Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – Reigning track point kings Justin Haers and Matt Guererri returned to winning ways as the open-wheel veterans dominated their divisional feature races in the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ presented by SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment at Land Of Legends Raceway.
Haers regained his perch atop the point standings with his first Pepsi Big-Block Modified victory of 2022 while Guererri matched his mid-May march into the winner’s circle in the Speed Connection Sportsman finale to climb into second on the points chart.
“Been second a few times this year so I was itching to get a win,” remarked Haers, 42, who won three times last summer en route to the elusive Canandaigua crown. “ “So glad we’re finally down here (victory lane), can’t thank everybody enough.”
While Haers and Guererri took early leads in their own open-wheel romps, Ethan Gray led less than a quarter lap to capture a career first in the thrilling Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car A-Main. Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell (Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock) and Justin Liechty (MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman) also garnered their first checkered flags while Josh Pangrazio registered a division-high third victory of ’22 in the Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock finale.
In a special pre-race ceremony, long-time Canandaigua campaigner Danny Johnson joined the late LOLR TV showman Brad Ovens and popular car owners Kim & Tom Ewing on the third Land Of Legends Wall of Fame Induction Day held in 2022.
During the past six decades Johnson has scored over 600 feature race wins at 55 speedways, both dirt and asphalt, big-block and small-block, in 13 states plus the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, for upwards of 40 car owners. He triumphed 35 times in both 1989 and 2000.
Mix in four overall Mr. DIRT Big-Block Modified Championships and two Super DIRT Series titles (89 wins, 2nd all-time) with another four overall point crowns and a touring series (56 wins, 1st all-time) trophy in the Small-Block ranks along with a pair of SDW triumphs in both Big- and Small-Block competition and you’ve got a five-time DIRT Driver of the Year (1988, 1989, 1992, 1997, 2000). Also filling the family album are four Florida Tour titles along with no less than 20 season point crowns at over a half-dozen speedways in the Empire State.
Right here at the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds where he has 81 Big-Block wins over 22 seasons to rank 5th all-time, plus four LOLR point crowns in 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’99, DJ
recorded his first-ever Modified win anywhere on July 14, 1979 behind the wheel of fellow Northeast Modified Hall of Fame car owner Jim Sincerbeaux’s blue #0jr.
“Every win is important, I guess we’ll have to go for 700 now,” smiled Johnson, now, 62, as he posed with LOLR Promoter Paul Cole and the many friends and family that gathered Saturday to join in his landmark achievement.
Former Johnson fan growing up and today a fellow competitor, Haers rebounded from a disheartening runner-up finish in the Super DIRTcar Series show June 30 to collect the $2,000 top prize and kick off the July agenda in Canandaigua.
“For what happened to me last Thursday, today I was not going to be real nice this time around,” said Haers, who led the first 72 of the 76 lap distance before thick traffic opened the door for Max McLaughlin to steal away prestigious tour victory. “You don’t want to push the issue but you gotta take care of things. Didn’t know if anybody was close so I did what I had to get by tonight.”
Pole-sitter Gil Tegg Jr. set the pace early in the headline 30-lapper while 12th starting Haers easily cracked the top-10 with a handful of laps complete. He blasted from seventh to fourth taking the high line around the historic half-miler, setting his sights on Ricky Newton and Derrick Podsiadlo as Tegg increased the lead up front.
Big-Block rookie Troy Sperring pulled to the backstretch infield to incur the lone caution on lap seven and with the yellow flag flying Podsiadlo suddenly stopped in turn two to bring an abrupt end to his night. Haers wasted little time charging forward, taking second on the ensuing restart before grabbing the lead from Tegg on lap eight in his potent black #3 Honeoye Auto Parts-Phelps Cement Products-FLX Home Solutions/Bicknell machine.
Erick Rudolph started 10th on the 24-car grid and moved into second on lap 13, tracking down Haers by the halfway mark followed by Tegg, Zach Payne and Pat Ward. The lead duo diced bumper to bumper, high and low in traffic as the laps dwindled, but Haers never faultered as the Phelps pilot pushed ahead for a convincing half-straightaway margin under the checkers.
Payne held on for a career-best third-place tally with Alan Johnson and Peter Britten settling for top-5 finishes in the high-speed 14-minute finale.
