Auto Racing: Deflated tire doesn’t stop Rogers

Defending NASCAR Modified champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Patchogue didn’t let a small obstacle like a deflating left front tire stop him from winning the 35-lap feature event at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night. In fact, he did it while pulling away from the pack late in the race toward his 14th career victory.

It was during a caution period when race officials alerted Rogers that his left front tire looked like it was soft. They also told him the decision was his to either stay or pit. Rogers chose the former.

On the ensuing restart, John Fortin was able to slip under Jerry Solomito Jr. for second, and the former three-time champion made a run at Rogers for the lead. Amazingly, as the race hit an extended green-flag run, Rogers actually began to pull away from not only Fortin, but also the third-place Solomito and the oncoming Justin Bonsignore.

After being the first to cross the finish line, Rogers exited his car and walked directly to the soft left front tire. Upon seeing the tire, Rogers said: “That’s ugly right there. I really don’t know how it held air, but it did.”

Contact between Rogers’ car and the one driven by Chris Young broke the bead that the tire has on the rim and the opening between the rim and tire bead was about an inch or more. When asked if he ever considered pitting, Rogers replied: “My brother-in-law, Michael, is my radio man. I asked what he thought, and he said it was soft but not flat, so we went for it.”

The division’s points leader, Bonsignore of Holtsville, put on a clinic, wheeling his Chevy from the 10th starting spot to a runner-up finish, increasing his lead over Fortin of Holtsville to 16 points. Fortin was third in the race, and immediately followed in order by Solomito of Islip and John Beatty Jr. of Valley Stream.

Roger Oxee of Peconic reached a milestone when he won his 60th career Late Model race in a 25-lap contest. Dennis Krupski, who returned to the Late Models in 2011, shadowed Oxee for almost the entire race before he was overtaken by the hard-charging Scott Kulesa for second on Lap 23. Kulesa, who started the race ninth, made some bold moves on his way toward the front, but by the time he reached second there were only two laps remaining and Oxee was out of reach.

After accepting the congratulations of his crew and track staff, Oxee admitted getting the 60th win was a chore. “Sixty wins at Riverhead, that’s not easy,” he said. Oxee then said that this will be his final season racing. “I have a young son who needs his daddy,” he said.

Kulesa of Georgetown, Mass., was second and Jarrod Hayes of Riverhead placed third.

The Super Pro Trucks ran a 20-lap feature event non-stop, and when the race concluded it appeared as though Brian McElearney of North Babylon had won his second straight race just two weeks after securing his first career victory. However, a postrace technical inspection found McElearney’s truck came up light and he was disqualified. That moved Mike Albasini of Flushing, the 2009 Super Pro Trucks champion, from a runner-up finish to his eighth career win. Chris Turbush of Riverhead was second, and Frank Dumicich Jr. of East Quogue was third.

Even though the season is half over, it’s safe to say that Chris Young of Calverton is enjoying a career year as he drove to his third Legend Race Car feature event win of 2011. Jeffrey Goodale of Riverhead grabbed second place, with Justin Strumpf of Selden finishing third. Young leads Strumpf by eight points in the chase for the 2011 championship.

Tested tough Eight-Cylinder Enduro veteran Dege Russell of Rocky Point won the 75-lap feature event for the Enduro class that started this form of racing at Riverhead Raceway in 1986.

James Kilkenny of Howard Beach topped the Minivan Demolition Derby.