While the majority of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racers reside in Connecticut and are just a short drive from Thompson International Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway, sites for half of the season's schedule, the handful of competitors from New York's Long Island get well accustomed to the ferry service crossing the Long Island Sound. The Tour's annual stop at Riverhead Raceway provides those drivers with their one and only home date of the year, something that Kevin and Eric Goodale - Riverhead natives - look forward to.
"It does make it more special to be at Riverhead," Eric said. "You have so many friends and family who aren't at the other Tour races and are always asking about - or are involved in - your racing career and never get to see how it ends up."
Kevin, the older of the two racing Goodale brothers at 28, made his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut with a limited schedule in 2003. He's made 77 career Tour starts after beginning his racing career in Riverhead's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division in 2001.
While Kevin hasn't raced extensively at Riverhead, his racing roots are strongly tied to his hometown track.
Chris Young, a Modified driver at Riverhead, is a longtime friend of the Goodale's father, Edgar. Kevin was first exposed to racing while working on Young's race cars and learned about mechanics. One day Young let Kevin take a few laps around Riverhead in his Modified and Kevin's racing career just developed from there.
Eric's career didn't begin at Riverhead, but that's where he debuted in full-sized cars. He started racing go-karts at the age of 13 on Long Island and eventually branched out to compete all over New England.
Now 23, Eric started racing at Riverhead in the Charger division the same year Kevin did in the Modifieds and is now in his first full year in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Through five races he is 17th in points and is the frontrunner in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
Eric attributes some of his racing development to his time as a weekly competitor at Riverhead.
"You definitely learn a lot of control of your car there, so it was a good experience to start there," Eric said.
Kevin and Eric are teammates on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as they run family-owned cars. While they don't work together during the day - Kevin works at Riverhead Building Supply and Eric is now in construction after graduating from York College in Pennsylvania in May - they work hand-in-hand in the garage and at the race track.
"The cars are at my house, which is real close to the track [Riverhead]. We've got the cars right next to one another with the rig and everything," Kevin said. "Everybody is over here working on the cars, and we go to the track with the same setup."
Racing - whether at Riverhead or on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour - has been a weekly affair for the Goodales. Before they were behind the wheel, they were heading over to the track on Saturday nights to catch the action.
"We've been going to the race track ever since I can remember," Eric said. "The biggest punishment my parents could give me was to tell me I couldn't go to the races on Saturday. I looked forward to it all week."
With this year's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stop at Riverhead next on the schedule, the Goodale's got a tune-up in the recent Baldwin, Jarzombek, Evans Memorial 77 on July 18.
"We learned a lot," Kevin said. "It was good to race there, and it was good to get back in the rhythm of running Riverhead."
But their motivation wasn't entirely focused on getting practice, as they wanted to participate in the special event.
"It's a good tune-up for the Tour race, but it's a fun race to race," Kevin said.
Kevin and Eric will get a chance to show whether their recent run and background at Riverhead will give them a leg up on the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers in the Riverhead 175 this Saturday.