Ontario Co. Fairgrounds filled with cars while die-hard fans catch televised action at home
Pit gates were unlocked, cars unloaded and hot laps clicked off just like they had done for so many early season test sessions staged at Land Of Legends Raceway.
Yet unlike any time before in the history of the Ontario County Fairgrounds oval, the grandstands sat empty and many participants were muffled by protective face gear —-helmets for the drivers—- on a most peculiar practice day.
Track-side activity certainly unveiled a ‘new normal’ this week as the recent corona-virus pandemic continued its stronghold on our accustomed way of life; from Canandaigua to California to China and nearly every place of global inhabitant in between.
LOLR promoter Paul Cole provided a welcome exception to New York State’s recently relaxed PAUSE, unofficially kicking off his third consecutive campaign in wine country with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order of social distancing still requested throughout this unprecedented affair.
“We closed the grandstands and concessions, no one was taking tickets, just teams coming to run some laps with their haulers parked farther apart to follow orders,” noted Cole, whose push to relax public restrictions and return to speedway business ended Tuesday evening with little fanfare to report.
“We all want to follow the rules but at some point we have to get the ball rolling and that finally happened today. Hopefully, its just the start and we can continue to build in the weeks ahead. Racing provides a good opportunity for the community to return to normalcy, something that can ultimately prove to be far more beneficial away from the track,” Cole added.
April 18 was LOLR’s original season-opening practice date —-first race slated for April 25—- before the rapid spread of COVID-19 led government officials to delay most public activity for several weeks. Rain and snow hit the Finger Lakes region the final two weekends in April as well as the first two in May, and with state mandates mirrored through the end of the month, June 2 was the first time racers were officially granted permission to check out equipment on the hallowed half-miler.
The initial mid-week practice period of nearly three hours that began at 6:00 pm attracted 56 teams representing nine divisions with DIRTcar Sportsman standout Matt Guererri the first to turn a wheel on the seriously-smooth and ultra-fast clay oval. While some dust developed as the more than 230 truck-loads of new clay was tested for the first time, Lee Depew and the experienced grounds crew quickly remedied the situation resulting in a 16-second (111.892 mph) fast lap time for 360 Sprinter Kyle Phillips towing east from his home in Grand Island.
A total of 20 Speed Connection Sportsman joined 15 Street Stocks, a half-dozen Pepsi Big-Block Modifieds, another six Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprints, and a mix of 358-Modified, 360 Sprint, Hobby Stock, Late Model and 4-Cylinder entries to launch the 2020 campaign.
Every class enjoyed a pair of practice periods with Sportsman taking a third session before rain forced the final checkered flag to be thrown at 8:45 pm.
Despite the vacant grandstands, race enthusiasts relegated to home were still able to take in the first day of action that was streamed “live” via Land of Legends TV.
The LOLR camera crew is geared up to provide LIVE video coverage of every event exclusively through LOLR TV throughout the upcoming season. Download the LOLR mobile app:
Art Rorick continues to captain the LOLR TV production team along with Brad Ovens and chief camera operators Mike Lawler and Bob Miller.
General Manager Greg Emerson and Race Director Greg Hixson remain at the forefront of Cole’s crack staff in 2020 with Jim Hixson, Wally Ingraham and Rob Noaker continuing to serve in a vital technical capacity each and every race event. Tom Curtis and Mike Scoppo provide pit steward support as head starter Scott Hixson and assistant Jerry Ellis control race action atop the flagstand and Nick LeGrett holds down the post of turn four flagman directing traffic trackside.
Loads of experience rock the tower on race night as the familiar duo of Steve Ovens and Doug Elkins man the microphones while Hall of Famers Gary and Donna Spaid and Sheila Darcy handle scoring and handicapping responsibilities.
Racers don’t have to wait long to return trackside as a second practice day is slated for Thur., June 4 with all gates once again opening at 5:00 pm and track time reserved 6:00 – 8:30 pm. There will be no admission to the grandstand while the pit pass fee remains $20 for this final tune-up.
The official DIRTcar season-opener is set for Sat., June 6 with five divisions headlining the initial weekend show. The Saturday Spectacular includes an afternoon Street Stock/Hobby Stock twin-bill with Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Speed Connection Sportsman and Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Cars comprising the evening triple-header.
Gates open at 1:00 pm for the full-fender portion of the program with the first qualifier going green at 2:30. Gates open at 4:00 pm for open-wheel teams while qualifying and main events follow beginning at 7 o’clock. The pit pass fee is $40 for both afternoon and evening affairs.
With spectators away and a banner field of cars expected for the 2020 lid-lifter, entrance to the pits will be made through the main ticket gate utility road on the north side of the fairgrounds property.
Be sure to visit www.landoflegendsraceway.com often as further schedule information for the upcoming season will be posted right up to raceday. To discuss marketing opportunities available at the track in 2020, please contact LOLR GM
Greg Emerson via e-mail email@example.com.
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.
Thursday, June 4 @ 6pm – Open Practice / 57 th Season-Opener & Saturday Spectacular, June 6 @ 2:30pm – Street Stock & Hobby Stock, @ 7pm – Big-Block Modified & Sportsman & 305 Sprint.
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 Mike Emhof Motorsports, Pepsi Geneva Club Beverage, Speed Connection; event sponsors Admar Construction Equipment & Supply Company, Always Locked Storage, A-Verdi Storage Containers, Geneva Club Beverage, Honeoye Auto Parts/Auto Value, Pepsi/Mountain Dew/Lipton Lake
Beverage, Phelps Cement Products, Red Osier Restaurant, Sherwin Williams Paint, Tradition Automotive Group; promotional partners Champion Power Equipment, Depew Excavating/Trucking, Dig Safely New York 811, Dobbers Sports Bar, Elab Smokers Boutique, Hoosier Racing Tire, Ontario County Fairboard, Proctor Enterprises, VP Racing Fuels, Weedsport Hall of Fame, Young Real Estate Agency.