CANANDAIGUA, NY – ‘Super’ Matt Sheppard was just that on Saturday night as the Northeast’s hottest driver streaked to his second straight Pepsi Big-Block Modified victory at Land Of Legends Raceway in front of a chilled crowd that filled the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds.
The Waterloo warrior remains undefeated in his last eight starts at tracks throughout the region after opening the season in victory lane during the prestigious 48th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in February.
“This is the longest streak I’ve ever been on, everything is just rolling right now and going our way,” summed up Sheppard, 36, who kicked off his 2011 campaign in Canandaigua with three straight Big-Block wins en route to the second of his eight point crowns. He’s taken 72 checkered flags since seeing his first at the fairgrounds in 2003.
“You gotta have a lot of things working on your side … really good race cars, good track conditions and most of all some luck. You don’t win eight in a row without some kind of luck and fortunately we’ve had all of the above,” stated Sheppard, in search of a ninth LOLR season championship, now with 128 points in the current standings ahead of Justin Haers (113), Billy Dunn (110) and Erick Rudolph (108).
Adam DePuy kicked off the Saturday Spectacular with a second top finish in the Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock full-fender feature while LOLR veterans Kevin Ridley (Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified) and Darryl Ruggles (Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car) triumphed in open-wheel mains.
The second night of speedway action was capped off by a demolition derby that attracted 30 adult entries in the non-stop crashfest. When the smoke cleared it was Cohocton’s Justin Riley outlasting Toby Wise from Waterloo and Wayland’s Jerry Ott to pocket the $800 top prize and earn well-deserved bragging rights. All three took home trophies with Wise ($400) and Ott ($200) also receiving cash rewards.
The last weekend following the ‘heads-up’ feature format in all divisions pitted qualifying race winners in the front two rows, with Gil Tegg Jr. out-dragging pole-sitter Alan Johnson to jump out to a quick lead in the 35-lap Big-Block finale. After engine woes curtailed the efforts of Rudolph in last week’s season-opener, the defending points champ ducked under Tegg the third time around to move out front for a second successive Saturday.
Heat two winner Tegg’s night suddenly came to close when an engine issue (possible bent valve) sidelined his own efforts on the seventh circuit, and with 10 laps scored Rudolph led Danny Johnson, Sheppard, Alan Johnson and Haers in the top-five.
Traffic tightened the front-runners early on with eighth-starting Sheppard making the most of an opportunity behind the wheel of his potent #9s Hurlock Auto & Speed-Dendis Companies/Bicknell ride when the time came. In a bold maneuver on lap 12, Sheppard stormed from third to first, and second-place was all that really remained in question the final two-thirds of the race.
“Kinda more luck than anything,” noted Sheppard, who began his weekend by copping the feature Friday at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee and now owns 344 career open-wheel wins. “Erick and Danny both got jammed up pretty hard by a lapped car and I just happened to get a really good run. Was able to get by Danny and then sneak by Erick, after that just stay out of trouble.”
After contact in traffic, Rudolph dropped off the pace with a cut left rear tire to incur the first of three caution periods on lap 13. Derrick Podsiadlo’s #21p mount came to a stop out of turn two to require a second second yellow flag on lap 15 while runner-up Danny Johnson suddenly slowed with a broken rear suspension on the #27j Troyer entry to end any bid for victory with 22 laps scored.
Sheppard resumed command back under green as the battle raged on for point positions further back. Dunn overtook Haers for second on lap 23 while Western New York invader Matt Farnham in his first career Big-Block start got past second-generation pilot Kyle Coffey before Rudolph’s rally to the front ended in fifth-place with 10 laps left to run.
“Can’t say enough about this car, its been fast,” added Sheppard, after the half-straightaway victory over north country contender Dunn. “Wasn’t very impressive in the heat, we weren’t too thrilled with it, but after making a couple changes it far exceeded my expectations. We were in the right grooves and made the right moves, definitely takes a little bit of everything and we’ve had that working on our side lately.”
A 26-time winner last season, Sheppard logged a career-best 41 wins in 2017, that year winning only twice prior to mid-May. His nine victories so far in 2019 have come at eight different tracks, staging his lone repeat performance at Land of Legends.
Keeping the hardware in the neighborhood, fellow Waterloo racer Ridley also had his no. 20x Fred’s Fab’N Fold-Champion Power Equipment-Lakeshore Auto Mall/Bicknell machine on rails most of the night, holding off Kevin Root by two car-lengths in the 25-lap nail-biter for DIRTcar Sportsman.
