Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – Land Of Legends Raceway returned to action for its first Saturday Spectacular of the month and the timing proved perfect for weekly warriors Erick Rudolph and Tim Baker to take checkered flags in the July 10 show presented by Ferris Mowers.
Second-generation standout Rudolph earned his first win of the year in the second of two Pepsi Big-Block Modified mains while Baker entered the LOLR recordbook logging his first career triumph in the Speed Connection Sportsman finale.
Justin Haers (Modified) and Josh Pangrazio (Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock) led off a second successive seven-star program with victories in a pair of events rain-delayed from June 19, joined by Brandyn Griffin (Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car), Jimmy Grant (Street Stock) and Justin Eldredge (Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock) in the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds winner’s circle.
Leading off the evening agenda in a special pre-race ceremony honoring the Class of 2001, a number of area high school graduates were recognized for their secondary school success: Emma Depew (Midlakes HS), Allie Elkins (Liverpool HS), Zach George (Wilson HS), Rachal Guererri (Marcus Whitman HS), Kayle Kimble (Canandaigua Academy), Madison Marshall (Starpoint HS), Breanna Ruggles (Canandaigua Academy), Trianna Stetzel (Midlakes HS).
After going winless for nearly four years at the fairgrounds, Haers took advantage of superb track conditions to show off his skill set and score a second victory in two weeks in the initial ‘Twin 25′ for the mighty Modifieds.
“The car was excellent tonight, we made all the right adjustments and to get two wins back-to-back, its pretty special,” remarked Haers, after staving off Rudolph to score his 16th career win in Canandaigua. “I tell you what, they’re hard to get and I’ll cherish every one I get here. It was a great race track, smooth as glass.”
Justin Wright jumped out to the early race lead before the Piffard pilot was tracked down by Western New York regular Matt Farnham on lap three, the first time out front for both drivers this summer. Yet charging forward even faster was Haers aboard his potent Finger Lakes engine-powered #3 Honeoye Auto Parts-Phelps Cement Products-FLX Home Solutions-Jeff Jolly Masonry Bicknell entry.
Eighth starting Haers from Phelps grabbed third five laps in and when Farnham bobbled briefly he dove low exiting turn four to forge the final lead change with 15 still to go. Rudolph followed in hot pursuit, overtaking Farnham for second the next time around and setting course for the number one spot.
Lap after lap Rudolph closed the gap and with three to go traffic brought the leaders together for a dynamic duel on the dirt. When the checkers finally flew in the 12-minute caution-free affair it was Haers by two car-lengths over Rudolph who settled for his fourth straight runner-up feature finish ahead of Peter Britten, Alan Johnson and Tim Fuller as Farnham faded to sixth at the stripe.
“Not sure how far Erick was behind me but I’m sure they were all coming,” added Haers following his $2,000 victory. “I got into lapped traffic and just felt I wasn’t gaining on those guys so I started moving around a little bit. Felt the bottom was almost as good as the top and obviously the top was good early on but it surely is a long way around. I got a great crew and great sponsors, fortunate to get it done again for everybody that helps me out.”
Stymied in the second slot for the past month, Rudolph finally found a faster way to the front as the ridge runner from Ransomville dominated for career win number 11 at the Land of Legends.
“We had a good night,” downplayed Rudolph, 29, whose father Charlie won 17 Modified features at LOLR from 1983-88 and now serves as his crew chief. “Even the last handful of times we’ve been here have had solid runs and podium finishes, have really had a fast car for awhile. Finally able to work traffic a little better this time and the cards kind of fell in our favor.”
Rudolph was relegated to the lucky 13th starting position after Haers drew ’14’ to invert the top-7 rows for round two of the Big-Block twin-bill. With pole-sitter Daniel Johnson Jr., Adam Roberts and Gil Tegg Jr. swapping the lead the first half of the race, Rudolph charged ahead on lap 12 and never looked back en route to the convincing straightaway victory.
Tour traveler Marcus Dinkins slowed on the second circuit while Johnson sputtered twice on lap four to incur the final slowdowns in the Modified main. As the last 22 laps clicked off non-stop, Rudolph wove his #25 reVive Spine Center-Blue Cross/Blue Shield-Mohawk NE-NMCC Bicknell ride to the front and once in the lead ran uncontested to secure the long-awaited win.
