Tom Rogers Jr. has won more than a handful of championships during his decorated Riverhead Raceway career, but only once has he held a trophy in each hand.
Rogers, 37, of Riverhead won both the NASCAR Modified Championship and the Figure 8 Championship last year, becoming the first person to win two divisions in the same year since Buzzy Hedges, of Wainscott, accomplished the feat in 1959, said Riverhead Raceway public relations director Bob Finan.
Rogers, who has totaled seven championships at Riverhead, is poised for another strong season and said his focus remains the same despite his status as a defending champion.
“It was great to win any championship, let alone two,” Rogers said, adding that he only found out his win was historic after he crossed the finish line. “This is racing; you never know what’s going to happen out on that track.
“I’ve won championships before, I know I’ve got to keep a level head and go out there and race. I go out there every weekend to win. I really don’t look at points much; I kind of just let them fall, especially in the beginning of the year. At the end of the year if we have the point lead, then I start worrying about points and trying to maintain my lead and not put myself at risk.”
Rogers will compete Saturday during Riverhead Raceway’s season opener, which was rescheduled from last Saturday due to rain. Riverhead will also feature Enduro races Sunday.
The return to the track is something of a homecoming for Rogers, who said he grew up watching his father and grandfather — both named Tom — compete at Riverhead, and now-closed Islip Speedway and Freeport Speedway.
Rogers said he began racing go-karts at age 15 and drove cars three years later. A racer since 2000, he added that his favorite part of the sport is strategy, interpreting the flow and knowing when somebody is going to make a pass attempt, rather than speed and adrenaline.
“I like making my car better than somebody else’s or just trying to outsmart them on the race track,” Rogers said. “I was always competitive in anything I did. I raced stock cars, I raced RC cars, quads, dirt bikes – anything I did, I always did it to be competitive.”
As for how this year could go: “To be honest with you, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Rogers said. “We’ve got new owners (Eddie and Connie Partridge and their nephew Tom Gatz purchased Riverhead Raceway Aug 14)…I think there’s going to be some good things to come, but we’ve just got to wait and see.”