Canandaigua, NY – April 5, 2013 – Tom Skibinski, Canandaigua Motorsports Park PR (585-350-8997)
Capturing his first two Sportsman feature wins last summer, Dave Marcuccilli ushered in Canandaigua Motorsports Park’s 50th Anniversary Season of auto racing on Friday night, outlasting open-wheel invader Sammy Reakes IV to officially kick off the expanded Jan Corcoran Memorial Weekend.
Former track regular Charlie Donk (Castner Performance 305 Sprint Car), full-fender frontrunner Eric Chapman (Pure Stock) and second-generation Community Car Care of Waterloo New Legends Sportsman chauffeur Jordan Siri also collected opening day checkered flags while Vic Coffey and Peter Britten topped a strong field of Team Tiremasters Big-Block Modified entries in a special pair of timed practice runs around the ultra-smooth half-miler.
The fairgrounds’ earliest season-opener was arguably the most frigid ever as unseasonably cold temperatures combined with a pesky wind chill factor dropped the barometer into the low 30s by race time. “We made sure there was plenty of coffee and hot chocolate to go around tonight,” remarked CMP Promoter Jeremie Corcoran during the traditional tribute to his mother who passed away in October of 2010. “It was just as tough a night for our employees as the fans and racers, at the same time providing a great example of the kind of loyalty and support there is every week here at the speedway.”
Despite the frosty night in wine country, Marcuccilli still had to sweat out his victory in the 35-lap Safety Awareness Solutions Sportsman finale after dicing with Reakes much of the distance to claim his third career CMP win and mark him as a bonifide contender in the chase for the coveted ‘Land of Legends’ points crown. The Cayuga, N.Y. driver forged the sixth and final change with five laps to go before holding on for a five car-length victory over Reakes, with Canandaigua’s own Rob Bussey, returning veteran Karl Comfort and Central New York traveler Mike Prentice filling out the final front-five.
“I’m plumb exhausted,” exclaimed Marcuccilli, who cracked the top-five after just five tours around the ultra-smooth half-miler after starting 11th on the 25-car grid. “I was really falling out of the seat, leaning my head up against the head-rest, just in there hanging on.”
“I just can’t believe how good the car was. We weren’t that good in the heat race, I was so tight getting in (corners). We didn’t change that much, Mike Payne made a couple changes and worked his magic on it. We used his set-up, pretty much what Danny Johnson runs and it seems to work pretty good for me as well,” Marcuccilli said.
And just like Johnson, who won the Big-Block Modified portion of the Corcoran Memorial last April with Payne turning the wrenches, Marcuccilli pedaled his Bicknell mount to the front and the blue no. m1 Mike Laird Construction-Stormin-Crew Boyz Racing car triumphed to launch a second half-century of racing at the Ontario County Fairgrounds.
After a luck-of-the-draw among the top-two qualifying heat race finishers determined the first four rows, Bussey out-dragged front-row partner Prentice only to slow following a yellow flag that flew for the parked car of Jeff Davoli between turns one and two. Back under green, Bussey regained the point before Prentice powered past as the lead duo closed out lap three side-by-side at the flagstand.
Sixth-place starter Reakes moved into third to get a glimpse of the early leaders while hard-charging Marcuccilli cracked the front-five with only a handful complete. Marcuccilli was scored third as the lead pack reached traffic 10 laps in and needed six more times around to snatch the top spot away from Prentice in a daring three-wide maneuver. After slipping back to fifth, Reakes rallied to overtake Marcuccilli on lap 17 and begin a spirited dual in the near caution-free affair.
Marcuccilli (lap 18) and Reakes (19) swapped the lead twice more before the second and final slowdown on lap 22 offered a break from the torrid pace. Marcuccilli had bobbled exiting turn and his lift off the gas collected Kyle Fink, who spun in the aftermath with no place to go.
Marcuccilli shadowed Reakes on the ensuing restart ahead of Bussey, Prentice and Ronnie Davis II, with just over a dozen laps left to settle the score. Lap 30 proved to be prime time as Marcuccilli pulled off a perfect slide job under Reakes machine exiting turn two, never looking back en route to the $1,000 payoff.
“From lap one I just went to the top side and started rolling around people, the car was just sticking like glue out there,” remarked Marcuccilli, after coming out on top among a solid opening day field that included 41 cars from as far away as Canada in both the Niagara Falls and Thousand Islands regions. “Got a little tough in lap traffic sometimes and was real slippery when I went over the cushion. Like a magnet I hit those new tires that Jeremie put down in turns three and four a handful of times, can’t believe I didn’t rip the left front off once or twice.”
A dozen cars filed out for the 15-lap Pure Stock main event that preceded the Sportsman feature and the heads-up start gave the nod to heat one winner Mike Minutolo Sr. from his pole-position perch. Chapman began third and waited patiently until grabbing the lead from Minutolo with just over two laps to go.
