Roger Turbush is still relishing in the glory of winning in his first modified race at Riverhead Raceway.
Just a few weeks ago, the Riverhead, New York, driver captured his first checkered flag in the track’s Division I NASCAR Whelen All-American Series class. It wasn’t his first victory behind the wheel at Riverhead, but it was in a modified — and it’s something he will never forget.
“I’m the first one in my family to win in the Modifieds, and it’s definitely a special accomplishment for my family,” Turbush said. “My brother has run Late Models and the Charger class all of his career, and my dad has run since the 70s in some different classes. We were pretty established in those classes with figuring things out, but when it comes to modifieds, we had no experience with it.”
Turbush started his career in Pro Trucks, winning the New England Truck Series championship in 2015. But he’s also run countless other divisions before stepping into a modified. Now, with Pat Kennedy running the ship as car owner, he’s found a home with modifieds. He might have struggled a bit early, getting a handle on a difficult division, but it took just a week for things to turn around. The start to this season didn’t go as planned.
“We struggled the first four races, we got put in the fence a few times and in the other races we had some bad luck. We went out in the fourth race, qualified in the back and finished in the back, when we pulled in, we decided we needed to figure something else out. We talked to a couple of friends about the setup, and when we put the setup in, we were back where we needed to be,” Turbush said. “We thought certain things would work with the setup, but in the modifieds, it was totally different.”
Now, with seven weekly races in the books, Turbush has one more — this Saturday night — before he looks to defend to the home turf when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to town on July 6. The Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 will showcase some of the Riverhead locals, like Turbush, against Whelen Modified Tour stars.
“In the race that I won, we came out and we were fighting for the lead the whole race, with John Fortin and Kyle Soper banging on the door,” Turbush said. “I take pride in the track, all of the other drivers, and everyone involved. Guys like John Fortin Jr., he will also take pride in his home track. Half of the Whelen Modified Tour guys are almost locals when you think about it. Guys like Craig Lutz, Timmy Solomito, Justin Bonsignore… they grew up at the track. But then you have someone like Doug Coby who’s been really good at Riverhead, and everywhere else, who is due there.”
He does have previous Whelen Modified Tour experience at Riverhead. He’s finished a best of 16th in three starts, but has a DNF posted in two of them. His debut was in 2017, on one of modified racing’s toughest nights.
“I had raced Ted Christopher in the Truck Series at Stafford the year before and we were fighting for the lead there, and when I made my debut in 2017, I was looking forward to racing him that night in the Whelen Modified Tour,” Turbush said. “But he passed away that day. That’s how I know that was my first race. It’s unfortunate that I have to remember it that way, but, I have that.
“We qualified ninth, which was unbelievable,” Turbush said of that first start. “I was on cloud nine and I tried to make it just another race without losing my composure, but it was a little nerve-wracking racing against some of these guys that I had been watching and helping for years. It was a crazy feeling. I had reached the top, and I was racing with the guys that are the main event.”
Entering the 200-lap affair next weekend, Turbush has realistic expectations.
“I hope to come out with a clean car and in this race, we usually get some long green flag runs,” Turbush said, “so if you can be on the lead lap you know you’ve done well.”