MODIFIED CHAMP ANDERSON TO BE HONORED
AT RIVERHEAD RACEWAY
Call Wayne Anderson on a weekday and there’s a good
chance he’ll be under some piece of heavy machinery at his Medford
shop, as was the case when a scribe gave him a ring Thursday.
It’s all about taking care of responsibilities, something Anderson
knows all too well.
The 1994 champion of the Whelen Modified Tour will be honored this
Saturday at Riverhead Raceway prior to the WMT’s Miller Lite 140.
Last year he was among a group of past Modified champions recognized
at Mohegan Sun as part of the series banquet. That followed 2006,
when he was inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.
He’s had several chances in the past few years to enjoy his
championship season—which was next to impossible when it was
actually taking place.
“My father had gotten sick over the winter of ’93, and in January
of ’94 he went in the hospital with esophagus cancer,” Anderson
remembers about his dad, longtime driver Axel Anderson. “He never
really came out of it. He was in the hospital through September of
’94 [when he passed away].”
Anderson, who had always competed as part of a family team, hooked
up with car owner Len Boehler, and the results were magical. Driving
the No. 3 “Ole Blue” machine, Anderson recorded 12 top-fives and 17
top-10s in 21 races, essentially securing a title with a victory in
the Tour’s second-to-last race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
But success aside, Anderson drove that year with a heavy heart and
a lot on his mind.
“My father was always by my side for all those years that I raced.
And he wasn’t this time, and we won a championship,” Anderson, who
has three career wins in the WMT, says. “Basically, I’d go to the
races and just come home and go to the hospital and come run my
business. So I never really got to enjoy the camaraderie and the
fans and the owner's family and stuff like that. You’d [normally]
hang around after the races, and have a few beers, and relax. And
you’d get there early the next week. I would just show up, drive the
car and come back to Long Island as soon as I could so I could be
back at the hospital on Monday morning.”
These days, though, the positives take center stage. He appreciates
title sponsor Whelen, saying the company has done a wonderful job
honoring all the Modified champions from the division’s 60-year
history. Having a crew that stayed loyal—whether they were
celebrating a touring championship or returning to a simpler life
racing mostly at Riverhead following the ’95 WMT season—made it all
worthwhile as well.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have the same six or seven guys help
me the last 25 years I’ve been racing,” Anderson, 61, says. “And
there’s only a few crews that race like that and have those kind of
dedicated people that hang with them…If it wasn’t for those friends
that help me do that, I would have to look at some other things to
Anderson, who normally competes in the Riverhead WMT event, is just
watching this week after having issues with his car. But he knows
he’ll see a good show and wishes that more people would take
advantage of Riverhead Raceway’s entertainment. He’s seen other
local tracks wilt away over the years and wants Riverhead to be a
top pastime for the public.
“My business [Axel Anderson Inc., which does heavy-duty truck
repairs and towing], I have customers come in here all day long
saying, ‘You race cars. Where do they have races?’ Very few people
know that every Saturday night there’s races at Riverhead, and they
can bring the family and have a good night.”