Rudolph & Root Lead The Distance In LOLR Command Performances
Ruggles, Grant & Burnell capture first checkers of 2020 campaign at Canandaigua fairgrounds
Photo Credit: Don Romeo
Canandaigua, NY – June 13, 2020 – Tom Skibinski, Land of Legends Raceway PR
As temperatures plummeted into the unseasonably high 40s come feature time, Erick Rudolph and Kevin Root remained hot, two recent track point champions both winning qualifying heats, redrawing the pole then leading flag-to-flag to dominate their respective feature events in the ‘Saturday Spectacular’ at Land Of Legends Raceway.
2018 Pepsi Big-Block Modified season champion Rudolph captured his first victory while defending Speed Connection Sportsman points king Root racked up a second straight win, his last coming Tuesday night on the fast Ontario Co. Fairgrounds oval.
Veteran wingman and 2019 points champion Darryl Ruggles returned to the cockpit to triumph in the Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car A-Main while Jimmy Grant (Street Stock) and Tyler Burnell (Hobby Stock) scored popular victories in full-fender action.
“We’ve had a string of bad luck lately, hopefully we can put that behind us,” commented Rudolph, 28, after the Ransomville rocket posted his 10th career Modified win at LOLR where his father Charlie reached victory lane 17 times from 1983-88. “Different circumstances, whether it was a flat tire or something else. Just seemed like we couldn’t put the gremlins behind us and hopefully I think we did just now.”
Rudolph was quick from the start, turning the best time in hot laps for his heat then taking the win before luck of the draw among the front four qualifiers positioned him on the point for the 35-lap Modified main. The caution-free finale did little to help his challengers, with the potent Bob Bruneau-powered no. 25 reVive Spine Center-Blue Cross/Blue Shield-Mohawk NE-NMCC/Bicknell entry creating a comfortable 12 car-length margin of victory at the stripe.
Central New Yorker Chris Hile logged his best finish at the fairgrounds, holding second until Tuesday’s winner Larry Wight rolled past running his customary high side to take second on lap 24. Billy Dunn rallied from 11th on the 25-car starting grid to grab fourth from Kyle Coffey on lap 28 while Alan Johnson remained the only driver to place among the Top-5 in the first three events.
“Track was a little slippery out there tonight,” noted Rudolph, who had little trouble getting around traffic for the duration, lapping up to 12th-place finisher Matt Farnham, with 20 of the 24 starters taking the checkered flag; Gil Tegg Jr. did not start after suffering critical engine issues. “But the car was still very maneuverable.”
“We started out on the bottom (lane) and the car seemed to like it so I stayed down there the whole time. Really proud of the car we had today, really proud of my team. Want to thank my whole crew and everybody at home that bought the pay-per-view, appreciate it. That way we can stay out here and keep doing what we’re doing. Also want to thank every sponsor on board here,” added the third-generation driver, who scored his first win of the season in Florida at All-Tech Raceway during the ‘Sunshine Swing’ in February.
Another big field of Sportsman racers signed in Saturday with 2018 & ’19 overall Northeast DIRTcar Series titlist Root easily the best of the 41 cars turning trackside.
“Its not easy when you’re leading the race and don’t know where everybody else is running,” remarked Root, 41, who matched Rudolph by securing the top spot among 26 starters after three re-drew from four qualifying heats. “Figured the bottom would be the preferred line tonight so just made sure I didn’t screw up and get off it.”
“You never know leading the race, sometimes its not a good thing because you don’t know what the other guys are doing. We’ve got a pretty good hot rod under us this year. I can’t thank everybody enough just giving me the opportunity to keep coming out here and doing what I love,” Root said.
Root led a strong trio of Canandaigua kingpins with top point chasers Kane Bristol and opening night winner Matt Guererri running in his shadow the entire distance. Four caution periods were all that could slow #34 F.X. Caprara Car Co.-Stirling Lubricants-Slack Karts-SJP/Bicknell ride, with the Geneva wheelman still gaining a three-quarters straightaway victory margin under chief starter Scott Hixson’s final checkered flag.
Kevin Ridley placed fourth ahead of Mike Fowler and Paul Guererri, Canandaigua’s all-time Sportsman feature race winner.
“(Top) got kinda dirty up there. I think certain spots up high you could get some bite but I don’t think you could get anybody coming off the corner and that’s what you need here. Bottom was the preferred line in the heats.”
“Said since day one to surround yourself with good people. I have great sponsors and great help, had a helluva year last season. We changed everything this year to a different package. Sometimes change is good, sometimes not, but right now things are rolling for us,” added Root, following his second win in five nights.
As time permitted, Promoter Cole made sure no driver went home empty handed, offering a 15-lap Sportsman B-Main. Steering the blue no. 70A Speed Connection-Rick’s Wheels-New Generation Racing Engines/Bicknell car, second-generation pilot Alex Payne from Hopewell topped the field of 15 in the final event of the night that closed out the five-division show at 10:40pm. Rocco Leone, Sam Hoxie, Ray Bliss Jr. and J.T. Sperring rounded out the Top-5.
“Slow was fast tonight,” figured the seasoned chauffeur, now 14, who finished 13th in the 2019 LOLR Sportsman point standings and was named DIRTcar NE Rookie of the Year to close out a successful inaugural campaign. “Just way off in qualifying, got things right now. Had a lot of help and the car got much better in the end.”
Making a triumphant return after missing the 2020 track opener the previous weekend, Ruggles overtook winged veteran Bobby Parrow a third of the way through on Saturday and staved off a late-race charge from Brandyn Griffin to secure victory in the 20-lap MEM 305 finale.
“A little sore but I’m alright,” down-played Ruggles, 54, who slammed the wall exiting turn four in 360 Sprint Car practice on June 4. Canandaigua’s all-time Sprint winner from nearby Hopewell was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester after suffering from a concussion, two broken ribs, fractured right thumb and an undisclosed left knee injury.
“Earlier I wasn’t even going to race but we got here and I fired up the car since they didn’t do it at the house. Thought I’m just going to go around the parking lot for a couple minutes but I came back and thought ‘that’s not so bad.’ And my wife (Wendy) looked at me and she knew it. Said before to my friend Ike, if the car feels good I’m probably gonna race tonight, and he figured it,” smiled Ruggles, now with 39 career 305 wins at Canandaigua.