Matt Sheppard Headlines 2019 Land of Legends Banquet With 9th Points Crown
Root adds first, Ruggles & DePuy repeat as 56th season now history at Canandaigua fairgrounds
Story By: Tom Skibinski/LOL Raceway
Photo By: Don Romeo
Canandaigua, NY – January 18, 2020 – The curtain dropped on the 2019 season for Land Of Legends Raceway as a full house celebrated the 56th year of motorsports in Canandaigua with the annual awards banquet staged at King’s Party House on Saturday, Jan. 18.
Nearly 250 drivers, owners, crew members, track officials, corporate partners, family and friends of racing attended the fast-paced three-hour affair that kicked off with cocktails followed by a prime rib buffet dinner.
Second-generation standout Matt Sheppard from Waterloo, N.Y. took center stage after capturing his ninth career Pepsi Big-Block Modified points championship at the historic Ontario County Fairgrounds speedplant, headlining an evening gala where LOLR promoter Paul Cole handed out $32,325 in point fund cash to 67 drivers, with product contingencies and bonus rewards elevating the total above $40,000.
“It seems rather fitting that tonight we get hit with the first big snowfall of the year” smiled Cole, 49, following a successful sophomore season spearheading speedway activity that resulted in him being named DIRTcar Northeast Promoter of the Year. “Weather proved to be our biggest competition every week last season, with eight shows —including the two biggest events of the year— impacted or cancelled altogether due to rain. But our team worked through a lot of unplanned issues and we’re looking forward to a many more brighter days in the months ahead.”
Joining Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage Big-Block Modified Champion Sheppard on the podium were ‘19 LOLR point leaders Kevin Root (Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman) from Geneva, Darryl Ruggles (Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint) from Hopewell and Adam DePuy (Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock) from Macedon.
Fairgrounds fans shared in the banner season as their weekly track favorites were also recognized among the best in the entire Northeast.
Sheppard led all NE feature winners in 2019 with 36 while LOLR Big-Block runner-up and ’18 points champ Erick Rudolph collected 25 checkered flags as well as the DIRTcar 358-Modified Series points crown. Root topped the Central Region standings en route to successfully defending his overall DIRTcar Sportsman Series Championship while Ruggles placed second in his initial effort chasing the Super Gen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series title around the state.
In addition, recently crowned Empire Super Sprint and Patriot Sprint Tour champions Paulie Colagiovanni (ESS) and Davie Franek (PST) scored A-Main victories at Canandaigua on their way to first-ever titles for the respective sanctioning bodies.
Trophies were presented to the Top-3 point-getters in all four headline divisions, with 14 drivers in Big-Block and 22 in Sportsman plus Top-10 in 305 Sprint Car and Top-11 in Street Stock classes receiving ample point fund checks. Sheppard pocketed $2,500 and Root banked $2,000 from the lucrative season-ending $9,750 Big-Block and $9,850 Sportsman funds, while Ruggles ($700) topped the $4,325 305 Sprint pool and DePuy ($900) headed the $5,400 Street Stock payout.
“Fans and racers have a lot of choices when it comes to what track to support so we’re doing our best to make Land of Legends their top pick,” noted Cole, who remains a big advocate of local charities as he continued to earmark proceeds from the weekly 50/50 trackside drawings to numerous non-profit entities. While enhanced lighting, new scoreboard and videoboard, timing loop and sound system were some of the most noticeable fairgrounds upgrades his first two years, expect more improvements to the legendary facility as Cole continues his tenure.
“Just finished working out a 3-year deal with the Ontario Co. Fairboard to extend the track lease through 2021 with an option to renew in 2022. And along with a brand-new in-house web streaming service lined up when the new season begins, we’re nearing completion of a ‘Land of Legends’ app. On race day fans and racers can check on the weather and once at the track those in the stands and pits will have immediate access to starting line-ups, race results and updated points as soon as they are tabulated. We’ll have a lot to offer those in attendance on both sides of the fence and we feel we’re just getting started with all we can do to upgrade the facility,” added Cole,
Speedway announcer Steve Ovens joined Cole as the master of ceremonies on this festive occasion, recognizing every special award winner for their accomplishments, interviewing each divisional champion, narrating video highlights of the runner-up and third-place finishers, and acknowledging the major division sponsors Geneva Club Beverage, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Mike Emhof Motorsports and Smith Bros. Drywall.