“Before the feature I was kinda looking around the track since we didn’t get many pace laps to see where the traction was,” noted Hears, now with 9 front-five feature finishes in 10 events, including four second-place showings. “Just went to the top a little bit down the backstretch, it was like my rocket ship back there so I stayed up there as long as I could. Then I got in some lapped traffic and moved around. Felt good there on the bottom so that’s where I kinda went. Lapped traffic was pretty difficult to get by but my car was good enough to get around them. These wins aren’t easy to get so this is awesome for my family, crew and sponsors and a lot of fans who get to watch from home,” added Haers, following his 18th career Big-Block win (9th all-time) at LOLR since ’07 with another nine victories in Sportsman racing.
Guererri was just as decisive in the 25-lap Sportsman feature, advancing from an eighth-place start to lead the final 15 circuits and author a commanding straightaway victory aboard his #12G Tradition Automotive Group-Mohawk Northeast-Sunset Bowl-Mojo’s Tavern/Bicknell entry.
“The top in turn four, figured it was too far out … kinda ran around the bottom there, pulled out of line and went to the top once and it stuck,” said Guererri, who now trails only older brother Nick (524-518) in his bid for a third straight points title after his second win of the season. “Didn’t know if I wanted to see that yellow come out or not because I knew the top was good and didn’t see anybody else out there, but it worked in our favor. Car was good everywhere, good at both ends, could move around so it worked out for us.”
Tim Lafler darted ahead of front row partner Mark Potter as soon as chief starter Scott Hixson waved the initial green flag, establishing a comfortable advantage as Nick Cooper, recent upside down victim Nick Root and Guererri jockeyed for position further back.
Tim Baker suffered a broken driveshaft to force out the only yellow flag on lap eight and Guererri was quick to secure second as soon as the green lights reappeared. Shadowing the leader for just a short time, Guererri crossed high over the stripe to lead lap 11 and without another caution to slow the action he ran uncontested to post his 16th career victory at the popular Routes 5&20 oval.
Lafler logged a career-best second-place finish followed by second-generation chauffeur Nick Cooper, high-flying Dalton Martin and consistent running second-generation standout Justin Henderson.
“Figured it would cool down and some moisture might stay in (track) but still thought most of it would be gone after the Big-Block feature,” Guererri said. “The top was far out and it was a fine line up there, either right on the edge or in the grass, kinda had to tip-toe up there.”
“Typically the track does kinda the same thing every week as the track crew goes out and waters it before the feature. Been tough without getting any rain to help those guys out so watering before the feature gives us another lane to run. The beginning of the season there was quite a bit of moisture in one and two, tonight there was definitely more moisture than the last 3-4 weeks so that’s a plus,” added the Waterloo wheelman.
The 305 Sprint A-Main was the second of the night and Gray found the needed traction just in time to lead the last quarter-lap and score the memorable win in dramatic fashion steering the Mastin-powered #17E Ballard Sports-DisBatch Brewing Co.-Second Look Maintenance-Brawdy Marine/XXX mount.
“That was awesome, I don’t even know what to say,” beamed Gray, 17, after becoming the 27th different driver to triumph since the winged machines became a LOLR weekly staple in 2012. “Was hoping I was gonna get a win this year, so this really means a lot to finally get one.”
The unforgettable 20-lap victory for the Manchester driver came at the expense of Dan Craun, himself in quest of his own first career win at LOLR, who led all but the final 150 yards. Contact between Jason Whipple and Randy Years required the only caution on the third circuit, and after that it seemed clear sailing would reward Craun with that elusive win.
After undergoing numerous problems much of the early season, Gray had his own intentions as he charged from eighth to fourth after just three laps with James Layton and Trevor Years still separating him from Craun in the early stages. At the halfway point the order up front remained intact although 13th starting (last) Johnny Kolosek drew the most attention as he cracked the front-five in his season debut.
Mechanical woes finally forced Kolosek pitside on lap 12, at the time showing Craun with a comfortable lead. But lap after lap traffic took on a more significant role as Gray and Years crept closer and closer in relentless pursuit.
When the white flag waved signaling one lap to go, Gray was within a couple car-lengths of Craun. Yet exiting the third corner any advantage had completely evaporated and in 50 more yards and a few seconds later so did the lead as a brief side-by-side run culminated with a sensational slide job rounding turn four to afford Gray the narrow victory and a place forever in Land of Legends lore.
“Realized pulling up to him going down the backstretch I had a chance to slide him,” disclosed Gray, who posted just two top-5s the past two seasons and now has three in 2022, including a pair of runner-up finishes. “But I didn’t know if he would keep coming around the outside. The lapped cars helped out there in the end. I was trying not to burn up my tires and save them for the last lap so experience definitely helped out.”
Third-place runner Years had the best view of the last turn heroics while Bobby Parrow, points leader Darryl Ruggles and Alysha Bay crossed the line next.
