By Rich Vleck
BATAVIA, NY- Even though the weather forecasts didn’t predict the 2023 season at Genesee Speedway would kick off on Saturday, the weather system just skirted the fairgrounds and allowed for an entertaining, yet chilly, night for racing.
Action and drama was aplenty on the opening night, including in the Late Model class with contact in the heat races sending a buzz across the grounds. In the feature though, it was a local veteran who held off the most dominant car of 2022 in a 10-lap duel.
Jon Rivers, of Basom, led all 25 laps en route to the victory, including holding Jeremy Wonderling at bay after a restart on lap 15.
“It feels good to finally go and prove we can beat (Wonderling),” stated Rivers after the win. “These guys worked all offseason on this car. We’ve got a really good piece.”
Rivers jumped out to an early lead of nearly three seconds by lap three, but Wonderling quickly reeled in the No. 85 by running nearly a half-second quicker than the leader. Once catching Rivers, however, “Mr. Excitement” fell back to about a half-second behind, an interval that would remain the rest of the race.
The feature’s only caution fell on lap 15 and everyone was expecting a slide job from the No. 3J, but Rivers made sure to power away and make sure no such move was possible. He would drive off to a comfortable win to match his 2022 feature win total in just one race this year.
Wonderling’s seven-race winning streak at Genesee would be snapped with his second-place result, while defending Track Champion Doug Ricotta ran third. Bill Holmes and Dave DuBois completed the top five.
When defending Sportsman Champion Phil Vigneri III inherited the lead on lap three it looked like his No. 12v would run off to a comfortable victory, but it was a timely caution that would help him get to the win.
Vigneri, of Elba, took the lead on lap three when leader Jordan Moden suffered a broken right rear shock and held a comfortable lead for a few laps but would soon feel pressure from veteran Randy Chrysler. Chrysler began to run him down using the top of the track until he suffered a terminal failure on lap 12. On the ensuing restart, Adam Hilton began to challenge Vigneri for the lead only to have the caution wave just as he was setting up the pass. The next restart Hilton was alongside the No. 12v when the caution came out again. That was just the break “PV3” needed to stay in front.
“We had luck go our way a number of times tonight,” admitted Vigneri in Victory Lane. “We got right to the front and then Adam had me if that caution didn’t come out. I heard him off of (turn) four one other time and knew the bottom was going away but on that restart he was alongside and I needed that break.”
After nearly losing the lead to Hilton, Vigneri moved up to the top line and found his car to perform just the way he needed. He held a comfortable advantage on the top and forced Hilton to search elsewhere on the track, to no avail, and would have to settle for second. Veteran Ray Bliss drove up from 13th to finish in third while Bill Bleich went from 14th to 4th. Polesitter Dave DiPietro broke on the initial start but would rally back to round out the top five.
Byron Dewitt was the dominant force in the Street Stock Feature, leading all 20 laps without much of a challenge to score the opening night win. Dewitt, of LeRoy, purchased a new car during the offseason after selling off his sportsman equipment and with all of his focus on his street stock, the early dividends paid off for the two-time division champion. As Dewitt was running off to the win, Dennis Cummings ran a solid event to finish in second. Tommy Kemp fended off Dale Rissinger for third while John Zimmerman rallied from a mid-race incident to get back inside the top five.
James Gayton picked up right where he left off last year in the Mini Stock Feature as the defending track champion drove off to win the 15-lap event by more than 8 seconds. Gayton knew he had a comfortable car and it was able to go anywhere which allowed him to pull away from a spirited battle for second, which saw Don Whiteside fend off heat winner Cole Susice for the runner-up position. Aric Schosek and Alexis Traxler fought hard to round out the top five.
The Novice Sportsman Feature was a prime example of why it is sometimes better to be lucky than good and that was the case for Joe Mickey, who was running second on the final lap when leader Jericho Gurney slowed entering the final set of corners and allowed Mickey to drive by and score his first career feature victory. Mickey, of Elba, who only made three career starts before Saturday Night, felt that his car was comfortable but just didn’t have enough for Gurney’s No. 39J until the closing lap. With Mickey moving up to take the win, Noah Pangrazio would move up to steal second while Zack Bleich rounded out the podium.
In the Bandit Feature, Raiddan Wilson had a fast car all night long, but on the opening lap of the feature he went over the banking in turn 3, causing a caution; Wilson was not deterred in the least, as he put his No. 77 back in the lead by the end of the next lap. Wilson, along with Joey Swick and Seth Johnson were immersed in a tight battle for the lead on lap five when contact was made with the trio. After the ensuing restart, Wilson would run off to win his first career feature at Genesee while Johnson took until the final lap get by Swick to finish in second.
Racing action returns next Saturday Night with another “Super 6 at 6:00” Program, presented by Kolb Family Automotive. For more information, visit www.Genesee-Speedway.com.
Genesee Speedway Results: 4/22/2023-
Cummings Trucking RUSH Late Model Feature (25 Laps)- JON RIVERS, Jeremy Wonderling, Doug Ricotta, Bill Holmes, Dave DuBois, Chad Homan, JJ Mazur, Bill Taylor, Billy DuBois, Jimmy Johnson (DNS).
Lap Leaders- Rivers 1-25.
Heat Winners- Rivers, Ricotta.
Stirling Lubricants Sportsman Feature (25 Laps)- PHIL VIGNERI III, Adam Hilton, Ray Bliss, Bill Bleich, Dave DiPietro, Tony Pangrazio, Chris Hawkins, Tyler Guzzardi, Jacob Bansmer, Dave Conant, Ryan Barrett, Kyle Richner, Randy Chrysler, Dan Kolb, Jordan Moden, Greg Mrzywka.
Lap Leader- Moden 1-2, Vigneri 3-25.
Heat Winners- Chrysler, Moden.
Yasses Trucking and Construction Street Stock Feature (20 Laps)- BYRON DEWITT, Dennis Cummings, Tommy Kemp, Dale Rissinger, John Zimmerman, Sherman Gage, Mike Kelly, Jesse Qutermous, Jeff Almekinder, Kenny Begnouche, Jonathan Logsdon, Dan Brumsted, Jon Almekinder, Brandon Sherwood.
Lap Leaders- Dewitt 1-20.
Heat Winners- Zimmerman, Dewitt.
The Detail Shop Mini Stock Feature (15 Laps)- JAMES GAYTON, Don Whiteside, Cole Susice,, Aric Schosek, Alexis Traxler, Eric Brumsted, Bill Kapelke, Mike Dinehardt, Chris Horton, Kevin Napier, CJ Smith, Dan Bittinger (DNS).
Lap Leaders- Susice 1, Gayton 2-15.
Heat Winners- Gayton, Susice.
Vigneri Racing Novice Sportsman Feature (15 Laps)- JOE MICKEY, Noah Pangrazio, Zack Bleich, Jericho Gurney, Paul Marshall, John Livingston Jr.
Lap Leaders- Gurney 1-14. Mickey 15.
Heat Winner- Gurney.
Kolb Family Automotive Bandit Feature (12 Laps)- RAIDDAN WILSON, Seth Johnson, Joey Swick, Paige Gayton.
Lap Leaders- Johnson 1-4, Wilson 5-12.
Heat Winner- Wilson