Wight On Track For Second Canandaigua Crown After 2022 Opening Night Win

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Comfort first GHM Spt qualifier as Ruggles, Pangrazio, Ellison, George help launch 59th season

Karl Comfort victory lane photo by Shawn Greene

Wight On Track For Second Canandaigua Crown After 2022 Opening Night WinComfort first GHM Spt qualifier as Ruggles, Pangrazio, Ellison, George help launch 59th season

Canandaigua, NY – April 30, 2022 – Tom Skibinski, Land of Legends Raceway PR

2022 ushered in the 59th season of motorsports at Land Of Legends Raceway and it was fitting that a trio of veterans captured checkered flags in the annual lid-lifter.

Making triumphant returns to the historic Ontario Co. Fairgrounds half-miler were Speed Connection Sportsman winner Karl Comfort (55 yrs) and Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock victor Wayne Ellison (56), while Darryl Ruggles (56) claimed the Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car A-Main.

Also pulling into the winner’s circle in the first ‘Saturday Spectacular’ presented by
Jack Howell Properties LLC were Larry Wight (Pepsi Big-Block Modified), Josh Pangrazio (Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock) and Greenley George (MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman).

The Newark High School Bowling Team collected its own share of the winnings on Saturday night, recognized as the recipient of the weekly 50/50 benefit fund.

The April 30 program marked the first time fifth year track promoter Paul Cole was able to best Mother Nature before the month of May arrived, losing his four previous openers due to inclement weather and mandated CoVid-19 restrictions.

“Its been awhile, was time to come back,” stated an emotional Comfort, dedicating his first win at LOLR since 2016 to his late father Jim and long-time fellow competitor Scott Schrader. “I stepped away because my dad wasn’t here anymore. He saw my last win here and I said I wasn’t going back ever and now here I am. Can’t believe we did it.”

The elder Comfort started work on the track when DIRTcar founder Glenn Donnelly began promoting Canandaigua Speedway in 1977. Karl went on to garner two track point titles (1999-2000) and win 22 Sportsman features beginning in 1994 before his father passed away on Christmas Day in 2016. A two-time Sportsman track champion (1992, 2005) himself while racking up 18 feature wins, Schrader passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 19 at age 62.
With the top-three heat race qualifiers in all divisions re-drawing for their feature starting positions, Comfort selected the pole. From there he would lead all 25 laps, holding off runner-up Kane Bristol by four car-lengths at the line despite three caution periods keeping the field close behind the Tom Fox-owned #10 Fox’s Auto-Dar’s Auto-Uptown Tire & Auto Service-Creekside Contractors/Bicknell entry.

Frank Guererri Jr. nipped the uke tire low in turns one and two to fold up his front end and force out the first yellow flag on lap six while Tony Velez slid high off the track exiting the first corner to require a second slowdown on lap 15 as the track safety crew extricated his disabled mount from the early season wetlands. Tim Baker looped his ride low out of turn three just four laps from the finish in the final mishap, yet Comfort was undeterred on the way to matching his opening day victory earned in 1999.

Following Comfort and Bristol across the stripe were all-time LOLR Sportsman winner Paul Guererri, Zach Sobotka and 10th-place starter Matt Guererri, the two-time reigning division points king.

Top-4 finishers are now guaranteed starters in the ‘Gerald Haers Memorial’ Sportsman Challenge presented by Stirling Lubricants on Sept. 17. The first four non-qualifiers from GHM qualifiers slated for June 30, August 18 and September 3 will also be locked into the headline $2,500-to-win 40-lapper on 9/17 with special Non-Qualifiers and Non-Winners races on Sept. 16 adding 14 more to fill the final 30-car starting field.

“Gotta thank Tom and Dar, they’ve done so much for us and my family,” added Comfort, after the Penn Yan pilot scored the popular win in the car’s first-ever feature event. He failed to qualify in last year’s debut during the 3rd Annual Gerald Haers Memorial staged in September. “Knew I’d be good starting from the pole but to win is just amazing, still can’t believe it.”

The caution-free Big-Block Modified main made believers out of fans watching five-time LOLR feature winner Wight get back on track in dominating fashion. All his wins were scored en route to the 2020 track title when CoVid-19 shortened the season, yet on Saturday the Phoenix NY phenom was tops in a mini Super DIRTcar Series-like showdown that boasted a stacked starting line-up of notable tour travelers.

“This place has treated us real well. We never really ran here much, now we’re just focusing on the Big-Blocks and just running Big-Block tracks so we’ll probably be here most weeks,” noted Wight, 29, who also owns an Empire Super Sprint victory (2017) at the fairgrounds.

With increased fuel and tire costs a growing concern, throughout the 2022 race season standard Big-Block features will be 30 laps — mirroring the distance for the headline division last implemented by track promoter Dominick Tantalo in 1976.

