Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – BATAVIA, NY – When the roofs come off, the racing gets good.
Night one of the Topless Nationals weekend took place Friday night at the Genesee Speedway, with two RUSH Touring Series invading the town. In addition to the Crate Late Model NE Series, the Sprint Series also joined forces for the third time at Genesee, the two series race together.
Joe Martin and Michael Duritsky Jr. came to John Veach’s green for 30 laps around the 1/3 mile facility. The front row remained side by side on the start until turn four when Duritsky slid behind Martin, giving the latter lap one.
A lap later, in turn, three, John Waters got into the back of Duritsky, sending him around for the first yellow of the race.
“He slowed going down the backstretch. I thought he broke, and then he kind of came down. It was just a racing deal,” Waters told RPW.
In the restart, in turn one, Jason Genco stalled trying to get his #29J into the pits, bringing the yellow out. It was not until a lap later, though, as Waters powered through the outside to take the lead and count lap two.
On the restart, Jon Rivers slid to a stop in turn two, leading to a re-do. Waters held serve on Martin and third-place Jeremy Wonderling until track promoter Jim Johnson slowed down the back straightaway, ending his night in an annual one-off race.
Stack them up again on lap seven, and Waters kept the lead while Wonderling challenged for P2. Wonderling in his #3J pulled within half a car length but could not find room to pull up. Around lap 10, Ryan Frazee slowed down the back straight. Austin Allen did not expect him to slow down, eventually running into his rear and being hooked. The two would slow and bring out the yellow.
A big wreck would break out a lap after the restart, involving Frazee, Andy Michael, Chad Homan, Austin Allen, and Dave DuBois. The latter suffered the most damage of all drivers having the right side sheered off.
The lap 11 restart would begin the longest run of the race. Wonderling looked up the middle in one and two but couldn’t hold his ground. He would challenge Martin for P2 on lap 13, trying the outside of the first set, no momentum would stick. Waters opened the bottom for Martin in three and four past the cross flags to provide a challenge. Martins in the #10S tested the bottom groove for laps, and with 11 laps to go, he would finally get it to work clearing for the lead. Waters tried to fight back until Rivers slowed again in three and four with ten to go.
On the final restart, Martin, surprised to many, selected the inside and did not fire well compared to Waters. The front row stayed door to door, and then Waters kept the power in three and four to regain control of the troops. Martin held the inside for many laps, even getting up to his quarter panel, but would not work as John Waters scored his first RUSH Late Model Series win in at least three years.
“He [Martin] made us earn that one,” Waters said. “He had a set of hard tires on, and we had a set of softs. Once he got past me, my tires were overheating on me, and they were hanging a little bit in the center. When that caution came out, I knew that was our next break to get back around him and hold him off for the last ten laps.”
On Martin’s restart decision, Waters said, “I was surprised, but I know he was really good down there. That’s where he made his pass, that’s where he figured he had to be.”
Seven yellows flew, including six in the first ten laps.
The Sprint Cars put on a fantastic caution-free race on the opposite end of the caution spectrum. While only nine cars were on track, Gale Ruth Jr. and Chad Ruhlman had an excellent finish.
The two had a great battle in the first six laps, along with Ryan Fraley in the struggle. Fraley would lose time later on to the top two. In the second half, Ruhlman was all over the rear end of Ruth. With eight to go, Ruhlman jumped into the bottom waters looking for the lead but couldn’t get the drive on the exit of turn four. He then tried the extreme outside with Ruth on the neutral groove, but that didn’t work. It looked like a good enough gap for Gale Ruth Jr. to pull away and win with five to go, but not yet.
Two to go, Ruhlman was within a car length of Ruth, who had led the first 18 laps of the going. Ruhlman stayed right on his tail at the white flag and in one and two, as Ruth slid it more in the center and exited to play defense. Hello Ruhlman! The slingshot was engaged, getting on the power first down the back chute. The pass stuck for Chad Ruhlman, leading only one lap, the most important lap, to make him 4-4 in RUSH Sprint Car Series races at Genesee Speedway.
“I tried hitting that cushion absolutely as hard as I could every lap. I was hoping to wear Gale out, but I couldn’t,” Ruhlman explained in victory lane. “It was a fun race with him, racing our hearts out. I’m sure it will look the same tomorrow night.”
Ruhlman’s strategy was, “With about 10 to go, I saw his brakes start to get really hot. I wanted to dive underneath him and get him to come down the racetrack, so I could have clean air and sail it into turn one. When he went down to block, then I knew that was my only chance. If I would’ve done it a lap earlier, he would’ve done the same to me that lap.”
