By TOM SKIBINSKI
CANANDAIGUA, NY – Matt Sheppard was 35 when he won his last feature at Land Of Legends Raceway. After two months out of the winner’s circle, ‘Super Matt’ scored his fifth Pepsi Big-Block Modified triumph in the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ to extend his advantage in quest of an eighth straight points championship at the Ontario County fairgrounds.
“Happy to finally be back, been a few months since we won here so its nice to find our way back to victory lane,” said Sheppard, who turned 36 in July after logging his last win on June 9. “Got a bunch of the best in the business running here every Saturday, I think they all put on a pretty good show for the fans tonight.”
Big Dog Country Street Stocks led off the main event menu and it was veteran Mike Welch taking advantage when mechanical misfortune struck race leader Marc Minutolo with only a lap left to capture his first checkered flag of 2018.
Versatile wheelman Darryl Ruggles continued his hot streak in nearly as dramatic fashion, slipping past race-long leader Brandyn Griffin in traffic with two laps to go enroute to his third successive SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series triumph in Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 action.
Past points champion Kevin Ridley dominated the Donath Motor Worx Sportsman finale for his first feature win of the season while current division points leader Tyler Vinson added win number three in the New Legends Sportsman ranks.
Thirteenth starting position proved lucky for Sheppard as the Waterloo warrior needed nearly all 35 laps to get the job done. A pair of early yellow flags for a spinning Derrick Podsiadlo (lap 2) and a slowing Billy Dunn (lap 5) were the lone setbacks before second-generation standout Sheppard ducked under Justin Haers rounding turn two on the 34th circuit.
“I found a real little bit of a high line in turn one and could kinda enter high, get turned and make a good run across (turn) two,” remarked Sheppard, following his 70th career Canandaigua win that brought his season total to 25 circuit-wide. “Kinda worked Jimmy (Phelps) over for a long-time there before I could get by.”
“When we finally got up to Justin I was gonna throw anything I could at him. I just got lucky, got a good run and good cut across and he just happened to hit that rut a little bit and got tight. That was the opportunity we needed,” Sheppard noted.
Teenager Jeff Daugherty jumped out from his second starting spot and held the lead until Haers out-gunned him on a lap five restart following the caution for Dunn. Sheppard was already hovering around the front-five and with 10 laps scored after taking fourth from Daugherty. From there the no. 9s Dendis Companies-Westmoreland Golf Club-Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell entry was on a rail carrying Sheppard to the front.
Phelps grabbed second from Kyle Coffey on lap 11 and Sheppard mirrored the maneuver the next time around. While leader Haers was busy navigating through traffic, Sheppard was occupied tracking down Phelps. ‘Super Matt’ finally dove underneath exiting turn four on lap 25 and set his sights on Haers’ red no 3 Phelps Cement Products ride.
With laps winding down at a fast pace, Sheppard filled the gap low as Haers’ mount bounced out of the groove exiting turn one with less than two laps remaining in the near non-stop showdown. Four car-lengths separated the lead duo under the checkers with Phelps edging Erick Rudolph for third and Coffey in fifth outlasting Gil Tegg Jr. at the stripe in the 15-minute Modified main.
“This is old, old, old school Canandaigua, up on the wheel as hard as you can for 35 laps,” beamed Sheppard, who registered his first Big-Block win at LOLR in 2003 at age 20. “You want to slow down, take a little break and maybe get your car under you, but it was just so fast. Everybody was so fast you couldn’t do it.”
“A few times I hit (turn 1 line) pretty good, a few times went too high, a little bit of everything. Definitely a challenging track out there. Have to thank C.C. Performance (engine builder), that thing really had its tongue hanging out tonight,” Sheppard added.
Coming into the night holding a slim 10-point lead over two-time race winner Rudolph, Sheppard also copped his qualifying heat and returns for next week’s Big-Block finale 22 markers ahead with double-points on the line.
Points were hardly an issue for Ridley, sitting 10th in the Sportsman standings with a handful of top-five feature finishes in his first 11 events.
