Riverhead's Dan Turbush couldn't live with the way his career seemed to have ended. After being involved in a fistfight after a 2011 late model race, the Riverhead wall of famer was suspended from racing for the 2012 season. Not being able to find a ride in either 2013 or 2014, Turbush, 64, thought his ride was over. All the good times, the championships, the 74 wins, all sullied because of one temper-filled night.
"I left with a bad taste," Turbush, a retired postal worker, said. "It was basically a black eye on my career. I didn't want it to end that way. That's not who I am. I drove with skill, I won with skill, and I lost with skill. I was always happy. It was just that one incident that messed everything up."
This season, a second chance came when Centereach's Rich Campo offered Turbush's son, Chris, a ride in his super pro truck. Chris, who sits sixth in the chargers division point standings, accepted. Shortly after, Chris realized that he had too much on his plate and offered up his father as a more-than-suitable replacement. Campo approved the elder Turbush, finally giving him that shot at redemption.
"I wanted to see if I could still drive," Turbush said.
, who was nicknamed "Dynamite Dan" after a race announcer once spoke of his ability to "explode" through an opening. "Maybe I was too old. But that's not the case. As soon as I got behind the wheel, got in the first race, and situations arose in front of me, my skills took over. It was like I never left."
And neither did Turbush's winning propensity. This year, he has won five races, improving his career count to 79 across multiple divisions.
"I was hoping for an opportunity before I got too old," said Turbush, who now drives a bus for the Riverhead School District. "Who would have figured this rusty old senior citizen could go out there and make a comeback as good as it is?"
"I never expected it to be this good. My son set the truck up and it came alive. It's a freakish truck with a senior citizen driving it."Though the truck is not incredibly fast, it does handle expertly well around turns, Turbush said.
"I could be the best driver out there, but if my truck is not handling, I'm not going to win," he said.
Turbush's grandson, Mark Stewart, who will be a senior at Riverhead High School this fall, also races in the super pro truck division. The two battled it out in route to Turbush's first victory of the season. Stewart finished third in that race.
"Wow," Turbush said, pausing to reflect on the generational moment. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I think people would die to do something with their grandson at this stage of their career. Words can't explain it."Turbush's son Roger, who competed primarily in New England this season, will return to run with his father and nephew at Riverhead on Sept. 5.
"It's the ultimate family history. Father, son and grandson will be racing," Turbush said. Could it be a 1-2-3 finish? I don't know. I don't predict. But it could happen."
Turbush said this will be his last year racing, with Campo expected to get back behind the wheel of the truck next season. That's perfectly OK with Turbush, too. One more shot was all he wanted.
"It's redemption," Turbush said. "I was beating myself up for the last three years. I would go there and watch my son's race and think 'oh, gosh, I can't leave like this.' It fulfills my career knowing that I finished on top. That's where I belong."