Jr. 15. Rob Bader

Super Pro Trucks: 1. Jimmy Rennick Jr. 2. Matt Triola 3. Frank Dumicich Jr. 4. Lou Maestri 5. Tony Naglieri 6. Rob Corwin 7. Phil LaManna 8. Frank Dumicich Sr. 9. Dan Turbush 10. Erin Solomito 11. Cillian Tennant 12. Jack Handley Jr. 

Legend Race Cars: 1. Kyle Ellwood 2. Richie Davidowitz 3. Riely O’Keefe 4. Josh Speas 5. Rodney Dowless Jr. 6. Anthony Marsh 7. Jason Castaldo 8. Kevin Nowak 9. Chris Sinatro 10. Christopher Coleman 11. Jim Sylvester 12. Ben Morabito 13. Ray Fitzgerald 14. Jayden Glennerster 15. Joey Braun 16. Nick Kocis 17.  George Tomko Jr. 18. Charles Hodge III 19. Mike Van Houten Jr. 20. Pat Moore 21. Jeff Farruggia Jr. 22. Nick Morabito 23. Marc Godnick 24. Will Sipala 25. Michael Metcalf 26. Ed Stadtlander   

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