Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – Big-Block Modified hotshot Larry Wight topped tour rival Matt Sheppard on Saturday to score a narrow victory and pad his division lead heading into the final scheduled points event next weekend at Land Of Legends Raceway.
Veterans Kevin Ridley (Speed Connection Sportsman) and Mike Welch (Street Stock) each captured their second feature wins of the summer while Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car ace Jason Whipple pulled into the winner’s circle for the first time in the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ at the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds.
Second-generation speedster Tyler Burnell continued to reign supreme in Hobby Stock competition, closing out Sherwin-Williams Paint Store of Canandaigua Night with his fourth checkered flag in six starts during his rookie year in Canandaigua.
With the 2020 season championships coming down to the wire, Wight wheeled his way ever closer to the coveted Big-Block crown as the Phoenix NY pilot proved worthy holding off perennial points king Sheppard in a late race duel to score the dramatic win by a mere .176-sec.
“I couldn’t really tell what the better line was running up front and not knowing how Matt got up through there so I just stuck with what I thought worked,” remarked Wight, 27, who now holds a 28-point (392-364) advantage over north country campaigner Tim Fuller. “We bobbled a little bit getting through the holes in (turn) three and lost the nose but had enough drive to come off and beat him to the line.”
A solid 30-car field took chief starter Scott Hixson’s opening green flag with qualifying heat race winner Wight filing in 12th to begin the 35-lap finale. Front row partners Jimmy Maier and Justin Wright swapped the lead early while Wight rolled his red hot #99L FX Caprara Honda-Tracey Road Equipment/Bicknell ride into the top-5 before 10 laps were complete.
James Sweeting suffered a right front flat tire to incur a yellow flag on lap 18, and only Billy Dunn separated Wight from leader Wright at the halfway mark. Sheppard began 17th and methodically carved his way to the front, riding into 7th on the lap 18 restart, cracking the front-five just one more time around the fast half-mile oval before dropping Dillon Groover to fourth on lap 21.
Dunn grabbed the lead between turns one and two yet before the lap could be scored Wight charged from third to first, relegating Wright into the show position as the trio crossed the line with 22 complete. ‘Super Matt’ passed Wright over the next half-mile but needed five more circuits to duck under runner-up Dunn and focus on front-runner Wight.
With Sheppard closing in fast using the low lane as ‘Lightning Larry’ continued to chase the high line, red lights suddenly flashed around the speedway after Jeff Lawrence’s yellow #1 Bicknell entry mount sat disabled following a turn three rollover that required immediate assistance. No injuries were reported.
“When everything stopped there you start thinking which tire is going to seal first,” divulged Wight, after waiting out the 10-minute delay to safely clear the Lawrence car. “We rode the bottom in the beginning of the race so I knew my tires weren’t too hot but you always have that in the back of your head wondering if one is going to seal up on you.”
Sheppard shadowed Wight on the ensuing lap 33 restart while Dunn, Tim Fuller, Erick Rudolph and Jimmy Phelps waited for any opening further back. With the top two again close to trading paint, Russell Morseman slowed down the back straightaway to set up a one lap dash for cash with $2,000 awaiting the victor.
Sheppard pulled underneath exiting turn four in a last-lap effort but Wight maintained his momentum, taking the checkers in a bumper-to-bumper finish with the pair even making contact immediately after as the adrenaline carried into turn one. Dunn settled for third ahead of Fuller, Rudolph, Phelps, Justin Haers, Wright, Ryan Susice and Alan Johnson, the only driver to post Top-10 finishes in all 11 events to date.
“Billy was running the top and we were coming up through,” added Wight, on the heals of his fifth career Big-Block win at LOLR, all coming since June 9. “I was able to get underneath enough guys and stay with him. Figured I’d just stay down there and try to conserve (tires) for the first 10 laps at least. It turned out to be enough.”
Pulling into 18th on the starting grid for the Sportsman 25-lapper left little time for Ridley to hold back, yet the open-wheel veteran showed his experience as his no. 20x Fred’s Fab’N Fold-Champion Power Equipment-Lakeshore Auto Mall/Bicknell machine grew stronger as the race wore on.
“It was a bit of a struggle in the middle part of the race, I was like ‘man, we’re not getting anywhere,’ didn’t understand what was happening,” noted Ridley, 42, who now ranks second all-time (tied with Steve Gray) with 30 wins, behind only Paul Guererri at 45. “Our car felt good, just couldn’t get by any other cars.”
“Then the caution (flags) just kept falling and we found the top (lane). We were just as good in the middle as I was around the top but its a lot of fun just beating the balls off it and holding (gas pedal) to the floor all the way around the top so that’s what I decided to do,” said Ridley, a two-time track champion in wine country.
