By TOM SKIBINSKI
CANANDAIGUA, NY – 2017 Land Of Legends Raceway point champions Matt Sheppard and Dave Marcuccilli successfully defended their sacred soil in Saturday’s Spectacular although the dynamic DIRTcar duo only led a half-dozen laps before securing dramatic victories at the Ontario County Fairgrounds.
Both multi-time track titlists rallied from 18th starting positions as Sheppard ducked under Kyle Coffey with less than a mile to go in the headline 35-lap Pepsi Big-Block Modified main while Marcuccilli marched past Kevin Ridley with just 4 circuits left in the 25-lap Donath Motor Worx Sportsman feature.
Sheppard (Outlaw) and Marcuccilli (Can-Am) also won features on Friday, with the trip to the winner’s circle for ‘Super Matt’ his 14th in 27 starts around the Northeast.
“We’re working real hard trying to improve every race,” remarked second-generation star Sheppard, 35, who upped his career track mark to 69 big-block wins with another 10 logged in sportsman competition. “You can’t get complacent in this deal or everybody will definitely surpass you. Guys like Erick (Rudolph) have certainly picked up the wick here this year, he’s been just as fast as us about every night. And more are getting closer each week.”
Open-wheel wingman Darryl Ruggles led flag-to-flag to capture his first Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car A-Main of the season while full-fender favorite Adam DePuy collected his fifth win in six Big Dog Country Street Stock events. High-speed high schooler Billy Paine dominated to score win number four in six New Legends Sportsman starts.
A solid field of 24 amateur entries signed in for the big crash-bang Brian Sipple Memorial Demolition Derby that closed out the fast-paced card. Sixteen year-old Cheyanne Gilmer from Dansville outlasted her male counterparts to pocket the $600 top prize. Victor’s Jamie Pratowski (2nd $300) and Alfred’s Lee Seager (3rd $150) survived nearly as long to finish in payoff positions with all three finalists greeted on the homestretch by the Sipple family and derby director Wayne Ellison.
Fans witnessed a precursor to the display of demolition earlier in the night when the 23-car big-block feature came to a halt as quickly as it took off. Canandaigua rookies Max McLaughlin (18 yrs. old) and Jeff Daugherty (16) crashed their mounts on the opening circuit in a wild ride for both talented teenagers.
A video replay revealed contact on the back straightaway between sixth-starting Eldon Payne Jr. and outside pole-sitter Daugherty which collapsed the front end of Daugherty’s #22 Bicknell entry. Most of Daugherty’s closest trailers slipped past yet 16th starting McLaughlin’s #6H TEO Pro machine was not as fortunate, catching the left front of the parked #22 car and flipping end-over-end, side-to-side four times before coming to rest upright just beyond turn three. No driver injuries were reported although the monetary damage was as substantial as the wreckage.
The 10-minute mishap required a complete restart and at the drop of starter Scott Hixson’s green flag Derrick Podsiadlo moved to the head of the pack. Kyle Coffey charged forward from his seventh starting spot and grabbed the lead on lap seven. Despite Coffey building up a big advantage in the early stages, eyes turned to Sheppard as he cracked the top-five by lap 15 with only runner-up Podsiadlo, Justin Haers and Billy Dunn separating him from the leader.
Sheppard disposed of Dunn on lap 16, followed Haers past Podsiadlo two circuits later then secured second-place with still 15 to go and Coffey holding a seemingly commanding lead. Meanwhile, 17th starter Rudolph was also advancing as the laps clicked off, dropping Haers to fourth with an inside move exiting turn two on lap 23.
When Sheppard finally caught Coffey in traffic on lap 32, Rudolph was right there to mop up any miscues. Down the back chute and exiting turn three ‘Super Matt’ was finally able to maneuver underneath and as the leaders crossed the stripe with one to go the lone yellow flag flew for Payne who had spun out of the first turn. Back under green Sheppard pulled out to a convincing six car-length victory after the restart while Rudolph snatched second from Coffey on the final lap dash. Dunn and Haers rounded out the final front-five.
