A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead Raceway. (July...

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead Raceway. (July 16, 2011) Credit: Daniel Brennan

After his first two races at Riverhead Raceway in 1979, Roger Oxee, who is the all-time winningest late model driver at the track, was nearly ready to call it quits.

"I thought to myself going out there those nights that I was going to be great, and I had a lesson taught to me very quickly," Oxee said. "I definitely wasn't up to the caliber of driver to be out there so I decided after two races that this wasn't for me."

The decision was short-lived. Oxee reconsidered and built a new car, one that helped him achieve success a couple of years after his debut. Oxee finished second in the points standings in 1983.

"I'm kind of stubborn," the 61-year-old from Peconic said.

Oxee didn't win his first race until 1985, after six years of competing. Yet two years ago he passed Paul McElearney to be the all-time wins leader in the late models class at the track. Oxee, now with 63 career wins, heads into today's 25-lap event as the points leader with 186 so far this season.

Oxee is atop the standings despite competing only four times so far. He has won two races, and finished second and seventh in the other two.

"It has started quite well and I hope it continues that way," Oxee said. "The car is making me look good. It's doing things that it's never done before."

Before this season, Oxee was starting to think that maybe it was time to stop because he "just didn't have it anymore," he said. After struggling during the last couple of seasons, Oxee, like he had in 1979, mulled retirement.

"I had just not been performing at the level I was used to, and if I can't perform the way I like and the way that I feel I should be performing out there then I really don't want to be in people's way," Oxee said. "I don't want to be a middle-of-the-pack car. I want to be able to go out and race with a chance to win."

After putting a lot of work in with his car during the winter, though, Oxee said he became rejuvenated, and his recent, reestablished success has delayed any thought of retiring.

"As long as I'm physically able and have the ability," Oxee said, "I'll be out there."

More motor racing

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months