Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – Land Of Legends Raceway hosted the 2nd Annual ‘Full-Fender Frenzy’ and it was weekly runners Carl Johnson and Tyler Burnell joining top invaders Logan Roberson and Jeremy Bunn in victory lane for the Saturday Spectacular.
Veteran Johnson dominated the headline Les Whyte Top Gun Shootout for Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stocks while talented teenager Burnell was the best in the Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock field. With each etching their names in the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds record book, Roberson outlasted Western New Yorker Jeremy Wonderling to capture the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply RUSH Dirt Late Model Flynn’s Tire Touring Series special as Bunn claimed the 4-Cylinder Mini Stock main.
With the Street Stock event paying tribute to LOLR Pro Stock champion driver Whyte for an 11th time since 1999, Johnson made his own lasting memory with a decisive victory in the 30-lap feature paying the Penn Yan pilot $1,000.
“Its been a good season for us, again congratulations to Mike (Welch, ’22 track champ),” downplayed a modest Johnson following his division-best fifth win of the season in Canandaigua. “A lot of the crew and a lot of the car, very little me. I’m still the same person that drove all the other cars.”
Maybe so yet on this night Johnson was the class of the field, taking the lead from Aksel Jensen with 10 to go and never looking back en route a near straightaway victory steering his always ready red #87 Heart of Gold Veterinary Care-Zimmerman Bros. Fertilizer-84 Lumber Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Graybeard Gene Sharpsteen in his first-ever appearance at the hallowed half-miler led the opening three circuits before sixth-place starter C.J. Guererri ducked under to move out front in his best early race effort. Johnson filed in 10th on the 21-car starting grid and followed Jensen into third with seven laps scored.
In quest of his own fifth win of the season, the night was suddenly cut short for Welch when a broken front-end sent him pitside under yellow when Carl Cleveland slowed down the front chute on lap 11. Jensen grabbed the point from Guererri on the restart and Johnson mirrored the move advancing to second with a dozen laps scored.
Johnson tracked down Jensen and actually edged by for the lead on lap 15 before Cleveland stopped high in turn two to incur another caution and relegate the running order to the last completed lap. Undeterred, Johnson regained the point on lap 16 and sailed on for the title race triumph as the remaining circuits ran off caution-free.
Jensen held on for a solid second-place run while Jimmy Grant rallied to edge Guererri for third on the last lap ahead of fifth-place finisher Rick Crego. Guererri finished fifth last year and fourth in 2020 while Crego settled for third a year ago.
“(Axsel) ran a really good race, there’s been a lot of really good competition out here this year and a lot of people worthy of standing in this position as well,” added Johnson, who won his first race in the Rookie Amateur division when it was Canandaigua Speedway and had to waited 36 years to return to victory lane at the renamed Land of Legends in a Street Stock. “Have to thank Paul Gavenda Racing Engines and Close Racing Supply and all the people that have made this year possible. Been fantastic.”
Making just his second trip of the season to LOLR, Pavilion’s Damian Long pocketed $400 from Debbie Everdyke, the former wife of Les Whyte, and Bob & Bonnie Thomas after improving from last to 12th to earn the Hard Charger Award.
Charging from 25th to fifth in the Pro Stock debut on the Syracuse Mile during Super DIRT Week in 1997 to earn Les ‘Hard Charger’ honors inspired Debbie to sponsor this lucrative award.
While last year LOLR staged its first-ever RUSH LM weekly series event, track promoter Paul Cole stepped it up a notch this September bringing in the Flynn’s Tire Touring Series for their own inaugural effort at the historic Ontario County oval. A solid 23-car field comprised of area all-stars and highly-touted travelers —including seven of the Top-10 in regional points— almost certainly locked in RUSH Director Vicki Emig’s entourage for a return visit next season in Canandaigua’s 70th Anniversary campaign.
And on this occasion, Canandaigua fans were able to witness the best in the business as the win for Roberson from Waynesboro, Va. was his series-high fifth of the season to extend his current points lead.
“We had a good car tonight, maybe tune on it a little. Missed it just a little bit on my part but think we got a bad-ass race car right now,” declared Roberson, 24, after adding his first win in New York to celebrate alongside 2022 victories scored in Maryland, Pennsylvania(2) and his home state. “Track ended up widening out just a little bit. All in all it was a pretty good night, we’ll take it and roll on to the next one.”