After storming from 10th to first in just six times around the spacious speedplant, Pangrazio provided little theatrics during his latest 20-lap Street Stock feature race romp. Despite a late-race yellow flag to slow the action, the Oakfield ace was back on the throttle to notch his second straight victory by three-quarters of a straightaway in full-fender competition.
“Turns one and two were definitely nice on the top side and three and four you stayed on the bottom,” stated Pangrazio, who reached the 20-win plateau at LOLR since taking his first set of checkers in 2018. “The track was pretty racey tonight.”
Marc Minutolo out-dragged Patrick Hobbs to lead the opening circuit and after only three laps Pangrazio had rushed into fourth behind runner-up Carl Johnson and Adam DePuy. Pangrazio navigated the high side to perfection, sliding into second with five complete then disposing of Minutolo for the top spot the next lap followed immediately by Johnson.
Yellow flags for frontstretch debris on lap nine and a broken Jason Quigley machine with five to go were all that could slow the dialed-in #7 R.J. Shafer Trucking-Skyline RV Sales & Service Ford Mustang, as the 2020 LOLR points champ rolled on to his third win in six starts. DePuy improved to second ahead of current high points man Mike Welch, Johnson, ’21 division titlist Jimmy Grant and Minutolo.
“Turns three and four had something up top in the beginning but it goes away coming out of four, its a long way around,” Pangrazio pointed out. “Car was real good but definitely hard to set up when you’re ‘hammer down’ in one and two then you gotta get it to go through the slick in three and four. But that’s why I enjoy racing here, definitely a challenge and you’re running against a lot of really good cars.”
Five runner-up finishes in the first eight events was the only motivation Burnell needed as the full-fender favorite from Waterloo finally picked up that long-awaited checkered flag in the 15-lap Hobby Stock finale.
“Thought (win) was never gonna come, just everything came together tonight,” exhaled Burnell, 41, who won the first of now 31 stock car races at Canandaigua in 1998, just one day before his 18th birthday. “Been working on this car as well as a lot of others. Tonight it felt good, the track was a little slick but the patience over the years I finally got a little bit of, so I kinda prevailed tonight I guess.”
Nate Peckham jumped out front early ahead of pole-sitter Justin Eldredge with third starting Burnell close behind. Burnell took over second on lap two and following a brief caution for a turn three spin by Josh Oles was ready to pounce.
Burnell shot past Peckham on the lap four restart as did Minutolo, with Peckham holding back Eldredge and points leader Wayne Ellison to steady the ship. A fire under the hood of Don Slover necessitated the second and final yellow flag on lap nine with veteran Les Excell aboard Shawn Lloyd’s ride coming to a stop in turn two at the same time.
Burnell and Minutolo pulled away from the pack in the closing stages with Bubba’s self-designed #57B FLX Home Solutions-CX Electric-Phelps Cement Products ChevyTaurus creation salvaging a satisfying victory by four car-lengths at the wire. Peckham, Ellison and son Tyler Burnell in a brand-new car followed in the top-5.
“This is still the place to be, if you win a Hobby Stock race its where you want to do it,” declared Burnell, who dethroned Welch for the Street Stock championship in 2010, ending Welch’s streak at three straight although Welch captured the next three consecutive titles. “We’ve got the best here, this is where its at.”
“Found you just need to go into the turns slow and easy, then come out hard and fast, and we got it done. We’ve got a lot of motor in these cars nowadays, still have to be disciplined and slow down. My son hasn’t figured that out yet,” added Burnell, after closing to within 14 markers of five-time winner Ellison in the points chase.
After trading in a two-wheeler for four and a cage around him, former BMX bike racer Liechti from nearby Newark joined Haers, Gray and Burnell among the first time winners in ’22 after copping the 12-lap Legends Sportsman nightcap.
“That fast lane (up top) got me a couple spots right at the start and really gave me a good line for the whole race,” said Liechti, after holding off a hard-charging debut effort by runner-up Ken Welty to score his initial win by a single car-length. “Barely lifted coming into one and two but had to in turn four or hit that wall!”
Behind the winning red #57 OMI Racing/Bicknell car, brothers Colby (3rd) and Dylan (5th) Adamczak sandwiched fourth-finishing Angel Sperring while Kennedy Payne was scored sixth after a reported stuck throttle sidelined her with 9 laps complete in the six-mile main.
