For 37 laps, it looked like the impossible was going to happen for Ken Darch last Saturday.
The driver, who had never won a Modifieds race at Riverhead Raceway, was leading in the premier racing event. Then a caution flag went up on lap 36, the field bunched up and Howie Brode took over for the win after the restart.
Darch, of Riverhead, placed second, his best finish at Riverhead, affirming the hard work he’s done with a small crew and limited resources to compete with top-line drivers.
“We got out really well right from the get-go,” Darch said. “We were first right from the start. It was a huge accomplishment.”
His crew consists of him and his wife, Denise, along with Crystal Kelly of Mastic and Dix Hills’ Dylan Slepain, who races his own Legend car. It’s a relatively small team, with Ken and Denise working on the car by themselves during the week. With only one main sponsor and themselves for financing, it can be a struggle to keep up.
“A lot of these other crews have all the money and resources,” Darch said. “They could pay for crew members and everything else, and we pay for racing pretty much out of pocket.”
None of that fazes Darch, 49, who said it can work to his advantage at times since he and his wife have full control of the car. They know what’s working when it’s time to hit the track, and he said he’s gotten faster since his wife started working on the car.
“I’m competing with some of the best drivers and to be able to do good is to do good,” Darch said. “You’re just trying to compete with what you can compete with, with what equipment you can have.”
Darch started racing Figure Eights in 1999 and bought a Modified car in 2005. He’s been racing in the event ever since and saw steady progress this season with Saturday’s culmination.
“It’s just something I’ve been trying to do from Day 1 driving a modified,” Darch said of his result. “With an small crew, you have to be on top of your game.”
There is one race remaining and Darch, who now sits in ninth place for the championship with 512 points, will have a renewed spotlight on him after last weekend’s surprise.
“We’ll put the car back to the way we had it last week and try our best to win a race this year,” Darch said. “We’re hoping for a really good season for next year and we’ll keep moving on.”
693Shawn Solomito, Islip
652David H. Brigati, Calverton
613Kyle Soper, Manorville
606Howie Brode, East Islip
584John Fortin, Holtsville
Championship Night (Final Points). Twin 30 NASCAR Modifieds, Late Models, Figure Eights, Riverhead Modified Crate, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks, Legend Race Cars.