Dennis Krupski did not expect to be racing in his own car so soon, not after April's brushfires destroyed much of his three-acre Calverton property.
His residence was spared, he said, but the garage that housed his prized late model race car burned down. Krupski rescued the car before the fires hit, but the parts needed to fix his vehicle (damaged in a race last fall) were destroyed.
Last Saturday, Krupski made it back to the track in his old No. 12 race car. On opening night, May 5, fellow late model competitor Kevin Metzger loaned Krupski a car so that he could compete.
Krupski is ranked eighth among 10 late model competitors after two races.
"It was just a release, knowing that we finally finished it," he said. "Considering what we lost, we actually got everything together and made it out there."
The "we" Krupski speaks of are the groups of family, friends and competitors who helped hasten his return. Spare parts were loaned, and while Krupski worked on the car, others helped clean charred wood and debris from his property.
"A number of them told me if I need any more help or extra parts, that they would reach out," Krupski said. "We're all a tight-knit group, that's for sure."
An electrician for the Town of Riverhead, Krupski says racing has helped return a sense of normalcy to his life.
There are still some remnants from the fire that need be cleaned; charred wood and fallen trees still dot his property. But Krupski is back racing. And that is good enough for now.
"It's a sense of accomplishment from where we were to where we are now," Krupski said. "We finished it, and we got everything together with what we had."