Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – Open-wheel stars Erick Rudolph and Austin Germinio both captured checkered flags Saturday night at Land Of Legends Raceway in the 5th Annual Gerald Haers Memorial presented by Phelps Cement Products yet only one left for home holding the first-place trophy.
For the second straight September, third-generation standout Rudolph earned top honors and the $10,000 first-place prize after turning back a thrilling late race charge provided by host Justin Haers in the 100-lap Pepsi Modified main. Moments after scoring an apparent victory in the lead-off 40-lap Stirling Lubricants Sportsman Classic, Germinio’s mount came up a pound light in the customary post-race inspection to turn over the $2,500 winner’s share to runner-up Gavin Eisele.
Rudolph grabbed the top spot from pole-sitter Jimmy Phelps on lap 15 and remained there for the duration while in complete contrast, near race-long leader Eisele gave up the point to Germinio after pacing the field the initial 33 circuits before unexpectedly being declared the race winner.
“This is for my whole crew and to win this race last year and this year for a special man, its really something special,” remarked the routinely relaxed Rudolph, who always manages to let his driving speak for itself after outlasting Haers in consecutive years for another nail-biter on the fairgrounds. After winning two of the opening three features in ’23, his 17th career Big-Block victory now ties him with his father Charlie for 11th on Canandaigua’s all-time list.
“Just did what I thought the car would be comfortable doing and it worked out for us. A testament to how good we got the car. It was a team effort,” noted Rudolph, who also won the inaugural GHM title race when it covered 50 laps in 2019 before placing fourth in 2021. He was absent during the CoVid-shortened 2020 campaign.
Rudolph joined Jimmy Phelps and Kevin Root in victory lane following a trio of $500-to-win 20-lap heat races. The Ransomville racer then chased Phelps across the line in the pole dash for cash to share front row assignments on the 26-car feature race starting grid. Pennsylvanian Garrett Krummert and local Daniel Johnson Jr. split last chance showdowns to trim the 44-car field in time for the 50-mile GHM main that paid no less than $1,000 to every qualifier.
Phelps out-dragged Rudolph at the drop of head flagman Scott Hixson’s opening green flag with Rudolph trailing close behind followed by Jordan McCreadie and Tim Sears Jr. Troy Sperring stopped between turns three and four to incur the first caution period on lap nine, then just three laps later fifth running Haers suddenly slowed to send the recently crowned LOLR points king pitside with a flat right-rear tire. Canadian small-block entry Gary Lindberg followed, yet while Haers returned to action, last year’s fifth-place finisher from Ridgeway, Ont. was done for the night.
Rudolph took advantage on the ensuing lap 15 restart, throwing his potent blue #25 NMCC-Stirling Lubricants-Highmark-Big Woods Tobacco/Bicknell machine up high in turn one and rocketing around Phelps as the lead duo exited the second corner. Sears followed in Rudolph’s tire tracks, taking over second two laps later and looking for more as he navigated around the historic Ontario County oval.
Green flag laps continued to click off with Rudolph lapping up to 18th-place by lap 30 and traffic growing thicker with each passing circuit. On the verge of going a lap down before the halfway mark, Alan and Danny Johnson turned into the blocker brothers, stranding Rudolph in their rear-views as Sears closed in on the leader.
Sears crept within a car-length with 50 laps complete, well ahead of Phelps, Alex Payne and Larry Wight while north country travelers McCreadie and Billy Dunn waged their own battle among the top-10. Rudolph finally rolled past Alan on lap 53 then disposed of Danny the next time around as Sears appeared ready to pounce.
While the top two remained the focal point up front, Haers began to gain attention as the popular Phelps pilot cracked the top-10 and climbed into eighth with 60 laps down. Sears pulled up to the bumper of Rudolph with 30 laps to go only to slow off the pace when Todd Root went over turn one to force out the third yellow on lap 73.
Green lights came back on and Haers bolted by both Wight and Payne for fourth on the lap 76 restart. And when Payne went around in the first corner to bring out another caution, Haers picked off Phelps and Sears to set his sights on Rudolph with still 20 laps to go and crowd noise pumped up a notch.
Four more yellow flags unfurled during the final 10 miles and on each restart that followed Haers stuck a nose up to Rudolph awaiting his chance. But every effort was met by the same result and when the final checkered flag waved it was a replay of last year as Rudolph edged Haers with eight car-lengths of separation at the line. Sears held on for the show position ahead of 2019 GHM runner-up Wight and McCreadie, with 12 of the 15 trackside finishers completing the 100-lap distance.
