Canandaigua, NY – May 29, 2021 – Tom Skibinski, Land of Legends Raceway PR
With a bounty hanging over their head on VP Lubricants Night, Pepsi Big-Block Modified star Matt Sheppard and Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock standout Jimmy Grant remained perfect at Land Of Legends Raceway, each scoring their third straight feature win to close out the month of May in Canandaigua.
The $2,000 triumph for ‘Super Matt’ to kick off the Memorial holiday marked his 400th trip to victory lane since making the inaugural visit in 1999.
“It’s something to be proud of, Canandaigua has been really good for my milestones,” remarked Sheppard, who collected his first-ever trophy at LOLR in the DIRTcar Sportsman division before going Big-Block racing in 2003. Now with 84 BB wins in wine country, the Waterloo pilot has cracked the winner’s circle at 49 different tracks up and down the east coast in the U.S. and Canada. “My first win was here, my 200th, 300th and now my 400th all here. Certainly a special place.”
After suffering a post-race mechanical infraction the week prior, reigning LOLR points queen Alysha Bay redeemed herself with a dramatic win over dad Darryl Ruggles in the Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car class while a last turn, last lap pass rewarded Zach Sobotka with another thrilling Speed Connection Sportsman victory. First-year Canandaigua campaigner Jeremy Trank closed out a truly super ‘Saturday Spectacular’ with his first-ever Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock win at the historic Ontario County Fairgrounds oval.
Filing in 12th on the starting grid, Sheppard wasted little time charging under and around the competition before breaking into the front-5 after just seven times around in the headline 35-lapper. Logging his first qualifying heat race win, upstart Robbie Johnston from Lockport paced the 19-car field before Gil Tegg Jr. moved to the point on a lap two restart.
Tim Fuller slowed with a flat right-rear tire on the opening circuit to shuffle the deck, with scoresheets already showing ‘Super Matt’ speeding into the top-10. Erick Rudolph chased down Tegg for the second exchange up front on lap 11, at the same time veteran Alan Johnson coasted to the homestretch infield with the familiar #14J Friendly Ford/Bicknell mount suffering terminal engine issues.
Sheppard had grabbed third from Johnston on lap eight then overtook Tegg for second on lap 13 while Justin Haers and Peter Britten moved up the leaderboard to challenge. Shadowing Rudolph for a half-dozen circuits, Sheppard ducked low in turn four steering the potent #9S Hurlock Auto&Speed-Westmoreland Golf Glub-St.Lawrence Radiology/Bicknell entry and the battle for runner-up laurels was all that remained with 15 laps to go.
“This car has just been so good here,” said Sheppard, with three of his six wins in 2021 registered at the fairgrounds. “This is the car I ran the first week, found something that’s definitely been to our liking. Its just a pleasure to drive and man, its fun when you’ve got a race car that good.”
Sheppard built up a commanding lead as the laps clicked off but a second yellow flag suddenly flew on lap 34 for the slowing car of Daniel Johnson Jr. to put Rudolph on his bumper for a final dash to the stripe. Back under green ‘Super Matt’ pulled away at will although ninth starting Haers edged Rudolph by a nose for his second straight runner-up feature finish in three attempts.
Britten outlasted Tegg for fourth while Johnston held on for a career best sixth-place tally ahead of Fuller, Vic Coffey, Matt Farnham and Justin Wright.
Pre-empting the Modified main, the 25-lap Sportsman finale ran off caution-free the last 15 circuits to set up another dramatic finish in open-wheel competition. While hard luck Kane Bristol led all but one of the initial 24 laps, Sobotka hustled his no. 38 Stirling Lubricants-Stoneburg Construction-Mohawk Northeast/Bicknell ride to the front just 300 feet from the checkers to match his opening night result.
“With five (laps) to go definitely didn’t think I had anything for Kane,” divulged Sobotka, after stretching his early season points lead over Matt Guererri by a 185-170 margin. “I messed up in (turns) three and four and he got away a little bit. The lapped car car definitely helped me reel him back in … that was a close race, still can’t believe it.”
Bristol out-gunned pole-sitter Sam Hoxie at the drop of chief starter Scott Hixson’s first green flag, with the lead duo pulling away from the 24-car pack until Tim Lafler slowed at the end of the front straightaway to incur caution around the speedway. Already blasting from 20th to 13th for the ensuing lap three restart, Sobotka took advantage after a mid-pack scramble forced out another yellow flag on lap four.
Paul Guererri looped out of turn four resulting in a mass scramble and when the dust cleared Zach Payne and Loren Lincoln sat sideways in the aftermath. Sobotka improved to fourth with just five laps scored while Matt Guererri in 11th waited patiently for traffic to clear.