Rookie Big-Block contender Zach Payne shared the front row with all-time speedway standout Danny Johnson to lead 23 open-wheelers to chief starter Scott Hixson’s initial green flag. Johnson showed the way while defending track champ Justin Haers, Wight and opening day ’21 winner Matt Sheppard filled out the front-5.

After quickly overtaking Payne for second, Haers suddenly got out of shape exiting turn two on lap five to open the door for Wight steering the familiar red #99L F.X. Caprara Honda-Tracey Road Equipment-LJL Gypsum Racing/Bicknell machine. ‘Lightning Larry’ then needed just one more time around the smooth clay oval to blast by Johnson and forge a lead he would never relinquish.

“The car was really good, was afraid it was gonna be a one-lane race after watching the Sportsman,” Wight figured. “I went up (high), saw that little bit of brown and saw Justin get around so it seemed alright. As soon as he dropped to the bottom, seemed like we were catching him a bit. Didn’t have much to lose, knew Matt was gonna be right on me so I went up there, felt some bite and the rest is history.”

The field remained mostly intact for the duration with battles between Sheppard and Peter Britten gathering attention as Wight ran uncontested up front. In a bold three-wide maneuver, Britten dove under the lapped car of Ben Bushaw, forcing third-running Johnson high in turn four to finish his bid up front and Sheppard wrestled with DJ before stealing fourth-place with three laps to go.

Wight cruised home comfortably by a straightaway with Haers, Britten, Sheppard and Johnson settling among the top-five followed by rising star Payne.

“There wasn’t a curb to lean against tonight so you were kinda flirting with the edge of the dust,” added Wight, after banking $2,000 for his 15-mile romp. “Got a little high a couple times. The car was a little bit too tight to really roll it so I had to pitch it a little bit but we were able to catch the lapped cars and go wherever we needed to get by them.”

Taking opening day honors on his way to the 2015 track title, all-time Canandaigua sprint car winner Ruggles from Hopwell was nearly as commanding in his own drive to the front. Despite dropping to fourth early in the 20-lap A-Main, the six-time and defending 305 points champion disposed of leader Brandyn Griffin on lap eight and opened up a half-straightaway advantage under the checkers.

“This is the same car we pulled out of the weeds for the last race of last year,” beamed Ruggles, now with 43 career 305 victories at LOLR, nearly three times more than the second closest driver. “I’ve got a brand new car sitting over (pits). My heart told me to run the new car but everybody else said run the old one.”

“This thing’s a 2008. Gotta thank Loren Lincoln for putting it back together I don’t know how many years ago, maybe 10. It was a destroyed car but man this thing is great now. New car is probably gonna have to sit for awhile,” smiled Ruggles, despite his latest winning machine leaking oil in victory lane.

Griffin out-dueled last year’s lead-off winner Bobby Parrow to take control at the outset before Steve Glover stopped on the back stretch to incur caution on lap four. Matt Rotz clipped the uke tire exiting turn one for the second and final yellow flag a lap later and Ruggles regrouped to grab second from Parrow on the ensuing lap five restart with Alysha Bay closing in.

Shadowing the leader under green, Ruggles finally edged past Griffin at the starter’s stand to complete lap eight and was untouchable the remaining 12 circuits as his #48jr. Stirling Lubricants-Champion Oil-Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling-VanBortel Trucking/Eagle ride appeared stronger each time around.

“Got sidways (out of two) and thought I was going around,” admitted Ruggles, regarding his only visible miscue during the 10-mile affair. “Went in (turn 2) a little too deep, drove it in a little too hot but was able to gather it back up. Watched Larry in the Modified race and he mastered the top and I said I gotta get up there. We can all babysit the bottom but the top really did it for me tonight. Not sure about the times but this car just seemed to get better every lap.”

Finishing behind Ruggles and Griffin on the final 14-car scoresheet were Bay, Parrow and Jordan Hutton.

No stranger to Land of Legends victory lane as of late, Pangrazio led all but one of the 20-lap main event to score his 18th career Street Stock win, his first-ever in the season opener in Ontario County. Pole-sitter Nick Dandino sailed off tun one after pacing the 17-car field to relinquish the top spot to the Oakfield ace in his pristine blue #7 R.J. Shafer Trucking-Skyline RV Sales & Service Ford Mustang.

“Seen (Dandino) must’ve got up there in the slop and it took him for a ride,” assessed Pangrazio, 38, the 2020 LOLR points champ. “It was too dirty up top, just kept this (car) in the black, in the middle and on the bottom. Tough to get a hold of (track) when it gets that dirty on top.”

Once out front with no more cautions to slow his pace, Pangrazio built up a big lead that he would retain for the duration. Rick Crego and Adam DePuy waged a torrid battle for second farther back while 10th starting Marc Minutolo made his presence known by the midway mark.

