Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – With double points on the line in the Mid-Season Championships at Land Of Legends Raceway, the timing couldn’t have been better for Alan Johnson to capture his second Pepsi Big-Block Modified feature win of the season and continue his climb in the summer-long track title chase.
“Never know when you’ll win again,” remarked Johnson, 64, after the veteran wheelman from Middlesex registered his all-time track best 127th career Big-Block victory at the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds. A pair of Small-Block wins in ’05 brings his grand total to 129 checkered flags collected over the past 48 years with the majority contending in Canandaigua’s headline division.
“It’s all about the race cars. Anybody in that pit area can probably win these races in our class. Just gotta have the car underneath you,” Johnson said.
Joining Johnson in victory lane for the final ‘Saturday Spectacular’ of the month presented by Seneca Meadows and Howell Properties were Justin Henderson (Speed Connection Sportsman), Darryl Ruggles (Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car), Josh Pangrazio (Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock) and Wayne Ellison (Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock), while Kasey Coffey took top honors in the MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman class.
Although Johnson started sixth in the 30-lap Modified main, a lap seven restart proved pivotal as a dramatic dash from fourth to first rewarded ‘A.J. Slideways’ with the top position, one that he would not relinquish the rest of the way.
“This car was great tonight, can’t thank Mark (Spoor, owner) enough for putting this thing underneath us,” said Johnson, after the five-time LOLR Big-Block points champion parked the familiar #14J Friendly Ford-Cargill-Conley Farms-MCS Farms & Feed/Bicknell in the winner’s circle for the second time in ’22. “Was a little worried early on, felt pretty loose and barely hanging on. But after that restart (car) seemed to come alive. You gotta take advantage of those good starting spots when you get them.”
Pole-sitter Gil Tegg Jr. charged ahead early with front row partner Derrick Podsiadlo and upstart Alex Payne in close pursuit. Hard luck hauler Robbie Johnston slowed to a stop at the end of the back straightaway to incur the first caution period, which ultimately amounted to good fortune for the Spoor/Johnson team.
Splitting high-running Tegg and Pat Ward in the low lane as soon as the green lights reappeared, Johnson bolted between the pair exiting turn two and by the time this trio reached the third corner he had secured first-place barely breaking a sweat. A flat tire suffered by Ricky Newton on lap eight did nothing to break his momentum as AJ remained in control even with the field back up to speed.
While Johnson opened up a comfortable advantage by the midway point, lap after lap Tegg and Payne battled back-and-forth for runner-up laurels. All the while thoroughbreds Peter Britten, Justin Haers, Erick Rudolph and Tim Fuller were weaving their way to the front.
A third and final yellow flag dropped when Daniel Johnson Jr. pulled off on the back chute to tighten the pack with still 10 laps to go. Payne and Tegg suddenly dropped off the pace on the ensuing lap 21 restart, with a broken right-front shock ending young Alex’s gallant effort while Tegg’s machine tightened up considerably to force him pitside with just five laps left.
Johnson never flinched as the final laps clicked off despite Britten closing to within three car-lengths under the checkers. Haers, Rudolph and Fuller filled out the final front-five.
“Don’t really know what happened, the car just came alive right after that first caution,” added Johnson, now third in points with 454 behind new leader Britten (488) and reigning champ Haers (487). “Put it in the middle of (turns) one and two, it stuck and I was able to get by those guys.”
“Hitting the brown midway through one and two was the best for me but I was a little worried down low. Had to really pinch it to stay there, was worried about somebody running up high. Just ran where I felt I was the best and stayed with it.”
Just as Johnson continues to be a household name for six decades at the fairgrounds, the Henderson family has been somewhat of a staple before and after the beginning of the newest millennium. Yet unlike AJ’s seemingly annual trips to victory lane, second-generation driver Justin from Canandaigua waited 10 years to knock off the rust in a long-awaited return to his hometown winner’s circle.
“Feels great, been 10 years to be exact,” confirmed Henderson, 36, following his 12th career Sportsman win at LOLR, his last scored on June 30, 2012. “Left the Sportsman and went to Sprints, 2012 was our last win here. Definitely been a while.”
“Ironically, the night started out bad and expectations weren’t too high after the car got jammed in gear following hot laps. We were already looking toward Thursday’s series show. Thankfully it was something small and we got going after that.”