“How about that Kyle Coffey, thought tonight was his night,” figured Sheppard, after parking his no. 9s Dendis Companies-Westmoreland Golf Club-Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell car in victory lane for the fourth time this season, halfway to his total of eight wins racked up last summer en route to a seventh straight points championship. “I got up there towards him and couldn’t do nothing.”
“I’d make a little bit of a run on the bottom and then get caught up in lapped traffic. The top (groove) just died a little too much for him. If this was a 30-lapper … he ran a heck of a race tonight.”
“Just an awesome race car we have here, started 18th and made our way to the front,” added Sheppard, who is now dead-locked atop the point standings with Rudolph, still looking for his first win. “It was a wide, racey track so we really had to get up on the wheel to get going. Luckily, my guys gave me a great car tonight.”
Mirroring his victory three weeks prior when he overtook Matt Guererri on lap 22, Marcuccilli again took the lead with with 4 to go and cruised home to become the first repeat Sportsman winner at LOLR this season.
“I knew we had a good car after the heat race,” noted Marcuccilli, 41, after registering his 23rd career triumph in search of a fourth consecutive crown in Canandaigua. “Finally got our stuff together here, been running good here week in and week out, and if we do that the wins will come.”
“With the win last night and one here after starting 18th, we’re getting things together. It was a lot of fun out there, probably one of the better races I thought we had all year. Seemed like everybody was doing pretty good and we didn’t have a lot of cautions,” Marcuccilli said.
Anthony Kimball paced the 24-car starting field from lap one with three-wide battles raging behind him throughout the pack. Steve Gray came to a stop high in turn three to incur the lone caution period on lap three, with Kimball opening up a comfortable advantage on the ensuing restart.
Point leaders Matt Guererri and Marcuccilli ran fifth and sixth by lap 10, each looking to make up ground the second half of the race. Marcuccilli passed Guererri on lap 13 then moved into third after three more times around the fast half-miler. Ridley forged his first lead on lap 17 and on the next circuit Marcuccilli dropped Kimball to third.
Marcuccilli edged under Ridley as the lead duo sped down the back chute but the move was all for naught as sixth running Eric Williams lost power between turns one and two to require the second and final yellow. It made little difference as Marcuccilli blew past Ridley on the lap 22 restart, his #M1 Page Trucking-All Star Contractors-Mohawk Northeast/Bicknell mount taking the checkered flag ahead of Ridley and Paul Guererri, who stole third from nephew Matt with one to go.
“Kevin was in a tough spot out there,” added Marcuccilli, who pulled to within a single point (341-340) of Matt Guererri after six events. “He probably didn’t know whether to go high or low on that restart. He went high so I just went where he wasn’t and if he had gone low I would’ve tried going around him.”
“(Winning) never gets old. Didn’t start racing here full-time until 2012 so (23 wins) is a pretty good number in a relatively short period of time. Its always a pleasure racing with these guys. Some have been around for awhile so I think we’re doing pretty good.”
Already the all-time sprint car winner at the Land of Legends, Ruggles needed six weeks to reach victory lane in 2018 after three seconds and a third-place tally in the opening five events. At the expense of his daughter, Alysha Bay, Ruggles garnered his 28th career checkered flag in the sprint car ranks to go one up in the fun-filled family rivalry.
“I saw the pink car on the inside and I said ‘damn her,’ she’s been good all year long and I know she wants to win … but not tonight,” smiled Ruggles, 52, who remains the only driver in LOLR history to score feature wins in modified, sportsman, street stock, sprint car and micro-sprint divisions. “First and second, can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Despite lining up fifth on the 14-car starting grid aboard his Mike Mastin-powered no. 48jr. Willmes Enterprises-VanBortel Trucking/Eagle sprinter, Ruggles blasted into the lead where he would remain the entire 20-lap distance. Starting right behind her father inside row four, Bay charged into second past Johnny Kolosek on a lap four restart and battle was on for bragging rights in the Hopewell household.
Kolosek made a final bid for the runner-up slot on lap eight with Bay getting airborn as the twosome crossed under the frontstretch starter’s stand. Bay regained control and sped on to post her third runner-up finish to go along with a pair of third-place runs and now leads her father, 272-270, through five point races.
