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Chris Turbush tries to raise awareness for Crohn's disease

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead Raceway. (July 16, 2011) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Since the late 1950s, cars driven by the Turbush clan have sped across the Riverhead track bearing red and black colors. It started with Charlie Turbush and continued down through his grandson, Chris. It was a tradition, those family colors.

That was until this year, when Chris, 38, of Wading River, rode onto the track in a purple Charger car with a large purple ribbon painted on the side. The reason? To raise awareness for Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.

Nine-year-old Drew Hansen of Southold, the daughter of Turbush's close friend, Johnny Hansen, suffers from the condition and inspired the color change. Toward the end of last season, Johnny suggested the tribute and Turbush couldn't say yes fast enough.

"I treat his kids like they're my own," Turbush said. "How could I say no to something like that?"

Turbush added, "She gets needles and shots every single day. She goes to the hospital every other week. It breaks my heart."

Turbush doesn't want that color difference to end with Drew, either. He's doing it for all children fighting the battle.

"If I can show some awareness to some other little girl or boy out there that has it, maybe they won't feel so alone," he said.

While Turbush said he is "the most competitive person I've ever known," racing for a cause has made this year about more than just checkered flags.

But there have been those, also. Turbush has crossed the finish fastest in two of his four races this year but got caught up in minor crashes in the others.

"It's been checkers or wreckers," he said. "Hopefully, the rest of the year, we can go out and have good finishes."

Entering this week, Turbush is sixth in the Charger point standings, 16 points behind leader Eric Zeh of Centereach.

After finishing second in the point standings the previous two seasons, Turbush, a four-time Charger champion, installed a new suspension system in his car that helps with handling, keeping the nose of the car lower to the ground.

"I'm running on bump stops," he said. " . . . It's going to be an experimental year, because this is the first time I've ever ran it. We've been lucky enough to win two races with it. I'm really pleased with it. I'm trying to get an advantage on everybody. You always try to have something that somebody else isn't doing."

Turbush said he gains the biggest advantage from the new system when navigating turns.

"People don't like to hear me say this, but I'm there to win," he said. "I'm there to try and beat everybody every single week . . . If I could try to get an advantage with this new setup and, at the end of the year, I come home the champion, then it worked and I'm happy."

Modified Standings

1. John Fortin, Holtsville -- 113

2. Ryan Preece, Berlin, Connecticut -- 105

3. Tom Rogers Jr., Riverhead -- 104

4. Kyle Soper, Manorville -- 97

5. Howie Brode, East Islip -- 91

Saturday night: Whelen Event Night, 50-Lap Baldwin, Evans, Jarzombek Modifieds (time trials), Figure 8s, Chargers, 30 Lap Legends (time trials), 8-Cylinder Enduro (no Late Models, Blunderbusts or Super Pro Trucks).

New York Sports