Filing in fifth on the 24-car starting grid to begin the 25-lap Sportsman feature, Henderson survived a pair of early caution periods and a rare red flag on lap four that knocked out talented teen Nick Root as well as past winners Kane Bristol and Karl Comfort. The multi-car melee involving no less than eight cars erupted down the front stretch with heavy contact forcing Root into a barrel-roll twice before ending up on all fours in turn one. No driver injuries were reported.
Tyler Murray took away the top spot from Timmy Borden Jr. the second time around yet it was Henderson blasting by rounding turn two aboard his black #18H IM Firearms-Howie’s Auto-Ray’s Restaurant/Bicknell entry to lead his first laps with six in the books. By lap 10 the margin was up to two seconds with Murray, Paul Guererri and Tyler Corcoran hoping to contend.
Despite a final yellow flag falling when Eric Years’ mount slid off the track high in turn two with 10 laps to go, Henderson had his own agenda, eventually cruising home for a commanding three-quarters straightaway advantage at the stripe to emerge as the eighth different winner in eight events.
“There’s only one way to explain it, my crew gave me the best car there is,” declared Henderson, now 10 behind his father Todd, a two-time LOLR points titlist in Sportsman and 358-Mod competition, who racked up 22 wins from 1994 to 2012. “I could put it top or bottom, wherever I needed to go, so its all to them. After the second restart, I think we passed the same car about four times with all the different restarts, (car) was good and I knew we had something.”
“When we came back (racing), our whole goal was to get her into a victory lane picture,” added Henderson, joined in the winner’s circle on this night by 6 year-old daughter Isabella and wife Venessa. “Like growing up with my dad I was her size once, even smaller. That was about 30 years ago so this (photo) is going on the wall. This is what I did this for.”
New points leader Nick Guererri rallied from 14th starting position to grab fourth behind runner-up Murray and uncle Paul Guererri while Corcoran completed the Top-5. Guererri holds a slim 457-449 advantage over Corcoran heading into the week of Independence Day holiday specials.
While Johnson and Henderson grabbed early leads in their feature race romps, the MEM 305 A-Main was half over before Ruggles made his mark. The result was no different however as Hopewell’s hometrack hero dusted the field for a straightaway victory in the 20-lap finale.
“Since I got into this car, my daughter Alysha told me I was in the wrong car, I should’ve listened to her,” admitted defending track champion Ruggles, after climbing over Bobby Parrow on the current points chart in search of a seventh LOLR crown. His third win of the season in Canandaigua was his second of the weekend following a CRSA Series victory Friday night at Utica-Rome Speedway.
“Stayed with the old car way too long. We wouldn’t be chasing points right now, they’d be chasing me but we’ll keep working at it. This car is just absolutely phenomenal, winning twice during the weekend is pretty cool.”
Losing engine after engine in the early part of the season, Randy Years rebounded on Saturday by leading the opening 10 laps in a heated duel with Dan Craun. Ruggles methodically maneuvered through traffic from his eighth-place start until ducking under Years between turns three and four to take over for good with the final 10 circuits still to go.
Ruggles had his #48jr. Stirling Lubricants-Champion Oil-Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling-VanBortel Trucking Eagle winged machine on rails the rest of the way while Alysha Bay snagged second from Years on lap 16 to author a storybook father/daughter finish. Craun and Parrow placed fourth and fifth in the final rundown of the caution-free affair that lasted just over six minutes.
“We work a lot of hours on this car but today we didn’t do too much after Alysha blew up the motor last night,” added Ruggles, now with 45 sprint car wins at LOLR while Bay stands second all-time with 16 trophies. “So the little pink car took all my attention today and my little girl got neglected but she was still good to me. Business has been good, the race cars have been good and Alysha finished second tonight with a new motor so I have nothing to complain about.”
Among the closest calls of the night, it was WNY warrior Pangrazio outlasting Keystone State stalwart Shane Wolf Jr. by .679-sec. to earn his second 20-lap Street Stock victory of the season in Ontario County. A yellow flag a half-mile from the end set up another fantastic full-fender finish to keep scorers on their game for the duration.
“Coming to the white flag the caution came out,” hesitated Pangrazio, recalling past one lap dashes not as successful. “Don’t know how many races I’ve had where the caution came out after I took the white flag. Just kept some heat in the tires. The track was really good, was locked down on the bottom and the top there in one and two was pretty fruitful.”
“Going into turn one I heard Shane ripping the top side so I hit the apex in one and two, drove through the slick wanting to take his momentum off the top. I picked it right because I felt him nudge me down the backstretch. The guy definitely sent it into turn three, he did all he could, it was a good race.”