“Its been embarrassing,” stated Ridley, 40, a two-time division points champion at Canandaigua, raising his career win mark to 26 which keeps him third all-time. “We’ve been making changes and changes and changes, just haven’t gotten any faster.”
A solid field of 29 entries was whittled down to 24 starters come feature time and it was pole-sitter Trevor Years pedaling out front to set the early pace. Front row partner Doug Smith faded from the start and when he looped between turns one and two by himself on lap 11, the charging pack swerved both high and low to avoid the sideways machine. Tenth running Dave Marcuccilli, the current points leader, was left little room to escape, slamming into the idle Smith car and the resulting damage to the right rear of Marcuccilli’s mount sent him pitside for the duration.
The ensuing lap 11 restart was just what Ridley needed, charging to the lead aboard his no. 20x Fred’s Fab’N Fold-Champion Power Equipment-Lakeshore Auto Mall/Bicknell to gain an advantage he would never give up.
“I think tonight the track played into our hand a little bit with it being really fast, and when the track’s fast we’re usually fast,” said Ridley, who started seventh before reaching the runner-up slot through the opening nine circuits. “But we struggle when it gets slippery for some reason right now. I’m not sure why but we’re working on it and each week we feel like we’ve made a little progress. Tonight we made a lot.”
Once out front Ridley put it on cruise control, despite slowing twice when Tim Baker suffered a flat tire on lap 13 and on the restart when rookie Billy Paine was unable to clear pit lane after exiting the track in turn three, on both occasions requiring chief starter Scott Hixson to throw the yellow.
Himself searching for his own first win of the season, Ricky Newton followed Ridley into second during the lead change but with the final half of the race run caution-free was never able to pose a serious threat to the Waterloo winner. Riding as high as third with less than 10 laps to go in the 25-lapper, Nick Guererri surrendered the show position to Steve Gray on lap 17 and then dropped to fifth after Paul Guererri motored past with five more trips remaining.
“The top (groove) was so good, you just held it to the floor all the way around,” smiled Ridley, who rolled out to a 10 car-length advantage in traffic at the checkers. “When there’s a car that can control the lead like that and keep it to the floor in turns three and four, the bottom car is just not going to get by.”
“Just watching lapped cars (not scoreboard) trying to figure out a plan to get by was my only concern. That’s what you have to do, can’t look to see who’s behind you, see who’s in front of you and how you can get by them next,” Ridley added.
Matt Guererri settled for seventh-place yet combined with Marcuccilli listed 23rd on the final scoresheet, Guererri cut the points deficit from 37 to 11 with two more point shows waiting on the schedule.
For the past month no driver has been as dominant on the fairgrounds dirt as Hopewell hotshoe Ruggles. However, his fifth straight 305 Sprint victory was the closest yet as the final outscome wasn’t decided until the last mile and a half of the 20-lap A-Main.
“This race should be Brandyn’s,” declared Ruggles in his opening victory lane remarks. “If it wasn’t for the lapped car … he ran a great race, the lapped car was all that made the difference.”
The fifth and final appearnce of the CRSA Sprints at LOLR in ’18 attracted just a handful of travelers with the weekly brigade filling out the 18-car starting grid. Griffin out-dragged pole-winner Alysha Bay at the outset with Ruggles (her father) stealing second spot on the third circuit.
Griffin’s commanding lead evaporated on lap eight when defending points champion Jason Whipple stopped high in turn four to force out a yellow flag. Eric Kurtz’s winged machine came to a halt exiting turn one to require the only other slowdown on lap 12, leaving Griffin, Ruggles and Bay at the head of the class for the fnal restart.
Young Johnny Kolosek advanced from sixth to fourth on the lap 12 restart, eventually overtaking Bay for third five laps later as he stormed around the high side of the ultra-fast speedway with little interference. Two laps later it was Ruggles’ turn to move outside, sliding around both leader Griffin and the lapped car of Kurtz as the trio diced in turn two.
“The 74 car (Kurtz) saw the 75 (Griffin) on the inside, then he went up high and I thought we were piled up,” remarked Ruggles, following his seventh win of the season that increased the division points lead over Bay. “But we didn’t hit and we were lucky enough to win it. But I was not the fastest car, Brandyn was.”
