Canandaigua, NY – A comfortable combination of cool temperatures and sunny skies were prevalent Saturday afternoon as promising promoter Paul Cole and his revamped Land of Legends Raceway welcomed back dozens of dedicated teams and devoted fans to officially launch the 55th full season of motorsports at the historic half-mile clay oval.
In the aftermath of two weeks battling unseasonably wet weather conditions, timely efforts by the entire speedway staff met early expectations as the legendary fairgrounds facility efficiently accommodated all in attendance on both sides of the fence.
Showcasing the special three-hour hot lap session were a diverse mix of open-wheel Pepsi Big-Block Modified and Donath Motor Worx Sportsman entries, full-fender Big Dog Country Street Stock and Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car racers, with a handful of 358-Modified, 360 Sprint, Late Model and Vintage rides extending the total car count. In all, 36 drivers took advantage of the informal pre-season practice date to dial in their mounts.
“We still have some issues to address and tasks to complete but we’re very optimistic after all the improvements that have already been made,” cautioned Cole, who along with General Manager Greg Emerson and Race Director Greg Hixson, has spearheaded the speedway’s off-season revival including addition of a brand-new multi-purpose scoreboard and scoring loop, installation of advanced LED lighting around the track and a mobile video display on the frontstretch, as well as deployment of fiber optics and wi-fi capabilities throughout the property.
“We certainly appreciate everyone’s patience and support as we continue to impose the necessary changes that will make Land of Legends Raceway a great place to plan your summer schedule around. Today’s exhibition offered just a glimpse at the progress made so far and hopefully instilled even more excitement in anticipation of the weeks ahead,” Cole commented.
Signs of both the old and new regimes were evident from the start when morning became afternoon and the familiar voices of Shane Andrews and Craig Simmons echoed from the loud speakers as they welcomed their audience to the Land of Legends. Veteran scoring team of Gary and Donna Spaid joined the popular public address announcers in the tower along with head electrician Dave Dixon fine-tuning the sound system while cars unloaded and the customary driver’s meeting heightened the anticipation pitside.
Led by the trio of all-time LOLR sprint winner Darryl Ruggles, his daughter Alysha Bay and fellow wingman Brandyn Griffin, 305s were the first to make their way onto the track with chief starter Scott Hixson unfurling the initial green flag at 12:05.
The elder Ruggles also ran laps aboard his Mastin-powered 360 sprinter as did Paul Habeck to help usher in the new era in wine country. Levi Arthur, Josh Azzi, Dan Bennett and Johnny Kolosek filled out the remainder of the sprint car field.
Scott Herman was the lone street stocker to venture trackside, shaking down his #8 Parts Plus-backed Chevrolet Monte Carlo that perennial track champion Mike Welch will steer early in the season. Herman plans to get married in July and if he is granted permission, hopes to climb back behind the wheel by the time August rolls around so Welch can return to his more familiar double-zero entry.
Sportsman class members were next up with four of the 19 drivers registered for competition in the New Legends Sportsman ranks. Dwight Nichols, Gerald Poole, former asphalt runner Jimmy Steffenhagen Jr. and 3rd-generation chauffeur Tyler Vinson secured newcomer status on the day while Kane Bristol, Chris Burek, Wade Chrisman, Jeff Davoli, Brandon Ford, Benny Karlsen, Anthony Kimball, Jeff Lawrence, Anthony Muscato, Bubby Pawlak, Nathan Peckham, Kevin Ridley, Torrey Stoughtenger, Kenny Washburn and recently crowned USAC National Micro Sprint champion Trevor Years (wing 600) assumed veteran roles at the fairgrounds.
Looking at making LOLR their Saturday night hangout during the upcoming campaign, the husband/wife tandem of Chris (#5H) and Katelyn Hile (#25H) hauled in from Oswego to unveil a potent pair of Bicknell-chassied Big-Block Modifieds. They were joined in their own Troyer machines by veteran Peter Britten and upstart James Sweeting while Western New Yorker Scott Kerwin and upstate traveler Tyler Trump warmed up their small-block cars.
RUSH Series follower Chris Fleming hot lapped his sleek late model ride while Alex Morris, a 15-time Canandaigua street stock feature winner (2009-10), debuted his blue soon-to-be-numbered 09 Thunder On The Dirt Vintage Racing Series sled sporting a 1974 Ford Mustang II body wrapped around a trusted Tobias chassis.
The final checkered flag flew at 3:10, ending a safe opening day affair that officially kicked off the Cole era in Canandaigua. Despite the inclement weather soaking the speedway for nearly a month, the track dried out quickly and provided racers a slick yet ultra-smooth surface with only minor spins on occasion slowing the action.
“Its been a good day getting everybody together for the first time and making sure we’re all on the same page,” said seasoned technician Wally Ingraham after helping service race teams throughout the day from his pitside perch beside the scales. Ingraham was joined by tech teammates Jim Hixson, Rob Noaker and Bill twist, with the foursome scheduled to reconvene every Saturday as 2018 gets underway.
“It will certainly be a team effort when it comes to tech this season. There’s no single person in charge, we’re all working together with the only goal of following and enforcing the rule book. I’ve been doing this for a dozen years and got to know the drivers and their cars pretty well. I always tell them they’re like our customers and we want to keep them coming back so treating them fairly is the best way we know how,” Ingraham remarked.
Attention now turns to the final weekend of the month when LOLR stages its first ‘Saturday Spectacular.’ A full card of Pepsi Big-Block Modified (show up points only), Donath Motor Worx Sportsman, Big Dog Country Street Stock, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car and New Legends Sportsman racing highlights the 2018 opener on April 28 with a special 50/50 raffle held to benefit area youth baseball.
Grandstand gates unlock at 5 p.m. and the first qualifying heat is scored at 7 o’clock. Racers are allowed in the pits at 4:30 with warm-ups slated for 6 p.m. following a brief driver’s meeting conducted at 5:45.
The adult grandstand ticket price is $15 for all ‘Saturday Spectaculars,’ $13 for Seniors (65 yrs. plus) while 16 and under are FREE with a paid adult. Reserved Grandstand seating for a weekly show is $17 and $2 for all children 16 and under. Seniors 65+ are $15.
Throughout the ’18 season advance sale tickets can be purchased online for every event. Log into www.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 www.landoflegendsraceway.com is located at the Ontario Co. 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.
Track Instant Info
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, Phelps Cement Products, Pilat Graphic Design, Proctor Enterprises, Product 9, 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.