Yellow lights flashed for a third and final time when Frank Guererri Jr. stopped high exiting turn one, and the restart had Sobotka third and Matt Guererri in seventh. Ricky Newton edged ahead of Bristol for just one lap when racing resumed then fell to third when Sobotka went low to complete lap 13. Alex Payne and Matt Guererri joined the front-5 fray while a hard-charging Zach Payne rallied to grab 6th on lap 16.
Three car-lengths separated the top-2 with a handful of laps remaining, and that difference further diminished as the leaders approached traffic with just two to go. Sobotka snuggled up to Bristol’s rear bumper entering turn three on the final circuit and in a last-ditch effort clung to the low lane sliding underneath in turn four to thwart Bristol’s bid for gold.
“Just tried to drive it in as hard as I could in that last corner without sliding up into him and make it stick,” Sobotka recalled. “He entered in the middle a little and I entered a little bit lower and got the bite. He had a great race leading the whole thing. That sucks (for him) because I’ve lost ’em just like that here last year, but it was still a great race.”
“Starting 20th with 25 laps you almost need to go (full) right from the first lap. I definitely got a pretty good start and that’s pretty much everything in these cars. Passed I think 9 cars in the first corner, everyone just slipped up. Don’t know what went on with that first restart, everybody got jumbled up and was a lot of brake checking going on. So that ended up working out in our favor,” Sobotka added.
Rising star Alex Payne started 11th and advanced to third at the line ahead of Matt Guererri and Newton followed by fast-moving Zach Payne and WNY invader Zachary George.
A solid field of 32 Sportsman teams allowed LOLR promoter Paul Cole to stage a B-Main for the first time this season. The final event on the card produced the closest finish of ’21 as Canandaigua mainstay Nate Peckham behind the wheel of his self-sponsored blue no. 90 HigFab machine nipped J.T. Speering by a mere .009-sec. to pocket the $100 top prize.
“Was going to go home after not making the feature,” said Seneca Falls’ Peckham, a 12-time Street Stock winner, who earned his lone Sportsman A-Main triumph at Canandaigua in 2015. “I just threw a bunch of stuff at it and things worked out.”
Eric Years placed third ahead of Kennedy Payne and Brandon Grover, with all starters collecting $50 for the effort.
Just one week earlier on the cusp of claiming the CRSA Series stop at Land of Legends before issues in the customary technical inspection placed her last, Bay regrouped in rapid fashion to score the narrow win over her father in the 20-lap MEM A-Main.
“I was getting faster every lap and when that caution came out I thought ‘man, I’m already third,’ so I just kept chugging along and passed him,” noted Bay, 27, after her first 305 Sprint win of the season elevated the career total to 14 in Canandaigua.
Bay started seventh and while Ruggles swept around early leader Jason Whipple on lap three, the pink and white Mastin-powered no. 48A Batzel’s Auto Service-Danny Willmes Ent.-Alysha’s Cut & Curl/Eagle entry was riding comfortably in the front-five.
Young Jordan Hutton moved into second on lap seven yet the first-year LOLR runner scraped the inside cement barrier exiting turn three to send the #66 JB Farms & Logging-Longley Dodge-Travis Florist/Eagle pitside after just eight laps. Bay was making tracks on her mission to the front, holding down third on the ensuing restart and securing the runner-up slot at the halfway mark ahead of Kyle Pierce, Brandyn Griffin and pole-sitter Whipple.
Dicing with her dad over the next five circuits, Alysha dove under Darryl between turns one and two and the 2020 track champion cruised home uncontested for a convincing 10 car-length victory. Ruggles, Griffin, two-time ’21 winner Bobby Parrow and Ethan Gray rounded out the top-five at the line.
“I don’t ever want (Ruggles) to let me win, so when we race side by side it IS racing side by side,” Bay added. “He’s just any other racer out there in my book. My car’s really good on the bottom, that’s how my crew sets it up. Its just awesome, that’s all I can say.”
Not that he needed it, but ’13’ proved lucky for Grant after he started inside row seven and sped on to take his third consecutive full-fender victory in three tries.
“Put up some more bounty money,” exclaimed a jubilant Grant in victory lane in response to Prouty’s Bar posting a $100 bounty bonus to any driver able to unseat Grant, as well as Sheppard, atop the podium after three weekend romps. “This car will go wherever you want it to, its just amazing.”
Second-generation driver Brad Steinruck Jr. jumped out front early before 10th starting C.J. Guererri took over the top spot in a daring three-wide maneuver. Guererri ducked low across the stripe to complete lap five, pinning Steinruck between himself and Jared Hill running the high lane.
