By STEVEN PETTY
You know it is the end of the “regular season” as the temperature changes, you can start to see the leaves changing colors, and you see campers throughout the property at the racetracks. This weekend was certainly the case as it was the annual Topless Nationals Weekend at the Genesee Speedway in Batavia, NY.
The Topless Nationals Weekend at the Genesee Speedway has been on the schedule since 2017, and the 2022 edition didn’t disappoint. Tacky and smooth track conditions greeted the drivers on Friday night, with Saturday afternoon seeing the track get the dry/slick conditions, the nature of racing during the afternoon.
It kicked off on Friday night, with the RUSH Late Model Touring Series taking centerstage on the 1/3rd-mile oval. In the RUSH Late Model main event, it was “Mr. Excitement” Jeremy Wonderling taking home the payday. It was Wonderling’s sixth straight win at Genesee, and first on the RUSH Late Model Touring Series in 2022.
“I needed this one bad,” Wonderling explained. “I was starting to think when the next RUSH Tour win was going to be, and we finally made it happen tonight.”
Wonderling and Breyton Santee brought the field down to the green flag, with Wonderling using the outside lane to take the lead. Joe Martin took second away from Santee, as Wonderling stretched his lead. “Mr. Excitement” hit lapped traffic by the race’s 1/3rd mark but had a clear track following a David Pangrazio spin on lap 12. Following the restart, Jimmy Johnson Jr and Kurt Stebbins battled for fifth place, as former race winner Jason Genco worked his way into the top five. Genco continued to work through the field, as he was able to get around Santee for third place on lap 20. Wonderling went on to score the win, with Joe Martin, and Jason Genco rounding out the podium. Brian Kotarski debuted a new “Canary Yellow” racecar and was the winner of the non-qualifiers event, ahead of Kyle Murray, and Todd Chapman. A total of 32 RUSH Late Models signed in pitside.
A classic battle between Noah Walker and Dave Conant had the fans on the edge of their seats on Friday night. The battle lasted for 19 laps, as Conant was able to get around Walker to take the lead. Conant would go on to score the win ahead of Walker, with Jim Harbison, Ryan Barrett, and AJ Custodi completing the top five. 22 Sportsman signed into the pits to race.
Veteran Glenn Whritenour won the Street Stock feature, while James Gayton won the Mini Stock feature.
Saturday night saw 106 cars take part and in the Sportsman feature, it was a first-time feature winner in Kyle Richner. The third-generation driver from Niagara Falls started on the front row, fell back into second behind Friday night winner Dave Conant early in the 50-lap event. Richner took the lead away on lap 18, with Noah Walker taking over second place. Richner and Walker battled for much of the race, as they also pulled away from the balance of the field. Following a late-race restart, it was Richner going on to score his first career victory.
“I don’t believe it,” exclaimed Richner upon climbing out of his No. 26 on the front stretch. “I had to crowd Dave (Conant) on the restart to take the lead, but track position was everything. I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.”
The brooms were brought out as “Mr. Excitement” Jeremy Wonderling won the RUSH Late Model Touring Series event. Wonderling started on the front row, and there were times throughout the race that his sixth-straight Genesee win was in jeopardy.
“Early on, I knew that I didn’t have the right tire on and then I saw (Chad) Homan pull up next to me and I know he’s really good on 55s (hard compound tires),” said Wonderling in Victory Lane. “I knew I could take off really good so I just had to hit my marks so he couldn’t set up a slide job on me.”
Following each restart, Wonderling was able to take the lead from Homan. Homan settled for second, with Jason Genco, Matt Latta, and Joe Martin completing the top five. The win for Wonderling was his second in a row on the tour, and 10th on the season at the Batavia 1/3rd-mile oval.
The Pro Mods made their second visit of the season to Genesee, and it was Adam Ashcroft holding off 52-year racing veteran Al Brewer to score the win. Glenn Whritenour won the Street Stock feature, while DJ Williams made a last-lap pass over Eric Weiss to win the Mini Stock feature.
Points of Interest: Bill Taylor won his third Street Stock heat race of the season in his third different car. Taylor won in his number 1, the Pat Powers #53, and the Brandon Sherwood #87. The most recent was in the Sherwood 87 Saturday night. Brandon Michaud raced the Byron Dewitt #34 after he suffered power steering issues in his own #132 on Friday night. Tyler Guzzardi, son of former Pro Stock track champion Beamer Guzzardi won his first career Sportsman heat race on Saturday. Joe Martin earned his fifth fast time award of the season with the RUSH Late Model Touring Series. He almost had the perfect night, as he also won his qualifying heat race and won the Sunoco Dash, earning him the pole position in the 30-lap feature.
Topless Nationals Weekend marked the end of the first season of promotion of Genesee for Kurt and Bonnie Stebbins.