Ruggles closed the deal with a three car-length victory margin over Griffin, followed by Kolosek, Bay and Dan Bennett.
A fender-bending four-wide finish in the first of two qualifying heats was a sure sign of what was to come in the Street Stock finale as Welch went from third to first and led less than a lap to snare his first feature win since July of 2016.
“Just saw stuff flying everywhere at the end… we weren’t the fastest car but sometimes you just gotta be in the right spot,” understated an out-of-breath Welch, 52, after being handed his 79th career stock car win at the Land of Legends. “There’s a little bit of berm (turn four), don’t know if Marc’s right-rear caught that and took the tire off or if Adam (DePuy) and him touched there or what. I guess I dont really care.”
“We were right there (3rd) but weren’t gonna win, haven’t beaten these guys all year. Just can’t believe I’m in victory lane, never thought I’d get here again. What a fun night,” Welch blared.
Jason Quigley beat Welch to the line to begin the caution-free 15-lap Street Stock feature that boasted a season-high 17 cars on the starting grid. Top-two division point leaders DePuy (started 10th) and Minutlo (5th) were already on Welch’s bumper after three laps, with Minutolo grabbing the lead on lap five and DePuy securing second the following circuit.
Welch had the best view as Minutolo and DePuy diced for the top spot the second half of the race. Yet with Hixson getting ready to display the white flag signaling one lap to go, the Minutolo’s mount suddenly veered toward the infield exiting turn four and the melee that followed kept scorers reeling just as well.
“It was like a light switch, everything just shut off coming out of turn four,” divulged Minutolo, denied yet another win just over a half-mile from the finish after his Chevrolet Camaro suffered ignition failure at crunch time. “I could see the white flag, just couldn’t get it done. Normally I’d throw a fit with this kind of outcome, but right now I’m like ‘whatever,’ this kinda stuff happens in racing, maybe we’ll have better luck next week.”
Despite immediate contact with Minutolo after the sudden mishap, DePuy staggered down the front chute to lead lap 14 yet his own battered Chevy Camaro could only limp around the final lap as a pair of flat tires thwarted his best effort keeping control. Welch was an unexpected beneficiary as the Lyons driver inherited the lead out of turn one in the Herman Bros. #8 Parts Plus-Redline Transmission-Dobber’s Sports Bar Chevrolet Monte Carlo and outlasted Blane Smith to claim one of the wildest wins of his Canandaigua career.
“Been a couple years since the last one (win). Haven’t had the best equipment but my buddies Scott and Tim Herman let me drive this car week in and week out. We just come here to have some fun and tonight we’re having some fun,” Welch added.
Track newcomer Todd Hayward finished third ahead of DePuy with Quigley rounding out the top-five. With a track-high eight victories this season, DePuy leads four-time winner Minutolo, 806-734, with just two point shows left on the docket.
For the third time in 12 starts, third-generation traveler Vinson captured top honors in the 10-lap New Legends main event. Timmy Borden Jr. led the initial five circuits before the Sanborn chauffeur forged the final lead change on a lap six restart.
“I accidentally filthied (unclean pass) him a little bit on that restart, didn’t really mean to, just got into his back bumper a little bit,” noted Vinson, following an otherwise convincing victory steering his father Rich’s no. 93 Jocoy’s Collision/Bicknell Sportsman entry. “Tried to make (pass) as clean as possible, just kinda pushed up a little bit into him. Plan to say something later, let him know I didn’t mean it.”
Borden settled for runner-up laurels followed by Sam Hoxie, first-time LOLR entry Jacob Lynch, Adam Haddow and Eric Years. After not qualifying for the regular Sportsman feature, Billy Bowers and Matt Steffenhagen were allowed to gain track time running with the Legends. Bowers actually placed second on the track while Steffenhagen was scored seventh out of eight cars taking the green.
