Matt Sheppard Returns To Land Of Legends Victory Lane

CANANDAIGUA, NY – After rain dumped back-to-back shows at Land Of Legends Raceway, the first ‘Saturday Spectacular’ of the month finally made its way into the track record book in heated fashion. It was ‘Autograph Night’ presented by ADMAR Construction Equipment and Young Agency with ‘Super’ Matt Sheppard able to pad his points lead with another signature win, providing fans with plenty of thrills both during and after the annual intermission interaction.

Sheppard mingled with many from the grandstand crowd that packed the homestretch during the customary program break, then posed again for photos in victory lane following his track-best sixth Pepsi Big-Block Modified win of the season.

“Car was pretty good tonight, certainly a lot better than it was in the series race (July 4), we got a gift that night,” smiled Sheppard, who celebrated his birthday the previous weekend, blowing out 37 candles last Friday before blowing away a stout 21-car starting field for his 76th career Big-Bock triumph at the Ontario County Fairgrounds.

Joining Sheppard in the LOLR winner’s circle for the first time this season was Ricky Newton in the Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified division while Jimmy Grant scored his first career win in the Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock feature. Erik Karlsen made it two straight Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car victories, capturing the SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Series A-Main by a bumper in the closest finish of the season.

Despite unseasonable warm temperatures, hundreds of race fans still flocked trackside during intermission with most of the grandstand throng packing the homestretch to visit with their favorite drivers. The front straightaway was jammed with cars from every division parked 4-wide from turn four to turn one. Along with providing autographs, racers handed out candy and participated in photo shoots to the delight of those venturing out on the track during the break.




Sheppard supporters received the most for their money as the Waterloo wheelman showed once again why he remains the winningest driver in the Northeast this season. Unlike the recent Super DIRTcar Series showdown on July 4 when he ran third and inherited the lead after the leaders tangled on the final lap, this time around his #9s Hurlock Auto & Speed-Dendis Companies/Bicknell mount blasted from 16th to first in just 10 laps then cruised on for win #22 in 2019.

“The track was slick tonight, no doubt about that,” noted Sheppard, who also logged 10 DIRTcar Sportsman wins at LOLR in 1999-2000. “We really wanted to try some stuff, weren’t happy at all with what we had in the series race. Track conditions were very similar ttonight so whatever we did was definitely an improvement and hopefully we can build from here.”

Pole-sitter Lance Dusett bolted out front at the drop of the opening green flag but was forced to slow it down soonafter when contact exiting turn one between Dillon Groover, Justin Wright and Phil Vigneri III incurred the first caution period on lap three. Sheppard cracked the front-five with only a handful of laps scored, just as quickly ducking under Dusett for the top spot rounding turn four with two-thirds of the 35-lap headliner still to go.

Filing into 11th on the original starting grid aboard the renumbered red #1J Phelps Cement/Bicknell ride in memory of his father Jerry Sr., Justin Haers rolled into second on lap 13 yet with the final 25 laps running caution-free fell a full straightaway behind ‘Super Matt’ under the checkers. Billy Dunn, Kyle Coffey and Wright rounded out the top-five.

“Obviously we’re all thinking about Big Jer,” stated Sheppard, referring to the long-time motorsports supporter as well as owner/operator of the family business, Phelps Cement Products, that was initially launched in 1946. A car owner and race team sponsor since the young age of 14, Jerry Haers passed away on July 15 at 74.

“Justin and I have been racing together now for the better part of 30 years. Ran go-carts together, both ran Sportsman here together, moved into 358s (small-block Mods) over at Fulton, then we came back here in the big-blocks. Just not going to be the same going to the races and not seeing him, definitely miss him here tonight,” added eight-time track champion Sheppard, who now leads three-race winner and reigning points king Erick Rudolph, 571-526, in the latest title chase.

While Sheppard led all but nine laps in his most dominating performance of the season, Newton was just as efficient leading flag-to-flag en route to his first Sportsman win in Canandaigua since September of 2017.

“Just had awful luck all season long,” shrugged Newton, 29, after the Oakfield pilot crossed the finish line a half-straightaway ahead of runner-up Frank Guererri Jr. and Matt Guererri to notch his sixth career victory at the fairgrounds half-miler. “Justin Wright has been helping me left and right, trying to keep my confidence up and not letting us get down. Started on the front row so that helped, but hopefully we made a step in the right direction.”

There were no negative vibes on Saturday night as Newton’s no. 11N Fab Shop 54-L&L Transmission-Red Osier Landmark Restaurant/Bicknell ride was on rails from the get-go. A pair of yellow flags —when Wesley Hayes and Paul Guererri tangled on lap 2 before Tim Baker did a 360-degree spin to collect Jeff Lawrence and Mike Stanton Jr. on lap 3— flew early yet they were all that could slow the open-wheel veteran even with traffic prevalent during the last 23 laps run non-stop under green.

