Information By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – After intermittent drizzle throughout the day threatened yet another season-opening effort by track promoter Paul Cole, open-wheel veterans Chuck Hebing and Matt Sheppard kept Mother Nature in their rear view mirror all night long en route to dominating performances in the lead-off Saturday Spectacular at Land Of Legends Raceway.
Hebing led all 25 laps to capture the A-Verdi Storage Containers Patriot Sprint Tour A-Main while Sheppard led two-dozen circuits to score the 35-lap victory for Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds on the Ontario County Fairgrounds historic half-miler.
Also taking checkered flags in the 56th lid-lifter were Kane Bristol (Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified), Johnny Kolosek (Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car) and Adam DePuy (Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock).
In all, 128 drivers signed in pitside, with race team haulers filling nearly every open gap of the spacious fairgrounds facility in a most memorable opening night event.
“Never thought the track was going to be in this great of shape, it was super fast tonight,” remarked Sheppard, 36, following his sixth career opening night Big-Block triumph at LOLR to bolster his career win mark to 71 that ranks fifth all-time. “The crew did a fantastic job. Just thankful to all my guys and everybody that stuck around tonight. It was a long, tough night with the rain and everything, just happy to be sitting in victory lane.”
The heads-up feature format put heat one winner Erick Rudolph on the pole and from there the reigning track points champion out-dragged front row partner Adam Roberts to chief starter Scott Hixson’s initial green flag. Sheppard copped the third qualifier and quickly moved into second as the leaders pulled away over the first third of the race.
Phil Vigneri’s mount broke down on lap 13 to incur the first yellow flag. The ensuing restart proved pivotal as ‘Super Matt’ flew to the front and never looked back on his way to the $2,000 paycheck. Two more caution periods for minor incidents grounded Sheppard momentarily, but at the line it was the C.C. Performance-powered no. 9s Hurlock Auto & Speed-Dendis Companies/Bicknell machine establishing a near straightaway margin over runner-up Justin Haers. 2018 winners Jimmy Phelps, Rudolph and Billy Dunn completed the top-five.
“I don’t really know, maybe Erick forgot we start on the backstretch here … but being the first race of the season,” figured Sheppard, after successfully placing his bid for a ninth points title in Canandaigua. “We had a really good race car although the lapped cars made it interesting out there. Its certainly great to start the season on a high note, hopefully it can end this way.”
Sheppard has arrived with a really good car nearly every time out early in the 2019 campaign, already racking up seven wins since February in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park. The Waterloo standout made it six in a row Saturday at LOLR, following lucrative wins at Grandview (Pa.), Orange County Fairgrounds, Can-Am, Fonda and Delaware speedplants.
Himself a five-time Big-Block feature winner at the fairgrounds, seasoned chauffeur Hebing now owns nine sprint car victories at his former Saturday night hangout. Despite a stellar field of 34 winged machines cramming the pits, the ‘Cobra’ turned it into a one-sided affair as soon as the green flag unfurled.
“When I got by Jordan (Poirier), all I had to do was keep it clean in traffic,” noted 2018 Patriot Sprint Tour points champion Hebing, on the heels of his 52nd career win since PST was launched in 2003 — the same year he scored the first of his six Patriot wins at LOLR. “Once out front I never lifted, it was crazy fast tonight.”
Hebing finished second in the third of four qualifying races and earned a spot in the pre-race redraw by virtue of being among the top eight in passing points. The Ontario ace blew by fellow front row starter Poirier once the green flag flew and the battle for second was all that remained in round one of the 360 Sprint Classic Series.
Action came to halt on the second circuit when a chain-reaction on the front chute forced a red flag situation. Contact with the outside cement retaining wall first tangled up Jared Zimbardi and Bryan Cloutier short of the Bakers Exterminators Flagstand. Steve Glover then catapulted high into the air down the front straightaway, scattering machinery as his #121 open-cockpit entry came to rest sideways just shy of turn one. No injuries were reported.
Back under green, Hebing pulled away from Poirier with Paulie Colagiovanni in close pursuit. Another former Big-Block standout, Capital District invader Jeff Trombley, remained in the fray until fading behind Jordan Thomas and Joe Trenca in the latter stages.
“I’m getting a little older now but I’m not done yet,” smiled Hebing, now 55, after taking the $2,000 top prize along with a guaranteed starting berth in the inaugural New York Nationals, Sept. 6 & 7, at the Land of Legends. PST returns to Canandaigua on June 22 for another NYN 360 Sprint Car qualifier, with the victor locked into Saturday’s lucrative $5,000-to-win, $400-to-start A-Main. Action gets underway Friday 9/6 with $1,000-to-win Triple 15s highlighting the card.
