Practice Day Saturday Leads Off Land Of Legends Raceway’s 70th Anniversary Season
Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – On the brink of launching its celebratory 70th Anniversary season of auto racing, pit gates swung open under sunny skies Saturday afternoon as the first laps of 2023 were turned on the fast Land Of Legends Raceway historic half-mile clay oval.
A total of 71 cars and drivers representing 10 divisions pulled pitside for the mid-April affair and were greeted by a few hundred hungry fans, each gearing up for the following week’s long-awaited LOLR lid-lifter in wine country.
The ’23 DIRTcar season-opener is slated for April 22 with the Howell Properties ‘Saturday Spectacular’ showcasing a solid five-star card of Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Stirling Lubricants Sportsman, MighTea Boba 305 Sprint Car, Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock and Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock action. Maguire Ford of Canandaigua New Legends Sportsman join the April 29 agenda.
Access to the pits is gained at 3:30pm, spectator gates open at 5 o’clock, hot laps start at 5:30 and the lead-off qualifier goes green at 6:30.
The first trackside activity of the new season began at 4pm in the annual ‘test & tune’ session while the final checkered flag flew near 8:30 to put the wraps on opening weekend as darkness fell over the the Ontario County Fairgrounds.
“This is probably the best Spring we’ve had with regards to the fairgrounds and pits being dry in time for opening day,” remarked LOLR promoter Paul Cole, as he launched his sixth season spearheading motorsports activity at the legendary Routes 5 & 20 speedplant, with the inaugural race dates for stock cars chronicled in 1953. “We’re looking forward to continuing to make history here for our 70th Anniversary with a few surprises sprinkled in along the way.”
The most noteworthy and visible improvement to the facility for fans will be the installation of new aluminum grandstand seats, with about a third of the home stretch bleachers between turn four VIP and front stretch scoring/announcer towers getting the upgrade. Cole anticipated with 7-12 uninterupted work days, completion may be realized by the final show of the month.
Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather conditions with temperatures in the 80s on Saturday were reigning Canandaigua point champions Justin Haers (Mod), Zach Sobotka (Spt), Darryl Ruggles (305) and Mike Welch (Sts), with four practice periods offered each division throughout the program. Hobby Stock and New Legends Sportsman racers also filled the fine field along with drivers representing 358-Modified, 360 Sprint, 4-Cylinder and Vintage Stock Car classes, which included a replica of the original #14J Troyer Mud Buss debuted by Alan Johnson in 1981 and nostalgic red CraZ8 copy chauffeured by Mike McLaughlin in CNY over 40 years ago.
The return of Ruggles behind the wheel was most remarkable after Canandaigua’s all-time sprint car winner lost the use of his right eye last November after a sand-blasting gun exploded while working at his nearby Hopewell business.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Beyond the season-opening race date that marks the fairgrounds’ 59th year featuring the headline Modified class, special shows for support divisions dot the 22-event Canandaigua calendar over the next six months.
The ‘Stars & Stripes 60’ brings to a climax the Big-Block Modified Super DIRTcar Series showdown on July 3 with the touring BB SDS returning for the “SummerFast 60” on Aug. 16. The 5th Annual Gerald Haers Memorial arrives on Sept. 16 boasting a $10,000 winner’s share with thousands more in contingency prizes shared after the 100-lap Modified main. The 40-lap “Scoppo Special” on June 3 and 30-lap Labor Day lead-off on Sept. 2 provide additional high-dollar payoffs during the season.
Extra-distance Northeast DIRTcar Sportsman Series stops are slated for June 24 and Aug. 16 with a $2,500 first-place check waiting for the 40-lap Haers Memorial champ on Sept. 16.
While the MighTea Boba 305 Sprints remain a weekly fixture at the fairgrounds, DisBatch Brewing Company takes center stage backing the three-race CRSA Series invasion of LOLR on May 13, July 3 and Aug. 5.
Full-fender teams help close out the ’23 Canandaigua campaign in the ‘Full Fender Frenzy’ as Street Stockers contend in the 12th Les Whyte Top Gun Shootout while Hobby Stocks complete the Sept. 15 doubleheader in a 20-lapper of their own. Mid-week Twin 50-lap Enduro Championships once again spotlight 4&6 Cylinder chauffeurs on July 26 during the 180th Anniversary Ontario Co. Fair.