By TIM BALTZ
AKWESASNE, NY – On a night where Mother Nature decided she wanted to try and take over, the staff at the Mohawk International Raceway decided to fight back and in the end the track saw beautiful weather with hot temperatures which made the racing action just as intense as the heat, and also impressed the good people at Smoker’s Warehouse who were on hand as title sponsor.
The 29th running of the Memorial Cup sponsored by Frenchie’s Chevrolet and Frenchie’s Ford for the Twin Leaf Stores 358 Modifieds was set for 50 laps and was also the first of 3 races in the MIR 358 Modified Series. Pole sitter Jeremy LaSalle jumped out to the early race lead over Corey Wheeler, Lee Ladouceur, TimFuller and Louie Jackson Jr. On lap 5 LaSalle’s lead would be in danger as Tim Fuller made his way to 2nd and would quickly take over the top spot with LaSalle falling to 2nd. Just as he has done in the previous 2 events at the speedway Fuller raced out to a commanding lead but some drivers behind him were starting to make a charge forward. Chris Raabe the 2011 Cup champion, was on the move from 11th as he broke into the top 5 by lap 17 with Ladouceur, LaSalle and now Lance Willix jumping to 5th. Meanwhile Fuller just continued to click off the laps and had built a near 7.5 second lead at the halfway point and seemed untouchable again on this night. On lap 27 the yellow flew giving Chris Raabe and others a clear shot at the leader. When the green flew Fuller took the lead but Raabe tried the top lane in turn 1 with Ladouceur, LaSalle and Willix completing the top 5. On lap 31 the yellow flew as John Mulder went off the track in turn 2. This was a key restart for Raabe as the green flew he muscled by Fuller in turn 1 to take over the number 1 spot leaving Ladouceur to dice it up with Fuller for 2nd with LaSalle and Willix the top 5. Raabe had started to open up a big lead as Ladouceur took 2nd and ran down the race leader. On lap 46 the great run for Jeremy LaSalle went away as he slowed in turn 2. The caution would again fly 1 lap later for Brian McDonald as he hit the wall on the backstretch ending his solid run as well. On the final restart it was a 3 car battle for the win as Raabe led the way but Lee Ladouceur was digging on the bottom with Fuller close by in 3rd. Despite all the challenges to start the year Chris Raabe took a brand new car to the lead and held on for his 2nd career Memorial Cup and first win of 2018. Ladouceur held on for 2nd with Fuller, Willix and Louie Jackson Jr. taking 5th at the checkers.
In the 25 lap Crossroads Tobacco Sportsman event it was pole sitter Ricky Thompson taking the early race lead over Miguel Peterson, Cedric Gauvreau, Johnathon Ferguson and Devin WIllis. The bottom side of the speedway had come in quite nice on this night and Thompson was strong down low pulling away from a quality field in the early laps. On lap 6 a solid run went bad in a hurry for Devin Willis as he hit the front stretch wall. Willis was unhurt but the car was done for the night. On the restart it became a great 3 car battle for the top spot as Thompson led with Gauvreau 2nd and 9th place starter Brianna Ladouceur also made her way forward taking 3rd while Johnathon Ferguson and Chris Frennier made up the early race top 5. By halfway Thompson and Gauvreau had driven away from the field while Ladouceur still kept the top 2 in her sights while Stabler and Ferguson completed the top 5. Thompson appeared like he was going to run off to a sure win but the caution flew on lap 23 resulting in a key restart for Brianna Ladouceur. When the green flew it was Thompson in control but Ladouceur quickly took 2nd and almost took the lead in turn 1, but Thompson shut the door. heading into turn 3 coming for the white flag Thompson made a small mistake as he drifted off the bottom giving the preferred groove to Ladouceur who snuck by to take the lead. From there Brianna Ladouceur would march on and end a yearlong winless drought taking her first win of the season. Ryan Stabler charged forward picking up 2nd with Gauvreau 3rd, Thompson faded to 4th and Johnathon Ferguson kept his strong 2018 campaign going with a 5th place effort.