“There was a ton of restarts there at the end and I was getting real nervous,” admitted Rudolph, the 2018 LOLR points champion in Paul Cole’s first year of track promotion. “Seen someone take a peek maybe with 10 (laps) to go so I had to adjust my line a little. On that long green flag run there (laps 15-73) I was just spinning tires like crazy. Think my tires might have sealed over a little or were wearing out a little bit. I knew they (cars) were coming, just did the best I could and ran around the track a little differently than I was before.”
“Seemed like on the real long green flag run there my car just really didn’t like it. The first 20 laps or so it was real good then just kinda fizzled out a little bit. Could tell I wasn’t catching lapped cars like I once was and I was getting nervous. Kinda got saved by caution there around lap 70,” added Rudolph, who collected thousands more in lap leader bonuses and special awards including fastest feature lap speed.
Once again reluctantly accepting second-place satisfaction on the scoresheet, Haers retained a starring role in the final outcome as his performance went unmatched in the eyes of many onlookers.
“Got into Buck (Kevin Root) there on the frontstretch, my fault,” divulged Haers, now with a pair of seconds, fifth, sixth and seventh-place tallies in Canandaigua’s premier curtain-closer. Still in quest of that elusive first GHM triumph named in honor of his late father who passed away at age 74 on July 15, 2019, the highest hometown finisher and best move of the race awards went his way after turning the fastest lap in Friday’s practice sessions. His relentless run from 20th to second last September earned him hard charger accolades in the season-finale.
“Cut a tire, went into the pits, came back out and put on a show for the fans,” smiled Haers, who returned trackside in 25th after replacing the early flat tire. “I was running a totally different line than Erick so it was really fun to race. Lotsa highs and lows from start to finish in a 100-lapper like this. Saw the move over flag (for leader Rudolph) at one point, thought I better get going. Knew my car was pretty good, just happened to be in a lane in turns one and two where a lot of guys weren’t running the top and I could get them there.”
“Car was super tonight, gotta thank Randy Williamson from BRP as well as Bob Slack and Pete Bicknell. Struggled here the last three weeks then talked to Randy and we put a new frame under this thing. This is the first race on it. Finished one spot short again in this race but (Erick) did a great job. Thought I was gonna get him, just trying to be patient … just needed more green flag laps. Will take it … great show, great crowd here tonight and another great field of cars,” added Haers, after ending his third championship season with a track-best 10 top-5 feature finishes in 15 starts despite not a single lap led circling the hallowed half-miler.
A solid runner throughout the evening affair, third-place Sears posted his best-ever finish at Canandaigua contending in the Big-Block ranks.
“I usually suck here, showed everyone how to go backwards last time I was here,” joked Sears, who did score a DIRTcar Sportsman Series win at LOLR in 2011 followed by a 100-lap 358-Modified tour show victory at Brewerton Speedway in July of 2018. “This track has definitely been a little bit of a thorn so just being here (podium) is a good thing.”
“The long green flags (laps) really helped us. After the cautions the track had that little bit of dust on it and it just took a couple laps to get rolling. Then Justin got by me on that one restart and we just kinda fell back in line. Thought I was really good but (Haers) showed me he was better there for a little bit. It was a good run.”
While Haers did take second, Eisele thought he too finished one position shy in the GMH Sportsman shootout. Yet after three attempts crossing over the scales, Germinio’s car was unceremoniously deemed underweight and dropped him from first to last in the final rundown.
“One pound, that’s terrible, but a win is a win I suppose,” said a surprised Eisele, 22, after the LaFargeville driver was given the win. “This place is truly one of my favorite tracks to race at but its a little far away. This is our first big win, just sweet, thanks to everybody that helped out getting us here.”
Mirroring Rudolph leading up to the Modified feature, Eisele finished second to Nick Root in the pole dash to start alongside each other come feature time. Defending GHM Classic champ Kevin Ridley lost an engine in practice after qualifying Friday and his pre-race scratch put all 30 cars in the line-up for the 20-mile main.
A broken shock sent Dave Conant Jr. high off the track rounding tuns one and two and on the complete restart Eisele sped ahead of Root to show his intentions early. Less than a dozen laps later the leader reached traffic with Canandaigua regulars Zach Sobotka and Matt Guererri sandwiching Emmett Waldron among the front-five.
