Riverhead Raceway: Controversy comes with Fortin’s victory


A tranquil summer night of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing turned heated at the end of a 35-lap NASCAR Modified feature event Saturday at Riverhead Raceway when a late-race pass by Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., was called back for being below the line, enabling John Fortin of Holtsville to take home the win. The postrace debate on the ruling lasted hours after the final checker flag waved. 

When the checker flag waved, Preece crossed the line first but both he and Fortin reported to victory lane. While NASCAR officials debated and watched a replay of the final two laps, a calm conversation between the drivers ensued, with Preece sitting on Fortin’s left side nerf bar. The starter, Mike Rickert, then pointed to Fortin as the race winner. Preece shook Fortin’s hand and drove off to the pits after being set back one position for passing out of bounds.

After exiting his car with his 28th career win in his pocket, Fortin quickly told his side of the late-race battle with Preece for the lead. “I knew Ryan had to be below the line as my left wheels were pretty close to the line and he was inside of me,” said Fortin.

Preece was moved back to the runner-up position. The call didn’t sit well with the car owner, Bill Park.

“We admit Ryan had wheels below the line, but where is he supposed to go after being driven down?” asked Park, a former four time champion.

Park expressed concern with the decision process. “There was a bunch of people without NASCAR uniforms that had a lot to say about what went on,” he said. “I disagree with that part of the process.”

It was later revealed that Preece drove the race from Lap 7 with a broken rack and pinion steering unit.

Vinny Biondolillo of Farmingville had a solid third-place finish. Kyle Soper of Manorville and Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead completed the top five.

In other races:

The defending Late Model champion, Mike Bologna of Melville, was in the right place at the right time in winning his 14th career feature event. Bologna took the lead on Lap 17 before driving on to his first win of the season.

“I got used to winning four or five races a year,” he said. “nice to win again.”

Chris LaSpisa of Shirley was second. Scott Kulesa of Georgetown, Mass., recovered from a couple of trips to the pits to grab third place.

Rare is the chance for the defending Blunderbust champion, Tom Pickerell of Huntington, to start up front for a feature let alone from the pole position, but he picked the coveted starting spot after qualifying. Pickerell is so used to starting in the back of the pack that he rarely looks at a starting lineup.

The pole worked for Pickerell, who prevailed in a nonstop 30-lap main event for the 14th time in his career. Jack Handley Jr. of Medford won the battle for second. Jimmy White Jr. of Southampton was third.

Dan Turbush of Riverhead won his second Super Pro Truck event of 2015. The truck class has given the 64-year-old Turbush a second lease on his racing life. It was his sixth career win in the class. Turbush’s grandson, Mark Stewart of Riverhead, was second. Lou Maestri of Deer Park came in third.

Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches collected his third Legend Race Car win of the year. The nonstop 20-lap race saw Artie Pedersen III of Center Moriches race his way to second. Vinny Delaney of Holtsville crossed the line third. The race came with some controversy. After the race, some rival teams questioned the fuel of the winning car. It was unclear if a fuel sample was being sent out for further evaluation and that conversation lasted hours after the race had concluded.

Greg Zaleski of Jamesport made a bold, and to some, a questionable early-race move to come from third to the lead at the start of the 50-lap Grand Enduro. He then drove off to his third win of the year. The next two finishers were Dave Antos of Lindenhurst and Jimmy White Jr.