“Earlier I thought we were in trouble when we came here with a dry/slick set-up that we used last week,” Ruggles explained. “I kept watching to see how much water (track crew) was putting down duirng the week. Went back and studied and studied, thought we went the wrong way. In the heat race it was horrible. Finally we sat there and I said ‘we’ll throw something at this and make it work, be heroes or zeroes. Today we were heroes.”
Early season first-time winner Brandyn Griffin settled for a third-place finish ahead of Kolosek while last week’s victor Erik Karlsen grabbed fifth from pole-sitter Tyler Cartier coming to the white flag on lap 19.
A race-long duel between DePuy and Marc Minutolo in the caution-infested 15-lap Street Stock feature ended with DePuy in victory lane and Minutolo in the pits.
“Marc ran me clean the whole way, was just praying for some grip up top,” stated DePuy, 44, who moved into sixth-place on the all-time LOLR stock car win list after making his 34th trip to victory lane. “This is one of the hardest races I’ve ever run to win.”
Minutolo nosed ahead of early leader Brad Steinruck on lap three before swapping the top spot with DePuy over the next couple circuits. Eight yellow flags during an 11-lap span kept the 14-car field tight, mitigating any momentum in the meantime.
Rick Crego stopped in turn two and Seth Steele spun in turn four to cause the final lap 13 slowdown just as DePuy was motoring around Minutolo in turn two. Back under green DePuy wasted little time again sweeping around Minutolo in his no. 99 Fox’s Auto-Nance’s Mustard-Quigley Flooring-A.E.Y. Enterprises/Chevrolet Camaro, although contact between the leaders forced Minutolo pitside with a flat tire affording DePuy a decisive 15 car-length victory margin under the checkers.
“Marc was good on the bottom, we just got lucky to get enough grip on the top to get around him,” added DePuy, after becoming the winningest driver at LOLR in ’18. “It’s not easy, tonight was definitely not easy. Have to thank all the fans for coming out, with can’t do this without them.”
Parker Smith finished a season-high second followed by Steinruck, Nick Dandino and Dakota Sharp.
New Legends contenders continue to see blue as Paine put his no. 1 Randy McCulloch Excavating-Tallmadge Tire/HigFab Sportsman out front on lap three and scored a straightaway win over Tyler Vinson and Brian Harris in his first-ever fairgrounds appearance.
“The car is getting better and its always more fun with more cars to go up against,” said Paine, 16, after besting the biggest field of the year in this novice division. “I learned if you hold the bottom its really fast but that’s really hard to do. I missed the (line) a couple times but eventually I’ll get it.”
Sam Hoxie, Brian’s brother Orval Harris and Nick Cooper filled the final scoresheet.
Phelps Cement Products presents the upcoming ‘Saturday Spectacular’ at Land of Legends Raceway with a special Power Wheels race filling a full card of Pepsi Big-Block Modfied, Donath Motor Worx Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint, Big Dog Country Street Stock and New Legends Sportsman action on June 16.
Join the midway celebration when Land of Legends Raceway officials honor the second Wall of Fame inductee on Sat., June 23. This individual will be recognized for reviving the race program at the fairgrounds as he laid the groundwork for future generations to witness some of the biggest stars and fastest cars compete at Canandaigua’s historic half-miler.
Be sure to tune in as Land of Legends Raceway will be showcased in the Empire State when the May 5 Patriot Sprint Tour event is aired on CW-23 in Buffalo at 2 p.m. on Sat., June 16, CBS-5 in Syracuse at 7:30 a.m. on Sun., June 17 and on CW-16 in Rochester at 10:30 a.m. on Sun., June 17. The hour-long production is part of ‘Speedway Showcase’ hosted by Rich Vleck with race analysis provided by Doug Elkins and pit reporting from Paul Szmal.
