With a little more than two months left in the season, Riverhead's Tom Rogers Jr. finds himself on the top of both the NASCAR modified and figure eight point standings. That, in and of itself, is an impressive feet. But when it is considered that Rogers, 36, wasn't even supposed to run a full schedule at Riverhead Raceway this season, that success takes on an even greater sense of wonder.
Rogers began the season as a full-time driver on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. But after his deal "fell apart," he headed back to his home track. Though disappointed that the chance to run on the bigger tour was snatched from him, Rogers knew enough about the racing business not to let it affect him too much.
"Nothing is really secured," Rogers said. "It was a shame because we were competitive and were running well. A few of our finishes don't really show how good we were running, especially for a brand-new team."
In five races on the Whelen Tour this year, Rogers finished in the top 10 twice. His momentary disappointment of having to leave that tour did not affect his on-the-track performance at Riverhead.
Rogers, who is running in both classes for the second straight season, has a five-point lead over Holtsville's John Fortin in the modified standings and a 24-point lead over Bay Shore's Roger Maynor in the figure eight.
Rogers' mastery of both divisions was on full display last week when he won the modified and the figure eight races for the second time this season. "It's always special when you win one race. But when you can win two in one night, it's an awesome feeling," Rogers, who has won two titles in both the modified and figure eight classes and one in the late model class, said. "Knowing that you can jump from one car to another and adapt right away makes it special."
Rogers said that most weeks he doesn't have any time to rest between races, which is fine with him.
"I would rather jump from one car to another," he said. "As long as I'm not tired or anything like that, I like to keep going. Your adrenaline is already built up. You're already focused on one race, then you jump in another car and you're pretty much ready to go. It's like you never even got out of the other car. If I could race five divisions, I would. I like being active at the track. I don't like standing around or sitting in a chair."
While both points titles would be welcome, a figure eight crown would represent a bit of redemption for Rogers. Last season, the driver was involved in a wreck that damaged both his car and his championship hopes. "It made it difficult," he recalled. "I fell behind in the points and it's very difficult to make up points at Riverhead, especially with the quality cars and drivers we have."
In a class where alertness is essential, Rogers is making sure his figure eight car is kept relatively untouched. "I don't have the sponsors behind us to take any chances," he said. "I have to keep the car clean and bring it home in one piece, so that I know I can make it back to the track the following week."Modified Standings:
Tom Rogers Jr, Riverhead - 218
John Fortin, Holtsville - 213
Kyle Soper, Manorville - 205
Howie Brode, East Islip - 199
Ryan Preece, Berlin, Conn - 195
Tonight: Figure 8's, 50 Lap Late Models (Time Trials), Chargers, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks, Legends, 8 Cylinder Enduro (No Modifieds)END