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For Brunnhoelzls, racing is all in family

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead

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

With the success of his grandfather, Ed Brunnhoelzl, and father, Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr., at Riverhead Raceway, Islip Speedway and Freeport Speedway, it didn't take long for Ed Brunnhoelzl III to find himself immersed in racing.

"I was always into it. I remember being 4 or 5 out in the garage with my old man working on a race car," said the 29-year-old from Levittown. "At 6, my father brought home a go-kart and when I was 8, I was actually allowed to start racing them and I've been racing ever since."

When he was 18, Brunnhoelzl began competing in the NASCAR modified division. Heading into Saturday night's action, Brunnhoelzl is fourth in the standings with 193 points. Yet it's actually sort of a down year, he said.

"From our standards, we kind of feel like we're struggling a little bit this season," Brunnhoelzl said.

He added that his job working in the Local 817 theatrical union, often driving equipment around for shows, has made his schedule a bit tighter and forced him to scale back time devoted to his racing.

"Work always comes first and then racing comes second and everything else is after that," Brunnhoelzl said.

In other words, there have been a few missed birthdays and family gatherings. Most recently, Brunnhoelzl said, he had to show up late to a wedding because it conflicted with the Riverhead Raceway schedule.

"I always joke around with people and say some people do drugs and will do anything for their drug and, well, racing is my drug," he said. "You do what you got to do to go race. Any waking second that I have where I'm not at work, I'm usually out in the garage working on the race car. And the same goes for my father."

The family is certainly used to that. In addition to his grandfather and father, who Brunnhoelzl said "was one of the best that there was, and he was very underfunded," his cousin, George Brunnhoelzl III, is also a third-generation racer from that side of the family. George, whose family moved from Long Island after he graduated high school, is the defending NASCAR Southern Whelen Modified Tour champion.

"Everybody in the family, for the most part, understands that from April to October, it's racing season and we're not going to be around on Saturdays," Brunnhoelzl said.

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