Continue 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 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 – June 9, 2018
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($2,000), 2. 25-Erick Rudolph, 3. 23-Kyle Coffey, 4. 3rs-Billy Dunn, 5. 3-Justin Haers, 6. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 7. 14j-Alan Johnson, 8. 7x-Steve Paine, 9. 11j-James Sweeting, 10. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 11. 19w-Justin Wright, 12. 12-Brian Sage, 13. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 14. 63-Adam Roberts, 15. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 16. 07-Tim Kerr, 17. 48too-Dave Rauscher, 18. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 19. 16k-Kaitlin Pashina, 20. 5-Tom Keyes, 21. 174-Brian Boudreau, 22. 22-Jeff Daugherty, 23. 6h-Max McLaughlin, 77-Lance Dusett(DNS), 88-Dave Allen(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Podsiadlo, Coffey, Sweeting, McLaughlin, Kerr, Sage, Keyes, Boudreau, Allen.
#2: Rudolph, Sheppard, Phelps, Tegg, Dusett, Haers, Roberts, Wright.
#3: Payne, Dunn, Rauscher, Johnson, Paine, Daugherty, Pashina, Maier.
Donath Motor Worx Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. m1-Dave Marcuccilli, 2. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 3. 7-Paul Guererri, 4. 12g-Matt Guererri, 5. 11n-Ricky Newton, 6. 31-Kane Bristol, 7. 2k-Anthony Kimball, 8. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 9. 25g-Nick Guererri, 10. 9-Tim Baker, 11. c21-Jeff Davoli, 12. 2-Loren Lincoln, 13. 82-Will Shields, 14. 13t-Trevor Years, 15. 7s-Troy Sperring, 16. 2kx-Kyle Kiehn, 17. 8-Joe Cook, 18. 77-Benny Karlsen, 19. 81r-Rick Martin, 20. 50-Tim Downs, 21. 21x-Eric Williams, 22. 7j-J.T. Sperring, 23. 90-Nathan Peckham, 24. 29g-Steve Gray.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Ridley, Lloyd, Marcuccilli, J.T. Sperring, Bristol, Newton, Downs, Karlsen.
#2: Lincoln, Peckham, Williams, Davoli, M.Guererri, N.Guererri, Kiehn, Cook.
#3: Kimball, Gray, Years, T.Sperring, P.Guererri, Baker, Martin, Shields.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 2. 48a-Alysha Bay, 3. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 4. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 5. 66-Erik Karlsen, 6. 23-Tyler Cartier, 7. 45-David Ferguson, 8. X-Dan Bennett, 9. 38-Jason Whipple, 10. 53-Tom Fletcher,11. 18c-Dan Craun, 12. 8g-Bobby Gardner, 13. 99-Andy Jacobus, 14. 4-Tim Smith.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Cartier, Bay, Ferguson, Kolosek, Ruggles, Fletcher, Craun.
#2: Whipple, Bennett, Griffin, Jacobus, Karlsen, Smith, Gardner.
Big Dog Country Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 99-Adam DePuy, 2. 55p-Parker Smith, 3. 02-Brad Steinruck, 4. 58d-Nick Dandino, 5. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 6. 86L-Shawn Lloyd, 7. 36s-Seth Steele, 8. 34q-Jason Quigley, 9. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 10. 83x-Bryan Faulkner, 11. 5c-Rick Crego, 12. 8-Mike Welch, 13. 4j-Jason Doty, 14. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: DePuy, Dandino, Steinruck, Sharp, Lloyd, Minutolo, Doty(DNS).
#2: Welch, Quigley, Faulkner, Crego, Smith, Steele, Metcalf.
New Legends Sportsman
*Feature (12 laps): 1. 1-Billy Paine, 2. 93-Tyler Vinson, 3. 07-Brian Harris, 4. 00-Sam Hoxie, 5. 24-Orval Harris, 6. 35-Nick Cooper.
Brian Sipple Memorial Demolition Derby (24 entries).
1. 3g-Cheyanne Gilmer($600), 2. 31-Jamie Pratowski($300), 3. 25-Lee Seager($150).
NEXT EVENT: Saturday Spectacular, June 16 @ 7pm; Phelps Cement Products presents Big-Block Modified/Sportsman/305 Sprint/Street Stock plus New Legends Sportsman and Power Wheels Race.
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.