“Kevin’s car was obviously pretty good to pull alongside me on the bottom and I was pretty decent on top,” began Ridley, 41, the 2014 LOLR Sportsman high-point man on the heels of his 27th career win at Canandaigua, which ranks him fourth all-time. “We had that long green flag run there and I was wicked loose, couldn’t believe no one passed me as I really didn’t know where to run. Then the caution came out and I got a little assistance from my crew on the back stretch pointing to the top. Then I saw Kevin down low and figured it was a bad choice but our momentum prevailed in the end.”
Ridley had to wait out a 15-minute delay and a complete restart before he could get on track in the Sportsman feature. Pole-winner Ricky Newton slowed exiting turn one on the initial circuit and before the dust settled nearly a dozen cars had stacked up with the back straightaway just in view. Before the rare red flag situation arose, Frank Guererri had rolled over coming out of turn two and after the field came to a complete stop the right front wheel of Anthony Kimble sat wedged inside Newton’s car. No injuries were reported yet plenty of sheet metal damage was evident.
Root nosed ahead of 2nd-place starter Ridley on the second try yet the final exchange came the next time around. Ridley was able to open up a comfortable lead under consecutive green flag laps and at the halfway mark Root, the Guererri gang —Paul, Nick, Matt— and Steve Gray were all dicing in the mix.
Heavy traffic bunched the front-runners with 10 to go, allowing Root to close in on Ridley as the laps dwindled. Legends division grad Sam Hoxie looped low in turn four after dueling with Root and the yellow flag unfurled on lap 19 to put the leaders bumper-to-bumper with just a handful of laps remaining and a clear track ahead.
Ridley and Root pulled away under green followed in tow by the Guererris as last week’s winner Kane Bristol, rebounding aboard his bent-up Bicknell after involvement in the first lap mishap, continued his march toward the front. At the stripe all-time track Sportsman winner Paul Guererri held on for third behind Ridley and Root, with Bristol edging Matt Guererri at the line for fourth.
Bristol (119) tops the point standings followed by Paul Guererri (112) and Root (110).
“Last week we were just trying to work out some bugs, hadn’t run the car this year up to that point,” said Ridley, who waited until August to post his one win last season, eventually climbing to ninth in the final point standings. “Figured we’d start in the back and see how far we could get. We actually did pretty good and finished 10th with no cautions, which is pretty good considering a lot fast cars were here racing on a real fast track. Tonight we decided to race and here we are.”
The MEM 305 Sprint Car A-Main was literally the fastest of the night as it took just six minutes to cover a 10-mile distance in the caution-free 20-lap winged affair. Hopewell’s Ruggles wrestled the lead away from ’17 LOLR points champ Jason Whipple on lap seven then staved off every challenge from season-opening victor Johnny Kolosek to capture his division-high 36th win on the hallowed half-miler.
“Last year it took me four weeks to get (victory lane),” said Ruggles, 53, in defense of the 305 title for the fourth time in his life-long racing career at Canandaigua. “Last week we had a terrible car, worked on it pretty hard all week and changed a bunch of parts. Just can’t thank everybody enough on this total team effort.”
As soon as Ruggles powered into the lead, it was Kolosek securing second to set up a dazzling dirt trackin’ duel despite a 35-year age gap separating the two racers. By the midway point Kolosek trimmed the deficit to 3/10-sec. and with five laps left dove underneath before Ruggles quickly regrouped and sped on to a decisive eight car-length victory as a pair of lapped cars set back runner-up Kolosek at the wire.
“The track was awesome tonight, there were 2-3 lanes to work from,” added Ruggles, who finished third a week earlier steering his familiar ‘safety yellow’ no. 48jr. Danny Willmes Enterprses-VanBortel Trucking/Eagle sporting a Mike Mastin-built engine. “I saw Johnny inside there for a few minutes and I said ‘better get going’ because I was getting lazy driving. I just started to run real hard at the end, don’t really know how close he was then as I just didn’t let up.”
Ruggles’ daughter Alysha Bay settled for third after posting a DNF last week while Whipple salvaged fourth ahead of Brandyn Griffin. Kolosek (116) leads Ruggles (112) on the points chart through two events with a round three rematch set for Saturday evening.
Mirroring the opening day Street Stock feature when a late-race caution flag flew to set up a one-lap run to the checkers, the second installment was far from a reflection as DePuy had to survive a valiant effort from Mike Welch to match his week one triumph in Canandaigua’s only stock car class.
“A lot tougher race tonight, these races are getting tougher and tougher and the cars are getting better and better,” remarked DePuy, 45, after claiming the first two full-fender feature events for the second straight season. “(Welch) ran me clean, can’t complain about that, it was a great race.”
Still in search of his first stock car win, Parker Smith and Jimmy Grant brought the 19-car field to the Bakers Exterminators Flagstand and the drop of starter Scott Hixson’s where Grant would jump out to an early lead. Welch, Quinn Sutherland and DePuy stayed in sight before the the first yellow flag came on lap five.