Tegg posted a season-best second-place finish followed by Haers, with Fuller and Britten collecting down top-five paychecks.
“(Tegg) had a consistent line there, I was just a little bit stronger maybe on the bottom, but he had a good car tonight,” added Rudolph, who increased his lead to eight points over Haers in the track standings through eight events, and joined Haers and Britten with top-5 tallies in every race so far. “You don’t ever know whose coming at you so you can’t really take your time running out there. You just have to run hard every lap and keep your foot down and eyes open until the end.”
Baker never let off the gas in the 25-lap Sportsman feature, leading the entire distance for his first-ever victory at the hallowed half-miler. An opening lap crash took nearly a half-hour to clear the track, yet once underway Baker completed the job in less than nine minutes to score the memorable win.
“I’m glad (race) went green to checkers after that first little mishap, hope everybody was okay,” commented Baker, a long-time contender in Canandaigua’s ultra-competitive open-wheel class. “The car was just awesome tonight.”
Front row starters Tim Lafler and Baker battled under chief starter Scott Hixson’s initial green flag before contact four rows back between Rich Vinson and Tony Velez created chaos that resulted in an immediate red flag. No injuries were reported yet no less than a dozen cars cluttered the end of the homestretch with seven parked in the pits without a single lap complete.
Rookie racer Brandon Grover’s machine was among the most visibly damaged as his #42 Batzel’s Automotive TEO Pro entry went airborne then rolled upside down before landing on all fours in the massive front chute collision. Division points leaders Matt Guererri and Zach Payne were among the fortunate as their mounts escaped seemingly unscathed in the biggest pile-up of the season.
When the green lights reappeared Baker fired ahead of Lafler as row two starters Dalton Martin and Justin McKay jockeyed for position right behind. Beginning sixth on the original 27-car grid, Ricky Newton moved into third with 10 laps scored and by the halfway mark the Hemlock wheelman had built up a commanding 10 car-length advantage over Martin with no signs of slowing down.
The lead ballooned to a full straightaway at the finish with Baker’s no. 9 Honeoye Auto Parts-Farrell Landscaping & Excavating-Clar’s Collision-Future Forest Consulting Bicknell entry out front of Martin, Newton, Payne and Guererri, who held off Lafler at the stripe despite suffering mechanical misfortune in the closing laps.
“We’ve been chasing this thing all year,” noted a relieved Baker, who joined Zach Payne, Alex Payne and Jordan Moden as a first-time winner in 2021. “When we had those double features a couple weeks ago we were out to lunch. Had a bent shock that happened on the first lap of the first race and we didn’t realize it, just put us behind the whole night so this means a lot.”
“Been a long time coming. (Dave) Marcuccilli stole a couple wins from me and stuff like that so it feels great to finally get one. Got a lot of people I have to thank, think right about now my crew guys are probably jumping out of their skin,” Baker added.
The wait to return to the winner’s circle hasn’t been nearly as long for Griffin —four weeks to be exact— yet 2021 still holds a special place for the Clifton Springs chauffeur after doubling up for the first time in his career steering a winged machine.
“Been chasing multiple wins in a season for awhile now,” smiled Griffin, who cracked the winner’s circle on June 12 and now matches current points leader Alysha Bay and Bobby Parrow with two first-place trophies this summer. “Never saw Darryl (Ruggles), but he’s always out there and you still have to race as hard as you can.”
Griffin began seventh in the 15-car sprint field and blasted into second only three laps into the headline 20-lapper, followed to the front by all-time LOLR 305 winner Ruggles and reigning track points queen Bay.
In early evening hot laps Ruggles and Ethan Gray made contact to incur a couple wild warm-up rides between turns three & four, resulting in Ruggles’ #48jr. mount sitting on its side and Gray’s #17e entry resting upside down when the red flag unfurled. Ruggles climbed into his back-up car for his qualifying heat and A-Main while Gray loaded up and missed the remainder of the show.
When Griffin ducked under Matt Rotz for the lone change on lap eight, Ruggles was right there to follow in his tire tracks before the veteran fell a half-dozen car-lengths short of the winning #75 SVRA-Scales Lawn & Landscape-Tri-County Excavating Eagle ride at the line.