Eisele lost his advantage when second-generation invader Steve Roberts suffered a broken rear-end to force him pitside under yellow on lap 12. Thirteenth starting position was never unlucky for Germinio as the Warners NY warrior maneuvered into sixth after 15 circuits, then cracked the top-5 for the first time on lap 18. By the halfway point he had his #10G SW Masonry-Omnicor Biomedical Services-Gator Flooring-The Compound/Bicknell ride flying up to fourth and hungry for more in his fifth appearance of the year at the fairgrounds.
With 10 laps left Eisele remained out front as Root, Waldron, Germinio and 15th-place starter Tyler Corcoran remained bunched waiting for a mistake. As the laps dwindled, Germinio continued to press the pedal, moving to third on lap 31 then taking second from Root over the next half-mile. Mission accomplished six laps from the finish as he swept high past leader Eisele exiting turn four.
Returning racer Paul DeRuyter was found facing the wrong way in turn one to require the last slowdown with three to go and Germinio easily extended his margin after the lap 37 restart. Under the checkers it was Germinio by six car-lengths over Eisele and Corcoran in his late-race rally to front, followed by Root, Waldron and Canandaigua kingpins Matt Guererri and Sobotka.
An expected Germinio gala on the homestretch suddenly soured after the unfortunate weight infraction, pushing Eisele and his #18e Performance Automotive-Dingman Farms-Walker Construction/Bicknell machine into the winner’s circle flanked by Corcoran and Root on the podium.
“Austin definitely had the better car at the end, I was getting a little tight there,” stated Eisele, after emerging as the sixth first-time winner at LOLR in 2023, and 11th different driver to reach victory lane in 15 events chronicled this season. He placed third in last year’s Haers Memorial. “Was just trying to carry as much momentum as I could. Being the leader you don’t really know where you wanna be. Once Austin passed me on the outside I moved up and he still pulled away. I was lacking.”
Son of past LOLR promoter Jeremie Corcoran, Tyler improved to second in the final rundown at his former Saturday night stomping grounds in wine country.
“This run from 15th to 2nd tonight was not really expected but seeing how we made this our hometrack last year we kinda knew how to get around here pretty well,” figured Corcoran, who posted three of his four career wins at LOLR last season to finish third in the final point standings. “Everybody was running high or in the middle and was just toting around the tires (low). Had a lot of really good runs on guys and was trying my best in turns three and four. Track was really good tonight, definitely a turnaround from last night.”
“Hate that to happen to Austin because he was really, really good and to be one pound light is just unreal. But my buddy Gavin, I’m really happy for him. We battle it out every week at Can-Am (Fri.) and there’s no one else I’d rather finish second to,” added Corcoran, who captured the ’23 Can-Am Speedway points title while Eisele settled for third.
Logging his first career win at Canandaigua in June, Root authored a solid third-place showing against a stellar Sportsman field towing in from around the region.
“Stayed up front for awhile then the top (groove) started coming in a little more,” said Root, who also collected top hometown finisher and pole awards after winning one of three qualifying heats on Friday. “We didn’t move up there quick enough and the car was kinda falling off. Tried (high) on one restart and I didn’t feel too good up there so I went back to the bottom.”
“Germinio went up there and passed us and then Corcoran, but hats off to Eisele. It was a clean race and we had fun. Still salvaged 3rd-place so we’re okay with that for the weekend,” added Root, who finished fourth on the final LOLR points chart in his second full season of Sportsman competition.
Continuing to strengthen the timely tribute to Jerry Haers, a long-time supporter of Land of Legends as well as an honorable Vietnam War Veteran, Saturday’s 50/50 beneficiary was the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 4, with the parent organization formed over 100 years ago on Sept. 25, 1920, at its first National Caucus held in Hamilton County Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In the aftermath of World War I, disabled veterans in the United States found themselves seriously disadvantaged, with little governmental support. DAV was thus created by the Congress for disabled military veterans of all U.S. Armed Forces that helps them and their families through various means. Today, DAV has over one million members.
DAV remains a non-profit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations, annually helping them and their families in positive life-changing ways. The organization is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.