Sutherland looped his mount by himself sliding out of turn one, with low running Smith and high-line racer Marc Minutolo taking evasive action to avoid the backward-facing #57j car before Bob Buono slammed into Sutherland’s parked Chevrolet Malibu wagon. Back under green, Canandaigua’s winningest stock car driver Welch moved to the point, followed in his tire tracks by fourth-starting DePuy.
Carl Whittaker’s #69r Chevy Camaro bounced off the turn four concrete retaining wall and limped around the track to slow the action once more on lap seven. And it was on the restart that DePuy forged the final lead change, with Welch holding off Minutolo at the halfway mark.
Grant improved to third with five to go with the last lap shootout providing a chance to overtake Welch, who had his own sights set on dethroning DePuy. Chris Beyea slowed down the back chute and William Bradley Jr. spun in turn four simultaneously to incur the final caution forcing DePuy to relive the last half-mile.
Welch made a beeline for the inside lane as soon as the green flag flew to pull side-by-side with DePuy as the lead duo crossed the line with one to go. But just like last week, it was the no. 99 IFreeze Storage & Distribution Center-A.E.Y. Enterprises-Fox’s Auto/Chevrolet Camaro out front at the checkers as Welch and Grant could only settle for podium finishes.
“Thought I gave it away on that last restart,” divulged DePuy, following Canandaigua career win #39 for the defending points king. “Saw the double-zero get underneath me so I just buried it into (turns) one and two and was like ‘please stay.’ Had no clue how the top side was as we were running the bottom and (Welch) was on the top more so I didn’t know what we were going to do to be honest. Either going to go out of the ballpark or we were going to stick.”
“This is the second week driving the car. I’ve driven with leaf springs my whole life and this has coils. Haven’t changed anything since we bought (car) so we’ll just keep rolling with it,” DePuy added, who remains atop the standings with 120 points followed by Minutolo (106), Welch (104) and Grant (102).
For the second straight week the Sportsman ‘B Feature’ put an exclamation point on the Saturday Spectacular with first-time winner Garrison Krentz from Pendleton (near Lockport) taking home the $100 top prize.
Last year’s Sportsman Legends regular Tyler Vinson paced the pack along with Nick Cooper before seventh-starting Krentz reeled in the front-runners. Krentz displaced Cooper on lap seven then put his no 56 WNY Amateur Sports-Mark’s Plumbing/Bicknell machine ahead of Vinson the next lap en route to establishing a convincing 2/3-straightaway victory margin.
“There’s grip on the bottom, that’s where it was at tonight and the car was running good there,” said Krentz, a two-time Sportsman winner last summer at Ransomville Speedway closer to home out west. “Would’ve rather won the the other feature but we had a radiator cap blow off in the consi so that ended any real chance.”
The first individual to be honored in 2019 on the Land Of Legends Wall of Fame this coming Saturday is the late engine-builder Milt Johnson, father of long-time Canandaigua competitors Alan and Danny Johnson. Johnson joins his son Alan, pioneer driver Dutch Hoag, ‘Barefoot’ Bob McCreadie and prominent promoter Glenn Donnelly as charter member WoF inductees from a year ago.
While Johnson’s crowning glory in Canandaigua came as Sportsman points champion in 1961, his greatest impact was measured outside the cockpit as his renowned engine-building business B&M Speed Shop assembled powerplants for such nationally recognized race winners as Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Lou Lazzaro, Billy Rafter and Merv Treichler.
Johnson’s pre-race induction ceremonies on May 18 highlight a ‘Saturday Spectacular’ filled with Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock racing plus a full card of CRSA 305 Sprint Car action. Next Saturday’s show also marks the first handicapped features of the season, in lieu of the ‘heads-up’ format instituted during the initial two season-opening events.
A Shoot Out For Soldiers Benefit raffle will also be held during the night with race time set for 7 p.m. Pit gates unlock at 4:00 and grandstand seating opens at 5 p.m. Hot laps go green at 6 o’clock.
With the 56th season finally underway, 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 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 – May 11, 2019
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($2,000), 2. 49-Billy Dunn, 3. 3-Justin Haers, 4. 7f-Matt Farnham, 5. 25-Erick Rudolph, 6. 23-Kyle Coffey, 7. 14j-Alan Johnson, 8. 19w-Justin Wright, 9. 11j-James Sweeting, 10. 21x-Eric Williams, 11. 63-Adam Roberts, 12. 44v-Phil Vigneri III, 13. 77-Lance Dusett, 14. 12x-Dillon Groover, 15. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 16. 22-Jeff Daugherty, 17. 10-Patrick Hoopes, 18. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 19. 27j-Danny Johnson, 20. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 21. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: A.Johnson, Haers, Williams, Farnham, Groover, Daugherty, Payne.
