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Auto Racing: Opening night is grand for Solomito

After a frustrating afternoon of fighting a misfire in his NASCAR Modified, Shawn Solomito of Center Moriches and his team rebounded in the 40-lap main event on Grand Opening Night at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday. Solomito claimed the victory with a late-race pass of Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead. 

Solomito, the 2012 NASCAR Modified champion at Riverhead, spent 29 laps shadowing Rogers and biding his time. He saw an opening under Rogers as the duo exited a corner on Lap 29. By the time they raced into the first turn to start the 30th lap, Solomito had  reclaimed the lead for good.

“We had a terrible misfire in practice and we were all pulling our hair out, but we kept after it and discovered it was a valve train issue we were able to address and the hard work paid off,” said Solomito.

Rogers, who was second, afterwards discovered a broken rear suspension on his Chevy. Howie Brode took third, Dave Brigati of Calverton was fourth and Kyle Soper of Manorville fifth.

The 25-lap Late Model feature was a classic between Scott Kulesa and Roger Oxee, with the two former champions racing side by side for the better part of the first 17 laps. In the end, though, it was Charger transplant Chris Turbush of Wading River who sat in victory lane at the conclusion of the contest.

Turbush remained out front over the final eight laps to claim the win, his first ever in the class. Ray Minieri of Bay Shore rebounded from a trip to the rear of the field early in the race to claim second. Eric Zeh of Selden crossed the line third.

Brigati made history, winning the first ever Riverhead Modified Crate feature event, a 20-lap affair. Dylan Slepian of Dix Hills was second. Third place went to C.J. Lehmann of Shirley.

Perhaps no win on opening night was more emotional than the one turned in by Ken Hyde Jr. of Mastic Beach in a 15-lap Figure Eight main event. It was Hyde’s first trip to the winners circle since the death of his father, Ken Hyde Sr. Roger Maynor of Bay Shore was second, Mike Mujsce Sr. of Quogue third.

It is four opening day wins in a row in the Blunderbust ranks for Jack Handley Jr. of Medford, who once again took a 20-lapper. Tom Puccia of Shirley made a late-race pass with just over a lap remaining to claim second. Zeh placed third.

It might have taken a couple of years for Mike Albasini of Flushing to earn his 10th career Super Pro Truck win, but it was a sweet one. The 20-lap event saw Jimmy Rennick Jr. of Howard Beach race in second. The defending champion of the class, Lou Maestri of Deer Park, took third.

Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches topped a 29-car starting field in the 20-lap INEX Legend Race Car feature. He was followed to the line by second-place John Beatty Jr. of Merrick. Brad Van Houten of Wading River raced his way from 28th to a third-place finish.

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