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Kyle Soper looks to defend titles at Riverhead Raceway

Kyle Soper of Manorville, a NASCAR Modified class

Kyle Soper of Manorville, a NASCAR Modified class driver at Riverhead Raceway. Credit: Michael Jaworecki of myracenews

It’s all about preparation for Manorville’s Kyle Soper.

The 23-year-old looks to defend his NASCAR modified and late model championships at Riverhead Raceway when the 2019 season gets underway on Saturday, a challenge he said he’s embraced. Soper has spent hours in the garage, working on his car and fine-tuning his on-track approach because he knows there’ll be a target on his back bumper.

“I like to think it’s just another year, but I guess some people are going to want to beat me,” Soper said. “We’ve prepared our cars better than we did last year and we ran pretty fast last week in practice. We should be one of the top cars again.”

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Riverhead begins with heats at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and opening ceremonies are slated for approximately 6:30 pm. The night has seven feature races, including super pro trucks, late models, tour modified and figure eight. Sunday’s slate, the May Meltdown Enduro Series Opening Day, which starts with heats at 12:30 p.m., has six races, including mini stock and street stock races.

It’s a jam-packed weekend and Soper said he’s excited to see everyone back on the track, but for him it’s much more than that. It’s an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the season, particularly after placing first in the modified race on opening day last year.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “It felt like a short offseason. It’s always fun [to win opening day] because you feel like you’re the best that night.”

Soper, who also won the state Northeast NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified championship in 2018, has been racing competitively for more than a decade, but after so much success last season, he’s more determined than ever to keep notching top finishes.

He placed first in three NASCAR modified races at Riverhead last year with 10 top-five finishes in 17 starts. In 13 starts in NASCAR late model races, Soper added three more first-place finishes and eight top-five drives.

He is quick to admit there are plenty of factors that go into any race, including what other drivers do around him, but he’s spent the last few months making sure he’s ready for anything on the track.

“Races are won in the garage during the week,” Soper said. “If your car has a good line or you’re able to capitalize on other people’s mistakes, that’s an opportunity you’ve got to take. That’s the biggest part.”

He said he grew up at Riverhead Raceway, just a few miles from his childhood home. His grandfather drove there, as did his father, who gifted him his first go-kart, and he's always thought it inevitable that he’d follow in their footsteps.

It’s that familiarity that he believes helps give him a leg up on the competition, a specific type of preparation that has made driving at Riverhead feel like coming home.

“It’s a family thing,” Soper said. “And, this year, I expect to back up what I did last season.”

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