Not wanting to miss out on all the fun, Grant rocketed from fourth to second on lap 10, and performing his own three-wide stunt alongside Guererri and southern tier hotshoe Dylan Cecce, forged the final lead change with five to go. Grant’s black #36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Washburn Excavating entry motored on unchallenged, with Mike Welch snatching away second from Cecce on a late-race restart.
“Tonight was a lot more fun, rather do this every week,” said Grant, referring to his opening season wins when he led all but seven of the 40 circuits in a pair of 20-lap feature events. “That was a stiff field. I knew Dylan was here and he’s a freakin’ wheelman and just to run with him and somehow outrun him, that’s a blessing. But this is what we work for.”
“Today’s my (late) dad’s birthday and my mom’s here from Texas, so this win’s for my old man. This car is still the ‘Wild Willy Special’ and going from 13th to first is one for the book,” beamed Grant, posing on the frontstretch among a throng of his most faithful family and friends.
While winning features has become a habit for Sheppard and Grant and appearing old hat for Sobotka and Bay, Trank is the newest legend in Canandaigua after reaching victory lane in his first full season contending at the fairgrounds.
“This means everything,” stated an emotional Trank, who joins defending Hobby division points king Tyler Burnell, Casey Wagner, Brian Lloyd, Marc Minutolo and Justin Eldredge on the elite list of LOLR winners in the second year for this entry-level class of race car. “My dad raced here way back in the 80s, he didn’t have the opportunity like I did so I can’t thank him enough.”
Placing fourth and seventh in his first two outings this season at LOLR, Trank stormed from fourth to first on the opening circuit and outlasted pole winner Willy Grant the entire way en route to the memorable 15-lap victory.
After a flat tire forced Burnell pitside on lap eight, last week’s winner returned to steal third from Wagner on lap 13 while Marc Minutolo doing double-duty placed fifth for the third consecutive Saturday.
“Raced last year at Outlaw (Speedway), decided to come over here this season and give it a shot, think we’re gonna stay here,” declared Trank, after parking his no. 15K Comfort Zone Heating & AC-Al’s Artesian Water-Manchester Financial Services Chevrolet Camaro in Canandaigua’s cherished winner’s circle. “Didn’t really try to focus (on leaderboard), just kept hitting my marks and doing what I did to keep the lead.”
“Picked this car up from Bubba Burnell (Tyler’s father) a couple years ago. Can’t thank enough Tracy Dunn Motorsports for such a great looking body, all the guys in the shop and Creekside Racing, and everyone that helps out and supports,” added Trank, sporting a festive red and blue mullett just in time for his inaugural trackside interview commemorating the holiday.
Land Of Legends Raceway kicks off its first full month of action on June 5 featuring two open-wheel classes and a pair of full-fender divisions with area hotshots dicing it out for top dollar at the popular Routes 5 & 20 ova. Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds headline the iFreeze Storage & Distribution Center show, joined by a complete card of Speed Connection Sportsman, Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock and Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock racing. Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car teams have the night off.
A GRASP (Greece Residents Assisting Stray Pets) Benefit raffle will also be held during the night with practice leading off the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ at 5:30pm followed by heat race qualifiers for all four divisions beginning promptly at 6:30pm. Pit gates open at 3:30pm and spectators are admitted into the main grandstands at 5 o’clock.
HURRICANE IN SATURDAY FORECAST
With special ceremonies missing from the schedule last year due to COVID-19 concerns, the first individual to be honored in 2021 on the Land Of Legends Wall of Fame this coming Saturday is veteran Canandaigua campaigner Steve Paine.
Springboarding from instant success found in the full-fender ranks when he won his first street stock race his first night out at Canandaigua in 1979, the ‘Hurricane’ continued to make his mark with the mighty Modifieds. This quiet yet calculating chauffeur from the CNY racing hub of Waterloo captured a current track record 11 point titles and collected 94 Big-Block feature wins in a career spanning five decades contending at the hallowed Ontario County Fairgrounds half-miler.
Paine joins 2018 LOLR WoF charter members Donald ‘Dutch’ Hoag, ‘Barefoot’ Bob McCreadie, DIRT Motorsports founder Glenn Donnelly and still active ace Alan Johnson along with Class of ’19 inductees Steve Pesarek, Milt Johnson, Gary Montgomery and Gary & Donna Spaid in Saturday’s timely tribute staged behind the main grandstands following practice sessions.
Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – May 29, 2021
VP Lubricants presents Saturday Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard($2,000), 2. 3-Justin Haers , 3. 25-Erick Rudolph, 4. 21a-Peter Britten, 5. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 6. 33j-Robbie Johnston III, 7. 19-Tim Fuller, 8. 23c-Kyle Coffey, 9. 7-Matt Farnham, 10. 19w-Justin Wright, 11. 56-Garrison Krentz, 12. 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 13. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 14. 21xEric Williams, 15. 27j-Daniel Johnson Jr., 16. 14j-Alan Johnson, 17. 77-Lance Dusett, 18. 29m-Ed Lawrence(SB), 19. 17-Marcus Dinkins.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Johnston, Tegg, Sheppard, Coffey, Haers, Britten, Wright, Stougtenger, Williams.
Russell Smith Family #2: Rudolph($50), Fuller, A.Johnson, Farnham, D.Johnson, Dusett, Maier, Lawrence, Dinkins, Krentz.
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 38-Zach Sobotka ($750), 2. 31-Kane Bristol, 3. 70a-Alex Payne, 4. 12g-Matt Guererri, 5. 11n-Ricky Newton, 6. 7z-Zach Payne, 7. 36m-Zachary George, 8. 61-Andrew Jacobson, 9. 132-Dalton Martin, 10. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 11. 25g-Nick Guererri, 12. 21v-Tony Velez, 13. 42d-Daryl Nutting, 14. 00-Sam Hoxie, 15. 9-Tim Baker, 16. 7x-Troy Sperring, 17. 7-Paul Guererri, 18. 93-Rich Vinson, 19. 3-Justin McKay, 20. 2-Loren Lincoln, 21. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 22. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 23. 51-Tim Lafler, 24. 28-Jordan Moden.
B-Feature (15 laps): 1. 90-Nathan Peckham, 2. 7j-J.T. Sperring, 3. 04-Eric Years, 4. 31k-Kennedy Payne, 5. 42-Brandon Grover, 55-Mike Nardozzi(DNS), 10-James Nardozzi(DNS), 35-Nick Cooper(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Bristol, Newton, A.Payne, George, M.Guererri, Borden, Grover, J.Nardozzi.
#2: Sobotka, P.Guererri, Jacobson, Moden, McKay, Years, M.Nardozzi, Cooper.
#3: Z.Payne, Martin, F.Guererri, Lafler, Vinson, Nutting, Lincoln, T.Sperring.
#4: N.Guererri, Lloyd, Velez, Baker, Hoxie, Peckham, J.T. Sperring, K.Payne.
Consolation (8 laps)
#1: Nutting, Borden, Lincoln, T.Sperring, Peckham, J.T. Sperring, Grover, K.Payne, E.Years, M.Nardozzi, J.Nardozzi, Nick Cooper(DNS).
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48a-Alysha Bay ($500), 2. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 3. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 4. 53-Bobby Parrow, 5. 17e-Ethan Gray, 6. 9k-Kyle Pierce, 7. 38-Jason Whipple, 8. 2-Randy Years, 9. 13t-Trevor Years, 10. 77-Matt Rotz, 11. 66-Jordan Hutton, 12. X-Dan Bennett, 18c-Dan Craun(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Whipple, Hutton, Griffin, Bay, T.Years, Craun, Bennett.
#2: Pierce, Ruggles, Parrow, Rotz, Gray, R.Years.
Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 36-Jimmy Grant, 2. 00-Mike Welch, 3. 77-Dylan Cecce, 4. 74d-Dennis Cummings, 5. 55p-Parker Smith, 6. 5c-Rick Crego, 7. 9-Aksel Jensen, 8. 14a-Lanson Albanese, 9. 93-Jared Hill, 10. 510-Brad Steinruck Jr., 11. 34q-Jason Quigley, 12. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 13. 37x-Carl Johnson, 14. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 15. 63-Mike Fellows, 16. cj1-C.J. Guererri Jr., 17. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 18. 57j-Adam DePuy, 19. 64b-Bob Buono, 20. 36w-Chris Beyea, 24j-Marcus Springer(DNS), 55b-Blane Smith(DNS).
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Hill, Albanese, Quigley, Cummings, Steinruck, Crego, Buono, Beyea(DNS).
#2: Grant, Guererri, P.Smith, Johnson, Jensen, Springer, Metcalf(DNS).
#3: Cecce, DePuy, Welch, Hobbs, Minutolo, Fellows, B.Smith.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 15k-Jeremy Trank, 2. 36-Willy Grant, 3. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 4. 42-Casey Wagner, 5. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 6. 36ww-Jeff Hand, 7. 28-Brandon Barron, 8. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 9. 13b-Brian Lloyd, 10. 86L-Shawn Lloyd, 11. 54m-Scott Mack.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Trank, Grant, Eldredge, S.Lloyd, Barron, Mack.
#2: B.Lloyd, Burnell, Wagner, Minutolo, Hand.