“Sometimes you wonder if you still have what it takes and I think I still got it. It feels great to get a win this early in the year” added Hebing, who remains the man to beat atop the PST points chart steering his potent no. 45 Wilkins RV-Cobra Motorcoaches and Homes/X-1 sprinter housing a Roush-Yates Ford powerplant.
Defending Patriot LOLR race winner Jason Barney made only a single lap in pre-race practice before an internal engine issue sidelined the Constantia wheelman. While only a part-timer on the Patriot Tour, Barney will be back in competition at Canandaigua on July 4 as a full-fledge Empire Super Sprint contender.
After leading at the start before settling for fifth-place in the 2018 Sportsman opener, this time around heat two winner Bristol bolted past pole-sitter Mike Stanton Jr. at the drop of the green and kept his new no. 31 RW Dake Commercial Contracting-Lynnie & Lou’s Ice Cream/Bicknell ride out front for the duration of the 25-lap main.
“This is the first time I ever started out the season with a win. I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m lost, its never happened. But this is the best way to begin the year,” beamed Bristol, 34, who waited until the end of May to post his lone win last season. His fifth career win at LOLR was never in doubt as the caution-free finale afforded him the opportunity to forge a straightaway advantage over Stanton at the stripe.
Four heats and a consolation round qualifier were needed to trim the massive 35-car Sportsman field to 24 in time for the feature. With Bristol and Stanton rolling away from the pack at will, the battle farther back kept the Elab Smokers Boutique Scoring Tower reeling every lap. Late race charges by Paul Guererri (started 8th) and Western New Yorker Andrew Smith (12th) garnered them top finishes while last year’s season-opening winner Matt Guererri rounded out the front-five.
“The track was definitely fast, I was only lifting (off gas) a little bit at the end due to some bumps. Was trying to get through those gingerly without breaking something on the car. Everything really felt great out there, I could go anywhere with this new Bicknell car and when things are working right its a lot of fun.”
While the MEM 305 Sprints comprised the smallest field (16 cars) in the pits, the 20-lap A-Main resulted in the most dramatic finish of the night. Kolosek rallied from a 12th-place start to grab the point from double-duty driver Trombley with two to go and hang on for a thrilling three car-length victory over the near race-long leader.
“Just noticed the gap starting to close a little bit on the top side,” began Kolosek, 18, on the heels of his first career 305 win at the legendary Canandaigua oval. “Seemed like (car) stuck good so I just held it to the floor and hoped it worked. Very, very fast, this track is amazing ….. with the conditions and its D-shape, it was just amazing.”
Heat winners Trombley and Justin Mills shared the front row and by the halfway point forged a healthy advantage over the father-daughter duo of Darryl Ruggles and Alysha Bay. A pair of yellow flags on lap 14 —Bay slowed down the front chute then Mills lost a left-rear tire exiting turn two— shook up the top-five, giving 2018 LOLR points champ Ruggles and talented teen Kolosek new life with a handful of laps to go.
Kolosek brought the biggest gasp from an unseasonably chilled crowd, blasting around Ruggles high out of turn four to complete lap 16 before mirroring the mad maneuver two laps later to dispose of seemingly surprised leader Trombley. From there the Marion racer in his no. 26J Mike Emhof Motorsports-Crossroads Automotive/GF1 entry with a home-built engine under the hood held on for a stunning victory as the clock struck midnight.
“I think the track was great, it was beautiful. Got a little rough in the heat race but really came around nice by feature time. It was a lot of fun,” added Kolosek, after becoming the 22nd 305 Sprint winner since Canandaigua first introduced the class in 2012.
A banner field of 21 full-fender cars filed trackside for the 15-lap Street Stock showdown, yet at the end not much had changed from the year prior as it was LOLR mainstays DePuy and Marc Minutolo leading the way. Both won heats and were the only two race leaders, with ’18 high points man DePuy from Macedon wrestling away the point from last year’s runner-up Minutolo on the fifth circuit and surviving a last lap caution flag to salvage victory.
“That last restart never really worried me, our car was so good I didn’t think about it,” divulged DePuy, 45, after racking up his 38th career stock car win at LOLR and matching his opening day triumph scored last May. “Somebody would’ve had to do something really spectacular to beat us tonight, it was that good.”
Minutolo appeared strong from the get-go until DePuy’s potent no. 99 IFreeze Storage & Distribution Center-A.E.Y. Enterprises-Fox’s Auto/Chevrolet Camaro swept past as the lead duo diced down the back chute five laps in. In his first appearance at the fairgrounds, Glenn Whritenour made it a three-car battle midway through yet dropped to third after a spirited run back-and-forth against Minutolo. Jimmy Grant and all-time LOLR stock car winner Mike Welch netted top-five tallies.