Baldwinsville invader Mike Phelps rammed the outside cement retaining wall just shy of the starter’s stand to incur an opening lap caution and force a complete restart. Pole-sitter Rick Martin took the top spot back under green yet gave it up to his son after Dalton Martin charged from third to first on lap six using the high line.
While three more yellow flags kept the field bunched in the early going, a lap eight restart proved pivotal for Zach Payne as he blasted from fourth to first before the younger Martin regained the point crossing the line. Ridley moved into sixth with 10 scored and on a lap 12 restart the Waterloo warrior powered into third.
Payne again drove under Martin for the lead on lap 14 while Ridley needed another mile to slide into second between turns three and four. Ridley forged the final lead change exiting turn two on lap 19 at the same time Tim Baker stole third from Martin racing down the back chute.
Rick Martin’s night came to a sudden halt on lap 22, forcing out the final yellow flag when his new Bicknell car slammed the uke tire low entering turn one, collecting Cody Manitta in the process. Ridley made short work exhibiting his superiority, building up a commanding 12 car-length advantage at the stripe followed by Payne and Baker (1st Top-10 of season) and A.J. Lloyd, after contact with Dalton Martin pushed him to fourth in the final rundown.
“Once I caught (Payne) I was watching his line and saw him slip up off the bottom there and made the move,” Ridley said. “Still thought we were going to lose the race on that last restart, don’t know what happened. When we took off the car was stumbling and didn’t clean out until we got to the flagstand. Thought it might do it again going into turn one but it never happened and we were good the rest of the way.”
“I knew we were good enough to get there (front) through the middle and bottom but to get there quicker we used the top. One and two were a little different but you could really run it around the top in three and four so we’re happy with the result,” Ridley added.
Western New Yorker Sam Junkin couldn’t be happier after his season debut ended with a trip to victory lane in the 15-lap Sportsman B-Main. Towing his no. 2 Dirt Works-Elma Press-716 Candle Company/Bicknell ride east from Marilla (SW of Darien Lake), Junkin overtook Texas traveler Chaz Thompson on lap seven and cruised home for a comfortable straightaway victory in his first race of 2020.
“I was watching the Big-Blocks and saw Larry and Matt and they went up high, then saw the beginning of the Sportsman feature with the #132 (Dalton Martin) making up ground on top so I said why not not give it a shot,” revealed Junkin, 26, who failed to qualify in his lone attempt at LOLR last season as a rookie.
“So I tried the top side and it stuck and I just kept my foot on it. Learned not to be a sissy on the bottom as there’s a high side that’s really pretty too. Its the first time I ever won a race going on the outside. We were really just using today as practice, think we got something good here now,” Junkin added.
Returning to his preferred high lane around the hallowed half-miler, Whipple confirmed he has a good car, especially after outlasting two-time winner Alysha Bay for the popular 20-lap MEM 305 victory.
“The (grounds) crew did a fantastic job with the track tonight, they brought the top (groove) in for me and that’s where I belong, up top,” beamed Whipple, 46, the LOLR 305 points champion in 2017 when he logged all five of his previous sprint car wins. “Been trying the bottom the past couple weeks and it just hasn’t worked out so we went back up where we belong … that was awesome.”
Rochester regular Steve Glover paced the pack ahead of Kyle Pierce, Ethan Gray and Bay as they battled three-wide leaving little room to err. Whipple wasted little time in his jaunt forward, darting from sixth to third on the opening circuit then blasting high around Glover rounding turn four to forge the final lead change on lap five.
Pierce appeared to be the fastest on the track after passing Glover by the midway point yet with 10 laps in the books Whipple still authored a 4-second advantage. Bay slid under Glover for third on lap 14 and after a smoking Gray machine brought out the only caution she stole second from Pierce on the lap 15 restart.
The Shortsville sprinter was up to the challenge, pulling away in his Paul Gavenda-powered #38 Bauer’s Garage-Nu-Way Auto Parts-Termotto’s Homescape/Maxim machine for a solid five car-length victory over Bay followed by Pierce, Glover and Darryl Ruggles.
“Was waiting for Ruggles (actually Bay in the #48A as the scoreboard read 48 and Ruggles is 48jr.) to slide me in one as we had turns three and four down pat but one and two were beating me,” recalled Whipple, who had just a single top-5 tally in his first four events, missing the initial three shows due to COVID-19 concerns and his father’s health issues. “Yet knew if I kept it smooth we were good. Can’t thank my crew, our sponsors and again the track team for giving us the chance.”
“The track crew got some bite up top, yet not too high. Their watering and packing (during intermission) made all the difference for me. Been a long time coming since we were last in victory lane, didn’t know if it was ever going to happen again,” added a relieved Whipple, who returned for ’20 trading in his black car for white, a proven remedy for any ailments endured over the past three years.