The Green’s Performance Mod Lites took to the speedway for a 15 lap affair and Dan Reif wasted no time jumping to the lead over Deric Ellsworth Harley Brown Nick Mallette and Allyson Prince. Reif would lead the opening 3 laps but Deric Ellsworth would charge by to take over the top spot. On the same lap opening day winner Brad Reif would slow with a problem on the front stretch bringing out the yellow. On the restart it was still Ellsworth comfortably in front over Reif, Brown, Mallette and Prince. As the race approached halfway Ellsworth showed no signs of slowing down as he held a comfortable advantage over the field. In the closing stages lapped traffic started to come into play and this was the last shot Dan Reif had. Entering turn 3 on the final lap Ellsworth stayed in line with the lapped cars as Reif dove to the bottom but he couldn’t make it work. Deric Ellsworth would charge through and hold off Dan Reif to score win number 1 of the year with Harley Brown, Nick Mallette ad Allyson Prince completing the top 5.
In Novice Sportsman rushed out into the lead early with new comer Jason Bonnett and Jason Rose completing the top 5. On lap 6 Perrin had company as Bonnett took over the lead and began to pull away from the field as Perrin, Rose, Brian McGinnley and Corbin Millar filled out the top 5. As the laps wound down it appeared nobody was catching Jason Bonnett in his MIR debut. But coming to the white flag off turn 4 Bonnett went too low and clipped and infield tire causing a broken front end on his machine and the yellow flew. This left Jason Rose in front when the raced returned to green. Despite a last ditch effort by Kurt Russell, it was not to be, as Jason Rose would hold on to score his first ever win in the Novice Sportsman ranks at Mohawk. Russell settled for 2nd with McGinnley, Millar and Eugene Tarbell completing the top 5 drivers.
A small field of Bandit drivers did not lack in action department at all on this night as Nick Perham set the pace early on over Mike Pecore who was looking for back to back victories. Both Perham and Pecore made it a 2 car show at the Front as Shane Ray tried to keep pace. As the laps wound down in the 10 lap event Perham was doing all he could to hold Pecore at bay. With the race going caution free, and 1 last effort on the final lap Nick Perham would hold on and become the 3rd straight first time winner in the Bandit class. Pecore held on for a solid 2nd place run while opening day winner RJ Tressider, Gary Sharlow and Ian Bressett rounded out the top 5.
Next the Twin Leaf Stores 358 Modifieds and Bandits have the night off as the Empire Super Sprints make a visit to Mohawk plus the first appearance of the year for the Quebec Lightning Sprints. The Crossroads Tobacco Sportsman and Green’s Performance Mod Lite division will be in attendance as well. Racing begins at 7:30pm
Twin Leaf Stores 358 Modified(Memorial Cup)
CHRIS RAABE, Lee Ladouceur, Tim Fuller, Lance Willix, Louie Jackson Jr., Corey Wheeler, Matt Woodruff, John Mulder, George Foley, Simon Perreault, Madison Mulder, Brian McDonald, Jeremy LaSalle, Larry Welling Jr., Gage Morin, Ryan McLean
Heat Winners: Louie Jackson Jr. and Madison Mulder
Crossroads Tobacco Sportsman
BRIANNA LADOUCEUR, Ryan Stabler, Cedric Gauvreau, Ricky Thompson, Johnathon Ferguson, Robert Delormier, Mike Stacey, Miguel Peterson, Chris Frennier, Thomas Cook, Styles Arquiett, Joel Hargrave, Kristian Smoke, Anthony Rasmussen, Delbert Legrow, Delbert Legrow Jr., Jamy Begor, Billy Cook, Greg Snyder, Andy Howard, Richard Thornton, Junior Delormier, Mike Trapp, Devin Willis
Heat Winners: Johnathon Ferguson, Miguel Peterson and Cedric Gauvreau
Green’s Performance Mod Lite
DERIC ELLSWORTH, Dan Reif, Harley Brown, Nick Mallette, Allyson Prince, Jason Premo, Scott Sharpe, Cameron Reif, Matt Fregoe, Steve Comeau, Josie Fortier, Karine Thibeault, Tim Reif, Brendan Villnave, Brad Reif
Heat Winners: Dan Reif and Deric Ellsworth
JASON ROSE, Kurt Russell, Brian McGinnley, Corbin Millar, Eugene Tarbell, Lee Barcomb, Joshua Pete, Dale Gonyo, Jonathan Rush, Jason Bonnett, Xavier Perrin
Heat Winners: Xavier Perrin and Jason Bonnett
NICK PERHAM, Mike Pecore, RJ Tressider, Gary Sharlow, Ian Bressett, Shane Ray, Michael White, Terry Lamica
Heat Winner: Nick Perham