Sheppard & Grant take checkers after narrow wins in final mid-week show of season
Another hot summer night produced yet another barn-burner at Land Of Legends Raceway and when the ‘Thursday Groundpounders Spectacular’ ended on this occasion it was a pair of Matts surviving nail-biters in the spirited special presented by Honeoye Auto Parts.
Matt Janczuk wove his way from third to first over the final circuit to capture the 25-lap Speed Connection Sportsman showstopper while Matt Sheppard staved off every effort thrown at him by Erick Rudolph the final ten miles to take top honors in the 40-lap Pepsi Big-Block Modified main.
The excitement never abated in the full-fender finale as second-year speedway stalwart Jimmy Grant turned back numerous challenges from veteran Mike Welch to secure the coveted Street Stock victory.
The intrusion of COVID-19 has certainly created an odd calendar of motorsports events in Canandaigua this season, with a third of the shows staged mid-week instead of the traditional weekend fare most familiar to fans and racers alike.
Janczuk found nothing strange in a rare trip to wine country after leading less than a quarter-mile to win his fifth feature (2 each at Can-Am & Utica-Rome speedways) of this unprecedented pandemic-shortened season, his first-ever at the historic Ontario Co. Fairgrounds oval in dramatic fashion.
“I told Paul (Cole, LOLR Promoter) this place has had me doomed for a long time,” remarked Janczuk, 36, after collecting the $1,000 winner’s share. “A little bit of luck played into our hand there but its just a testament to this team and everyone that’s come on board.”
“Not a lot of experience here but we’ve had a couple top-5s. Just not hitting on all 8 (cylinders) earlier in the heat race but we made some adjustments … just one heckuva race. Too bad the fans weren’t filling the stands to see it, a great race,” added Janczuk, who last season finished fourth in the June Sportsman Series race before settling for second behind 2019 LOLR points champion Kevin Root in the Series return to the fairgrounds in September.
First-year track regular Torrey Stoughtenger led the opening lap despite Mike Fowler briefly locking bumpers to get sideways out of turn one to force out a yellow flag and require a complete restart. With racers in the 26-car field dicing three-wide in his rear-view mirror, Stoughtenger remained on the point after the restart, chased early by front row partner Alex Payne and third starting Nick Guererri.
Pulling seventh on the grid, Janczuk passed Western NY runner Andrew Smith for fourth on lap seven then set his sights on Payne as Stoughtenger and Guererri had built up a big advantage with 10 laps complete. Stoughtenger slid high in turn two to open the door for Guererri two laps later while Janczuk and Root took over third and fourth by the halfway mark.
C.J. Castelletti looped his no. 117jr. machine on lap 17 and on the ensuing restart contact between Janczuk and Root down the frontstretch knocked Root off the pace to end his night (25th) in the pits with a flat left-rear tire. Back under green, Kyle Inman blasted from seventh to third aboard his potent no. 20K Troyer mount, and with 20 laps on the scoreboard the trio of Guererri, Janczuk and Inman pulled away from the pack as Stoughtenger faded to battle it out with Payne.
Inman swept high into second on lap 21 and with chief starter Scott Hixson unfurling the white flag nosed ahead of Guererri across the line to lead lap 24. Yet in a sudden surge of strength down low, Janczuk dove under Guererri exiting turn two. The DIRTcar star from Durhamville wasn’t done yet, carrying his momentum under Inman out of turn three and putting the #33x Finish Line Designs-Fastline Performance-Holy Smoke BBQ/Bicknell entry out front with a hundred yards to go.
“The car was real tight on the bottom of (turns) three and four but I knew I couldn’t give up,” Janczuk said. “Kyle rolled the outside there so I knew I had to move around because Guererri was real fast. I knew we were real good on the bottom of one and two but it was such a fine line and I had to hit it perfect … and that last lap we hit it perfect.”
“Not sure, might have bumped (Root) on the frontstretch, he was squeezing the outside of me. There was bite coming off the bottom and we slid up. Don’t know what happened to him if he got a flat or what, but we did make a little bit of contact. Finally nice to get a win here, hope to be back again before the (Series) show in September,” Janczuk added.
Inman and Guererri followed Janczuk across the line with Payne and two-time LOLR winner Zach Sobotka next in line. Stoughtenger, track points leader Matt Guererri, Garrison Krentz, 16 year-old Payton Talbot and 20th starting Kevin Ridley rounded out the top-10.
Noah Walker from Wheatfield copped his second Sportsman B-Main of the 2020 campaign, leading all but the first time around steering his no. 22 Military Road Save-A-Lot /Bicknell ride in the 15-lap curtain-closer.
“Its all about laps for us, trying to learn something new every time out,” Walker said. “Its a very difficult track, we’re learning more and more to bring back next time.”