First-year Canandaigua competitor C.J. Castelletti and Frank Guererri Jr. waged the biggest battle of the race, with Guererri finally grabbing second on lap 15 after dicing together following the lap three restart. Castelletti fell to fourth in the closing stages while Western New York newcomer Andrew Smith settled for fifth on the scoresheet.

Matt Guererri’s third-place finish will stand following a rev limiting box issue, yet he will be docked 10 points and his team remains under probation at the speedway for the remainder of 2019 after leaving the post-race tech area unauthorized prior to completion of inspection. Upon official review of the technical concerns it was determined that no violation had occurred.

“We’ve been struggling every week just trying to get (car) to go in the black, not getting any drive off the corner whatsoever,” divulged Newton, following just his second top-five tally in seven starts. “It was hurting us and our results certainly showed it. Just kept tweakin’ on it and tonight it actually seemed to work pretty good. Might miss Wednesday’s (Fair) show due to my work schedule but we can’t wait to come back and try it again next Saturday.”

Slippery track conditions put passing at a premium with top-10 finishing positions hard to come by on a balmy night for Sportsman point leaders Kevin Root (11th) and Kane Bristol (9th).

Event number five in the 14-race SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Series was the second to be staged this season at LOLR, providing plenty of time for Karlsen to dial in his potent no. 66 Lanes Yamaha-Karlsen Land Surveyor-Lake Street Station Winery Maxim machine.

The second-generation driver from Romulus out-dragged front row partner Justin Mills to lead off the 20-lap A-Main presented by Maguire Family of Dealerships ,yet still needed to fend off a last lap charge from returning wingman David Ferguson to earn a $750 payday by the narrowest of margins.

“I could hear someone coming and I was like ‘oh man, hope we can hold on,’ so when I saw it was Dave I knew he was gonna be on the high side,” figured Karlsen, 26, following his first career CRSA victory by a minuscule 0.005-seconds over Ferguson. It was the 8th career win for the 2016 MEM 305 track points champion since July of 2015. “Then I got lucky and got a real good bite off of (turn) four.”

In a rare caution-free affair, the fast finish came down to the final seconds in the seven-minute main. By the luck of the draw —top-3 heat race race qualifiers re-drawing for starting positions— Ferguson began sixth yet stormed into second using the high line on the opening circuit.

The Rochester racer closed in on the leader as the laps dwindled, for an instant edging ahead of Karlsen down the back straightaway the last time around. With chief starter Scott Hixson setting up to unfurl the checkered flag, the pair remained side-by-side through turns three and four before Karlsen dug deep down low to escape by less than 12 inches as the crowd rose to await the winner. Jesse Pruchnik had the best view finishing third ahead of current CRSA points leader and LOLR round #1 race winner Jeff Trombley, and Vermont invader John Scarborough.

“It was awesome (coming out ahead), a real fun race to run,” stated an ecstatic winner with his home-built engine getting the job done for the second time in three weeks, denying inaugural 2012 LOLR 305 points champion Ferguson his 16th win in wine country. “Can’t thank our sponsors and the crew enough, mom and dad, every week they put in so many hours. Its nice when everything works out this good.”

Competition remains keen in the division with Karlsen, still winless Brandyn Griffin (finished 6th) and Johnny Kolosek (7th) tied atop the standings with 342 points followed by female flash Alysha Bay (10th) and her father Darryl Ruggles (14th).

The SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series returns to LOLR on Sat., Aug. 17 before closing out the five-race mini tour at the fairgrounds during the New York Nationals, Sept. 6 & 7. The winner on Friday 9/6 collects another $750 while a lucrative $1,000 top prize awaits the victor on Saturday 9/7.

Often times its better to be fast, on other occasions even better to enjoy good fortune. Jimmy Grant was the beneficiary of both on his way to a memorable first-ever full-fender triumph at the historic Land of Legends oval.

“This is so awesome, this place is freakin’ great, I love it,” beamed Grant, 33, after adding his name to the truly legendary list of racers to take checkered flags over the past half-century. “Its huge. This is my first Street Stock win ever, to do it with all my friends and family here … I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Behind the wheel of a solid entry throughout most of his first season in Canandaigua, the personable Penn Yan pilot put his no. 36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Champion Scrap Chevrolet Monte Carlo out front on lap six. However, with just one to go in the 15-lap finale the car of back-marker Jeff Lalonde spun out right in front of the leader exiting turn four forcing Grant high before swerving to avoid contact first with Lalonde then second with the outside cement retaining wall.

All he had to do on the lap 14 restart was hold off 58-time feature winner Marc Minutolo and the coveted first-place trophy was his.

