Rudolph & Root Romp In Land Of Legends Mid-Season Championship Runs
Karlsen & Welch capture first feature wins of season in fast fairgrounds finales
Story By: Tom Skibinski/LOL Raceway
Photos By: Mark Ranalletta/RacersGuide.com
Canandaigua, NY – June 29, 2019 – Mid-Season Championship runs on Honeoye Auto Parts/American Equipment Night offered a preview of what may come in two more months as Pepsi Big-Block Modified point leaders Erick Rudolph and Matt Sheppard finished 1-2 in their 50-lap main event while Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified front-runners Kevin Root and Kane Bristol successfully defended home soil, securing the top-two spots in the 40-lap DIRTcar Northeast Series Central Region showdown.
Both Erik Karlsen (Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car) and Mike Welch (Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock) reached victory lane for the first time this season, completing the Saturday Spectacular in record time as only a handful of caution periods slowed the four-feature fairgrounds frenzy.
“The car was working for me, found a nice line there but was nervous that Matt was gonna come back or Billy (Dunn),” remarked reigning track points king Rudolph, 27, after scoring the third feature win in his last four tries at LOLR. Sheppard owns the other four first-place trophies this season and leads Rudolph by 21 markers, 487-466, after Saturday’s double-point program.
“Just had to keep working hard and pass as many lapped cars as I could. Was kind of stuck in the middle (lane) because I didn’t really know where to go and luckily enough it worked out good for us. Matt’s a great competitor and gives it his all every night like all the guys. I think we’re making ground on him but he’s still one of, if not the best, right now,” noted Rudolph, on the heels of his seventh career Big-Block triumph at the Ontario County Fairgrounds.
Rudolph filled in 14th on the starting grid outside of Sheppard in the 19-car field. While talented teenager Jeff Daugherty led the early going from his start on the pole, ‘Erick The Great’ from Ransomville methodically worked his way to the front, cracking the top-10 after only a handful of circuits in the extended Modified main.
Following the second and final yellow flag for the parked mount of Daniel Johnson Jr. between turns one and two, Rudolph’s night almost came to abrupt halt when the field jumbled up on the ensuing lap eight restart. Rudolph retained important track position yet the right side his potent #25 reVive Spine Center-Blue Cross Blue Shield/Bicknell machine was caved in as the pack paraded out of turn.
First-year LOLR regular Dillon Groover grabbed the point from Daugherty on lap nine while Rudolph cruised into fourth the next circuit. When Dunn sped past Groover high down the back chute, Rudolph mirrored the move down low and took control of second as the leaders crossed under starter Scott Hixson’s flagstand.
Meanwhille, ‘Super Matt’ was carving his way to the front, overtaking Phil Vigneri III for a front-five spot on lap 16 and looking for more. Rudolph nosed under Dunn for the final lead change on lap 18 and at the halfway mark Sheppard improved to third ahead of Groover and Alan Johnson, all in search of the $2,500 top prize.
It took more than a dozen laps for Sheppard to wrestle away second from Dunn, and despite Matt able to knock off a half-second every lap in pursuit of the leader, Rudolph held on for a seven car-length victory margin and bragging rights for another week. Dunn, Johnson and Justin Haers in his back-up Phelps Cement Product entry rounded out the final top-five.
“Don’t like to see things like that (dented side), just means a little extra work tomorrow,” figured Rudolph, who harbored plans to contest in Super DIRTcsr Series events the next two days in Cornwall, Ont. and Plattsburgh before returning for a timely tour stop on Thursday in Canandaigua. “Someone just got crossed up and I ran into him a bit. Its a shame with a relatively new door but we’ll straighten it out and get ready for the next one.”
The Sportsman Series attracted a stellar group of 44 open-wheel entries with exactly half that number of drivers making their initial appearance of the season at LOLR. Group time trials, four qualifying heats and a pair of consolation round races whittled down the starting field to 30 with 14 weekly Canandaigua chauffeurs cracking the star-studded line-up.
Yet when the checkered flag flew, it seemed like another Saturday night in wine country as Root took home the $1,000 victory while Bristol settled for second 12 car-lengths behind.