A good showing for early leader Chris Beyea lasted only eight laps before he spun his mount between turns one and two to force out the first of three yellow flags. Traveling northwest from his home in Susquehanna, Pa. for the second straight week, Wolf blasted from eighth to first in five laps while sixth starting Pangrazio disposed of the leader to take the point on lap seven.
In search of a second win in ’22, pole-sitter Brad Steinruck Jr. rebounded to steal second spot from Wolf halfway through followed by Marc Minutolo and Carl Johnson. Minutolo suddenly spun to a stop in turn four two laps later, done for the night affording Mike Welch his first front-five slot.
While Pangrazio pulled away at will steering his potent #7 R.J. Shafer Trucking-Skyline RV Sales & Service Ford Mustang mount, a stubborn Steinruck, Wolf, Johnson and Welch continued to trade paint in his shadow.
Coming to the white flag, the front end suddenly broke loose on the Steinruck #510 Camaro, and unable to turn left, he slowed out of turn four leaving Johnson no place to go. Contact forced Steinruck into the front wall at the starter’s stand, while Wolf survived to secure second with points leader Welch moving up to third ahead of Johnson and Jimmy Grant.
Despite having hardly any experience at the fairgrounds, Wolf’s last lap bid for victory at the hallowed half-mile came up four car-lengths shy of the Oakfield ace, with the top-five remaining intact under head flagman Scott Hixson’s checkered flag.
“We’ve had some mechanical failures, been playing with a lot of things just trying to make (car) faster,” added Pangrazio, now with 19 Street Stock wins at LOLR to rank fifth all-time. “Sometimes the driver is the worst enemy. What feels good in the seat doesn’t always equate to fast laps times.”
For 15-lap Hobby Stock feature winner Ellison, speed was relative as it was track position on Saturday that mattered most to the gentleman from Geneva.
“This was one of those races where slower is faster,” assessed Ellison, after logging his fifth win in eight starts as the summer season gets into full swing. “Was trying to protect the bottom as much as I could and knew Justin, Tyler and Bubba would probably poke their nose in there. I just appreciate Bub for running me clean.
With only eight of the 10 starters taking the initial green to shuffle the original line-up, Tyler Burnell grabbed the early lead before Nate Peckham slid off high in turn three to slow the field. Ellison gained command on the lap two restart while Frank “Bubba” Burnell took over second from his son, who chose the high line to refire.
From there it was a bumper-to-bumper battle between Ellison and Burnell with Bubba even pulling alongside on occasion. Lap after lap Burnell showed a nose down low in turns one and two yet each time Ellison regrouped to follow his own line inside navigating through turns three and four.
And that’s the way it would finish with Burnell falling just one car-length short of the the no. 18 Moracco Machining-Smith Drywall Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the final rundown. Josh Oles rallied to steal third from Tyler Burnell in the latter stages followed by Peckham.
After missing the past two weeks of competition in Canandaigua, Coffey made a triumphant return to win his fourth Legends feature in as many starts. Greenley George bested the Caledonia chauffeur in the preliminary heat race yet fell short of scoring her own fourth victory in the 12-lap event showing off novice Sportsman.
In what may be Coffey’s final appearance in this beginner’s division, George settled for second behind the victorious #32C Carl Myers Enterprises-CoffeyMcCreadie Enterprises-Stirling Lubricants/Bicknell ride followed by Justin Liechti, Angel Sperring and Kennedy Payne.
SUPER SERIES SHOWDOWN
A long-awaited return of the Super DIRTcar Series closes out the month when the Big-Block Modifieds take center stage in the “Stars & Stripes 76” on Thr., June 30. The mighty Mod Squad is joined in the holiday happening by an action-packed Sportsman Series Shootout. Honeoye Auto Parts & Emerson Oil Company/Castrol present the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified 76-lapper paying $7,600-to-win with DIRTcar Northeast Sportsman Series Central & West Region point chasers contending in a 30-lap feature event of their own.
Pit gates unlock Thursday at 3:30 p.m., grandstand seating opens at 5 o’clock and practice sessions start at 6:00. Group time trials go off the line at 6:30 then opening ceremonies at 7:00 followed by qualifying races for both Big-Blocks and Sportsman.