“I knew I had a good pull coming out of turn one down here and knew if I kept my line …,” began Grant, after putting six car-lengths between himself and Minutolo at the stripe. “Was only running about half-throttle the whole time except when I got down the straightaway, but the car really worked. Felt a little shot in the butt there (from Minutolo on last restart) but that just helped me along.”

Brad Steinruck moved past pole-winner Blane Smith on the opening circuit with Quinn Sutherland and 9th-starting Grant advancing into the top-three just four laps in. Mike Welch spun to bring out the first yellow flag on lap six yet fluid on the track surface forced another quick slowdown despite Grant moving out front on the first restart.

Grant wasted little time grabbing the lead for good on the second try and maintained a four car-length advantage when Minutolo secured second with five laps to go. The Lalonde loop set up the last lap dash, yet there was no denying Grant his first trip to victory lane finishing comfortably ahead of Minutolo, Sutherland and Welch, who stole fourth from six-time winner Adam DePuy on the final circuit.

“I got a lot of really great people behind me, couldn’t do it without them,” added Grant, prior to reeling off a dozen helpers responsible for turning the fairgrounds into his weekend hangout every Saturday during the summer months. “This isn’t just my car, its theirs too. “

Qualifying in owner Bill Twist’s no. 30 stock car before starting in the rear of the feature field aboard his own no. 99 entry, DePuy remains the points leader although the gap between Welch is 492-480 entering the mid-week Fair race. Still looking for his first win of the ’19 campaign, Minutolo (458) ranks third ahead of Grant (456).

LEGEND LEDGER

Before rain forced cancellation of last Saturday’s (July 13) speedway program, popular Street Stock competitor Steve Pesarek joined renowned engine-builder Milt Johnson and former fairgrounds public address announcer Gary Montgomery as the third individual to be honored on the growing Land Of Legends Wall of Fame in 2019. All-time Canandaigua feature win leader Alan Johnson, pioneer driver Dutch Hoag, fan favorite Bob McCreadie and promoter Glenn Donnelly are charter WoF members finding their place last season.

Taking his first checkered flag in just the second time out as a rookie stock car racer aboard his familiar orange #30 Juliano’s Auto Parts ride in 1986, Pesarek scored his last victory at the fairgrounds in 2016, pushing his overall win count to 63 in Canandaigua, with seven point titles earned along the way. While surpassing the century mark in career victories, among his biggest career highlights was claiming the inaugural overall Mr. DIRT Street Stock Championship, an 11-race stint with Steve competing in all but four of the special series events and finishing in the top-5 —including 1 tour win at Canandaigua— in those seven races run in 1995.

Absent from weekly full-fender competition for more than a dozen years, he returned in 2012 to drive for car owner Bill Twist, scoring one Street Stock victory in 2013, posting seven wins in 2015 to finish 2nd in points, before adding three more Street Stock wins and yet another triumph at Canandaigua in the crate Late Model class in 2016 … at the age of 70!

In addition, when rain forced LOLR promoter Paul Cole to scrap the July 6 show, track officials rescheduled the MEM 305 Sprint twin-bill for Sat., Aug. 24 while the popular Power Wheel Races for kids was moved to the weekend prior on Aug. 17. There will be no oval track racing on July 27 in lieu of the fair.

When the 176th edition of the Ontario County Fair does arrive July 23-27, LOLR takes center stage with its third mid-week special of the season. Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman will be contending in the rescheduled “Cabin Fever 40″ paying $1,500 to win, while double points will be on the line for both MEM 305 Sprints (25 laps) and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stocks (20 laps) in the Wed., July 24 Fair special.

Race tickets can be purchased at the Fair or on-line by logging into the Ontario County Fair website at www.ontariocountyfair.org. Pit Admission is $30 at the Pit Gate ONLY and season passes are good for this show. 50/50 Raffle proceeds that night benefit the 4H Club of Ontario County.

Along with the DIRTcar special on Wed., the speedway agenda throughout the week includes: Monster Truck rides around the track on Tuesday, Tuff-Truck-Tug-O-Warz on Thursday, an Empire State Pullers Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Tractor Pull on Friday followed by a big demolition derby and fireworks at the fairgrounds on Saturday.

The month of August kicks off with a truly ‘Super Saturday Spectacular’ featuring a full show of Pepsi Big-Block Modfied, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock racing plus round #4 of the Land of Legends 360 Sprint Classic Series.

Tradition Automotive Group presents the second Empire Super Sprints special at LOLR on Aug. 3 after Paulie Colagiovanni took the first checkered flag July 4. Patriot Sprinters Chuck Hebing and Davie Franek posted wins in the opening Sprint Classic Series events, with all three drivers scoring convincing flag-to-flag victories.

As the 56th season continues to rev up, 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 final 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.