#2: Tegg, Dunn, Sheppard, Sweeting, Podsiadlo, Vigneri, Roberts.
#3: Rudolph, D.Johnson, Dusett, Coffey, Maier, Wright, Hoopes.
Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 20x-Kevin Ridley ($750), 2. 34-Kevin Root, 3. 7-Paul Guererri, 4. 31-Kane Bristol, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri, 6. 25g-Nick Guererri, 7. 29g-Steve Gray, 8. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 9. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 10. 1x-Andrew Smith, 11. c21-Jeff Davoli, 12. 2-Loren Lincoln, 13. 86-Matt Steffenhagen, 14. 117Jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 15. 9-Tim Baker, 16. 00-Sam Hoxie, 17. 01-Doug Smith, 18. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 19. 7z-Zach Payne, 20. 1L-Bob Henry Jr., 21. 2k-Anthony Kimble, 22. 11n-Ricky Newton, 23. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 24. 28a-Alex Payne.
B-Feature (12 laps): 1. 56-Garrison Krentz, 2. 35-Nick Cooper, 3. 93-Tyler Vinson, 4. 77-Benny Karlsen, 5. 4-Keith Stevenson, 6. 92-Wesley Hayes, 7. 20-Dan Gardner, 8. 08-Kirk Reynolds, 14n-Dwight Nichols(DNS),
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Newton, Kimble, Z.Payne, F.Guererri, Hoxie, Hayes, Nichols, Gardner, Steffenhagen.
#2: Ridley, P.Guererri, Lincoln, Henry, Baker, Krentz, Borden, Karlsen.
#3: Root, Bristol, N.Guererri, A.Payne, D.Smith, Castelletti, Vincent, Cooper.
#4: Gray, Stanton, Davoli, A.Smith, M.Guererri, Lloyd, Reynolds, Stevenson.
Consolation (10 laps)
#1: Lloyd, Castelletti, Steffenhagen, Borden, Hayes, Vincent, Cooper, Karlsen, Stevenson, Reynolds, Krentz, Nichols(DNS), Gardner(DNS).
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 2. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 3. 48a-Alysha Bay, 4. 38-Jason Whipple, 5. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 6. 66-Erik Karlsen, 7. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 8. X-Dan Bennett, 9. 13t-Trevor Years, 10. 99-Andy Jacobus, 11. 18c-Dan Craun, 12. 53-Tom Fletcher, 13. 8g-Bobby Gardner.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Kolosek, Griffin, Bay, Craun, Karlsen, Fletcher, Gardner.
#2: Whipple, Ruggles, Jacobus, Pruchnik, Years, Bennett.
Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 99-Adam DePuy, 2. 00-Mike Welch, 3. 36-Jimmy Grant, 4. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 5. 55p-Parker Smith, 6. 37x-Carl Johnson, 7. 02-Brad Steinruck, 8. 86L-Casey Wagner, 9. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 10. cj1-Dave Guererri Jr., 11. 8-Nick Rizzo, 12. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 13. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 14. 33-William Bradley Jr., 15. 122-Chris Beyea, 16. 11j-Jeffrey Lalonde, 17. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 18. 64-Bob Buono, 19. 34q-Jason Quigley.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Smith, DePuy, Minutolo, Buono, Guererri, Metcalf, Beyea.
#2: Grant, Johnson, Hobbs, Whittaker, Wagner, Lalonde.
#3: Welch, Sutherland, Steinruck, Rizzo, Bradley, Quigley.
Adult Demolition Derby (30 entries).
1. 121r-Justin Riley($800), 2. 42w-Toby Wise($400), 3. 57-Jerry Ott($200).
NEXT EVENT: Saturday Spectacular, May 18 @ 7pm; CRSA Sprint/Big-Block Modified/Sportsman/Street Stock with Shoot Out For Soldiers Benefit and Legends Inductee Night #1.
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Along with recognizing its weekly 50/50 raffle fund beneficiaries, 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 current division sponsors Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Mike Emhof Motorsports, Pepsi Geneva Club Beverage, Smith Bros. Drywall; event sponsors Admar Construction Equipment & Supply Company, American Equipment, A-Verdi Storage Containers, Geneva Club Beverage, Honeoye Auto Parts/Auto Value, Hoselton Chevrolet, Pepsi/Mountain Dew/Lipton Lake Beverage, L&L Transmission & Towing, Main Energy, Red Osier Restaurant, Sherwin Williams Paint, Tradition Automotive Group, Young Real Estate Agency; promotional partners Champion Power Equipment, Dig Safely New York 811, Dobbers Sports Bar, Elab Smokers Boutique, Hoosier Racing Tire, Ontario County Fairboard, Radio 95.1 Rochester, Star Headlight & Lantern Co., VP Racing Fuels, Weedsport Hall of Fame, Wright Beverage.