Roberson was fifth fastest in time trials while his closest points chaser Joe Martin from Punxsutawney, Pa. turned the quickest lap averaging a speed of 98.216mph (18.327sec.) to earn the $100 FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” award. Roberson then went out and won the second of three qualifying heats and re-drew #2 to start the 30-lap feature alongside pole-sitter Matt Latta from Conneaut Lake, Pa.
The 15-mile LM main was slowed right at the drop of the opening green flag as the mount of fifth-starting Martin never fired to bottle up the trailing pack. The result was a multi-car pile-up in turn one that knocked out four Empire State drivers for the remainder without a single lap complete.
Latta went on to lead lap one before Virginian Russell Erwin got sideways entering turn two to force a second slowdown the second time around. And the second restart was all that Roberson needed as he pulled ahead in his blue no. 17 Gunter’s Honey-Clary’s Used Cars-RBS Auto/Rocket machine to forge what amounted to the final lead change with 28 still to go.
“We got the jump and that was the race winning move,” Roberson figured. “Waited for (Latta) to fire and I think he spun the tires. After that I knew I just had to keep hitting my marks.”
Elba’s Wonderling was also finding his groove as the Wellsville warrior took over second from Latta by lap five and set his sights on Roberson. With no more yellows falling to tie up the frontrunners, the race was on and the leaders did not disappoint.
Lap after lap Roberson and Wonderling diced through traffic, twice making contact crossing the homestretch stripe each in search of the $3,000 top prize. Yet each time Wonderling closed in, Roberson found an even faster line, ultimately forging an eight car-length victory under chief starter Scott Hixson’s final checkered flag.
“Knew Jeremy was on my ass and I couldn’t mess up, probably one of the hardest (wins) I’ve had to fight for in a long time,” remarked Roberson, following his eighth career series victory since 2018. “Jeremy raced me super clean and I really appreciate that. He got up to my bumper about halfway through the race and man he stayed there the whole time. If I messed up he would have definitely won the race.”
“I knew that the leader was like a sitting duck in lapped traffic, so when you get a hole you just gotta shove her in and go for it. Jeremy is pretty good, he’s won just about everything up here. I knew if there was a hole opening up for him he was going to use it and I couldn’t blame him,” added Roberson, now boasting an exceptional total of 12 Top-5 finishes in 14 tour races this season.
A seven-time winner this season at Genesee Speedway in Batavia, “Mr. Excitement” Wonderling settled for a hard-fought runner-up tally followed by fellow Elba pilot David Pangrazio, Martin and former Canandaigua racer Chad Homan from Penfield.
Fighting through mechanical issues much of the summer, it all came together in the full-fender season-finale as second-generation standout Burnell prevailed to score his third win in a near-flawless performance once out front.
“Feels great, a lot better now, didn’t break or nothing,” beamed Burnell, 20, the 2020 LOLR Hobby Stock high-point man, who placed second behind only his father Frank “Bubba” Burnell Jr. in the ’22 standings. “Just a problem with the brake spindle set us back. The brakes were there tonight, just amazing.”
Ransomville regular Jaren Isreal paced the scheduled 24-car starting field before a quick caution for debris in turn one slowed the action. When the green lights returned, Burnell shadowed Israel until ducking under as the lead duo exited turn two the fifth time around in the 20-lap feature.
Blane Smith ran third at the time with Nate Peckham and Marc Minutolo making tracks to the front even quicker. Lap 13 was unlucky for former LOLR weekly racer Bob Buono when he lost a tire, yet seemed good fortune for Peckham and Minutolo as they snuggled up to Burnell for the ensuing start.
Five laps later, however, Peckham’s no. 90 Chevrolet Camaro lost a part on the track and while still under caution Minutolo suddenly turned pitside with his own #25B Chevy Monte suffering mechanical woes to end the night. With just three laps to go it was Burnell riding high with Israel back in second although Bubba Burnell, Jimmy Grant doing double-duty, and Justin Eldredge joined the fray up front.
