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May 16, 2024

‘It’s been my whole life’: Long Island racing ace Wayne Anderson thankful to be honored by Riverhead Raceway, Modified Tour

Wayne Anderson
(Photo: NASCAR)

If there is racing taking place at New York’s Riverhead Raceway, one can bet Wayne Anderson will be there to see it.

Anderson has spent most of his life at the quarter-mile asphalt oval on Long Island. He’s been a racer, a car owner and, now that he’s retired, a race fan.

The 77-year-old enjoyed unimaginable success at the historic track. He won 32 races and five Modified track championships as a driver, and he won five more titles as a car owner. He scored three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins (one at Riverhead) and took the 1994 series championship.

For those reasons (and many more), track officials decided to honor Anderson by naming Sunday’s Modified Tour event the Miller Lite 200 Salutes Wayne Anderson.

“It’s pretty nice. It’s a nice honor,” Anderson said. “I’ve been coming here for at least 40 years racing a Modified. I have a lot of friends there, and it’s going to be a nice night. I’m looking forward to it.”

RELATED: Entry list for Sunday at Riverhead

Wayne Anderson
Wayne Anderson celebrates a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1994. It was his only victory during his championship season. (Photo: NASCAR)

Racing has been part of Anderson’s life essentially from the moment he was born. His father Axel made a handful of starts in what’s now the NASCAR Cup Series during the 1950s at tracks like Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania, Old Bridge Stadium in New Jersey, New York’s Bridgehampton Raceway and the old Daytona Beach and Road Course in Florida.

After recovering from serious injuries suffered in the NASCAR event at Langhorne in 1955, the elder Anderson returned to racing and won the track championship at Riverhead the following season.

It was the first of many track championships for the Anderson family at the facility.

“I’ve been coming to Riverhead Raceway since 1965 myself driving,” Wayne Anderson said. “I came here years before that with my father. My father was a racer on Long Island. That’s how I got involved.

“It was kind of bred into me, I guess.”

Wayne Anderson’s success was not limited to Riverhead — he also claimed track championships at Islip Speedway and New Egypt Speedway — but the bulk occurred at his home track. His first Modified track title arrived in 1982, 26 years after his father’s at the same track. He followed that with consecutive track titles in 1987-88 and 1990-91.

His 32 wins as a driver rank sixth all-time in Riverhead’s Modified division alongside Bill Park. But his legacy at Riverhead doesn’t stop there.

Following his retirement as a driver, Anderson and his wife Joette continued competing as a car owners. His drivers won 45 times at Riverhead and secured five more track championships. Those titles came in 2016 with Shawn Solomito and in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 with Kyle Soper.

“I had won five championships, and I was getting older in age,” Anderson said. “So, I maintained the car and had people drive for me.”

He wrapped up his tenure as a car owner at Riverhead in style during the 2022 season. Not only did he and Soper claim the track title, but they also won a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead.

Kyle Soper
Wayne Anderson (left) poses with his driver Kyle Soper after the pair won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 at Riverhead Raceway on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Kostas Lymperopoulos/NASCAR)

“I had good help. I had a good crew, good crew chiefs, and we all worked together and got along good,” Anderson said. “It was a great thing.”

Perhaps Anderson’s greatest success didn’t come at Riverhead. Instead, it came with the Modified Tour during the 1994 season.

With his father’s health in a decline, Anderson partnered with Boehler Racing Enterprises to pursue the Tour championship. The endeavor paid huge dividends.

“(In) 1993, my father was sick in the hospital,” Anderson said. “I had to stop racing my own stuff. So I called up Lenny Boehler, who owned the Ole Blue No. 3, and asked him if I could supply the motors if I could drive his car.

“He said, ‘Sure, come on up and see me and sit in my car.'”

The result was a magical season that saw Anderson finish inside the top 10 17 times, more than any other driver that year. That consistency, combined with his lone win of the year in the penultimate race of the season at Stafford Motor Speedway, allowed Anderson to capture the championship by 20 points over Reggie Ruggiero.

“We had an unbelievable year,” Anderson said. “The last race at Stafford, the Fall Final, I won that in ’94. The last race was at Thompson, and in between that week, my father passed away, so he never saw me win that national championship.

“I’m sure he would have been (proud).”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Anderson’s Modified Tour championship. It’s appropriate, then, that this Sunday, the Tour and Riverhead will honor one of the best to ever to race a Modified in the Northeast.

Even if he weren’t being honored Sunday, Anderson would still be at Riverhead. It’s what he’s done most of his life, and at his age, he sees no reason to change now.

“I come here every Saturday night,” Anderson said. “I enjoy the races and see all my friends and meet all the people that I’ve known all my life here. …

“It’s been my whole life racing here. I feel that they did right by me.”