John Fortin had two racers to beat with a few laps to go at Riverhead Raceway after working his way up from the No. 8 spot, but reaching the front of the pack proved to be a simple task.
Fortin, 52, of Holtsville, navigated past a collision up ahead and led the final three laps of the race on the way to notching his 30th career NASCAR Modified win last Saturday at Riverhead in the annual Baldwin, Evans and Jarzombek 77 memorial event.
“We were in it to win it the whole race, but we kind of lucked into it,” Fortin said of the collision between the two leaders, adding that he was “racing smarter” after a collision set him back last week. “I wasn’t the dominant car there. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
On his milestone, he added: “It seems like it went really fast. I’ve been doing this so many years; it’s been a blink. My career’s almost over, I’m 52. I enjoy the wins more now than when I started. I appreciate them more.”
Fortin said he won the NASCAR Modified championship in 2001, 2003 and 2009 and took the state title in both 2009 and 2010, but has struggled through the first few weeks of this season. He added that he’s had more confidence since his crew chief, Kenny Lechner, who was on staff for his 2001 championship, made a tweak in practice that “livened up” the car.
Fortin said he grew up watching races at Islip Speedway and began competing in Riverhead’s Figure 8 division in 1981 at age 13, earning multiple championships before moving to the Modified division in 1992.
He said he could relax a little and have more fun after his latest win, but the goal is to take home another championship before he retires, though he hasn’t set a timetable to step away from the sport.
“It takes the pressure off because you’re already a winner for the year,” Fortin said. “You can just go out and race hard now and be smart. It’s pretty rewarding. My name is etched in books and they can never take that away.
“You just get hooked. It’s a lifestyle when you’re a race car driver. I’m still a pretty healthy guy, pretty competitive. I hope I can keep winning races. That’s my goal, to finish in the top three every week. We have a team that can do it.”
Shawn Solomito, Islip — 140
David H. Brigati, Calverton — 135
Vinny Biondolillo, Farmingville — 132
John Fortin, Holtsville — 126
John Fortin Jr., Holtsville — 120
Mullet Madness 100, Demolition Derby, Big Wheel Race, Twin 50 NASCAR Modifieds (Time Trials), Late Models, Figure Eights, Riverhead Modified Crate, Legend Race Cars, 8-Cylinder Enduro.