Riverhead Raceway owner Eddie Partridge, holding trophy, after his Modified team's win at Thompson Speedway in October 2017. Photo: Twitter/Ryan Preece

The auto racing community is reeling from news of the passing of Riverhead Raceway owner Eddie Partridge Friday night.

Riverhead Raceway announced Partridge’s death on its Facebook page Saturday morning.

Partridge, 68, of Wading River, died in Virginia Friday night after his #6 modified driven by Ryan Preece was in the victory lane at Richmond Raceway.

The apparent cause of death was a heart attack, his nephew and business partner Tom Gatz said.

“Eddie’s passion for racing was felt not just throughout the modified community, but also throughout grassroots racing as a whole,” NASCAR said in a statement. “He fielded teams for some of the best drivers in the sport, and truly loved seeing his cars run up front.”

Gatz said he had been texting with Partridge throughout the day on Friday and sent him a congratulatory text right after his win at Richmond. His uncle sent him a heart emoji in response, Gatz said. The next communication came from another uncle, who called Gatz an hour later with the shocking news.

“It’s a huge loss for not only for our family but for the whole racing community,” Gatz said. “He was a great friend, a great uncle, just a great person. I’m still in a state of shock.”

Gatz said he and his aunt Connie Partridge decided to go ahead with the raceway’s “Tribute to Heroes” program Saturday night.

“Racing was his life. We knew he definitely would have wanted us to race,” Gatz said.

Partridge, his wife Connie and Gatz bought the track in 2015 from longtime owners Jim and Barbara Cromarty.

Saturday night’s special Sept. 11 program featured a salute to police officers and firefighters and included a flyover by a Suffolk County Police helicopter, Gatz said.

“It was a good night, with many tributes to my uncle on the track,” he said.

“He had a passion for racing, and a passion for trucks, he loved animals of all kinds, especially cats. But there’s nothing he loved more than his wife Connie,” Gatz said. He was a devoted husband to the woman he first started dating in high school.

Ed Densieski of Dynamic Automotive in Riverhead drove a Modified race car sponsored by Partridge for many years. The two became good friends, Densieski said.

“He was a great human being and a a great friend,” Densieski said. “He and Connie are awesome people, very generous people. This is truly a tremendous loss to the racing community and the town in general,” Densieski said.

“He died doing what he loved best,” he said.

“It is only fitting that Eddie’s last race was a victory,” NASCAR said. “A fierce competitor who fought for the good in short track racing, he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time,” NASCAR said.

Viewing will be Thursday, Sept. 16 and Friday Sept. 17 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Alexander-Rothwell Funeral Home, 6447 Route 25-A in Wading River. Mass will be Saturday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. at St. John the Baptist, 1488 North Country Road in Wading River. In lieu of flowers donations in Eddie’s name can be made to the ASPCA and/or St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.