“Oh man, that track is tough,” exclaimed Griffin in the aftermath of his fifth 305 victory at the fairgrounds, with one checkered flag taken annually since 2018. “Its really slick, like ice out there in these sprint cars. We managed to hit the set-up just perfect. Got a really good start, passed some cars and made it work.
“(Rotz) was definitely fast, real fast. I started chasing him and he began skating up coming out of the corners. I was trying to pass him on the outside, noticed him sliding so I dove underneath and managed to get him. Had to try something,” added Griffin, following the second caution-free feature of the fast-paced program.
Third-place finisher Bay (380) maintained her points lead over Ruggles and Griffin, both with 366 markers, while Parrow, Randy Years and Rotz chased the trio across the stripe.
The make-up 20-lap Street Stock feature from June 19 kicked off Saturday’s show before sunset and Pangrazio proved his worth from the opening green flag steering his no. 7 Skyline RV Sales&Service-Houseman Refrigeration-Cummings Trucking Ford Mustang. Maneuvering from 11th to first in just eight laps, the ‘Honky Tonk Express’ dominated to register a second straight win in as many starts.
“He must be a little upset, got into him a little bit just to move him off the bottom a little bit,” declared Pangrazio, after clearing eventual runner-up Marc Minutolo from his path en route to the defending track champ’s 12th career win in Ontario County. “Didn’t do anything intentional to take him out so no reason to be upset about that.”
Jason Quigley overtook front row partners Bob Buono and Jared Hill to lead lap one before Minutolo moved to the point the second time around with Pangrazio seizing third in his relentless charge to the front. Pangrazio improved to second on lap three and after trading paint with Minutolo for a couple more, stuck low exiting turn three to move ahead with a dozen laps left in the 10-mile main.
The Oakfield ace sped out to a 15-car length lead halfway through and when yellow lights finally flashed on lap 18, a 360-degree spin on the front chute by “Bundy” Metcalf suddenly erased a healthy 5.9-second advantage. Pangrazio never hesitated on the ensuing restart, darting under the checkers six car-lengths ahead of Minutolo followed by last-place starting Grant, and all-time Canandaigua kingpins Adam DePuy and Mike Welch.
“I think this is the best the track has ever been,” figured Pangrazio, who scored his first win at LOLR in 2018. “Its taking rubber but its soft, got a ton of grip out there.”
The charge from 17th to third in the initial full-fender feature proved a sure sign of things to come for Grant, yet authoring a late-race pass against fearless foe Pangrazio was still an extraordinary, and unexpected, feat for the Penn Yan pilot.
“Definitely needed that (caution), don’t know if (Pangrazio) tires went away or what, I was praying for that (yellow flag) and it came,” stated Grant, after his daring move down low on the final lap 18 restart rewarded him with his division-best fifth win of the ’21 campaign and a return to the top of the points chart in search of the elusive track title. “He just opened the door, don’t know why he would give me that lane but he did and I’m very grateful.”
In an odd opening lap occurrence, Marcus Springer spun in turn one to incur caution followed immediately by Jared Hill who slid high off turn three with the yellow lights on and finally right after by Rick Crego and Grant tangled up sideways in turn four. The night was over in abrupt fashion for Hill while Grant and Springer rejoined the field.
Parker Smith led lap one although on the second circuit 14th starting Pangrazio vaulted past six cars navigating high through turns three and four to rapidly reach the front-five. And after Bob Buono got turned around in the first corner dicing four-wide down the front chute to force a second slowdown, Pangrazio dove low advancing from fifth to first with only three laps showing on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, Grant failed to fold following the first lap struggle, breaking into the top-5 with a handful of laps complete before stealing second from Chris Beyea after seven circuits were scored. Grant was unable to track down the leader as the laps dwindled; that was until Welch slowed with a broken tie rod and yellow lights suddenly reappeared to provide new life for the #36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Washburn Excavating driver.
“He was faster than me I think, before that last caution came out I couldn’t catch him but under yellow I kept heat in the tires and this old beat-up thing worked,” added Grant, who began the night trailing all-time LOLR full-fender winner Welch, 380-352, and returned home the points leader by a count of 464-452. “I could see him getting further and further away and I knew I needed a caution and it came. Great night, have to thank everybody that helps make this team, obviously much more than the driver and without all of them I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Pangrazio settled for runner-up laurels three car-lengths back after Grant’s latest heroics, followed by Minutolo, DePuy and Beyea in his best finish of the season.