“Man, we got one helluva hot rod this year,” beamed Root, 40, who captured last year’s DIRTcar NE Sportsman Series title with one regional victory to his credit. “Its not just me, its my crew, my sponsors, everybody … not just one person here, it takes a lot of work. I certainly want to repeat as series champ and its a good way to start this year.”
After time trialing third in his group and placing second in his heat, Root grabbed fifth in the pre-race draw among the top-12 heat race finishers. While north country invader Jackson Gill from Plessis built up a sizable advantage during the opening laps, Root battled with weekly rival Bristol as another Canandaigua regular Matt Guererri rode in second.
Gill reached traffic on lap 13 yet his big lead suddenly evaporated two circuits later when the lone caution flag flew for Matt’s older brother Nick Guererri after his crate motor-powered car slowed to a stop out of turn three. Root took advantage of the next restart aboard his stout no. 34 F.X. Caprara Car Co-Slack Karts-Scott Jeffery Performance Plus/Bicknell machine, blasting from fourth to second and setting his sights on Gill.
After riding Gill’s rear bumper in search of an opening, Root dove under across the stripe to make the winning move on lap 19 and stretched his lead at the halfway mark as Bristol, Guererri and Chris Mackey challenged among the top-five. Bristol took second from Gill on lap 26 while 19th starting Matt Janczuk broke into the front-five with 10 laps to go.
The near caution-free feature forced the leaders to navigate through heavy traffic the final dozen circuits and at the wire 12 car-lengths and four lapped cars separated Root and Bristol in the 17-1/2 minute main. Gill hung on for third while Janczuk overtook fourth-place Guererri on lap 32 to end his march forward. Mackey hung on for sixth ahead of Canandaigua mainstays Mike Stanton Jr., Paul Guererri, Kevin Ridley and Andrew Smith.
In the customary post-race technical inspection, Matt Guerreri was found to be using pump fuel (used weekly at LOLR) instead of the tour mandated VP Racing Fuel and was disqualified, thus moving all drivers up one spot on the final scoresheet.
“This is such a competitive series you gotta go every night, can’t have any flaws and gotta finish every lap,” said Root, who was joined by his son in victory lane. “That’s what wins championships and wins races. I was trying to do the best I can to stay smooth and stay out of the rough.”
“I give credit to to the track crew. May not have had the best race track to start the night but I definitely think they made it really racy for us in the feature. That’s all we can ask for and that’s what it comes down to in the end. This (win) is definitely what we work hard for, hope we can keep it going,” added Root, following his fourth win overall on the DIRTcar Sportsman circuit in ’19 to keep him ahead of Bristol, 417-403, in the LOLR title chase as show-up points only were awarded Saturday.
In search of his own second win of the season, Bristol attempted to run down Root in traffic yet was relegated to another runner-up finish behind the Geneva pilot. “I was all over the place tonight. Committed to the middle and high side at the beginning then shifted to the bottom lane but I didn’t feel like I was as good there and shifted back and forth. Still can’t complain about a second against these tour guys, I’m just happy to be here.”
Outside pole-sitter Gill faded near the end despite starting out strong, yet last autumn’s The Dirt Track at Charlotte DRIVEN World Short Track Championships winner salvaged a solid third-place in a rare visit to the fairgrounds. “We were set up for a rough track and the other guys had setups for a slick one. The track got a little bit more black than expected but I can’t be upset about a third-place finish.”
The slick surface that developed suited second-generation sprinter Karlsen just fine as the Romulus racer took the lead from Andy Jacobus on a lap four restart and never flinched on his way to MEM 305 career win #7 at the Land of Legends.
“We’ve been struggling … no, trying hard … all year and getting faster and faster. I guess tonight we were fast enough,” noted Karlsen, 27, who’s father T.J. garnered three Sportsman wins at Canandaigua when the class was launched during the 1987-88 seasons. “Can’t thank the crew enough, they gave me such a fast ride tonight.”
Jacobus dashed ahead from outside the front row to kick off the 20-lap winged finale. Suffering a skip in the motor during his qualifying heat, then points leader Darryl Ruggles suddenly ducked into the pits with just one lap complete, opening the door for a new winner as early season victors Alysha Bay, Johnny Kolosek and Jesse Pruchnik were handicapped to start further back.