Aside from Sportsman victors Ridley (15) and Vinson (5), winners Sheppard (2), Ruggles (2) and Welch (1) led for a total of five laps on their way to thrilling feature finishes … Granddaughter in-law Nicole Hoag made her speedway debut Saturday steering a Sportsman entry yet was unable to qualify from a quality field of 29. A regular runner at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee on Friday nights, Nicole is married to Alex Hoag, grandson of first-ever Canandaigua points champion and LOLR Wall of Famer Dutch Hoag … Not only did former LOLR public address announcer Doug Elkins (1995-98) make a special appearance in the tower behind the mic on Saturday, his talented 15 year-old daughter Allie sang both the US and Canadian national anthems to kick off the show. Toby LaGrange took care of the CRSA announcing chores alongside Elkins throughout the night.
August 25 is Championship Night for the Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds at Land Of Legends Raceway with a full program for Donath Motor Worx Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car, Big Dog Country Street Stock and New Legends Sportsman divisions plus the fourth LOLR Wall of Fame Induction on tap. ADMAR Construction Equipment & Supplies presents the final ‘Saturday Spectacular’ of the month with double points on the line for Big-Block title contenders as the 2018 champion is crowned. Alan Johnson joins the late great Hoag, prolific promoter Glenn Donnelly and fan favorite Bob McCreadie as he headlines a special pre-race WoF ceremony honoring the winningest driver in track history.
Two more big shows close out the 55th season of oval track activity at the Ontario County Fairgrounds. Lake Beverage VIPs are in the tower when the Patriot Sprint Tour and GRIT Sportsman Series come to town Wed., Aug. 29. Postponed due to rain on June 23, the DIRTcar Sportsman Series also concludes during the mid-week event while the winged machines compete in round #4 to determine the first-ever Land of Legends 360 Sprint Car Classic champion.
Double points are awarded to Sportsman, 305 Sprint and Street Stock drivers in the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ season-finale on Sept. 1 when all three division champions are recognized. Big-Block Modified ($2,000-to-win, non-point) and New Legends Sportsman classes comprise the five-star curtain-closer with qualifying action getting underway at 7 p.m.
Check out the current point standings as well as all the track news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. Advance sale tickets remain 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 – August 18, 2018
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. 23-Kyle Coffey, 6. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 7. 14j-Alan Johnson, 8. 7x-Steve Paine, 9. 22-Jeff Daugherty, 10. 19w-Justin Wright, 11. 11j-James Sweeting, 12. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 13. 6h-Max McLaughlin, 14. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 15. 16k-Kaitlin Pashina, 16. 3rs-Billy Dunn, 17. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 18. 12-Brian Sage, 5-Tom Keyes(DNS), 77-Lance Dusett(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Paine, Coffey, Phelps, Johnson, Daugherty, Sage, Payne.
#2: Tegg, Dunn, Rudolph, Podsiadlo, Wright, Maier, Dusett(DNS).
#3: Sheppard, Haers, McLaughlin, Sweeting, Pashina, Keyes.
Donath Motor Worx Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 2. 11n-Ricky Newton, 3. 29g-Steve Gray, 4. 7-Paul Guererri, 5. 25g-Nick Guererri, 6. 31-Kane Bristol, 7. 12g-Matt Guererri, 8. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 9. 21x-Eric Williams, 10. 34-Kevin Root, 11. 13t-Trevor Years, 12. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 13. 2-Loren Lincoln, 14. 90-Nathan Peckham, 15. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 16. 77-Benny Karlsen, 17. 9-Tim Baker, 18. 8-Joe Cook, 19. 27z-Ray Bliss, 20. 01-Doug Smith, 21. 1-Billy Paine, 22. 35-Nick Cooper, 23. m1-Dave Marcuccilli, 24. 2kx-Kyle Kiehn, 80-Cody Wolfe(DNQ), 7h-Nicole Hoag(DNQ), 50-Tim Downs(DNQ), 86-Matt Steffenhagen(DNQ), 17-Billy Bowers(DNQ).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Years, Lincoln, Newton, Marcuccilli, Cook, Karlsen, Wolfe, Bowers.
#2: N.Guererri, Lloyd, Paine, Williams, Bliss, Downs, Hoag.
#3: Bristol, Smith, Baker, Kiehn, P.Guererri, Stanton, Root.