Eldredge left nothing to chance in the 15-lap Hobby Stock finale, also powering from fifth to first in three laps then winning by a full straightaway aboard his #25J Eldredge & Sons Scrap-Big Mike’s Auto Chevrolet Monte Carlo to remain atop the point standings.
“This car has been good all year, and just keeps getting better and better,” stated Eldredge, after a third consecutive win pushes the Waterloo driver’s season-high division total to five. “Just try to hit your marks the best you can and if you see someone just try to take away their line and play defense. Didn’t need to tonight.”
Jeremy Trank pulled away from the pack at the outset with Brian Lloyd in tow before Jamie Eldredge Jr. and Jim LaRock and Jim Claypool in their season debut were involved in a first turn scrum. Trank could only hold back Justin another half-mile, succumbing to Eldredge on lap three as he settled for second in the latest run down. Marc Minutolo, Casey Wagner and Lloyd rounded out the final front-five.
“The track was a lot smoother, even from hot laps to the heat, so we went down a little with air pressure (tires) and made a few adjustments that really helped out. “Hard to get tires hooked up but we’ve been getting better. Thanks to my dad and (Jim) LaRock, he’s helped us out a lot with fuel issues this season.”
SUPER SERIES / 360 SPRINT SHOW RESCHEDULED
The highly anticipated return of the Super DIRTcar Series and headline “Liberty 100” to Land Of Legends Raceway has to wait a little bit longer after rain came down hard in Ontario County to force postponement.
Originally slated for July 1, Thursday’s ‘Super Spectacular’ presented by Honeoye Auto Parts & Emerson Oil Company/Castrol has now morphed into a terrific Tuesday twin-bill with the Super DIRTcar Series for Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds and Lucas Oil Empire Super 360 Sprints returning to the fairgrounds on July 20.
The mid-week special marks the lone appearance by ESS in Canandaigua while DIRTcar Northeast’s premier Big-Block series returns to wine country on Wed. Aug. 4 and Sat. Sept. 18.
Pit gates unlock Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., grandstand seating opens at 5 o’clock and practice sessions start at 6:00. Modified group time trials go off the line at 6:30 then opening ceremonies at 7:00 followed by qualifying races for Big-Blocks and Sprints.
Prior to the SDS / ESS showdown, Cargill presents the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ on July 17 featuring a full card of Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Speed Connection Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint, Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock and Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock action.
An AutismUP Benefit raffle will be held during the night with practice sessions kicking off on-track activity at 5:30pm. Heat race qualifiers for all five divisions go green at 6:30pm with pit gates opening at 3:30pm and spectators gaining admittance into the main grandstands at 5 o’clock.
Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – July 10, 2021
Ferris Mowers presents Saturday Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (25 laps / *rain-delayed from 6/19): 1. 3-Justin Haers ($2,000), 2. 25-Erick Rudolph, 3. 21a-Peter Britten, 4. 14J-Alan Johnson, 5. 19-Tim Fuller, 6. 7-Matt Farnham, 7. 23-Kyle Coffey, 8. 56 Garrison Krentz, 9. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 10. 19w-Justin Wright, 11. 33j-Robbie Johnston, 12. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 13. 63-Adam Roberts, 14. 27j-Daniel Johnson, 15. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 16. 31m-Jamie Maier, 17. 1L-Jeff Lawrence, 18. 47-Brent Cross, 19. 10m-Henry Maier, 20. 77-Lance Dusett, 9s-Matt Sheppard(no show), 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger(no show).
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 25-Erick Rudolph ($2,000), 2. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 3. 3-Justin Haers, 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 5. 21a-Peter Britten, 6. 63-Adam Roberts, 7. 56-Garrison Krentz, 8. 23c-Kyle Coffey, 9. 19w-Justin Wright, 10. 14j-Alan Johnson, 11. 21-Derrick Podsiadlo, 12. 33j-Robbie Johnston III, 13. 7-Matt Farnham, 14. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 15. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 16. 10m-Henry Maier, 17. 1L-Jeff Lawrence, 18. 47-Brent Cross, 19. 27j-Daniel Johnson Jr., 20. 70a-Lance Dusett.