Burnell never flinched after the lap 18 restart, pedaling ahead faster in his family-designed #57jr. Scott French-Peck Electric-Phelps Cement Products Chevrolet Camaro to open up a dozen car-length margin at the line. Grant edged Israel for second on the final circuit while the elder Burnell, who lost a final-lap heartbreaker last September, finished fourth ahead of ’21 points champion Justin Eldredge who earned the $100 Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange Hard Charger Award after starting 22nd.
Ironically, it was brother Jamie Eldredge Jr. that reluctantly collected the $100 Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange Hard Luck Award after rolling over upside down in his heat forcing him to scratch from the feature race line-up.
“All the cars bunched up going into (turns) one and two so I figured I’d make a push to go in front of them because I didn’t want to stop,” recalled $750 winner Burnell, noting the early race battle for position. “After that last restart I just out-drove ’em.”
“Had a little bit more motor to get to the corner first. This is my fourth year doing this so it feels good to beat some of the guys that have been doing it a lot longer. Can’t thank my dad enough for giving me the chance,” Burnell added.
A return visit by 4-Cylinder teams bolstered the car count by six this time around with a full field of 24 entries signed up each looking for a spot in the 20-lap feature line-up. Another chance for Bunn was all he needed to improve one position in staving off a race-long bid by runner-up Don Whiteside to score the $750 victory.
“Love this place, hope they have us back next year and every year after that,” exclaimed Bunn, who fell just a car-length short of capturing the inaugural mini-stock race last September. “Usually run Outlaw (Speedway) but I’ve taken a couple years off, started a family last year. Been busy, put four or five motors in this car this year. Finished our first feature last week at Outlaw and then came here.”
The timing was perfect for Bunn who finished second last year to Rich Conte. On Saturday pole-sitter Bunn dropped back and bided his time early as cousin Rocco Conte from Leroy blasted from sixth to first on the initial circuit. A multi-car turn one tangle ended with third- and fifth-place starters Justin Pope and Chris Bonoffski falling to the rear for the lap two restart.
Conte and Bunn pulled away from the pack running three-wide around the track, with Whiteside, Corey Valade and Tony Frezzo jockeying among the front-five with a handful of laps compete.
Following a turn four spin by Gavin Hall, Adam Whipple’s mount suddenly went up in smoke on the lap seven restart sending his closest trailers looking for a clear path down the front straightaway. The result was young Brighton Grant in his black #36X stocker rolling over and resting on its side pinned against the outside cement retaining wall just past the starter’s stand. No injuries were reported in the rare red flag incident that brought the remaining field to an abrupt halt.
Just as unexpectedly during the stoppage, leader Conte pulled into the pits with mechanical trouble and when the green flag flew once more it was Bunn inheriting the top spot. Although the Branchport bandit never loosened his stronghold over the final 14 laps, three more cautions opened the door wide for Whiteside to drive through but Bunn slammed it shut on each occasion.
At the wire it was Bunn by five car-lengths followed by Whiteside, fast-closing Bonoffski, Frezzo and unofficial hard charger of the Nick Galusha from Ontario who began the 10-mile main in 16th position.
“(Conte) just started popping going down the backstretch,” stated Bunn, who waited all season last summer to debut his pristine no. 8ONE Ford Mustang at Canandaigua in a practice run before returning the following weekend to secure runner-up laurels in LOLR’s first 4-Cyl. special. “Heard the guys saying something over the radio but wasn’t sure, then he went off and I didn’t know if (officials) were telling us to get off the track (under red). Didn’t know anybody was (close) at the end so I’m happy to finally get a win here.”
HAERS MEMORIAL MARKS ’22 LOLR SEASON FINALE
Bigger and better in 2022, the 4th Annual Gerald Haers Memorial has expanded to two days with next weekend’s Land of Legends season-finale shelling out more $90,000 in cash contingencies to open-wheel teams competing in Canandaigua.
It all starts Fri. Sept. 16 when Seneca Meadows presents a doubleheader for DIRTcar Sportsman and Empire Super Sprints with a total purse package of over $20,000 posted in the two-division program.