Grabbing the attention of the party house contingent throughout the presentations, customized video/slide show clips of each points champion produced by emcee Ovens and the award-winning FLX Media Group (Mel & Matt Thomas, Art Rorick) were projected onto a large screen for all to enjoy and reminisce.
In 2020, LOLR management is excited to provide an in-house video streaming service that will link with Victor, N.Y.-based web designer Cazbah through a brand-new site. Full-year season subscriptions are available right now for $150 ($7.50 per show for current 20-race schedule) if purchased by April 1 while weekly subscriptions will be provided during the season at the price of general admission for that night.
This streaming video service includes viewing of every 2020 LOLR on-track event with full-season and weekly subscribers having access to video archives plus exclusive subscriber-only video content not found anywhere else. More details on the naming and registration information for this new service is coming in the weeks ahead.
For the 19th time in the past 20 years, the Big-Block title chase has ended the same way … a Waterloo driver claiming the championship in the final points tally. And for nine of those seasons its been Sheppard taking top billing, his most recent title registered last summer in another career year running up and down the entire east coast.
“Its hard to thank enough all those that have supported our teams during the year as we traveled around quite a bit and needed a lot of help along the way,” said Sheppard, 37, now with 78 career Big-Block wins (5th all-time) in Canandaigua to elevate his career total to 371. His latest domination of the fairgrounds half-miler aboard the potent #9s Hurlock Auto & Speed-Dendis Companies/Bicknell entry produced 8 wins and 12 top-5 feature finishes in 12 starts.
“I can remember sitting in the stands watching Alan (Johnson), Steve (Paine) and Bob (McCreadie), racing was all I wanted to do so winning a track championship never even crossed my mind. Canandaigua has been very good to me. I’ve been at the track pretty much my whole life and feel very comfortable here. Have to thank Paul (Cole) for continuing to give me a place to call home,” added Sheppard, who at age 17 took his first checkered flag at Canandaigua in 1999 contending in the Sportsman division.
Last calling Canandaigua home on Saturdays during the summer in 2016, Root returned to familiar grounds improving from 8th-place in the final Sportsman standings three years ago to top of the chart with a division-best four victories to close out the decade.
“I’ve said it before, the toughest competition week in and week out is right here at the Land of Legends,” beamed Root, now 41, with 12 year-old son Nicholas a familiar site by his side in victory lane and Saturday at the season-ending awards reception. “A lot of guys can win any night, we’re fortunate to come out ahead this time but it wasn’t by luck. We’ve got a solid team and being able to back up what we did last year means a lot.”
Since scoring his first win at LOLR in ’16, Root improved his career count in Ontario County to six in ’19 steering the #34 F.X. Caprara Car Co.-Slack Karts-SJP/Bicknell mount. Those four wins came in 14 starts with seven more Top-5 feature finishes logged along the way.
“We took a big race at Middletown (Orange County Fair Speedway) that paid more but winning the Haers Memorial at Canandaigua meant so much more. The Haers family is family to a lot of racers around here and being able to win one for Jerry is tough to match,” Root stated.
A long-time supporter of Land of Legends, Jerry Haers passed away at age 74 on July 15 this past summer. A special trackside tribute for his lifetime of contributions made to the racing community was conducted prior to the 2019 season-finale in September.
Despite not matching his eight win mark of a year ago, Ruggles overcame a summer of mechanical setbacks to sew up a third straight MEM 305 Sprint Car track title at the ripe young age of 54. The Hopewell hotshoe remains atop the LOLR all-time sprint car win list with 38 following his maiden voyage to victory lane in 2013.