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 9-Tim Baker ($750), 2. 132-Dalton Martin, 3. 11n-Ricky Newton, 4. 7z-Zach Payne, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri, 6. 36m-Zachary George, 7. 51-Tim Lafler, 8. 3-Justin McKay, 9. 25g-Nick Guererri, 10. 93-Rich Vinson, 11. 38-Zach Sobotka, 12. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 13. 21v-Tony Velez, 14. 7-Paul Guererri, 15. 70a-Alex Payne, 16. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 17. 1-Andrew Smith, 18. 35-Nick Cooper, 19. 04-Eric Years, 20. 61-Andrew Jacobson, 21. 31-Kane Bristol, 22. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 23. 26-Greenley George, 24. 42-Brandon Grover, 25. 31k-Kennedy Payne, 26. 55-Mike Nardozzi, 00-Sam Hoxie(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Z.George, Z.Payne, Bristol, M.Guererri, Baker, N.Guererri, Sobotka, K.Payne, Smith.
#2: Martin, Lafler, Newton, Velez, A.Payne, P.Guererri, Grover, Cooper, Hoxie.
#3: McKay, Lloyd, Vinson, F.Guererri, Jacobson, Borden, G.George, Nardozzi, Years.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 75-Brandyn Griffin ($500), 2. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 3. 48a-Alysha Bay, 4. 53-Bobby Parrow, 5. 2-Randy Years, 6. 77-Matt Rotz, 7. 38-Jason Whipple, 8. 121-Steve Glover, 9. 18c-Dan Craun, 10. 36-Mike Stelter, 11. 4-Ray Preston, 12. 13t-Trevor Years, 13. 62-Jacob Lynch, 14. 3-Colton Donath, 17e-Ethan Gray(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Ruggles, Craun, R.Years, Griffin, Stelter, Lynch, Preston, Gray(DNS).
#2: Parrow, Bay, Rotz, Glover, Whipple, T.Years, Donath.
Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
*Feature (20 laps / *rain-delayed from 6/19): 1. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 2. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 3. 36-Jimmy Grant, 4. 57j-Adam Depuy, 5. 00-Mike Welch, 6. 34q-Jason Quigley, 7. 93-Jared Hill, 8. 64b-Bob Buono, 9. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 10. 122-Chris Beyea, 11. 99-Nick Dandino, 12. 55p-Parker Smith, 13. 9-Aksel Jensen, 14. 24j-Marcus Springler, 15. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 16. cj1-C.J. Guererri, 14a-Lanson Albanese(no show).
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 36-Jimmy Grant, 2. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 3. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 4. 57j-Adam DePuy, 5. 122-Chris Beyea, 6. 9-Aksel Jensen, 7. 5c-Rick Crego, 8. 510-Brad Steinruck Jr., 9. 64b-Bob Buono, 10. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 11. 55p-Parker Smith, 12. 99-Nick Dandino, 13. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 14. 24j-Marcus Springer, 15. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 16. 34q-Jason Quigley, 17. 12-John Burritt, 18. 87-Brandon Sherwood, 19. 00-Mike Welch, 20. cj1-C.J. Guererri, 21. 93-Jared Hill.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Pangrazio, Minutolo, Buono, Quigley, Beyea, Guererri, Burritt, Metcalf.
#2: Welch, Hill, Jensen, P.Smith, Sharp, Springer, Sherwood(DNS).
#3: Grant, DePuy, Steinruck, Crego, Hobbs, Dandino.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 2. 15k-Jeremy Trank, 3. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 4. 42-Casey Wagner, 5. 13b-Brian Lloyd, 6. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 7. 28-Brandon Barron, 8. 36-Willy Grant, 9. 18x-Jim Claypool, 10. 17j-Jim LaRock, 11. 5-Don Slover, 12. 18-Jamie Eldredge Jr.
Heat (6 laps)
#1: Trank, Minutolo, Lloyd, Ju.Eldredge, Burnell, LaRock, Ja.Eldredge, Barron, Wagner, Claypool, Grant, Slover.