Land of Legends Raceway Quick Results – June 25, 2022
Saturday Spectacular [Double Points]
Seneca Meadows & Howell Properties present Mid-Season Championships
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (30 laps): 1. 14j-Alan Johnson ($2,000), 2. 21a-Peter Britten, 3. 3-Justin Haers, 4. 25-Erick Rudolph, 5. 19-Tim Fuller, 6. 49-Billy Dunn, 7. 42p-Pat Ward, 8. 27z-Dylan Zacharias, 9. 11j-James Sweeting, 10. 70a-Alex Payne, 11. 21-Derrick Podsiadlo, 12. 7z-Zach Payne, 13. 34-Kevin Root, 14. 23c-Kyle Coffey, 15. 19w-Justin Wright, 16. 7-Troy Sperring, 17. 88-Dave Allen, 18. 29ny-Greg Birosh, 19. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 20. 11n-Ricky Newton, 21. 174-Jeff Lawrence, 22. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 23. 27jr-Daniel Johnson Jr., 24. 33j-Robbie Johnston.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Tegg, A.Payne, Ward, Haers, Rudolph, Dinkins, Birosh, Wright.
#2: A.Johnson, Britten, Coffey, Podsiadlo, Zacharias, Allen, D.Johnson, Johnston.
#3: Sweeting, Fuller, Dunn, Z.Payne, Root, Sperring, Newton, Lawrence.
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 18h-Justin Henderson ($750), 2. 1m-Tyler Murray, 3. 7-Paul Guererri, 4. 25g-Nick Guererri, 5. 64-Tyler Corcoran, 6. 38-Zach Sobotka, 7. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 8. 132-Dalton Martin, 9. 35-Nick Cooper, 10. 12g-Matt Guererri, 11. 51-Tim Lafler, 12. 9-Tim Baker, 13. 21v-Tony Velez, 14. 28-Mark Potter, 15. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 16. 621-Brian Hudson, 17. 7j-JT Sperring, 18. 21-Ryan Barrett, 19. 16x-Savannah LaFlair, 20. 04-Eric Years, 21. 30-Nick Root, 22. 10-Karl Comfort, 23. 31-Kane Bristol, 24. 36b-Brandon Grover.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Murray, Sobotka, Lafler, Martin, Bristol, Comfort, Hudson, Years.
#2: Henderson, M.Guererri, Corcoran, F.Guererri, Borden, Velez, Barrett, Sperring.
#3: Root, N.Guererri, P.Guererri, Cooper, Potter, Baker, Grover, LaFlair.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles ($500), 2. 48a-Alysha Bay, 3. 2-Randy Years, 4. 18c-Dan Craun, 5. 53-Bobby Parrow, 6. 77-Matt Rotz, 7. 13t-Trevor Years, 8. 38-Jason Whipple, 9. 14-James Layton, 10. 29-Dalton Herrick, 11. z28-Tucker Donath, 12. 29t-Tori Kaplin, 13. 23-John Smith, 14. 75-Brandyn Griffin.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: R.Years, Craun, Rotz, T.Years, Herrick, Smith, Kaplin.
#2: Parrow, Griffin, Ruggles, Whipple, Bay, Layton, Donath.
Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 2. 77-Shane Wolf, 3. 00-Mike Welch, 4. 87-Carl Johnson, 5. 36-Jimmy Grant, 6. 57j-Nick Dandino, 7. 5c-Rick Crego, 8. 55p-Blane Smith, 9. 122-Chris Beyea, 10. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 11. 9-Aksel Jensen, 12. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 13. 24j-Marcus Springer, 14. 34q-Doug Quigley, 15. 63-Mike Fellows, 16. 510-Brad Steinruck Jr., 17. 25b-Marc Minutolo.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Pangrazio, Minutolo, Dandino, Beyea, Jensen, Metcalf, Fellows, Quigley.
#2: Wolf, Johnson, Grant, Steinruck, Welch, Crego, Springer, Smith, Hobbs.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 18-Wayne Ellison, 2. 57b-Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell Jr., 3. 1-Josh Oles, 4. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 5. 90-Nathan Peckham, 6. 61-Daniel Kerrick, 7. 11k-Dan Korpanty, 8. 17j-Justin Eldredge, 17a-Jon AlmekinderDNS), 28-Brandon BarronDNS).
Heat (6 laps)
#1: Ellison, F.Burnell, Peckham, T.Burnell, Kerrick, Korpanty, Eldredge, Almekinder, Oles, Barron.
MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman
*Feature (12 laps): 1. 32c-Kasey Coffey, 2. 26-Greenley George, 3. 57-Justin Liechti, 4. 56a-Angel Sperring, 5. 31k-Kennedy Payne.
Heat (6 laps)
#1: George, Coffey, Sperring, Payne, Liechti(DNS).