DePuy ultimately secured second-place while Minutolo charged into third with Dandino rallying to seize fourth from Crego on lap 18. The order remained intact until Crego was dropped from fifth to last after an illegal axle dimension was found in the customary post-race technical inspection, moving Mike Welch up to fifth.

“The car can always be better. We tried some different things tonight. Definitely hit on some things but can still go further with it,” Pangrazio added.

Geneva graybeard Ellison authored the final near flawless performance of the night in the full-fender ranks, leading all 15 laps from the point to register his eighth career stock car victory in Ontario County.

“We’ve been trying to come back here for the last 3-4 years,” divulged Ellison, with a pair of Pro Stock (1999) wins and now six in the Hobby (2015 Pure Stock) division etched in the Canandaigua record book. “Just raced at a different track on Friday nights and its tough to get everybody’s agenda to match up. So we just decided to come here full-time this season and see what happens.”

After Ellison took off and pulled away aboard his sleek #18 Moracco Machining-Smith’s Drywall Chevrolet Monte Carlo on lap one, not too many in the grandstands failed to realize what was going to happen next. Just a single caution for a slowing Don Slover delayed the inevitable as Ellison remained heavy on the pedal to out-distance Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell Jr. by a straightaway in the 10-minute dash.

“This was a completely different car from one end of the track to the other,” disclosed Ellison, who made his stock car racing debut in 1982 at age 16. “One end really rolled in nice, the other end the last five laps this monster just didn’t want to turn. Thought I was gonna end up in the grass a couple times. Just have to watch the tape later, check the shocks and springs and stuff like that.”

Marc Minutolo attempted to challenge early before a pit stop five laps in placed him at the rear of the 15-car field. Burnell diced with former Sportsman competitor Nate Peckham while 2021 points champion Justin Eldredge joined the fray after Minutolo’s misfortune. Second-generation driver Daniel Kerrick filled out the final front-five in the final points event of the night.

With the class designed to provide more track time and experience for aspiring open-wheel drivers, a handful of rookie racers signed in for the first New Legends Sportsman race run at LOLR in four years; division was part of the Canandaigua card during Cole’s promotional debut in 2018.

The teenage daughter of retired driver Scott George and sister of Zachary George, Greenley led all 12 laps to take her first checkered flag. Behind the wheel of the #26 Scotty’s Half Ass Bumper Service-Scott Stopa Attorney/Bicknell copy, the young woman from Wilson bested Colby Adamczak, Angel Sperring, Kennedy Payne and Justin Liechti for the coveted victory.

“It was tough last year in the regular Sportsman division, especially against my brother,” said George, who started four main events in ’21 and was credited with 30th in the final LOLR point standings. “Even forgot which (gear shift) lever was which over the winter but dad showed me again in the garage.”

The second ‘Saturday Spectacular’ of the season kicks off a new month of competition on May 7 with the “Ovens Memorial” showcasing Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock and Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock classes along with a full card of Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Speed Connection Sportsman and Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car action.

Pit gates swing open at 3:30pm, spectators are admitted at 5 o’clock, hot laps start at 5:30 and the first qualifier goes green at 6:30 sharp on iFreeze Storage & Distribution Center Night at the speedway.

As both passed away in November from CoVid-19 complications, the May 7 program will be held in memory of Stewart and Brad Ovens, father and brother of LOLR lead announcer Steven Ovens. iFreeze Storage & Distribution has bolstered the Street Stock ($4,310) and Hobby Stock ($2,685) purses by $1,500, with lap sponsorships at this time generating nearly $1,400 in additional cash awards for this special occasion.

The newest addition to the Land Of Legends Wall of Fame will be made this coming Saturday as the late Brad Ovens is the first inductee in Canandaigua’s Class of 2022. Ovens joins 2018 LOLR WoF charter members Donald ‘Dutch’ Hoag, ‘Barefoot’ Bob McCreadie, DIRT Motorsports founder Glenn Donnelly and still active ace Alan Johnson, Class of ’19 inductees Steve Pesarek, Milt Johnson, Gary Montgomery and Gary & Donna Spaid, along with last year’s honorees Steve Paine, Paul Guererri, Mike Welch and Fred Taney in Saturday’s timely tribute staged behind the main grandstands following practice sessions.

Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – April 30, 2022Saturday SpectacularJack Howell Properties LLC presents 59th Season-OpenerPepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (30 laps): 1. 99L-Larry Wight ($2,000), 2. 3-Justin Haers, 3. 21a-Peter Britten, 4. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 5. 27j-Danny Johnson, 6. 7z-Zach Payne, 7. 14j-Alan Johnson, 8. 19-Tim Fuller, 9. 23c-Kyle Coffey, 10. 34-Kevin Root, 11. 5h-Chris Hile, 12. 11j-James Sweeting, 13. 70a-Alex Payne, 14. 33j-Robbie Johnston III, 15. 48too-Dave Rauscher, 16. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 17. 21-Derrick Podsiadlo, 18. 88-Dave Allen, 19. 7-Troy Sperring, 20. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 21. 36-Ben Bushaw, 22. 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 23. 57-Daniel Johnson Jr.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: D.Johnson, Coffey, A.Johnson, Dinkins, Podsiadlo, Johnston, Tegg, Sperring.
#2: Wight, Z.Payne, Haers, Sweeting, Hile, Allen, Stoughtenger, D.Johnson Jr.
#3: Root, Britten, Sheppard, A.Payne, Fuller, Bushaw, Rauscher.

Speed Connection Sportsman ModifiedGerald Haers Memorial Qualifier #1
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 10-Karl Comfort ($750), 2. 31-Kane Bristol, 3. 7-Paul Guererri, 4. 38-Zach Sobotka, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri, 6. 25g-Nick Guererri, 7. 64-Tyler Corcoran, 8. 18e-Gavin Eisele, 9. 18h-Justin Henderson, 10. 36-Jimmy Grant, 11. 1m-Tyler Murray, 12. 51-Tim Lafler, 13. 132-Dalton Martin, 14. 30-Nick Root, 15. 00-Sam Hoxie, 16. 9-Tim Baker, 17. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 18. 21v-Tony Velez, 19. 55-Dan Reif, 20. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr., 21. 28-Mark Potter.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Henderson, Eisele, Comfort, M.Guererri, Murray, Hoxie, Baker, Velez.
#2: Martin, Bristol, Sobotka, Grant, Root, Reif(DNS).
#3: P.Guererri, Corcoran, N.Guererri, F.Guererri, Borden, Lafler, Potter.

Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles ($500), 2. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 3. 48a-Alysha Bay, 4. 53-Bobby Parrow, 5. 66-Jordan Hutton, 6. 13t-Trevor Years, 7. 23-John Smith, 8. 18c-Dan Craun, 9. 38-Jason Whipple, 10. 18-Timmy Lotz, 11. 77-Matt Rotz, 12. 121-Steve Glover, 17e-Ethan Gray(DNS) , 2-Randy Years(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Parrow, Ruggles, Smith, Rotz, Lotz, R.Years, Gray(DNS).
#2: Bay, Hutton, Griffin, T.Years, Glover, Whipple, Craun.

Eldredge & Sons Scrap Recycling Street Stock
*Feature (20 laps): 1. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 2. 99-Adam DePuy, 3. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 4. 57j-Nick Dandino, 5. 5c-Rick Crego(DSQ)., 6. 00-Mike Welch, 7. 93-Jared Hill, 8. 87-Carl Johnson, 9. 9-Aksel Jensen, 10. 122-Chris Beyea, 11. 510-Brad Steinruck Jr. , 12. 55p-Parker Smith, 13. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 14. 24j-Marcus Springer, 15. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 16. 34q-Jason Quigley, 17. 63-Mike Fellows.
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Welch, DePuy, Jensen, Hill, Steinruck, Beyea, Hobbs, Quigley.
#2: Pangrazio, Dandino, Crego, Johnson, Minutolo, Smith, Sharp, Springer, Fellows(DNS).

Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 18-Wayne Ellison, 2. 57b-Frank ‘Bubba’ Burnell Jr., 3. 90-Nathan Peckham, 4. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 5. 61-Daniel Kerrick, 6. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 7. 57jr.-Tyler Burnell, 8. 55d-Chris Dziomba, 9. 17jr.-Jamie Eldredge Jr., 10. 17-Jamie Eldredge Sr., 11. 17a-Jon Almekinder, 12. 126-Chuck Cala, 13. 85x-Alex Dykes, 14. 5-Don Slover, 88-Justin Jacoby(DNS).
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Ellison, Peckham, Kerrick, T.Burnell, Dziomba, Cala, Jacoby, Slover.
#2: F.Burnell, Minutolo, Ju.Eldredge, Ja.Eldredge Jr., Ja.Eldredge Sr., Dykes, Almekinder.

MighTea Boba New Legends Sportsman
*Feature (12 laps): 1. 26-Greenley George, 2. 42-Colby Adamczak, 3. 56a-Angel Sperring, 4. 31k-Kennedy Payne, 5. 57-Justin Liechti.
Heat (6 laps)
#1: Adamczyk, George, Sperring, Payne, Liechti.
NEXT EVENT: Saturday Spectacular, May 7 @ 6:30pm; iFreeze Storage & Distribution Center presents “Ovens Memorial Night” – Big-Block Modified/Sportsman/305 Sprint/Street Stock/Hobby Stock with Yates County Humane Society Benefit and Legends Inductee Night #1.