An even bigger hurdle for Team Ruggles to overcome during the season was the terminal illness revealed by long-time sponsor Danny Willmes, who ultimately passed away on Sept. 2 at age 66. Ruggles mirrored his emotional victory lane appearance in August with even fewer words upon accepting track champion accolades on Saturday, just moments after viewing video footage showcasing his successful season with Willmes always looking on.
On the heels of recording three wins and 10 Top-5 A-Main finishes in all 15 events, the #48jr. Willmes Enterprises-VanBortel Trucking-Ruggles World of Auto Body/Eagle entry will be back in search of a sixth career sprint crown in Canandaigua. After settling for second behind Jeff Trombley his first time out, Ruggles also looks to improve one position on the CRSA tour during the coming year.
While all three open-wheel champions expect to return to LOLR in 2020 to defend their titles, recently anointed Street Stock points king DePuy has no intentions of earning a fourth straight track trophy. Currently ranking 2nd all-time with 46 career full-fender wins at Canandaigua, DePuy modestly thanked his crew, fans, family and friends, divulging to Ovens that he’s taking the year off.
“I might make a race or two but my focus in 2020 is on buying a house in Fairport, after that who knows,” offered DePuy, 45, who opened the ’19 Canandaigua campaign on fire, collecting six straight checkered flags on his way to a personal season-high total of nine feature wins.
The second half of the summer resulted in three more visits to the winner’s circle, and by season’s end his black #99 Ifreeze Storage & Dist. Center-A.E.Y. Enterprises-Fox’s Auto-Quigley Flooring Chevrolet Camaro netted 11 Top-5 finishes in 13 starts.
For the second straight year Ontario, N.Y. veteran Chuck Hebing topped the points chart as he captured the Land of Legends Raceway 360 Sprint Classic Series. Culminating with the New York Nationals 360 Sprint Car Championship in September, over 60 wingmen from around the Northeast competed in the five-race stint though none were more consistent than the #45 Wilkins RV-Cobra Motorcoaches and Homes/X-1 sprinter.
Taking his lone checkered flag in the ’19 Patriot Sprint Tour opener in May, Hebing (245 pts) out-gained two-time mini-series race winner Colagiovanni (242) and Capital District runner Matt Tanner (217) to defend his title in wine country. Franek and popular Frenchman Steve Poirier also scored LOLR victories.
With top touring drivers sharing in the lucrative $3,000 point fund posted by Cole’s own SuperGen Products business, a major supplier of Champion Power Equipment, Hebing collected the lion’s share of $1,000 followed by runner-up Colagiovanni-$600, Tanner-$350, Jonathan Preston-$250 (4th), Franek-$200 (5th), Joe Trenca-$175 (6th), Jason Barney-$150 (7th), Ruggles-$125 (8th), Shawn Donath-$100 (9th) and Trombley-$50 (10th).
Thanks to PJC Motorsports, the Land of Legends Raceway 360 Sprint Classic Series point fund has already been boosted to $6,000 for the 2020 edition!
Opening up the Saturday evening program were a pair of special award presentations, the first made by LOLR Race Director Greg Hixson to acknowledge Paul Cole’s recent selection as DIRTcar Northeast’s top promoter, and the second by Cole himself distinguishing LOLR General Manager Greg Emerson as the track’s Employee of the Year.
As the awards portion of the progarm neared closure, Cole offered some final congratulatory remarks while laying out preliminary plans for the 2020 race season and outlining what both fans and racers can look forward to when the snow melts. Dozens of door prizes were drawn during the banquet as Cole recognized many of his staff members for their tireless efforts exhibited during the past season, extending a sincere ‘thank-you’ to all those that continue to serve the speedway.
First-year Big-Block racer Dillon Groover (20 yrs.) and fledgling Sportsman pilot Alex Payne (14) earned 2019 LOLR Rookie of the Year awards, with both receiving commemorative trophies on Saturday. Further bolstering the quality of weekly competition in Ontario County, both open-wheel drivers also garnered DIRTcar Northeast ROY accolades at the group’s recent banquet held in Liverpool, N.Y.