Land of Legends Raceway Quick Results – July 9, 2022
SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment presents Saturday Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (30 laps): 1. 3-Justin Haers ($2,000), 2. 25-Erick Rudolph, 3. 7z-Zach Payne, 4. 14j-Alan Johnson, 5. 21a-Peter Britten, 6. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 7. 42p-Pat Ward, 8. 23c-Kyle Coffey, 9. 34-Kevin Root, 10. 70a-Alex Payne, 11. 11j-James Sweeting, 12. 27z-Dylan Zacharias, 13. 33j-Robbie Johnston, 14. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 15. 19w-Justin Wright, 16. 11n-Ricky Newton, 17. 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 18. 29ny-Greg Birosh, 19. 27jr-Daniel Johnson Jr., 20. 174-Jeff Lawrence, 21. z4-JJ Courcy, 22. 56-Garrison Krentz, 23. 21-Derrick Podsiadlo, 24. 7-Troy Sperring.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Tegg, Z.Payne, Wright, Newton, A.Johnson, Zacharias, Sperring, Stoughtenger.
#2: Coffey, Ward, Dinkins, Root, Birosh, Krentz, D.Johnson, A.Payne.
#3: Podsiadlo, Haers, Rudolph, Britten, Sweeting, Johnston, Courcy, Larence.
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 12g-Matt Guererri ($750), 2. 51-Tim Lafler, 3. 35-Nick Cooper, 4. 132-Dalton Martin, 5. 18h-Justin Henderson, 6. 38-Zach Sobotka, 7. 25g-Nick Guererri, 8. 64-Tyler Corcoran, 9. 30-Nick Root, 10. 7-Paul Guererri, 11. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 12. 10-Karl Comfort, 13. 44-Dave Conant Jr., 14. 31-Kane Bristol, 15. 00-Sam Hoxie, 16. 21v-Tony Velez, 17. 27z-Ray Bliss, 18. 28-Mark Potter, 19. 7j-JT Sperring, 20. 36b-Brandon Grover, 21. 7t-Tyler Guzzardi, 22. 32c-Kasey Coffey, 23. 9-Tim Baker, 1m-Tyler Murray(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Cooper, F.Guererri, P.Guererri, Potter, Conant, Sperring, Velez, Guzzardi, Murray(DNS).
#2: Comfort, Martin, N.Guererri, Lafler, Henderson, Baker, Bliss, Grover.
#3: Root, Corcoran, Sobotka, M.Guererri, Bristol, Hoxie, Coffey.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 17e-Ethan Gray ($500), 2. 18c-Dan Craun, 3. 13t-Trevor Years, 4. 53-Bobby Parrow, 5. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 6. 48a-Alysha Bay, 7. 121-Steve Glover, 8. 14-James Layton, 9. 2-Randy Years, 10. 77-Matt Rotz, 11. 38-Jason Whipple, 12. 29t-Tori Kaplin, 13. 10-Johnny Kolosek.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Ruggles, Layton, Bay, Rotz, T.Years, Parrow, Kolosek(DNS).
#2: R.Years, Craun, Whipple, Gray, Glover, Kaplin.
Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 2. 99-Adam DePuy, 3. 00-Mike Welch, 4. 87-Carl Johnson, 5. 36-Jimmy Grant, 6. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 7. 55p-Parker Smith, 8. 5c-Rick Crego, 9. 57j-Nick Dandino, 10. 122-Chris Beyea, 11. 9-Aksel Jensen, 12. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 13. 63-Mike Fellows, 14. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 15. 34q-Jason Quigley.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Johnson, Pangrazio, Jensen, Grant, Minutolo, Metcalf, Fellows, Quigley.
#2: Crego, Hobbs, Beyea, Smith, DePuy, Welch, Dandino.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 57b-Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell Jr., 2. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 3. 90-Nathan Peckham, 4. 18-Wayne Ellison, 5. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 6. 1-Josh Oles, 7. 17jr.-Jamie Eldredge Jr., 8. 17a-Jon Almekinder, 9. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 10. 42-Alex Trautman, 11. 86L-Derek Excell, 12. 5-Don Slover.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Ju.Eldredge, Peckham, Oles, Minutolo, T.Burnell, Excell, Almekinder.
#2: F.Burnell, Ellison, Ja.Eldredge, Trautman, Slover.
MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman
*Feature (12 laps): 1. 57-Justin Liechti, 2. 125-Ken Welty, 3. 42-Colby Adamczak, 4. 56a-Angel Sperring, 5. 55-Dillon Adamczak, 6. 31k-Kennedy Payne.
Heat (6 laps)
#1: C.Adamczak, Liechti, Welty, D.Adamczak, Payne, Sperring.