Sportsman teams will be contesting in a pair of Gerald Haers Memorial qualifiers that provide the final chance to make Saturday’s Stirling Lubricants GHM Championship line-up. The lead-off 20-lap Non-Winners race victor will earn $500 and the winner of the 25-lap nightcap will collect $750. The Top-2 finishers from the lead-off race and Top-12 from round #2 advance to the 40-lap feature with heat races and re-draw among the top qualifiers on Saturday determining the 30-car starting order.
The lone appearance of the season at the Ontario Co. Fairgrounds for ESS is a big one as it marks the final points show of 2022 with the A-Main winner pocketing $2,000 in the 25-lap headliner. Not done yet, still another bonus awaits on Friday night as the fastest driver in Pepsi Modified practice will collect a $300 bonus from Behrent’s Performance Warehouse to get GHM Championship contenders in high gear for the next day’s main event.
The curtain finally drops on the ’22 campaign Sat, Sept. 17 with the “Haers 100” winner pocketing a cool $10G while 20th-place pays $1,000. Adding over $4,000 in post-race rewards for the Phelps Cement Products presentation, another $10,000 in lap money is also on tap along with $500-to-win Triple 20-lap qualifying heats plus a special ‘Carl Myers Dash-for-Cash.’
The companion 40-lap Stirling Lubricants GHM Championship on Saturday rewards the Sportsman winner with a record $2,500 from the $8,700+ purse as upwards of $2,000 in bonuses further bolsters the overall pot heading into race day.
In 2021 it was the ‘Matt Attack’ —Matt Sheppard (Mod) and Matt Guererri(Spt)— scoring the lucrative GHM extra-distance victories while Matt Farnham won the most recent ESS A-Main held at LOLR in August of ’21.
Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
11th Les Whyte Top Gun Shootout Championship
*Feature (30 laps): 1. 87-Carl Johnson($1,000), 2. 9-Aksel Jensen, 3. 36-Jimmy Grant, 4. cj1-CJ Guererri, 5. 5c-Rick Crego, 6. 7-Gene Sharpsteen, 7. 57j-Nick Dandino, 8. 99-Adam DePuy, 9. 93-Jared Hill, 10. 100-Luke Boom, 11. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 12. 007-Damian Long, 13. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 14. 12-John Burritt, 15. 63-Mike Fellows, 16. 39-Ely Mangiarelli, 17. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 18. 22-Carl Cleveland, 19. 00-Mike Welch, 20. 22jr-Jon Almekinder, 21. 27-Chris Force.
Heats (6 laps / Top-4 redraw)
Auto Value #1: Johnson($100), Crego, Grant, DuPuy, Burritt, Fellows, Sharp.
Scott French Home Improvements #2: Dandino($100), Hill, Sharpsteen, Hobbs, Boom, Force, Almekinder.
Ruggles Auto Body & Graphics #3: Welch($100), Guererri, Jensen, Mangiarelli, Cleveland, Minutolo, Long.
Debbie Everdyke Hard Charger Award $200: Damian Long.
Bob & Bonnie Thomas Hard Charger Award $200: Damian Long.
Bud’s Apple Pie Halfway Leader Bonus $100: Axsel Jensen
Krown Ransomville Most Laps Led Bonus $100: Carl Johnson.
Ruggles/Bay Racing Hard Luck Award $100: Mike Welch
“2nd Annual Unruly Race @ Penn Can Speedway (Fri-Sep 30) “ Longest Tow Award $100: Gene Sharpsteen.
$2,050 Lap Money.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply RUSH Dirt Late Model Flynn’s Tire Touring Series
*Feature (30 laps): 1. 17-Logan Roberson($3,000), 2. 3j-Jeremy Wonderling, 3. 136-David Pangrazio, 4. 10s-Joe Martin, 5. 91-Chad Homan, 6. 21L-Matt Latta, 7. 4-Jason Knowles, 8. 7-Brian Knowles, 9. 118-Russell Erwin, 10. z1-Brady Wonderling, 11. 11a-Ashton Briggs, 12. 14-Brandt Graham, 13. 98-Craig Graham, 14. 17x-Andy Michael, 15. 21b-Billy DuBois, 16. 99-Brett Marlatt, 17. 10-Chris Fleming, 18. 64c-Alan Chapman, 19. t54-Todd Chapman, 20. 32-Austin Allen, 21. 20-Aaron Miller, 22. 33-T.J. Downs , 23. 94-Bryce Davis.
