Kyle Soper is ready to embrace the pressure that comes with replacing an icon.
The 21-year-old from Manorville is one of Riverhead Raceway’s most versatile drivers. He won his third Late Model race of the year Saturday despite spinning out early and leads the Late Model championship standings.
He also has experience racing trucks, having participated in the Camping World Truck Series last fall.
But Soper is now making a name for himself in the NASCAR Modified class in which he’s replacing a Riverhead Raceway legend.
When Wayne Anderson, a five-time Modified champion and owner of Anderson Motorsports, mutually parted ways last week with 2016 Modified champion Shawn Solomito, the legendary No. 15 car became available.
Anderson gave Soper a chance to fill the void.
“It’s just iconic,” Soper said of the No. 15. “[Anderson] has been driving for a while, before I can even remember. Recently he stepped down from the driving part and just became an owner. At Riverhead, that’s like ‘the’ car.
“There’s a little more pressure because it’s such an iconic car. People go to the track just to see that car because they’ve been seeing it for so long.”
Soper was successful in his first time behind the wheel of the car Saturday, finishing fifth in a rain-shortened 27-lap race in which he had to make an early pit but recovered.
This isn’t his first experience with Modified cars. He was the 2015 Rookie of the Year in the class and notched four career wins in his family-owned car. But that car has been sidelined for all but one race in 2017 because of a lack of sponsorship.
He said he plans on sticking with Anderson Motorsports long-term, even if his family gets their car sponsored.
“As of now, all the future is with [Anderson],” he said.
It all happened quickly, as Soper said he received a call from Anderson Wednesday, met with him Thursday and was driving by Saturday. Soper called him “very energetic and funny.”
He said he already feels comfortable in the car, not having to worry about any potential damages that comes from racing.
“He told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to damage anything, we’ll fix it,’ ” Soper said. “For him to say that, it means a lot. It gives me a little more confidence.”
With that confidence, Soper said he just plans to go out there and race. He’s not in the points standings, so he has one goal when he hits the track.
“I’d like to win at least one because now I’m not in the points,” he said. “The only reason we’re showing up is to win.”
Winning is something that No. 15 car is accustomed to doing.