“I had a lot of fun tonight, I’m honored to be a winner during the Corcoran Memorial, its a real treat,” stated Chapman, who used a trio of victories last season to climb up to third in the final point standings. Those first five laps were probably the funnest I’ve ever raced.”
Himself already a 31-time feature winner in the stock car ranks at CMP, Minutolo was looking to add one more trophy until Chapman blasted by low in the late stages. Past points champion and heat one winner Alex Morris challenged early until traffic drop-kicked the Western New York racer to fourth halfway through and opened the door for Chapman’s no. 22t John Juhl Construction-Marsden Racing Engines-backed Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Chapman pulled even with Minutolo’s Butch’s Body Shop Chevy Monte Carlo on lap nine yet the Hannibal, N.Y. pilot still needed four more times around to seal the deal and notch his 11th career win in Canandaigua. Marc Minutolo, Morris and Nick Dandino completed the top-five.
“I was just released from the hospital Tuesday and told the doctor when I got out I’m going racing,” revealed Chapman, who dedicated his latest triumph to his late aunt Patty. “Finished putting the motor in Wednesday and got the car running on Thursday, it was great to drive tonight and come home first.”
The battle for opening day honors in the Castner Performance 305 Sprint A-Main came down to former Canandaigua Big-Block Modified campaigners Darryl Ruggles and Donk, with chargin’ Charlie kicking off the first full-season for the winged machines in the winner’s circle following his 25-lap triumph.
“Interesting night over there (pointing to turns 3-4), don’t know if the water was coming up or it was ice. Wasn’t sure what was going on but I’m sure that’s why everybody was crashing,” figured Donk, who helped celebrate his wedding anniversary with wife Wanda in victory lane.
Ruggles jumped out to the lead early with Donk in tow, yet their personal battle had to wait following one of the hardest hits witnessed at the speedway in recent years. After newcomer Parker Evans slammed the rolling ride of Steve Doell Jr. exiting turn four, chief starter Scott Hixson quickly waved the red flag to stop the field and let the track safety crew get to work removing the front-stretch wreckage. No injuries were reported.
“Think it was going to be a good race until the track went to heck down there with the moisture,” said Donk, a nine-time Big-Block winner at the fairgrounds, with 11 more amateur street stock wins sprinkled in during the early 1980s. The Macedon favorite plans to compete regularly on Saturdays at CMP in 2013, with 14 Empire Super Sprint shows —including Canandaigua with NASCAR Cup star Tony Stewart on Aug. 10— dotting his agenda.
“We were fast all night. We’ve got good stuff and Dan Willmes (owner) gives us what we need so we’re in good shape to do well this season,” Donk added.
The leaders resumed their fight for bragging rights with Donk taking over for good on a lap 11 restart. Ruggles moved in on the white Jereco-powered no. 99 Willmes Enterprises-K&D Disposal/GF1 sprinter in the closing stages before falling four car-lengths shy at the stripe. Phil Peworchik, Billy Jaycox and Nick Cooper finished next.
Originally scheduled to cover a 15-lap distance, the New Legends Sportsman feature was reduced to a 10-lap dash as slick track conditions and a diminished starting field curtailed the final event of the night. Late arriving Siri didn’t mind as he only needed to outlast Jason Scales to post the anti-climactic victory in Canandaigua’s only Friday night show of the season.
“Its really slick out there right now,” confirmed Siri from Watkins Glen, after getting the best grip aboard his no. 5* Siri Sand & Stone/Bicknell ride. “I wasn’t even hitting the gas on the back straightaway. If you did you were going around.”
Twenty-two Team Tiremasters Big-Blocks turned out on Friday with each looking to clinch a guaranteed starting berth in the next day’s Modified main. A pair of hot lap sessions were run off with Caledonia’s Coffey and popular Australian Britten locked in on time for starting positions six and four in Saturday’s 64-lap showdown.
Coffey was clocked at 17.619 seconds for a one-lap average speed best of 102.162 mph while Britten was the lone driver to break the 18-sec. barrier in round two after posting a 17.973-second lap (100.105 mph) ahead of returning driver Gil Tegg Jr. and all-time CMP feature winner Alan Johnson. Britten was also second quickest behind Coffey his first time out, with defending track champion Matt Sheppard third.
The Team Tiremasters Big-Blocks return to Canandaigua Motorsports Park tomorrow in pursuit of the $6,400 top-prize for winning the 3rd Annual Jan Corcoran Memorial presented by Empire Seneca Recycling. A full-fender card of Parts Plus Street Stock and Crate Late Model competition joins the open-wheel action with race time set for 6 p.m. Pit gates unlock at 3 o’clock and grandstand seating opens at 4 p.m. while hot laps go green at 5.