“Great job just getting the track ready tonight, its the fastest its been in years,” said DePuy, after posting his fourth opening day feature win. “The show was running pretty quick tonight and we made some changes from the heat to feature. Ran really good the first time out with a new car so we’re happy with the end result.”
A newly instituted Sportsman ‘B Feature’ closed out the first Saturday Spectacular of the season and it was second-generation driver Alex Payne from Hopewell pocketing $100 in the non-stop 20-lap supplemental race.
Payne shot past another second-generation pilot Billy Paine the fifth time around and easily out-distanced himself from the remainder of the seven-car starting field steering his no. 28a Speed Connection-Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Bussey Painting & Refinishing/Bicknell ride.
“I knew Billy (Paine) would be tough, but once I got under him I knew I’d be okay. Got a little nervous out there so I just tried to keep it straight and keep driving,” said Payne, who at age 13 needed to obtain a special exemption from the parent DIRTcar organization just to run this season. His father, Eldon Payne Jr., is already a seven-time Sportsman race winner at LOLR.
Fair Catches Cabin Fever
The original season-opening DIRTcar Sportsman ‘Cabin Fever 40’ delayed due to wet grounds on April 20 has been rescheduled for Wed., July 24 during the 176th Ontario County Fair. Race time is 7p.m. A $500 bonus provided by Proctor Enterprises bolsters the 40-lap winner’s share to $1,500, with no less than $100 paid out to every feature race starter. A paid B-Main and sponsored lap money adds to the growing race day pot with plenty of contingency prizes lined up to reward participants during this truly mid-week special.
The second ‘Saturday Spectacular’ of the season arrives May 11 with a fabulous four-star card filled out by Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock class action, while a raffle to benefit Mercy Flight is held during the night. Race time is set for 7 p.m. Pit gates unlock at 4:00 and grandstand seating opens at 5 p.m. Hot laps go green at 6 o’clock.
With the 56th season finally underway, be sure to follow the point standings and breaking news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. Advance sale tickets are also available for purchase online throughout the upcoming months. Log into the website (LandOfLegendsRaceway.com), hit the red “Buy Tickets” button on the homepage, then make a selection from the list of dates & events highlighted.
Land of Legends Raceway is located at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, east of the city on Town Line Road (County Road 10), with easy access off either Exit 43 (Manchester, Route 21 South) or Exit 44 (Farmington, Route 332 South) of the New York State Thruway, just ½-hour southeast of Rochester.
Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – May 4, 2019
A-Verdi Storage Containers presents 56th Season-Opener
360 Sprint Classic Series Race #1
Patriot Sprint Tour
*A-Main (25 laps): 1. 45-Chuck Hebing ($2,000), 2. 10p-Paulie Colagiovanni, 3. 79-Jordan Thomas, 4. 98-Joe Trenca, 5. 28-Jordan Poirier, 6. 47-Kyle Drum, 7. 3a-Jeff Trombley, 8. 28f-Dave Franek, 9. 22-Jonathan Preston, 10. 1q-Thomas Radivoy, 11. 9-Josh Pieniazek, 12. 10-Jeff Cook, 13. 23-Tyler Cartier, 14. 2-Dave Axton, 15. 67r-Pete Richardson, 16. 17z-Josh Azzi, 17. 90-Matt Tanner, 18. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 19. 121-Steve Glover, 20. 15-Dan Nanticoke, 21. 93-Bryan Cloutier, 22. 35-Jared Zimbardi, 23. 8-Bobby Breen, 53-Shawn Donath
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Radivoy, Trombley, Axton, Thomas, Cloutier, Zimbardi, Pieniazek, Karlsen, Kelly.
#2: Donath, Breen, Cook, Preston, Drum, S.Poirier, Kreutter, Azzi, Kuhn.
#3: Colagiovanni, C.Hebing, Trenca, Franek, Ruggles, Tanner, K.Hebing, Levesque(DNS).
#4: Richardson, J.Poirier, Cartier, Glover, Nanticoke, Doell, Reakes, Barney(DNS).
B-Main (10 laps)
#1: Pieniazek, Zimbardi, Tanner, Steve Poirier, Scott Kreutter, Steve Doell Jr., Azzi, Ed Kelly, Kevin Karlsen, Jason Barney(DNS), Sammy Reakes IV, Kelly Hebing(DNS), Dan Kuhn(DNS), Roger Levesque(DNS).
