Dylan Slepian said unpredictability is part of the appeal of the new Riverhead Raceway modified crate division, but he was left searching for answers when a clutch problem forced him to miss a few practice rounds before taking the asphalt with a win on the line.

Slepian, 21, of Dix Hills, said his team removed his car’s transmission to reach a problem area, one that’s been nagging the past three weeks, and made the fix after two tries. With a smooth running car, he jumped ahead by about five car lengths after 10 laps, he said, and held steady to win the 40-lap Eagle Auto Mall Modified Crate main event last Saturday.

He said his transmission was removed one more time after the race during a standard technical inspection of the top three finishers.

“We basically built that car from the ground up and having that one handle so well and run so well was really cool,” Slepian said, adding that he bought the car in October and started working on it a month later. “I just tried to keep the car clean and hit my marks, and I took it home.”

On the car repairs, he added: “You can’t test the fix at the house. Until you get to the race, you don’t know if you’ve got it fixed or not. Now we definitely traced the problem and we got all the variables that could be wrong with it. We got it fixed.”

Slepian, who began his career at Riverhead in the INEX Legend division at age 14, said he’s still getting used to the crate division, which debuted this season, but added he’s learning more each week. He said he moved to crates for a new challenge after winning the Legend title last season.

Slepian enters Saturday second in the crate division, eight points behind David H. Brigati of Calverton, and said things stay interesting because the top few racers bring unique styles from other divisions, such as the chargers and the NASCAR modified division.

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“One of the cooler parts of the class was we all kind of came with way different ideas about how to make the cars turn,” Slepian said. “I’m going to hunker down and try to win the championship. It’s going to take real aggressive racing, but I really want to be the one standing up at the banquet there at the end of the year.”

Modified Standings:

Shawn Solomito, Islip – 454

David H. Brigati, Calverton – 420

John Fortin, Holtsville – 402

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Kyle Soper, Manorville – 401

Howie Brode, East Islip – 386

Saturday Night: Granite State Pro Stock 100, Sizzling Summer Series — Race #1, NASCAR Modifieds, Figure Eights, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks, 4/6-Cylinder Car Enduro.