Land of Legends Raceway Quick Results – September 16, 2023
70th Anniversary Season Celebration ‘Saturday Super Spectacular’
Phelps Cement Products presents 5th Annual Gerald Haers Memorial
Pepsi Modified GHM 100
*Feature (100 laps): 1. 25-ERICK RUDOLPH ($10,000), 2. 3-Justin Haers ($3,500), 3. 83x-Tim Sears Jr. ($2,500), 4. 99L-Larry Wight ($1,750), 5. 28-Jordan McCreadie ($1,600), 6. 34-Kevin Root ($1,500), 7. 3rs-Dalton Slack ($1,450), 8. 49-Billy Dunn ($1,400), 9. 60-Jackson Gill ($1,350), 10. 70a-Alex Payne ($1,300), 11. 42p-Pat Ward ($1,250), 12. 7z-Zach Payne ($1,200), 13. 14j-Alan Johnson ($1,150), 14. 8-Rich Scagliotta ($1,100), 15. 27jr-Daniel Johnson Jr. ($1,050), 16. 27j-Danny Johnson ($1,000), 17. 98h-Jimmy Phelps ($1,000), 18. 132-Dalton Martin ($1,000), 19. 19c-Brandon Carvey(SB) ($1,000), 20. 15-Todd Root ($1,000), 21. X-Chad Phelps ($1,000), 22. 11j-James Sweeting ($1,000), 23. 29k-Garrett Krummert ($1,000), 24. 82t-Gary Tomkins ($1,000), 25. 37s-Gary Lindberg(SB) ($1,000), 26. 7-Troy Sperring ($1,000).
Heats (20 laps / 6 qualify / Top-2 to Pole Dash)
In Memory of Carl Myers #1: J.Phelps ($500), Ward, Z.Payne, A.Payne, Marcuccilli(DSQ), Sperring, Lindberg, Coffey, Sweeting, Krummert, Wright, Scagliotta, Borden, Lawrence, Britten.
Fratto Curbing / Nick Fratto #2: K.Root ($500), McCreadie, Haers, C.Phelps, Wight, A.Johnson, D.Johnson Jr., Slack, Tomkins, Gage, Tegg, Stoughtenger, Wade, D.Johnson, Trump.
Team Hullings at Amanda Grover Real Estate #3: Rudolph ($500), Sears, Dunn, T.Root, Gill, Martin, Carvey, VanDoren, Roberts, Rauscher, JT Sperring, Regalski, Davis, Caprara.
C.X. Electric Last Chance Showdowns (10 laps / 4 qualify)
#1: Krummert ($250), Slack, Carvey, Scagliotta, Marcuccilli, Roberts, Gage, Stoughtenger, JT Sperring, Lawrence, Coffey, Davis(DNS).
#2: D.Johnson Jr. ($250), Tomkins, D.Johnson, Sweeting, Wright, Britten, VanDoren, Trump, Rauscher, Borden, Tegg, Regalski, Wade(DNS), Caprara(DNS).
Northeast Pool & Spa/ JH Coatings Pole Dash (6 laps): J.Phelps ($400), Rudolph ($300), K.Root ($200), McCreadie ($100), Sears ($100), Ward ($100).
F.X. Caprara Honda Hard Charger Award $300: Dalton Slack.
C.X. Electric Hard Luck Award $300: Kyle Coffey (flat tire last lap consi while leading).
Big Dog Country 103.5 Lucky Dog Award $200 (Last Car On Lead Lap): Zach Payne.
Buzz Chew Chevrolet Fastest Feature Lap Bonus $250: Erick Rudolph (19.990sec/90.045mph).
Competition Carburetors Fastest Feature Lap Bonus $100 (certificate): Erick Rudolph (19.990sec/90.045mph).
Marine Blue Hometown Finisher Award $150 (highest LOLR finisher): Justin Haers.
Move of the Race Award (In Memory of Stu & Brad Ovens) $150: Justin Haers.
S. Riddle Hardscapes Most Laps Led Bonus $150: Erick Rudolph.
Halfway Leader Bonus (In Loving Memory of Arthur & Cynthia MacMillan) $400: Erick Rudolph.
Bicknell Racing Products Small-Block Bonus: 1. Brandon Carvey $400, 2. Gary Lindberg $200.
S&B Tech Sales (Dom Basile) Racing Rookie Of The Race Award $150: Dalton Slack.
Sunrise Insulation 3rd-Place Heat Finish Bonus $300: H1-Z.Payne $100, H2-Haers $100, H3-Dunn $100.
Tradition Chevrolet Group Pole Award $300: Jimmy Phelps.
Bicknell Racing Products 1st Non-Qualifier Prize $150: Dave Marcuccilli.
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Sportsmanship Award $200 (gift card): Todd Root.
R.M. Tree Service Best Appearing Car Award $200: #27jr. Daniel Johnson Jr.
Real Estate By Jenn Ageless Wonder Award $100: Pat Ward.
S&B Tech Sales (Dom Basile) Youngest Driver Of The Race Award $150: Alex Payne.
NASCAR Racing Experience Worst Number Draw Prize $200: Tyler Trump.
