Eddie Partridge said he has attended Riverhead Raceway as a spectator, a ritual that included carpooling with a family friend from his childhood home in Wading River, since he was 11 years old.
Now, Partridge, 63, owns the track that gave him so much.
Eddie and his wife Connie Partridge, 59, also of Wading River, who own the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team of Ryan Preece, purchased Riverhead Raceway on Aug. 14 for $4 million. The Partridges, who have been involved in racing for over five decades, run the quarter-mile raceway along with their nephew Tom Gatz, 38, of Center Moriches.
The change in ownership signals a new era for the raceway, which was held by previous owners Barbara and Jim Cromarty since 1985. Eddie said the Cromartys rejected far more lucrative offers because they were waiting for a buyer that would preserve Long Island’s last remaining racetrack.
“I’ve always liked Riverhead Raceway,” said Eddie, a car owner since 1998. He added that he’s already received and rejected offers to sell the 66-year-old track. “We’re going to run it for quite a few years as a racetrack.
“I was a motor head and still am. I enjoy watching a good race. Once it gets in your blood, you’re hooked.”
Eddie, who also owns a trucking company, TS Haulers, and the Calverton Tree Farm, said he was interested in buying the raceway for years and timing worked out with the sale of his private property in Riverhead.
The Partridges and Gatz have transformed the facility with renovations that include upgraded restrooms and concession stands. The culture is different, too, Gatz said, with a new beer garden, live music and other activities meant to engage spectators.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the whole season because of the change in ownership, changes to the facility and the racing,” Gatz said. “The whole atmosphere is completely changed and I think it’s going to be a successful season.”
Riverhead Raceway’s season opener is set for Saturday and will include changes that affect drivers, too. The Charger division has been eliminated due to low car count, Eddie said, and the Riverhead Modified Crate division will make its debut. He added that heat races, qualifying races that determine position for the feature race, are also returning for the first time in about 10 years.
“I think a lot of people are very happy,” Eddie said. “I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in yet, but it’s about to. We want to be competitive and have fun. It’s a pretty good feeling and we just want to do a good job for everybody.”