Brode drives to repeat triumph in modified event

Howie Brode of East Islip paid tribute to his friend and mentor, Tom Baldwin, by running Baldwin’s famed “#7NY” on his NASCAR modified for the Baldwin, Evans and Jarzombek 77 and winning the grueling 77-lap race at Riverhead Raceway. With the victory, Brode became the first repeat winner of the event, racking up his 11th career victory.

As in past Baldwin, Evans and Jarzombek 77 races, emotions ran at a fever pitch and numerous caution flags waved for a combination of minor spins as well as some multi-car tangles. This set up several double-file restarts between the leader, Brode, and challenger Dave Brigati of Calverton. However, each time Brigati tried to work the outside for a shot at the lead for a lap or two, he had to tuck back in behind Brode to protect his second-place position. After NASCAR officials felt there were too many yellow flags, in part because of the double-file restarts, the call was made to go single file with some 37 laps left in the race.

The race became a six-lap dash for the cash and Tom Rogers Jr. of Patchogue, who was driving with a broken right wrist, wasted no time in trying to score his fourth win of the year. Rogers, sensing Brode’s car was tight, tried to pitch his car to the low side of the track exiting the corners, but Brode had none of it, and protected the inside lane all the way until the checkered flag waved.

With tears welling in his eyes, Brode exited his car in victory lane after his victory lap and noted how special the win was to him. “Tom was my buddy,” he said. “When I got my first modified he opened up his set-up book to me and guided me along.”

With his voice cracking with emotion, Brode said: “I miss him. I miss him every day.”

In an ironic twist, Brode’s last victory came when he first won the 77 in July of 2006. This win also tied Brode with Tom Baldwin with 11 wins on the all-time Riverhead Raceway win list.

Although Rogers Jr. didn’t score the victory, it was still a good night for him. With his runner-up finish, he propelled himself into the NASCAR modified points lead. Brigati crossed the line third. Glenn Tyler of Hampton Bays finished fourth and Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown was fifth.

Rogers holds a slim six-point lead over Chuck Steuer, 470-464, in the chase for the NASCAR modified title. Steuer was sixth in the 77 after a late-race pit stop.

It may have taken Arne Pedersen of Mastic Beach several seasons to win his first career figure eight feature event, but now that he has tasted victory he can’t get enough of it. Pedersen drove to his third win of the season in a 20-lap main event. A third-lap restart changed the complexion of the race. During that restart Pedersen looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he raced his way out front. Mike Mujsce of Westhampton Beach was second, and Roger Maynor of Bay Shore stormed his way to a third-place finish.

Armed with his regular race engine back under the hood, Chris McGuire of Shirley roared to his third charger victory as he topped a 20-lap feature event. McGuire took the top spot during a double-file restart as the field started the eighth lap. He held on for his 11th career charger triumph. Jeremy McDermott of Riverhead took second after starting seventh. Kevin Orlando of Calverton crossed the line third. Orlando and McGuire are tied for the points lead with 522.