Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – CANANDAIGUA, NY – “Lightning” struck at Land of Legends Raceway as Larry Wight made a surprise return to the track he won his 2020 championship and scored a season-opening win.
Last year, Wight would run Brewerton/Fulton, so why not race the 358 Series on the high banks of Fulton Saturday night?
“We got the Big Block and STSS car rolling really good,” Wight told RPW post-race. “I’ve got the one 358 car at the shop ready to go if need be. We really want to focus on the Big Block and try and get that thing as best as we can before some of these bigger races.”
An excellent move for Wight as he scored his 3rd DIRTCar win of the year, previously winning last weekend at Albany-Saratoga and Orange County.
The field reached Scott Hixson’s green in what would be a caution-free 30-lap feature. “The Doctor” Danny Johnson would get away early and lead the opening laps, while defending champion Justin Haers would make his way up through the field and get into P2 three laps in.
Lap four was when Wight would start to make his move. Upon his trademarked “Lightning Lane,” it would take 2.5 laps to go from fourth up to the lead, passing Johnson on the outside.
Peter Britten didn’t get off to the best start falling outside the top five early. “The Batman” took notes from Wight’s high side to get past Payne and defending Super DIRTCar champion Matt Sheppard 11 laps complete.
At the halfway point, the race for the runner-up spot turned into a four-way frenzy in lapped traffic as Johnson, Haers, Britten, and Sheppard. Haers would finally overtake a lap later in three and four while pulling away from the latter two.
Nobody had anything for Wight as he rocketed away with a 6.1-second win over Haers, with Britten rounding out the podium.
“I watched Justin Haers up there get around Zach Payne,” Wight explained on his race-winning move. “It looked pretty juiced up there. Way out on the edge, it was kind of one of those deals where we’re not really looking to run for points, all about racking up the wins. We took a chance, ran up there one lap, felt the bite, and had something to roll on.”
Wight is committed to competing for the championship at Orange County Fair Speedway. Last week, his win locked him into their Final 8. Because of that, Wight will run Saturdays at LOLR until he has to return to OCFS.
“We were able to lock in that win, so we’re in that point title at the end of the year,” Wight said. “We’re probably gonna run here as it’s a lot closer to home and see what we can do.”
Other notable surprises to the entry list included a championship contender last year. Erick Rudolph did not show up in Canandaigua, as he was in Fulton for the 358 Series race. 2020 Gerald Haers Memorial winner Chris Hile also showed up to the season opener, not racing there on Saturdays last year.
In the Sportsman class, Karl Comfort returned to LOLR Victory Lane for the first time in nearly six years to win the first qualifier in the Sportsman Challenge.
New to 2022, the Land of Legends offers a challenge pitting 30 of the best Sportsman drivers for a winner take all event come September. The first qualifier event would transfer the top four drivers into the championship race.
Along with Kane Bristol, Comfort made the front row for 25 circuits. Comfort would get off to a smooth start until the first yellow for a stopped Frank Guererri in turn two.
In under a half-second, on lap 12, Bristol would close into Comfort’s gap. The former would only be able to follow Comfort and hope he wouldn’t make a mistake. With around ten laps to go, the class’ lone red flag would fly as Tony Velez would get trapped into the ding weeds, leading to an extensive tow.
In the now single-file restart, Zach Sobotka would be the first to test the outer groove from fourth. He would beat Paul Guererri across the line for third but couldn’t get close enough to get to Bristol. Eventually, Guererri would get Sobotka back.
Once again, Sobotka trying the outside line wouldn’t work after a final restart with four laps left following a spin in turn three. Karl Comfort scored his 23rd career win in Canandaigua, putting him 6th on the all-time list at the ½ mile facility. It would be his first since June 2016.
“It was pretty good through the race, but on restarts, every time I got on the throttle, it fell on its face. After that, the thing was on rails,” Comfort said in a ROC Sports Network post-race interview. “I can’t wait to be in that [championship] race. It’s gonna be awesome. I guess we’re going to be here all year now.”
Bristol, Guererri, and Sobotka joined as the first four transfers to the championship race this September.
Notable entries included Nick Guererri returning for the first time since his flip at Weedsport in July, finishing 6th. Tyler Corcoran would return to Canandaigua in the Halmar #64, finishing 7th. Defending Street Stock champion Jimmy Grant moved to the Sportsman class and finished 10th. Nicholas Root, son of former Sportsman champion, turned Big Block driver Kevin Root, finished 14th.
Tonight, other winners included Darryl Ruggles in 305 Sprints, Josh Pangrazio in Street Stocks, Wayne Ellison in Hobby Stocks, and Greenley George in the New Legends Sportsman feature.
Approximately 96 cars checked in tonight.
Next week at Land of Legends Raceway is the Ovens Memorial dedicated to Stewart and Brad Ovens. Stewart, a former race winner on the fender side of things at LOLR, and Brad, a former producer for Land of Legends TV, passed away during the offseason. Hot laps are at 5:30pm, while racing is at 6:30.
Head to the RSN Trackside Facebook page for more soundbites with Larry Wight and Karl Comfort.