Karlsen was the man on this night, out-dragging Jacobus when the green lights returned following that early caution for the spinning mount of Jordan Noody between turns three and four. His advantage grew to a half-straightaway with 10 laps complete and when the checkered flag waved over his no. 66 Lanes Yamaha-Karlsen Land Surveyor-Lake Street Station Winery Maxim, the margin ballooned to the length of the homestretch. Jacobus enjoyed his first career top-five finish in his fifth race of the season.
“We made the right changes between the heat and the feature and it paid off,” added Karlsen, who by virtue of the double-points show moved into a three-way tie for the lead with Brandyn Griffin and Kolosek at 322; Ruggles and his daughter Bay stand next with 312 points each. “It really feels great to finally get the monkey off our back this year.”
The biggest surprise of the night came in the lead-off Street Stock feature, led early by Parker Smith and Brad Steinruck, then dominated by six-time winner Adam DePuy, before Welch out-dueled Jimmy Grant to determine the final outcome.
“(Grant) had his line and I was on the bottom,” began Welch, 53, attempting to offer his own version of the late-race drama that resulted in his all-time track-high total of 80 stock car wins. “He started coming down and I didn’t know where to go. We touched there a little and that must’ve popped his tire or something because he let off going into turn three and I got into the back of him a little bit … just one of those nights.”
Before the lap 13 run-in, it did in fact seem like just another one of those Saturday nights at the speedway for Street Stock contenders … a couple early leaders on track early before DePuy would make his way to the front and the rest is history.
So was the case on Saturday as DePuy stormed from 10th to first in just three laps. But in a rare reversal of fortune, his otherwise invincible black no. 99 Chevy Camaro on the brink of a seventh straight victory, suddenly dropped off the pace —relinquishing a 3/4-straightaway lead— with a broken spindle in the left front-end after glancing off a uke tire low between turns one and two.
Grant and Welch immediately emerged as the major players after the major mishap, yet they too found their fate uncertain with only three laps still to go. Contact down the back chute cut Grant’s left rear tire allowing Welch to take first, yet attempting to hold his line Grant looped low in turn one and collected Marc Minutolo to shuffle the deck further.
Back under green, Welch’s double-zero Dobbers Sports Bar & Grill-TLC Trips-Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet Camaro out-distanced Carl Johnson in a one lap shootout to score a five car-length victory followed by a surging Grant, Steinruck, Jason Quigley and Minutolo.
“Hats off to Adam, those guys got it going this year,” stated Welch, a 10-time Canandaigua points champion, after the Lyons legend posted his first win of 2019. “Everybody has that great season, everybody wants that dream season but sooner or later you have your issues. Apparently tonight was his night.”
“We’ve been getting better every week. I’m not used to the leaf springs, this is a coil car, we’re still learning that but getting closer. Hopefully we’ll be able to run with Adam pretty soon. Its always good to get to victory lane as Paul (Cole, LOLR promoter) always hands out these cool trophies. And its great to see all the fans out there, that’s what makes us race,” added Welch, who closed to within 14 points (444-430) of DePuy while Minutolo ranks third with 402 entering the month of July.
An all-star field of Big-Block Modified teams will converge on the fairgrounds in less than a week when Super DIRTcar Series ’19 comes to Land of Legends Raceway on Thr., July 4. The mighty mods are joined in the holiday happening by the electrifying Empire Super Sprints in their first of two appearances —this visit part of Donath Motor Worx CNY Speed Week (July 3-7) and round three in the LOLR 360 Sprint Classic Series— scheduled this season in Canandaigua.
Current LOLR point leaders and series standouts Sheppard, Rudolph and Dunn will be out to defend their home soil although Gypsum giants Billy Decker and Larry Wight, HBR hotshoes Jimmy Phelps and Max McLaughlin, north country nomad Tim Fuller and awesome Aussie Peter Britten are among the early season SDS frontrunners with plenty of experience navigating the Ontario County oval.