Beaver Dam’s Groover tallied a Top-5 and 4 Top-10 finishes, leading 22 feature laps and posting a pair of heat race wins to place 7th on the points chart in his Enders-powered #12x Patrick Hoopes Trucking-BMS Manufacturing/Bicknell entry. Rising 2nd-generation star Payne from Hopewell logged 2 Top-5s and 3 Top-10s, led 21 laps and added two heat wins wheeling the #28A Speed Connection-Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Bussey Painting/Bicknell mount to 13th in points.
Ransomville’s Rudolph went from Big-Block track champion to ‘Hard Luck’ award winner at LOLR in the past 12 months. The young speedster was one lap away from completing a late-race rally in July’s ‘Liberty 100’ Super DIRTcar Series shootout when his #25 reVive Spine Center-Blue Cross/Blue Shield-Mohawk NE-NMCC/Bicknell was spun out by race-long leader Max McLaughlin to deny him valuable points and a $7,500 payday. Twenty-eight year-old ‘Erick The Great’ settled for second in points, scoring 5 feature wins among 10 Top-5 finishes while leading 142 laps in 13 main events.
In contrast, the team of last year’s ‘Hard Luck” recipient Justin Haers was recognized with the ‘Best Appearing Car’ award for its restored red no. 3 Phelps Cement Products-Honeoye Auto Parts-Tradition Chevrolet/Bicknell Big-Block ride. The personable 40 year-old from Phelps finished fourth in the final points tally, notching 9 Top-5 finishes by season’s end.
Big-Block mainstay Justin Wright (32 yrs.) from Piffard and Gorham’s Alysha Bay (26) received special ‘Sportsmanship’ awards, Wright steering his #19W Mercer Milling-Dairyman’s Edge-RM Lubricants/Bicknell to 5th-place in points and Bay (3 wins) showing third in the final MEM 305 standings aboard her pink Mastin motored #48A Danny Willmes Enterprises-Ruggles Racing/Eagle.
With four-time winner and son Kane wheeling the no. 31 RW Dake Commercial Contracting Specialist-Lynnie & Lou’s Ice Cream/Bicknell entry, owner and father Mark Bristol accepted the 2019 “Crew Chief/Team of the Year” award for their season-long efforts.
Making a fine first impression in his maiden voyage to the fairgrounds in 2019 behind the wheel of the potent #36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Champion Scrap/Chevy Monte Carlo, Penn Yan’s Jimmy Grant (34 yrs.) was honored with receipt of the 2nd Annual Tim Downs Spirit of Racing award. Cole inaugurated the Spirit of Racing trophy last January in memory of LOLR Sportsman driver and mechanic Downs, who passed away unexpectedly at age 61 on Dec. 28, 2018 at his home in Bergen.
With 2019 officially in the record books for fans and racers alike, only three more months await before Land of Legends Raceway launches its 57th season. The storied Ontario County oval comes to life for practice on Sat., April 18 before the 2020 lid-lifter for the mighty Big-Block Modifieds, 305 Sprints, Street Stocks and Sportsman in the ‘Cabin Fever 40’ provide the first payouts on April 25.
The upcoming Spring/Summer slate is filled with a trio of Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series shows (July 2, Aug. 13, Sept. 19) and two DIRTcar Sportsman Series events (June 27, Sept. 19), along with Patriot (May 2, June 20) and ESS (July 2, Aug. 13) specials plus CRSA 305 stops (May 16, July 18, Aug. 29). A new Hobby Stock class makes its LOLR debut on May 2 and follows up with eight more appearances scheduled on alternating weekends through the Sept. 19 season-finale.
LOLR Wall of Fame induction dates have been set for May 23, June 20, July 11 and Aug. 22, with four new faces added to the current membership already boasting legendary racers Alan Johnson, Dutch Hoag, Bob McCreadie and Steve Pesarek, and officials Glenn Donnelly, Gary Montgomery and Gary & Donna Spaid along with driver/engine-builder Milt Johnson.