FK Rod Ends Heats (8 laps)
#1: Martin($25), Homan, J.Knowles, C.Graham, B.Knowles, Michael, Fleming, Downs.
#2: Roberson($25), Pangrazio, Erwin, B.Graham, DuBois, Miller, T.Chapman, Davis.
#3: J.Wonderling($25), Latta, Briggs, B.Wonderling, Allen, Marlatt, A.Chapman.
Dash (6 laps, )
Latta($100 Sunoco fuel card), Roberson, Homan, Pangrazio, Martin, J.Wonderling.
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Time Trials (23 cars)
Martin 18.327sec. (98.216 mph) $100, Davis 18.332, Latta 18.375, J.Knowles 18.436, Roberson 18.540. J.Wonderling 18.540, Homan 18.575, Pangrazio 18.664, Briggs 18.794, B.Knowles 18.832, Erwin 18.898, B.Wonderling 19.043, C.Graham 19.111, B.Graham 19.115, Allen 19.202, Downs 19.223, DuBois 19.396, Marlatt 19.448, Michael 19.520, T.Chapman 19.642, A.Chapman 19.694, Fleming 19.743, Miller 20.088.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell($750), 2. 36-Jimmy Grant, 3. 10-Jaren Israel, 4. 57b-Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell Jr., 5. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 6. 61-Daniel Kerrick, 7. 55d-Chris Dziomba, 8. 22-Craig Dingy, 9. 14x-Ron Hawker, 10. 13b-Brian Lloyd, 11. 56-Eddie Stevens, 12. 25x-Mike Minutolo Sr., 13. 55b-Blane Smith, 14. 28x-Brandon Barron, 15. 57w-Nate White, 16. 11k-Dan Korpanty, 17. 90-Nathan Peckham, 18. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 19. 28-Willy Easling, 20. 64-Bob Buono, 21. 5-Don Slover, 22. 25BL-Caden Lloyd, 17jr.-Jamie Eldredge Jr.(DNS), 88-Justin Jacoby(DNS).
Heats (6 laps / Top-4 redraw)
Show Stylez #1: Easling($50), F.Burnell, Peckham, Dziomba, Kerrick, Barron, Korpanty, Ju.Eldredge.
Ruggles Auto Body & Graphics #2: Ma.Minutolo($50), Dingy, Smith, Hawker, Stevens, Mi.Minutolo, C.Lloyd, Slover.
Lloyd’s Contracting #3: Buono($50), T.Burnell, Grant, Israel, B.Lloyd, White, Ja.Eldredge, Jacoby(DNS).
Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange Hard Charger Award $100: 25j-Justin Eldredge.
Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange Hard Luck Award $100: Jamie Eldredge Jr.
$550 Lap Money.
4-Cylinder Mini Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 8one-Jeremy Bunn($750), 2. 8w-Don Whiteside, 3. 16b-Chris Bonoffski, 4. 422-Tony Frezzo, 5. 20-Nick Galusha, 6. 19-Lee Fritz, 7. 21-David Kinner, 8. 321-Michael Morton, 9. 27-Justin Pope, 10. 6-Corey Valade, 11. 8-Jayson Smart, 12. 36-Ellie Grant, 13. 316-Jeff Wynes, 14. 717jr.-Rocco Conte, 15. 8k-Ray Hyer, 16. 9D5-Kenneth Evans, 17. 36x-Brighton Grant, 18. 15a-Cody Ames, 19. 63-Gavin Hall, 20. 92w-Adam Whipple, 21. 70x-Jim Granger, 22. 28-Todd Stone, 97-Chris Woodardr(DNS), 999-Julius Guiliani(DNS).
Heats (6 laps / Top-4 redraw)
#1: Valade, Bonoffski, Pope, Hyer, Stone, Galusha, Morton, Ames.
#2: Kinner, Bunn, Frezzo, Evans, Fritz, Guiliani, E.Grant, Granger.
#3: Conte, Whiteside, Smart, Woodard, Wynes, B.Grant, Hall, Whipple.