An indomitable Danny Johnson collected $6,000 for last year’s ‘Liberty 100’ victory, leading flag-to-flag to outlast rising Canadian star Mat Williamson and record-setting SDS champion Sheppard. Veteran winged warrior Chuck Hebing also led the distance last July en route to capturing the lucrative Lucas Oil ESS A-Main.
Pit gates unlock Thursday at 3:30 p.m., grandstand seating opens at 5 o’clock and practice sessions start at 6:15. Modified group time trials go off the line at 6:45 followed by opening ceremonies and qualifying races for Big-Blocks and Sprints.
Also remember to mark your calendars as its $25 per car load for fans attending the next ‘Saturday Spectacular’ at Land of Legends Raceway. Pepsi Big-Block Modfied, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint(twin 15-lap features) and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock divisions return to action on July 6 with Power Wheel Races filling the card that includes a benefit for Colony Caregivers. Race time is set for 7 p.m. Pit gates unlock at 4:00, grandstand seating opens at 5 p.m. and hot laps go green at 6 o’clock.
With the 56th season well underway, be sure to follow the point standings and breaking news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. Advance sale tickets are also available for purchase online throughout the upcoming months. Log into the website (LandOfLegendsRaceway.com), hit the red “Buy Tickets” button on the homepage, then make a selection from the list of dates & events highlighted.
Land of Legends Raceway is located at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, east of the city on Town Line Road (County Road 10), with easy access off either Exit 43 (Manchester, Route 21 South) or Exit 44 (Farmington, Route 332 South) of the New York State Thruway, just ½-hour southeast of Rochester.
Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – June 29, 2019
Honeoye Auto Parts and American Equipment present
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (50 laps double points): 1. 25-Erick Rudolph ($2,500), 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 3. 49-Billy Dunn, 4. 14j-Alan Johnson, 5. 3-Justin Haers, 6. 22-Jeff Daugherty, 7. 12x-Dillon Groover, 8. 23-Kyle Coffey, 9. 44v-Phil Vigneri III, 10. 11j-James Sweeting, 11. 19w-Justin Wright, 12. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 13. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 14. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 15. 63-Adam Roberts, 16. 77-Lance Dusett, 17. 14ny-Daniel Johnson Jr., 18. 21x-Eric Williams, 19. 07-Patrick Emerling.
Heats (8 laps)
1: Groover, Sheppard, Haers, Sweeting, Daugherty, Coffey, Dunn, Tegg, Maier.
2: Vigneri, Rudolph, Williams, A.Johnson, Podsiadlo, Wright, Dusett, Roberts, Emerling, D.Johnson.
Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified
DIRTcar Northeast Series Central Region
*Feature (40 laps): 1. 34-Kevin Root ($1,000), 2. 31-Kane Bristol, 3. 60-Jackson Gill, 4. 33x-Matt Janzcuk, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri(dsq), 6. 3r-Chris Mackey, 7. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 8. 7-Paul Guererri, 9. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 10. 1x-Andrew Smith, 11. 15-Adam Leslie, 12. 28-Alan Fink, 13. 57h-Remington Hamm, 14. 1-Mark Yorker, 15. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 16. 64-Tyler Corcoran, 17. 52-Jessica Power, 18. 38-Zach Sobotka, 19. 86-Matt Steffenhagen, 20. 11t-Jeff Taylor, 21. 7z-Zach Payne, 22. t1-Charlie Tibbitts Jr., 23. 5-Tim Devendorf, 24. 31c-Corey Barker, 25. 2k-Anthony Kimble, 26. 28a-Alex Payne, 27. 92-Wesley Hayes, 28. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 29. 25g-Nick Guererri, 30. 17e-Mark Effner.
Heats (8 laps / 5 qualify / top-3 redraw)
1: A.Smith, Root, Mackey, Taylor, Z.Payne, Fink, Corcoran, Barker, Castelletti, Stevenson, Falter.
2: Gill, Ridley, Hamm, Sobotka, P.Guererri, Lloyd, Bowman, Steffenhagen, Strickler, Kelly, Krentz(DNS).
3: M.Guererri, N.Guererri, Stanton, Yorker, Janczuk, Power, A.Payne, Miller, Devendorf, Stoughtenger, Hudson.