Check out www.landoflegendsraceway.com often as further information for the upcoming season will be posted right up to raceday. To discuss marketing opportunities available at the track in 2020, please contact General Manager Greg Emerson via e-mail email@example.com.
Be sure to join us every Saturday night this race season for a full show of open-wheel Modified, winged Sprint Car and full-fender Stock Car action. Land of Legends Raceway is located on County Road 10 at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, just 1-1/2-miles north of Routes 5&20, and is easily accessible from the NYS Thruway (I-90), taking Exit 43 (Manchester, Route 21 South) traveling from the east or Exit 44 (Farmington, Route 332 South) coming from the west.
2019 Land Of Legends Raceway Point Leaders & Award Winners
Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage Big-Block Modified: MATT SHEPPARD-champion, Erick Rudolph-2nd, Alan Johnson-3rd, Justin Haers-4th, Justin Wright-5th, James Sweeting-6th, Dillon Groover-7th, Billy Dunn-8th, Gil Tegg Jr.-9th, Kyle Coffey-10th. Rookie – Dillon Groover, Sportsmanship – Justin Wright, Hard Luck – Erick Rudolph, Best Appearing Car – #3 Justin Haers. 2019 feature winners: Sheppard (8), Rudolph (5), Johnson.
Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Modified Sportsman: KEVIN ROOT-champion, Kane Bristol-2nd, Matt Guererri-3rd, Paul Guererri-4th, Andrew Smith-5th, Nick Guererri-6th, Garrison Krentz-7th, Kevin Ridley-8th, Mike Stanton Jr.-9th, AJ Lloyd-10th. Rookie – Alex Payne, Crew Chief/Team of the Year – Mark Bristol/Bristol Motorsports #31 Team. 2019 feature winners: Root (4), Bristol (4), N.Guererri (2), Ridley (2), P.Guererri, Smith, Ricky Newton.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car: DARRYL RUGGLES-champion, Johnny Kolosek-2nd, Alysha Bay-3rd, Brandyn Griffin-4th,Jason Whipple-5th, Dan Bennett-6th, Erik Karlsen-7th, Jesse Pruchnik-8th, Tom Fletcher-9th, Trevor Years-10th. Sportsmanship – Alysha Bay. 2019 feature winners: Ruggles (3), Kolosek (3), Bay (3), Karlsen (2), Griffin, Bennett, Pruchnik, Jeff Trombley.
Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock: ADAM DePUY-champion, Jimmy Grant-2nd, Mike Welch -3rd, Marc Minutolo -4th, Quinn Sutherland-5th, Parker Smith-6th, Carl Johnson-7th, Jason Quigley-8th, Bob Buono-9th, Brad Steinruck-10th. Spirit of Racing – Jimmy Grant. 2018 feature winners: DePuy (9), Josh Pangrazio (2), Grant, Welch, Minutolo.
Track Instant Info
Along with recognizing its weekly 50/50 raffle fund beneficiaries, Land of Legends Raceway is proud to salute several sponsors and corporate partners that continue to help bring its fans the best Saturday night racing show in the Northeast. Listed alphabetically are current division sponsors Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Mike Emhof Motorsports, Pepsi Geneva Club Beverage, Smith Bros. Drywall; event sponsors Admar Construction Equipment & Supply Company, American Equipment, A-Verdi Storage Containers, Geneva Club Beverage, Honeoye Auto Parts/Auto Value, Pepsi/Mountain Dew/Lipton Lake Beverage, L&L Transmission & Towing, Main Energy, Red Osier Restaurant, Sherwin-Williams Paint, Tradition Automotive Group; promotional partners Champion Power Equipment, Dig Safely New York 811, Dobbers Sports Bar, Elab Smokers Boutique, Hoosier Racing Tire, Hoselton Chevrolet, Ontario County Fairboard, Radio 95.1 Rochester, Star Headlight & Lantern Co., VP Racing Fuels, Weedsport Hall of Fame, Wright Beverage, Young Real Estate Agency.