Pepsi Big-Block Modified

*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($2,000), 2. 1j-Justin Haers, 3. 49-Billy Dunn, 4. 23-Kyle Coffey, 5. 19w-Justin Wright, 6. 14j-Alan Johnson, 7. 77-Lance Dusett, 8. 7f-Matt Farnham, 9. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 10. 25-Erick Rudolph, 11. 1-Steve Paine, 12. 11j-James Sweeting, 13. 82-Gary Tomkins, 14. 21x-Eric Williams, 15. 44v-Phil Vigneri III, 16. 22-Jeff Daugherty, 17. 63-Adam Roberts, 18. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 19. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 20. 14ny-Daniel Johnson Jr., 21. 12x-Dillon Groover.

Heats (8 laps)

#1: A.Johnson, Sheppard, Groover, Sweeting, Dunn, Dusett, Roberts.

#2: Tegg, Coffey, Maier, Paine, Tomkins, Vigneri, Payne.

#3: Daugherty, Haers, Wright, Rudolph, Farnham, Williams, D.Johnson.

SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series

*Feature (20 laps): 1. 66-Erik Karlsen ($750), 2. 45-David Ferguson, 3. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 4. 3a-Jeff Trombley, 5. 61-John Scarborough, 6. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 7. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 8. m1-Justin Mills, 9. X-Dan Bennett, 10. 48a-Alysha Bay, 11. 410-Jerry Sehn Jr., 12. 121-Steve Glover, 13. 99-Andy Jacobus, 14. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 15. 38-Jason Whipple, 16. 13t-Trevor Years, 17. 9-Jordan Noody, 18. 19j-Mike Jackson, 19. 18c-Dan Craun.

Heats (8 laps)

#1: Ferguson, Bay, Karlsen, Griffin, Sehn, Jackson, Noody.

#2: Trombley, Mills, Ruggles, Bennett, Years, Glover.

#3: Scarborough, Kolosek, Pruchnik, Jacobus, Whipple, Craun.

Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified

*Feature (25 laps / Unofficial Pending Post-Race Technical Inspection): 1. 11n-Ricky Newton ($750), 2. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 3.12g-Matt Guererri, 4. 117jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 5. 1x-Andrew Smith, 6. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 7. 2k-Anthony Kimble, 8. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 9. 31-Kane Bristol, 10. 56-Garrison Krentz, 11. 34-Kevin Root , 12. 1-Billy Paine, 13. 21h-Bob Henry Jr., 14. 7-Paul Guererri, 15. 9-Tim Baker, 16. 29g-Steve Gray, 17. c21-Jeff Davoli, 18. 1L-Jeff Lawrence, 19. 01-Doug Smith, 20. 25g-Nick Guererri, 21. 2-Loren Lincoln, 22. 93-Tyler Vinson, 23. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 24. 92-Wesley Hayes.

Heats (8 laps)

#1: A.Smith, M.Guererri, Ridley, Lincoln, Lawrence, D.Smith, Borden, Wilbur.

#2: P.Guererri, Gray, Vinson, Davoli, Hayes, Stevenson, A.Payne(DNS).

#3: Newton, F.Guererri, Bristol, Lloyd, Kimble, Henry, Root, Velez.

#4: Castelletti, Paine, Baker, Stanton, Krentz, N.Guererri, Z.Payne, Karlsen.

Consolation (8 laps)

#1: Henry, Root, N.Guererri, D.Smith, Z.Payne, A.Payne, Velez, Karlsen, Wilbur, Stevenson, Borden(DNS).

B-Feature (12 laps): 1. 7z-Zach Payne, 2. 21v-Tony Velez, 3. 77-Benny Karlsen, 4. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 5. 13-Mickey Wilbur, 6. 28a-Alex Payne, 7. 4-Keith Stevenson(DNS).

Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock

*Feature (15 laps): 1. 36-Jimmy Grant, 2. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 3. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 4. 00-Mike Welch, 5. 99-Adam DePuy, 6. 64-Bob Buono, 7. 02-Brad Steinruck, 8. 55b-Blane Smith, 9. 55p-Parker Smith, 10. 9-Aksel Jensen, 11. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 12. 4j-Jason Doty, 13. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 14. 122-Chris Beyea, 15. 11j-Jeffrey Lalonde, 16. 34q-Jason Quigley, 33-William Bradley Jr.(DNS), 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf(DNS).

Heats (6 laps)

#1: Sutherland, Grant, B.Smith, Quigley, Jensen, Doty, Whittaker, Bradley, Lalonde(DNS).

#2: Steinruck, Minutolo, P.Smith, DePuy, Buono, Sharp, Welch, Beyea(DNS), Metcalf(DNS).

NEXT EVENT: 176th Ontario County Fair Special, Wed-July 24 @ 7pm; Sportsman ‘Cabin Fever'(40L)/305 Sprint(25L/Double Points)/Street Stock(20L/Double Points) with 50/50 Raffle proceeds benefitting the 4H Club of Ontario County. *No Racing Sat., July 27.