4: Bristol, F.Guererri, Kimble, Tibbitts, Effner, Hayes, Leslie, Vinson, Borden, Backus, Baker.
Last Chance Showdowns (10 laps / 4 qualify)
1: Fink, Steffenhagen, Corcoran, Lloyd, Barker, Castelletti, Falter, Strickler, Bowman, Stevenson, Kelly, Krentz(DNS).
2: Power, Leslie, A.Payne, Hayes, Devendorf, Miller, Stoughtenger, Vinson, Borden, Backus(DNS), Hudson(DNS), Baker(DNS).
Provisionals: Barker, Devendorf.
Group Time Trials (3 laps / 44 cars)
1: Andrew Smith 19.493 sec. (92.341 mph), Chris Mackey 19.685, Kevin Root 19.699, Tyler Corcoran 19.794, Zach Payne 19.815, Jeff Taylor 19.918, Alan Fink 20.046, Corey Barker 20.149, C.J. Castelletti 20.261, Keith Stevenson 20.501, Tim Falter 20.672.
2: Kevin Ridley 19.527 (92.180 mph), Jackson Gill 19.567, A.J. Lloyd 19.925, Matt Steffenhagen 19.931, Paul Guererri 19.979, Remington Hamm 20.013, Garrison Krentz 20.033, Zach Sobotka 20.204, Jordan Kelly 20.300, Addison Bowman 20.565, John Strickler 20.885.
3: Matt Guererri 19.596 (91.855 mph), Nick Guererri 19.636, Mike Stanton Jr. 19.738, Mark Yorker 19.883, Matt Janczuk 19.955, Jessica Power 20.088, Tim Devendorf 20.197, A.J. Miller 20.240, Alex Payne 20.315, Torrey Stoughtenger 20.496, Brian Hudson 20.804.
4: Kane Bristol 19.386 (92.851 mph), Frank Guererri Jr. 20.021, Anthony Kimble 20.064, Tim Baker 20.193, Charlie Tibbitts Jr. 20.235, Wesley Hayes 20.376, Mark Effner 20.400, Tyler Vinson 20.928, Kearra Backus 21.037, Timmy Borden Jr. 21.159, Adam Leslie(-NT-).
DNQ: 4-Keith Stevenson, 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 9-Tim Baker, 12-Addison Bowman, 14aj-A.J. Miller, 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 24-Jordan Kelly, 48-Kearra Backus, 56-Garrison Krentz, 87j-John Strickler, 93-Tyler Vinson, 71-Tim Falter, 117jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 621-Brian Hudson.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps double points): 1. 66-Erik Karlsen, 2. 99-Andy Jacobus, 3. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 4. 38-Jason Whipple, 5. 48a-Alysha Bay, 6. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 7. 53-Tom Fletcher, 8. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 9. X-Dan Bennett, 10. 9-Jordan Noody, 11. 13t-Trevor Years, 12. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles.
Heats (8 laps)
1: Ruggles, Pruchnik, Years, Fletcher, Whipple, Griffin.
2: Kolosek, Karlsen, Jacobus, Bay, Noody, Bennett.
Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps double points): 1. 00-Mike Welch, 2. 37x-Carl Johnson, 3. 36-Jimmy Grant, 4. 02-Brad Steinruck, 5. 34q-Jason Quigley, 6. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 7. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 8. 99-Adam DePuy, 9. 4j-Jason Doty, 10. 55p-Parker Smith, 11. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 12. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 55b-Blane Smith(DNS).
Heats (6 laps)
1: DePuy, Steinruck, Minutolo, P.Smith, Welch, Quigley, Whittaker.
2: Grant, Sutherland, Johnson, B.Smith, Doty, Metcalf.
NEXT EVENTS: Thursday Super Spectacular, July 4 @ 7pm; Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified “Liberty 100” plus Empire Super Sprints Land of Legends 360 Sprint Classic Series Race #3 with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 4 Benefit.
Saturday Spectacular, July 6 @ 7pm; Sherwin-Williams Paint presents $25 Carload Night: Big-Block Modified/Sportsman/305 Sprint(double features)/Street Stock plus Power Wheel Races with Colony Caregivers Benefit.
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.