Safety Awareness Solutions Crew Chief Award $100: #132 Eric Martin.
NASCAR Racing Experience Friday Fast Timer Bonus $300: Justin Haers (17.553sec/102.547mph).
ImageX Graphics Victory Lane Award Presentations.
Wicked Tees Winner Trophies.
$10,000 Lap Money.
DNQ (18): 01c-Tanner VanDoren, 01r-Robert Gage(SB), 1b-Timmy Borden Jr.(SB), 1L-Jeff Lawrence, m1-Dave Marcuccilli(SB), 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 9x-Tyler Trump, 13-Rick Regalski, 19w-Justin Wright, 21a-Peter Britten, 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 29-Matt Camara, 32r-Ronnie Davis III, 39-Kyle Coffey, 48too-Dave Rauscher, 56-J.T. Sperring(SB), 63-Adam Roberts, 82-Wally Wade.
Stirling Lubricants Sportsman Modified GHM Classic
*Feature (40 laps): 1. 18e-GAVIN EISELE (2,500), 2. 64-Tyler Corcoran ($1,000), 3. 30-Nick Root ($500), 4. 4-Emmett Waldron ($400), 5. 38-Zach Sobotka ($300), 6. 12g-Matt Guererri ($250), 7. 35t-Cameron Tuttle ($220), 8. 31-Kane Bristol ($200), 9. 18w-Jim Harbison ($180), 10. 34-Behr Grover ($170), 11. 21j-Justin Liechti ($160), 12. 32-Carter Crooker ($150), 13. 26-Greenley George ($150), 14. 06-Tim Guild ($150), 15. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr. ($150), 16. 31k-Kennedy Payne ($150), 17. 58-A.J. Lloyd ($150), 18. 2k-Anthony Kimble ($150), 19. 7-Paul Guererri ($150), 20. 10-Karl Comfort ($150), 21. 9-Tim Baker ($150), 22. 28-Mark Potter ($150), 23. 1d-Paul DeRuyter ($150), 24. 20k-Eric Giguere ($150), 25. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr. ($150), 26. 44-Dave Conant Jr. ($150), 27. 5r-Steve Roberts ($150), 28. 49-Chris Jakubiak ($150), 29. 51-Tim Lafler ($150), 10g-Austin Germinio(DSQ), 20x-Kevin Ridley(DNS).
Last Chance Showdowns (12 laps / 5 qualify)
#1: Comfort, Giguere, Potter, Payne, George, Roberts, Crooker, Ryan Bartlett(NS), Brad Sawyer(NS), Blake Parsons(NS).
#2: Harbison, Kimble, F.Guererri, Liechti, DeRuyter, Guild, Nick Cooper(NS), Jim Rushman(NS), Steve Gray(NS).
Stirling Lubricants Pole Dash (6 laps): Root ($250), Eisele ($200), Sobotka ($150), Waldron ($100), M.Guererri ($50), Bristol ($50).
NG Promotions Hard Charger Award $150: Carter Crooker.
Bicknell Racing Products Hard Luck Award $200: Kevin Ridley (blown engine).
Marine Blue Lucky Dog Award $100 (Last Car On Lead Lap): Kennedy Payne.
Proctor Enterprises Fastest Feature Lap Bonus $100: Gavin Eisele (20.332sec/88.530mph).
Competition Carburetors Fastest Feature Lap Bonus $100 (certificate): Gavin Eisele (20.332sec/88.530mph).
NG Promotions Hometown Finisher Award $100 (highest LOLR finisher): Nick Root.
Start Imagining Most Laps Led Bonus $100: Gavin Eisele.
Halfway Leader Bonus / Dean Reynolds $150: Gavin Eisele.
Batzel’s Automotive & Hot Rods Move of the Race $100: Austin Germinio.
Bicknell Racing Products Pole Award $200: Nick Root.
Bicknell Racing Products 1st Last Chance Showdown Winner $150: Karl Comfort.
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Sportsmanship Award $100 (gift card): Chris Jakubiak.
Stirling Lubricants Best Appearing Car Award $100: #10G Austin Germinio.
Proctor Enterprises Worst Number Draw Prize $100: Frank Guererri Jr.
Bicknell Racing Products Crew Chief Award $100: #12G Anthony Guererri.
ImageX Graphics Victory Lane Award Presentations.
Wicked Tees Winner Trophies.
21x-Ryan Barrett(NS), 29g-Steve Gray(NS), 33-Jim Rushman(NS), 35-Nick Cooper(NS), 55-Blake Parsons(NS), 87s-Brad Sawyer(NS).