RPW Column: Rudolph Takes 358-Mod Opener At Ransomville; Whiteside Shines In Thrilling Kulesza Memorial

Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – RANSOMVILLE, NY – The 63rd season opener at Ransomville Speedway did not disappoint. For the first time in 608 days, checkered flags flew over the start/finish line.

The Mini Stocks were scheduled for 36 laps around “The Big R” in a tribute race to Mackenzie Kulesza, an 11-year old who died tragically following a car accident in November 2020. Over $3000 in lap sponsorship and $1000 in lap contingencies for the memorial were awarded to the mini stock field, making this race the most prestigious 4-cylinder race in New York State this year.

To begin the event, the field stood at a truce on the front straightaway with Mackenzie’s father Tony leading the way in a Cole Susice-owned car. Each driver was given a balloon and released into the Western NY air. A parade lap took place double file, except Tony, who led the field in the honorary lap.

When the race began, Curtis Rung and Tim Durfy took the front row to begin the race. Rung got a significant start on the inside line in turns one and two bringing Brad Whiteside with him. Whiteside would take a peek inside of Rung in a side-by-side battle for three straight laps until Whiteside could clear down the backstretch before the first yellow came out. The restart then saw Chris Leone and James Gayton get a significant jump over Rung to take second and third. As the two duked it for the second spot, behind them on lap seven saw Curtis Rung spin while running fifth into the outside wall in turn three.

The lap eight restart saw Chris Leone have the better jump over Whiteside and take the lead. Lap 10, fans were given a treat as Whiteside kept trying the bottom while Leone was up. It was a door-to-door battle for the top spot, and then Whiteside cleared for the lead six laps later. Lap 18 brought another yellow as Rick Neamon laid fluid on the track.

Race director John Nelson announced on the one-way radios during the caution that the race was reduced to 25 circuits due to the yellows in the feature and an attempt to speed up the program. On the final restart, Leone had another great restart on the outside. Still, Whiteside found an opening on the bottom to remain deadlocked. However, with three to go, Leone had an issue in turn two and dropped back to give Whiteside his first win of the year.

“It’s a big deal,” Leone told RPW after the win. “It’s terrible to lose a child; I got two kids at home I can’t even imagine. We wanted to come here and put on a good show. We always race really good with Chris and Cole. It was a lot of fun. I’m tired; the car is wounded. We got a lot of work to do in the morning, but it was a blast.”

Leone said his car was starting to break up with three to go after passing Leone for the lead. It is crucial to get it fixed as tomorrow he takes his #46 to Genesee Speedway tomorrow for double features.

Tony Kulesza finished 4th position after starting from the back half of the field. He spoke pre-race on the legacy Mackenzie left behind and how much she loved racing.

“When dad was out there racing, she was the first one at the fence. She loved the sport; she learned a lot of people in the sport,” Kulesza said. “The racing community has been great. Obviously, the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. As soon as I announced this on my personal Facebook page, my phone was nonstop; people have been great. We got a pretty good turnout.”

The 358 Modifieds took to the “Big R” later. It was a short run battle early on between defending 2019 track champion Erick Rudolph and defending Super DIRTCar Series/DIRTCar 358 Modified Weekly champion Mat Williamson. Rudolph held serve throughout the first four laps until the first yellow for a slow John Smith. The first restart saw Williamson edged Rudolph on the restart to take the lead, but not for long as Gil Tegg Jr. suffered damage to his left rear in turn three. Rudolph would answer back with a good restart of his own to pull even with Williamson and lead lap on lap five by inches until Smith brought out another caution. It was a near 25-lap green-flag run to the end that saw Rudolph hold serve on the restart. He increased his gap to Williamson by 1.3 seconds as he approached lap traffic, then took the checkered flag by 2.0 seconds. This is Rudolph’s second win of 2021 and started the weekly season off right.

“We were fortunate enough to start on the pole, having a heavy hitter next to us in Mat Williamson. I knew he wasn’t going to be easy to get away from. On that longer run, I just found a nice groove, nice momentum, and were able to pull away just a little bit, a little bit of comfort zone, and were able to get by the lapped cars pretty easily too,” Rudolph said post-race. “Makes me look forward to coming back here in the coming weeks to see how the track develops week after week.”

Rudolph will take his big-block modified to Land of Legends Saturday night, where he’s got a good car and setup there. Says anything is possible after momentum from tonight but has “as good of a chance as anybody” when asked about their season opener.

