Jason Savoy said he was driving for two.
Behind the wheel of a red and black car with a silver trim — an homage to his late brother’s signature paint job — Savoy, 36, of Lake Panamoka in the Town of Brookhaven, outlasted the collisions and won the Brian Savoy tribute demolition derby last Saturday at Riverhead Raceway.
Brian, Savoy’s younger brother and also a Riverhead demolition derby driver, died Jan. 12 after a long battle with kidney disease. He was 32.
“I knew everything I was going to do was for him,” Savoy said. “The way I painted the car, the parts I was putting into the car, I tried to race like he did. There wasn’t all that much I could do for him toward the end and I figured this was the best way for me to thank him and put as much of him into victory lane one last time.
“Out of everything I’ve won, that one meant the most. He was always an important part of getting the cars together, keeping me going, and trying to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes out there. To win that for him, that meant a lot.”
Savoy said he started competing at Riverhead in 1995 in the car rollover contests, but moved to the demolition derby in 2008 after learning the trade from Bobby Benison, his boss at Monster’s Recycling in Lindenhurst.
He has since built an impressive resume, including a National Demolition Derby Championship in 2012, two derby season championships in 2010 and 2013 and about 30 wins between four different tracks in New York and New Jersey, he said.
But Savoy couldn’t contain his emotion after his latest win.
“In my head, I really didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was cheering in the car, I did a couple of doughnuts, I did a victory lap ... I got out of the car and jumped around like a manic. Usually I’m a bit more subdued than that, but I was very excited.”
Savoy said he and Brian bonded over the track and the adrenaline rush of some events, notably the demolition derby and the “blindfold taxi race,” where the driver has a paper bag over his head and the passenger gives directions.
“We were just proud of the fact we never hit the wall,” Savoy said. “As adults we were close. As corny as it sounds, he was my best friend. He was very quiet, but if you took the time to get to know him he was very kind and very giving. He had a lot of friends out there [at Riverhead].”
Benison said Savoy and his brother were a close-knit team and it’s only fitting that Jason was victorious in the memorial derby.
“It was a very special moment,” Benison said. “He’s deserving. It’s like a storybook.”
Shawn Solomito, Islip — 310
David H. Brigati, Calverton — 288
John Fortin, Holtsville — 285
Howie Brode, East Islip — 282
John Fortin Jr., Holtsville — 276
New England Truck Series, School Bus Figure 8, Twin 30 NASCAR Modifieds, Riverhead Modified Crate, Blunderbusts, Legend Race Cars, Mini 8 Enduro.