Hardly a season has passed that Welch has failed to crack the winner’s circle at his beloved Saturday hangout in the Finger Lakes Region. Success continued to follow the 10-time Canandaigua points champion on a steamy Saturday that attracted 18 full-fender foes to the fairgrounds.
“We’ve been gaining all season and finally made it back,” remarked Welch, 54, after the Lyons pilot garnered his all-time leading 82nd career stock car win at the fairgrounds. His first victory of 2020 came in the season-opener with the full-fender portion of the show staged in the afternoon. “Right before the feature we made a bunch of changes that I’ve never done before on this car, fortunately they worked.”
Rick Crego out-dragged front row partner Bob Buono on lap one while seventh starting Welch waited patiently in pursuit. Parker Smith seized second on lap three then suddenly slid high and found himself seventh when the dust cleared exiting turn four.
Welch passed Buono for second as the duo crossed the stripe to complete lap four yet Crego appeared on the way to his first checkered flag, holding onto a sizable lead halfway through. Welch had other ideas, reducing the deficit lap after lap until throwing his black #00 Dobbers Sports Bar & Grill-TLC Trips-Champion Power Chevrolet Camaro under Crego in turn two and steering around first-time driver Mike Fellows down the backstretch with still five laps to go in the caution-free affair.
“Rick was running great, he was out there and didn’t think I could run him down,” Welch admitted. “But slowly and slowly I moved up as he was running my favorite bottom line. Finally caught him and luckily we got by him, that lapped car helped. I moved up a lane and cut the guy off.”
Welch sped on for a satisfying 10 car-length victory over Crego, with Adam DePuy returning aboard Quinn Sutherland’s #57J Camaro to place third ahead of point leaders Josh Pangrazio and Jimmy Grant.
The introductory Hobby division feature ended the same way it had three times previous during the pandemic, with Burnell posing alongside the family-owned no. 57jr. Castle Harvester-Touhey Insurance Chevrolet Camaro in victory lane.
After being chased by Street Stock mainstay Marc Minutolo in a shake-down run aboard his father Mike’s former full-fender ride, Burnell staved off late-race challenges from runner-up #10 Jaren Israel and #18x Derek Excell to nab another convincing win in the 15-lap nightcap.
“I try to race clean and it got real close at the end with the #10 and #18 cars coming inside and outside but I ran my own race and just kept going forward,” stated Burnell, 18, who took the lead from Shawn Lloyd on lap three and never relinquished the top spot. “Made some changes, got the car tighter, just want to be able to stay on the gas longer and make it go faster. Drive into (turns) harder and just realize when the car starts getting loose to let off (gas) a little then get back on it when its straight.”
Israel salvaged second in his second-ever appearance at LOLR with Excell returning after five years, on this night subbing for injured driver Jim Claypool. Casey Wagner and Lloyd rounded out the final top-5.
Saturday’s 50/50 beneficiary was Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Inc. https://shflny.org/
Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes provides services at no charge for individuals, children and families that have experienced sexual assault, sexual abuse and interpersonal violence in Ontario, Seneca, and Yates counties. SHFL offers individual counseling, support groups, legal accompaniment and personal advocacy with referrals to other local agencies. It also provides primary prevention services in schools, professional agencies and in the communities we serve.
If you are in crisis and cannot reach anyone at the office call the hotline day or night at 1-800-247-7273.
Its the final show of the month at Land Of Legends Raceway on Aug. 29 and that means ‘Championship Night’ for the Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds. Round #2 of the CRSA 305 Sprint Car Series in Canandaigua is also on tap while regular point events for Sportsman and Street Stock teams close out the last ‘Saturday Spectacular’ in August at the fairgrounds.
Sportsman, 305 Sprint, Street Stock and Hobby Stock track point champs will be crowned on Sept. 5 before the 2nd Annual Gerald Haers Memorial Super DIRTcar Series shootout brings the curtain down Sept. 19. No racing is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.
LIVE video coverage continues to be offered for the remaining race dates and can be viewed on Land of Legends TV for $15.
Download the LOLR mobile app found at Google Play
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/land-of-legends/id1508128970?uo=4 to secure your raceday pass today.