Other winners included Scott Kerwin tonight from the pole in the Sportsman division along with 2018 class champion Pete Stefanski in the Street Stocks and Dylan Duhow in the Novice Sportsman.

79 cars signed in for Opening Night at Ransomville. Of those 79, 25 were mini stocks.

Next week, Ransomville Speedway presents another full card of racing. The pit gates open at 5pm, while the stands open at 6. Racing begins at 7:15pm.

For interviews with Rudolph, Whiteside, and Kulesza, plus an interview with Mat Williamson, check out the RSN Trackside Facebook Page.

Mini Stocks (25 Laps)
46 Brad Whiteside, 2. 98 Cole Susice (1.385s), 3. 6 Ashley Harbison (6.305s), 4. 98M Tony Kulesza (7.905s), 5. 26 Dave Dussault (9.056s), 6. 62 Chris Leone, 7. 52 Anthony Hermanson (12.019s), 8. 62x Chuck Cala (12.042s), 9. 53 Nevin Hazel (14.021s), 10. 20 Jeffrey Wynes (14.782s), 11. 8H Chris Miller (-1L), 12. 7 Mike Becker (-5L), 13. 68 Adam Filer (-7L), 14. 12 Rick Neamon (-7L), 15. 23jr Brandon Acor (-10L), 16. 93 Ryan Plante (-12L), 17. 727 Brian Gregory (-13L), 18. 10 James Gayton (-18L), 19. 37 Cody Griffin (-18L0, 20. 24R Curtis Rung (-19L), 21. 1 Dante Mancuso (-21L), 22. 11 Matt Hornquist (-22L), 23. 17 Brian Melcher (-22L), 24. 14s Ron Seefeldt (-23L)
Heat Winners: 62 Leone, 46 Whiteside, 93 Plante

358 Modifieds (30 Laps)
25 Erick Rudolph, 2. 6 Mat Williamson (2.076s), 3. 3 Chad Brachmann (5.734s), 4. 38 Ryan Susice (8.249s), 5. 11j James Sweeting (11.526s), 6. 4 Greg Martin (16.704s), 7. 33j Robbie Johnston (21.255s), 8. 20k Kyle Inman -1L0, 9. 55c Jesse Cotriss (-1L), 10. 9 Jonathon Reid (-1L), 11. 11s Steve Lewis (-1L), 12. 12J Nick Joy (-1L), 13. 9J Jeff Jepson (-1L), 14. 26 Ricky Richner (-26L), 15. 22 Gil Tegg (-27L), 16. 678 John Smith (-27L)
Heat Winners: 38 Susice, 3 Brachmann, 20k Inman

Sportsman (25 Laps)
1K Scott Kerwin, 2. 111b Brett Senek (1.966s), 3. 99 Brett Martin (2.909s), 4. 22x Noah Walker (6.318s), 5. 61 Derek Wagner (6.908s), 6. 104 Zack Sam (7.094s), 7. 35T Cam Tuttle (7.320s), 8. 68 Dave Dipietro (9.690s), 9. 1s Andy Smith (10.761s), 10. 132 Brandon Michaud (12.076s), 11. 26 Kyle Richner (12.359s), 12. 07 Brian Harris (13.565s), 13. 63 Jessica Krigisch (15.883s), 14. 36M Scott George (-11L), 15. 81 Austin Susice (-12L), 16. 25 Derek Borkenhagan (-24L), 17. 28 Jodan Modem
Heat Winners: 111b Senek, 35T Tuttle, 61 Wagner

Street Stocks (20 Laps)
2 Pete Stefanski, 2. 4 Mike Kramarz (9.673s), 3. 10 Jaren Israel (11.942s), 4. 14p Pat Dell (16.406s), 5. 55D Chris Dziomba (-1L), 6. 34 Tommy Bowen (-2L), 7. 43 Anthony Gutherie (2 place penalty for post-race contact), 8. 37 Roger Isreal (-8L), 9. 5 Randy Zimmerman (-17L), 10. 02 Mark Loveland, 11. Dan Korpanty (DNS)
Heat Winner: 4 Kramarz

Novice Sportsman (15 Laps)
14d Dylan Duhow, 2. 2 Sam Junkins (2.304s), 3. 26 Greenley George (3.024s), 4. 71 Jake Bansmer (3.646s), 5. 79 Brandon Close (6.892s), 6. 07w Kenny Washburn (7.130s), 7. 42 Colby Adamczyk (8.201s), 8. Brad Duhow (DNS), 9. Robert Henning (DNS)
Heat Winner: 07w Washburn

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