Bonnell’s Rod Shop Four Laps of Fame Dash (4 laps): Cook, Trenca, Axton, Preston, Cartier, Breen(DNS).
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($2,000), 2. 3-Justin Haers, 3. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 4. 25-Erick Rudolph, 5. 49-Billy Dunn, 6. 1-Steve Paine, 7. 63-Adam Roberts, 8. 14j-Alan Johnson, 9. 23-Kyle Coffey, 10. 12x-Dillon Groover, 11. 19w-Justin Wright, 12. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 13. 21x-Eric Williams, 14. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 15. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 16. 10-Patrick Hoopes, 17. 77-Lance Dusett, 18. 11j-James Sweeting, 19. 27j-Danny Johnson, 20. 44v-Phil Vigneri, 21. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, Tim Fuller(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Rudolph, D.Johnson, A.Johnson, Dunn, Haers, Sweeting, Groover, Podsiadlo.
#2: Roberts, Paine, Wright, Dusett, Payne, Hoopes.
#3: Sheppard, Coffey, Phelps,Vigneri, Tegg, Maier, Williams, Fuller(DNS).
Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 31-Kane Bristol ($750), 2. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 3. 7-Paul Guererri, 4. 1x-Andrew Smith, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri, 6. 34-Kevin Root, 7. 11n-Ricky Newton, 8. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 9. 29g-Steve Gray, 10. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 11. 117jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 12. 9-Tim Baker, 13. 90-Nathan Peckham, 14. 56-Garrison Krentz, 15. 93-Tyler Vinson, 16. 55-Jonathan Kuleszo, 17. 35-Nick Cooper, 18. 01-Doug Smith, 19. 77-Benny Karlsen, 20. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 21. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 22. 2k-Anthony Kimble, 23. 2-Loren Lincoln, 24. 621-Brian Hudson.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Stanton, Hudson, Baker, Gray, Kuleszo, Cooper, Velez, F.Guererri, N.Guererri.
#2: Bristol, M.Guererri, Root, Lloyd, Ridley, Karlsen, Martin, Hoxie, Giguere(DNS).
#3: Newton, Castelletti, D.Smith, Peckham, Kimble, Paine, Krentz, Wilbur, Nutting.
#4: Lincoln, P.Guererri, A.Smith, Vinson, Borden, Gardner, Payne, Davoli(DNS).
Consolation (10 laps)
#1: Karlsen, F.Guererri, Cooper, Krentz, Dalton Martin, Billy Paine, Alex Payne, Tony Velez, Mickey Wilbur, Sam Hoxie, Dan Gardner, Nick Guererri(DNS), Daryl Nutting(DNS), Eric Giguere(DNS), Jeff Davoli(DNS).
B-Feature (20 laps): 1. Alex Payne, 2. Billy Paine, 3. Dalton Martin, 4. Sam Hoxie, 5. Mickey Wilbur, 6. Tony Velez, 7. Dan Gardner, Daryl Nutting(DNS), Nick Guererri(DNS), Eric Giguere(DNS), Jeff Davoli(DNS).
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 2. 3a-Jeff Trombley, 3. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 4. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 5. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 6. X-Dan Bennett, 7. 38-Jason Whipple, 8. 13t-Trevor Years, 9. 66-Erik Karlsen, 10. 9-Jordan Noody, 11. 53-Tom Fletcher, 12. m1-Justin Mills, 13. 48a-Alysha Bay, 14. 74-Eric Kurtz, 18c-Dan Craun(DNS), 23-Tyler Cartier(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Trombley, Bay, Whipple, Bennett, Karlsen, Kurtz, Fletcher, Noody.
#2: Mills, Years, Ruggles, Pruchnik, Griffin, Kolosek, Craun, Cartier(DNS).
Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 99-Adam DePuy, 2. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 3. 15-Glenn Whritenour, 4. 36-Jimmy Grant, 5. 00-Mike Welch, 6. 02-Brad Steinruck, 7. 55p-Parker Smith, 8. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 9. 9-Aksel Jensen, 10. 5c-Rick Crego, 11. 86L-Shawn Lloyd, 12. cj1-Dave Guererri Jr., 13. 37x-Carl Johnson, 14. 64-Bob Buono, 15. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 16. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 17. 11j-Jeffrey Lalonde, 18. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 19. 33-William Bradley Jr., 20. 4j-Jason Doty, 21. 86Lx-Casey Wagner.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Minutolo Johnson, Welch, Steinruck, Jensen, Buono, Hobbs, Lalonde.
#2: Smith, Whritenour, Crego, Guererri, Whittaker, Bradley, Metcalf, Wagner(DNS).
#3: DePuy, Grant, Lloyd, Doty, Sutherland.