For those who knew Calverton's Chris Young, Saturday night's NASCAR modified feature event will carry an extra bit of emotion. Young, who was a staple at Riverhead Raceway until 2012 and whose 33 victories rank fourth on the track's all-time modified wins list, died at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan after a heart attack following a double knee replacement procedure July 18.
Following Young's death, the track decreed Saturday night's feature event a twin 49-lapper to honor Young's No. 49 car. Young's son, Christopher, will compete in the race, driving his father's signature car.
"It's the best distraction I've had," Christopher, 21, said. "Emotionally, it's harder now than when it first happened. Working on this race car is like therapy."
Like his father, Christopher knows his way around a garage. Not only did he spend his childhood learning from one of the top champions in the track's storied history, but he also won the 2011 legends championship.
Christopher has driven his father's car in modified events at other tracks, but never the one that his father made his name on.
"It's going to be a feeling of awe," he said of what he expects when he rolls onto the track for the first time. "But after that, it's back to business. You have to figure out what the car is doing and how to make it faster. If you get caught up in what you're actually doing and how amazing it is, you end up going backward. You have to get the car right, so it's fast and you can go forward and win the race."
Christopher, who studies mechanical engineering at Purdue, has no intention of being a novelty in the race, either. He has one, unwavering goal.
"My dad used to always say 'we don't go to races to finish second,'" Christopher recalled. "I'm putting this car together to win, because that's the way we've always done things, that's the way I was taught, and that's the way we're always going to do things . . . If you don't show up to the race with a car that can win, you might as well not go."
And even though the car hasn't been raced in nearly a year, Christopher is confident that it will be able to get back to its winning ways quickly.
"This car is no slouch," he said. "I probably have five races in the car right now. It's pretty fast from what I've been able to do with it, and I'm still a rookie. I'm excited to see what can come from this memorial show."
While setting up the car, Christopher has sought guidance from his father's journal, one that detailed everything done to the car over his father's career and how it performed as a result.
"It's a glimpse into my dad's mind," he said. "Every single thing was right. That's the way we worked on the car. That's the way I was taught . . . When it goes to the racetrack, the car has to be exact . . . It's a glimpse at how brilliant he was. I've gone to Purdue for three years now and I've dealt with professors in some of the most complicated fields you can think of. All the professors are extremely good at one thing, but I still haven't met a single guy that's as good at as many things as my dad was."
Saturday night, Christopher will channel what has been a whirlwind three weeks into one night on the track his father loved so much.
"It's the closest you can be to him without him being around," he said.
1. Tom Rogers Jr., Riverhead -- 242
2. John Fortin, Holtsville -- 233
3. Kyle Soper, Manorville -- 223
4. Vinny Biondolillo, Farmingville -- 221
5. Howie Brode, East Islip -- 211
8-cylinder demolition derby, Sunoco race fuels night, twin 49's modifieds in memory of Chris Young (time trials), figure 8's, super pro trucks, legends, 4/6-cylinder truck enduro (no late models, chargers or blunderbusts).