As the 57th season of auto racing nears conclusion, be sure to follow the point standings and breaking news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. To discuss remaining marketing opportunities available at the track, please contact LOLR GM Greg Emerson via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 – August 22, 2020
Sherwin-Williams Paint Store of Canandaigua presents Saturday Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 99L-Larry Wight ($2,000), 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 3. 49-Billy Dunn, 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 5. 25-Erick Rudolph, 6. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 7. 3-Justin Haers, 8. 19w-Justin Wright, 9. 82-Ryan Susice, 10. 14j-Alan Johnson, 11. 83x-Tim Sears Jr., 12. 12x-Dillon Groover, 13. 23-Kyle Coffey, 14. 4*-Kevin Root, 15. m1-Dave Marcuccilli, 16. 63-Adam Roberts, 17. 11j-James Sweeting, 18. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 19. 88-Joe August, 20. 21x-Eric Williams, 21. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 22. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 23. 44-Russell Morseman, 24. 14ny-Daniel Johnson Jr., 25. 1L-Jeff Lawrence(SB), 26. 21-Derrick Podsiadlo, 27. 42p-Pat Ward, 28. 7z-Zach Payne, 29. 33j-Robbie Johnston(SB), 30. 77-Lance Dusett, 31. 7f-Matt Farnham(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Dunn, Sheppard, Fuller, Groover, E.Payne, Root, Podsiadlo, Farnham, Roberts, Williams.
#2: Wight, Maier, Sweeting, Susice, Haers, A.Johnson, Sears, D.Johnson, Tegg, Z.Payne.
#3: Rudolph, Wright, Coffey, Phelps, Ward, Dusett, Marcuccilli, Morseman, Johnston, Lawrence, August.
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 20x-Kevin Ridley ($750), 2. 7z-Zach Payne, 3. 9-Tim Baker, 4. 1f-A.J. Lloyd , 5. 132-Dalton Martin, 6. 12g-Matt Guererri, 7. 38-Zach Sobotka, 8. 3r-Chris Mackey, 9. 35-Nick Cooper, 10. 31-Kane Bristol, 11. 7-Paul Guererri, 12. 14t-Payton Talbot, 13. 111-Brett Senek, 14. 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 15. 27-Brian Fish, 16. 70a-Alex Payne, 17. 4e-Emmett Waldron, 18. 6-Cody Manitta, 19. 1-Andrew Smith, 20. 00-Sam Hoxie, 21. 92-Rick Martin, 22. 61-Andrew Jacobson, 23. 11n-Ricky Newton, 24. 56-Garrison Krentz, 25. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 26. 99m-Mike Phelps.
B-Feature (15 laps): 1. 2x-Sam Junkin, 2. z1-Chaz Thompson, 3. 117jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 4. 90-Nathan Peckham, 5. 93-Tyler Vinson, 6. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 7. 04-Eric Years, 8. 327-Brett Baldwin, 9. 2-Tim Lafler, 32-Ryan Shanahan(DNS), 25g-Nick Guererri(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Manitta, Bristol, R.Martin, P.Guererri, M.Guererri, Waldron, Shanahan, A.Payne, Castelletti, Baldwin.
#2: Mackey, F.Guererri, Phelps, Stoughtenger, Cooper, Talbot, Thompson, Years, Lafler.
#3: Z.Payne, Jacobson, Sobotka, D.Martin, Smith, Newton, Vinson, Junkin, N.Guererri(DNS).
#4: Hoxie, Baker, Krentz, Ridley, Lloyd, Senek, Fish, Borden, Peckham.
Consolation (8 laps)
#1: Talbot, Waldron, A.Payne, Shanahan, Thompson, Castelletti, Years, Baldwin, Lafler.
#2: Senek, Fish, Newton, Junkin, Peckham, Vinson, Borden, N.Guererri(DNS).
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feratue (20 laps): 1. 38-Jason Whipple, 2. 48a-Alysha Bay, 3. 9k-Kyle Pierce, 4. 121-Steve Glover, 5. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 6. 53-Bobby Parrow, 7. 18c-Dan Craun, 8. 77-Matt Rotz , 9. 17e-Ethan Gray, 10. 13t-Trevor Years.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Bay, Glover, Parrow, Craun, Years, Rotz.
#2: Pierce, Ruggles, Whipple, Gray.
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 00-Mike Welch, 2. 5c-Rick Crego, 3. 57j-Adam DePuy, 4. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 5. 36-Jimmy Grant, 6. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 7. 64-Bob Buono, 8. 93-Jared Hill, 9. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 10. 2-Kane Stebbins, 11. 34q-Jason Quigley, 12. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 13. 122-Chris Beyea, 14. 63-Mike Fellows, 15. 55p-Parker Smith, 16. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 17. 55b-Blane Smith, 18. 12s-Dakota Sharp.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Crego, Welch, Hill, B.Smith, Stebbins, Pangrazio, Beyea, Hobbs, Sharp.
#2: Grant, Buono, DePuy, P.Smith, Minutolo, Eldredge, Metcalf, Quigley, Fellows.
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 2. 10-Jaren Israel, 3. 18x-Derek Excell, 4. 42-Casey Wagner, 5. 86L-Shawn Lloyd, 6. 1-Josh Oles, 7. 13b-Brian Lloyd, 8. 21h-Patrick Hampton, 9. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 12s-Jim Smith.