In preliminary Sportsman action at Genesee, Phil Vigneri III had a tremendous long-run car to pass Brett Senek on lap 17 and win his fourth feature of the season.
Josh Pangrazio returned to Genesee and put on a spanking. Leading 19-of-20 laps in a caution-filled Street Stock feature.
One of the more interesting post-race scenarios you’ll see at a race track comes in the Mini Stock feature. While Dante Mancuso led all twenty laps, he was disqualified for failing post-race inspection. The same went to runner-up Bill Weller Jr. Rich Conte went from 3rd to 1st in a snap for his second Genesee win.
The season at Genesee concludes tomorrow night for night two of the Topless Nationals at 6pm. It is also the final race for promoters Jim and Pam Johnson.
For interviews with Waters, Ruhlman, and Vigneri III, head to the RSN Trackside Facebook page.
RUSH Late Model Series (30 Laps)
11L John Waters, 2. 10S Joe Martin, 3. 3J Jeremy Wonderling, 4. 90J Michael Duritsky Jr., 5. 39J Jimmy Johnson, 6. 225 Bud Watson, 7. 87S Brad Mesler, 8. 99 Kyle Hardy, 9. 91 Chad Homan, 10. 94 Jason Knowles, 11. 11F Ryan Frazee, 12. 13 JJ Mazur, 13. 129 Brian Kotarski, 14. 12 Beamer Guzzardi, 15. 21BD Billy DuBois, 16. 94X Austin Allen, 17. 7 Brian Knowles, 18. 85 Jon Rivers, 19. 1 TJ Downs, 20. 012 Dave DuBois, 21. 17X Andy Michael, 22. 93J Jim Johnson, 23. 29J Jason Genco, 24. 7E Carl Endridge
Heat Winners: 99 Hardy, 90J Duritsky, 10S Martin
Sportsman (25 Laps)
Phil Vigneri III, 2. Brett Senek, 3. Chas Wolbert, 4. Noah Walker, 5. Randy Chrysler, 6. Cody Wolfe, 7. Kyle Richner, 8. Dave Conant, 9. Jim Harbison, 10. Dalton Martin, 11. Ray Bliss, 12. AJ Custodi, 13. Cam Tuttle, 14. Brandon Michaud, 15. Mark Potter, 16. Byron DeWitt, 17. Ryan Barrett, 18. Sam Hoxie, 19. Jessica Kriegisch, 20. Gordy Hermanson Jr., 21. Allison Dewitt, 22. Ray Bliss Jr., 23. Dan Kolb, 24. Ricky Newton
Heat Winners: Vigneri, Senek Wolfe
RUSH Sprint Car Series (20 Laps)
68 Chad Ruhlman, 2. 24 Gale Ruth Jr., 3. 12 Ryan Fraley, 4. 43JR Blaze Myers, 5. 41 Steve Pedley, 6. 57N Tyler Newhart, 7. 69 Brian Hartzell, 8. 69X AJ MacQuarrie, 9. 9J Chris Shuttleworth.
Heat Winner: 24 Ruth
Street Stocks (20 Laps)
Josh Pangrazio, 2. John Zimmerman, 3. Joe Chamberlain, 4. Bill Taylor, 5. Tommy Kemp, 6. Tom Baker, 7. Shawn Hazlett, 8. Dan Schulz, 9. Dale Rissinger, 10. Pat Hobbs, 11. Jacob Vick, 12. Dennis Cummings, 13. Phil Schepis, 14. Chuck Mogavero, 15. Brandon Sherwood, 15. Jesse Qutermous, 16. Mike Kelly, 17. Sherman Gage, 18. Dave Bansmer, 19. Mike Childrose, 20. Pat Powers
Heat Winners: Zimmerman, Schulz, Kemp
Mini Stocks (20 Laps)
Rich Conte, 2. Rocco Conte, 3. Don Whiteside, 4. Brad Whiteside, 5. Andrew Gayton, 6. Olivia Coniber, 7. Jessica Schleede, 8. Shauna Knapp, 9. Alexis Traxler, 10. Gary Hopkins, 11. Tom Knapp, 12. Travis Hayes, 13. Mike Becker, 14. James Gayton, 15. Nick Hawthorne, 16. Don Hermanson, 17. Ian Paul, 18. Dante Mancuso, 19. Bill Weller Jr.
Heat Winners: Weller, Rich Conte, Don Whiteside