#4: Ridley, M.Guererri, Gray, Peckham, Cooper, Steffenhagen, F.Guererri.
Consolation (8 laps)
#1: Stanton, Root, F,Guererri, Karlsen, Wolfe, Hoag, Downs, Steffenhagen(DNS), Bowers(DNS).
SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 2. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 3. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 4. 48a-Alysha Bay, 5. X-Dan Bennett, 6. 1q-Thomas Radivoy, 7. 3a-Jeff Trombley, 8. 66-Erik Karlsen, 9. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 10. 98t-Tyler Jashembowski,11. 19em-Emily VanInwegen , 12. m1-Justin Mills, 13. 18c-Dan Craun, 14. 121-Steve Glover, 15. 74-Eric Kurtz, 16. 4-Tim Smith, 17. 19j-Mike Jackson, 18. 38-Jason Whipple.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Kolosek, Radivoy, Karlsen, VanInwegen, Craun, Smith.
#2: Bay, Ruggles, Jashembowski, Pruchnik, Trombley, Mills.
#3: Bennett, Griffin, Whipple, Jackson, Glover, Kurtz.
Big Dog Country Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 8-Mike Welch, 2. 55b-Blane Smith, 3. 57j-Todd Hayward, 4. 99-Adam DePuy, 5. 34q-Jason Quigley, 6. 5c-Rick Crego, 7. 02-Brad Steinruck, 8. 8x-Jayson Smart, 9. 4j-Jason Doty, 10. 36-Jimmy Grant, 11. 30-Steve Pesarek, 12. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 13. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 14. 86L-Shawn Lloyd, 15. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 16. 37x-Carl Johnson, 17. 9-Aksel Jensen.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Minutolo, Smith, Quigley, Smart, Steinruck, Pesarek, Lloyd, Grant, Metcalf.
#2: Hayward, Crego, Welch, DePuy, Johnson, Jensen, Whittaker, Doty(DNS).
New Legends Sportsman
*Feature (10 laps): 1. 93-Tyler Vinson, 2. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 3. 00-Sam Hoxie, 4. 14-Jacob Lynch, 5. 2h-Adam Haddow, 6. 4-Eric Years.
NEXT EVENT: Saturday Spectacular, August 25 @ 7pm; ADMAR Construction Equipment & Supplies presents Big-Block Modified Championship(DOUBLE POINTS)/Sportsman/305 Sprint/Street Stock plus New Legends Sportsman with Care Net Benefit and Legends Inductee Night #4.
Track Instant Info
Along with recognizing its weekly 50/50 raffle fund beneficiaries, Land of Legends Raceway is proud to salute several sponsors and corporate partners that continue to help bring its fans the best Saturday night racing show in the Northeast. Listed alphabetically are division sponsors Big Dog Country 103.5FM Radio, Donath Motor Worx, Mike Emhof Motorsports, Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage; event sponsors Admar Construction Equipment & Supply Company, A-Verdi Storage Containers, Daldry Canvas, Geneva Club Beverage/Mountain Dew, Honeoye Auto Parts/Auto Value, L&L Transmission & Towing, Pampered Parents, Phelps Cement Products, Pilat Graphic Design, Proctor Enterprises, Product 9, Red Osier Restaurant, Tradition Automotive Group; promotional partners Champion Power Equipment, D.C. Rauscher Inc., Dig Safely New York 811, Hoosier Racing Tire, Ontario County Fairboard, Sherwin-Williams Paint Stores, Star Headlight & Lantern Co., VP Racing Fuels and charitable beneficiaries 4-H Club, American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, Autism Up of Rochester, Camp Good Days, Canandaigua Emergency Squad, Care Net, Colony Caregivers–Cats, Crosswinds Sharing & Caring, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 4 of the Finger Lakes, Embrace Your Sisters–Cancer, Friendship House (Middlesex NY), Hearts for Heroes, Justin Vecchiolo Scholarship, Miss Lizzie Deville & CNY RockaBetties, New 2 U Rescue Dogs, Oasis Adaptive Sports, Safe Harbors, The Spot, Wings For Cystic Fibrosis, Youth Baseball, Youth Football.