Big Block Modifieds (30 Laps)
99L Larry Wight (10:25.190), 2. 3 Justin Haers (6.140s), 3. 21a Peter Britten (8.870s), 4. 9s Matt Sheppard (10.314s), 5. 27j Danny Johnson (13.365s), 6. 7z Zach Payne (13.702s), 7. 14j Alan Johnson (14.480s), 8. 19 Tim Fuller (14.539s), 9. 23c Kyle Coffey (14.720s), 10. 34 Kevin Root (16.155s), 11. 5H Chris Hile (17.469s), 12 11J James Sweeting (19.473s), 13. 70a Alex Payne (20.794s), 14. 33J Robbie Johnson (1L), 15. 48T Dave Rauscher (1L), 16. 17 Marcus Dinkins (1L), 17. 21p Derrick Podsiadlo (1L), 18. 88 Dave Allen (2L), 19. 7a Troy Sperring (7L), 20. 22g Gil Tegg Jr. (8L), 21. 36 Ben Bushaw (8L), 22. 10m Henry Maier, 23. 7s Torrey Stoughtenger (9L), 24. 57 Daniel Johnson (26L)
Heat Winners: Danny Johnson, Larry Wight, Kevin Root
Fastest Lap: Larry Wight 19.999s (Only time in 19s in feature)
Sportsman (25 Laps)
10 Karl Comfort (19:16.689), 2. 31 Kane Bristol (0.852s), 3. 7 Paul Guererri (2.047s), 4. 38 Zach Sobotka (2.912s), 5. 12g Matt Guererri (3.264s), 6. 25g Nick Guererri (3.614s), 7. 64 Tyler Corcoran (3.789s), 8. 18 Gavin Eisele (4.639s), 9. 18h Justin Henderson (5.247s), 10. 36 Jimmy Grant (5.999s), 11. 1m Tyler Murray (6.584s), 12. 51 Tim Lafler (7.077s), 13 132 Dalton Martin (8.730s), 14. 30 Nicholas Root (8.996s), 15. 00 Sam Hoxie (9.433s), 16. 23b Tim Borden (10.203s), 17. 9 Tim Bakers (1L), 18. 21v Tony Velez (11L), 19. 55r Dan Reif (13L), 20. 113 Frank Guererri Jr. (20L), 21. 28 Mark Potter (20L), 22. 132 Dalton Martin (DNS)
Heat Winners: Justin Henderson, Dalton Martin, Paul Guererri
Fastest Lap: Karl Comfort 20.523s
305 Sprints (20 Laps)
48J Darryl Ruggles (13:45.583), 2. 75 Brandyn Griffin (2.410s), 3. 48a Alysha Bay (2.975s), 4. 53 Bobby Parrow (4.892s), 5. 66 Jordan Hutton (11.046s), 6. 13t Trevor Years (15.409s), 7. 18c Dan Craun (1L), 8. 38 Jason Whipple (1L), 9. 18 Timmy Lotz (1L), 10. 77 Matt Rotz (16L), 11. 121 Steve Glover (17L), 12. 23 John Smith, 13. 17e Ethan Gray, 14. 2 Randy Years
Heat Winners: Bobby Parrow, Alysha Bay
Fastest Lap: Darryl Ruggles (18.259s)
Street Stocks (20 Laps)
7 Josh Pangrazio (9:18.629), 2. 99 Adam Depuy (4.970s), 3. 25b Marc Minutolo (7.684s), 4. 57j Nick Dandino (11.303s), 5. 5c Rick Crego (12.384s), 6. 00 Mike Welch (13.111s), 7. 93 Jared Hill (14.085s), 8. 87 Carl Johnson (15.579s), 9. 9 Aksel Jensen (18.542s), 10. 122 Chris Beyea (20.058s), 11. 510 Brad Steinruck Jr. (20.496s), 12, 55p Parker Smith (21.128s), 13. 3 Pat Hobbs (-1L), 14. 24j Marcus Springer (-1L), 15. 12s Dakohta Sharpe (-1L), 16. 34q Jason Quigley (-1L), 17. 63 Mike Fellows (-1L)
Heat Winners: Mike Welch, Josh Pangrazio
Fastest Lap: Josh Pangrazio (21.444s)
Hobby Stocks (15 Laps)
18 Wayne Ellison (8:45.026), 2. 57b Frank Burnell (5.032s), 3. 90 Nate Peckham (5.356s), 4. 25j Justin Eldredge (5.709s), 5. 61 Daniel Kerrick (10.374s), 6. 25b Marc Minutolo (10.657s), 7. 57J Tyler Burnell (11.333s), 8. 55d Chris Dziombia (11.697s), 9. 17jr Jamie Eldredge Jr. (12.880s), 10. 17j Jamie Eldredge (14.111s), 11. 17a Jon Allmenkinder (17.739s), 12. 126 Chuck Cala (19.606s), 13. 85x Alex Dykes (11L), 14. 5 Don Slover (11L), 15. 88 Justin Jacoby
Heat Winners: Wayne Ellison, Frank Burnell
Fastest Lap: Wayne Ellison (22.848s)
New Legends Sportsman (12 Laps)
26 Greenley George (7:14.438), 2. 42 Colby Adamczak (3.614s), 3. 56a Angel Sperring (9.244s), 4. 31k Kennedy Payne (12.001s), 5. 57 Justin Liechti (12.184s)
Heat Winner: Colby Adamczak
Fastest Lap: Greenley George (21.076s)