Long Islanders Set to Do Battle In Daytona

Jim McIsaac

Daytona International Speedway is about to be invaded by Long Islanders for the Battle at the Beach short track event.

While the Northeast gets pounded with snowstorm after snowstorm, some Long Islanders are headed south for the Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday night.

There will be nine drivers who hail from Long Island in the event. Eight of those drivers will represent the northern tour with the exception of J.R. Bertuccio races on the southern tour even though he is from Centereach on Long Island.

In last year's Battle, Eric Goodale of Riverhead and a regular on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour finished second behind Steve Park (who is not entered this year). Last year's race saw a lot of contact and crashes, and Goodale said that if push comes to shove he won't hesitate to move a driver out of the way to get the win.

"There's no doubt," said Goodale. "If you're in second on the white flag lap and you have an opportunity to move the guy out of the way you're gonna take it."

However, Goodale said that he'd be careful to not completely take a guy out like how Kyle Larson took out C.E. Falk in the Late Model race at the Battle at the Beach last year.

"You don't hope to turn anybody," he said. "You hope to give them the bump-and-run clean. That's short track racing 101."

Goodale said that he believes his team should be just as competitive as they were last year and should be fighting for the win as the laps wind down.

"I feel real confident with the short tracks," he said. "I have no reason to think why we shouldn't be a top five car there this year."

Some of the Long Islanders headed down to Daytona are not regulars on the Tour, but are regulars at the quarter-mile bullring that is Riverhead Raceway. Timmy Solomito, Dave Sapienza, Danny Watts, and John Beatty Jr. are all Riverhead regulars in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Their skills on the tight Riverhead track should translate well to the small, flat Daytona track.

Solomito finished second in points at Riverhead in 2013 with five victories. In the September Tour race at Riverhead Solomito won the pole and led 176 of 200 laps before fading to third late in the going. He did not run in the inaugural Battle at the Beach but does so this year in the no. 75 owned by 1994 NWMT champion Wayne Anderson.

"I'm real excited to go with the guys that I'm going with," said Solomito. "I feel like we've got a good team. I think we'll be good down there."

His goal is to finish in the top ten, but he said he's definitely thought about what it would be like to win.

"To win it on national TV," he said, "would be by far the biggest thing to happen to me in my life."

Of course, Solomito said that he knows it will take some luck to head back to Long Island with the trophy.

"All the cards have to fall in the right place," he said. "I'm not saying that it can't happen, because that's why we are going there. I never go to a race and think that we can't win."

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