A multi-time points champion in Canandaigua, Sheppard has little to learn about circling the hallowed half-miler. He found out on Thursday though in his fourth race of the year at LOLR that he still has a few loose ends to take care of with his C.C. Performance-powered #9S Hurlock Auto&Speed-Westmoreland Golf Glub-St.Lawrence Radiology/Bicknell car.
“Think we were fortunate to hold (Rudolph) off … man, this car wouldn’t turn in a 20-acre field tonight,” exclaimed Sheppard, 38, who still repelled second-generation standout Rudolph the second half of the race to score his 79th LOLR Big-Block win. While it was his 14th checkered flag taken in 2020, it was his first in Canandaigua after his new Saturday night hangout of Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown went dark recently due to ever-tightening COVID restrictions.
“It almost cost us the race tonight and definitely cost us last week with Jimmy (Phelps). Not really sure what’s going on, just can’t get the thing to steer in here. Been kinda strange. Just kept slowing down more and more (to compensate). You don’t really want to especially when there’s a guy on the outside of you breathing down your neck, but you’re still better off slowing down and hitting your marks. We definitely had to earn this one,” Sheppard said.
Mirroring the Sportsman format, the top-three heat race qualifiers re-drew for feature starting positions and Sheppard filed in eighth on the 29-car grid. Pole-sitter Kyle Coffey paced the pack early before division points leader Larry Wight charged high out of turn two to grab another lead in search of a fifth win.
‘Lightning Larry’ opened up a commanding lead after a half-dozen circuits while ‘Super Matt’ and Rudolph closed in on the front-five just as hungry for the $4,000 first-place payoff. Sheppard stormed into second on a lap nine restart and when Daniel Johnson Jr., Lance Dusett and Jimmy Zacharias tangled between turns one and two, the Waterloo warrior got another chance to challenge Wight when the caution lights reappeared.
Wight was relentless on the restart, resuming a comfortable advantage as Sheppard and a charging Rudolph remained in contention ahead of last week’s winner Phelps and Coffey. A third yellow flag fell on lap 20 when Wight suddenly dropped off the pace to relinquish the lead, a broken axle the reported culprit after the Phoenix NY pilot had battled in traffic seemingly with the race well in hand.
Sheppard inherited the top spot at the halfway point with Rudolph on his bumper followed by Phelps, 16th starting James Sweeting and Tim Fuller, and for the last 15 laps the lead duo kept the final result in doubt. Lap after lap Sheppard clung low while Rudolph searched the high side for an even faster way around. But each time Rudolph built up enough momentum to pull alongside, yellow lights flashed and he had to restart from scratch.
Billy Dunn’s Teo Pro car rolled to stop on lap 26 and Russell Morseman did the same in turn two on lap 37. Then with Rudolph on the verge of making a final bid up top, Matt Farnham’s car stopped out of turn two moments before the white flag could be thrown. A last ditch drive on the last lap carried Rudolph over the turn two berm, dropping him to fourth behind runner-up Phelps and Wight’s teammate Billy Decker while Alan Johnson out-dueled Fuller for fifth under the checkers.
“I shut the right front (brake) off a little bit for a while but it didn’t really seem to help,” revealed Sheppard, who led Phelps by seven car-lengths in the final rundown. “(Car) just didn’t want to steer but still we’re happy to be back in victory lane at Canandaigua. Can’t thank all my sponsors enough, got a lot of people and a lot of fans, definitely couldn’t do it without all of them.”
“Kinda felt like I got into a little bit of a rhythm again there, didn’t feel great but felt comfortable. But then the last couple restarts they were nerve-racking because I felt like this (car) was pushing twice as bad as it was before them. But in the end it worked out for us and we’re thankful for that,” added Sheppard, now with a win, two runner-up tallies and an 8th-place finish in his four starts this summer.
Spending much of the summer shadowing Street Stock points leader Josh Pangrazio and twice overtaking him with late-race heroics, Grant lead all 20 laps to pocket $500 for his third win of the season in Ontario County. While Welch may have appeared faster in the closing stages, the 81-time winner was unable to find the faster way around the ‘Wild Willy Special’ in the 10-minute main.
“My guys set the car up for the end of the night and and man they nailed it,” beamed Grant, 34, in a jammed victory lane celebration packed with family, friends, crew and supporters. “I didn’t try running anywhere else, just stayed on the bottom all race. It was working for me so I didn’t go anywhere else. You just rolled in and literally didn’t even touch the gas until you got through (turns) … lift off going into three then maybe go quarter throttle after that. A lot different (surface) than what we’re used to running at the end of the night.”
The feature went from green to yellow at the start when first-time entry Dave Bansmar spun low exiting turn one before Jared Hill got airborne after climbing the inside turn three cement barrier without a single lap scored. Grant wasted little time advancing from third when the green lights returned, out-gunning pole-sitter and another newcomer Lanson Albanese to grab the lead.
Welch moved to second on lap three while Marc Minutolo, Pangrazio and Blane Smith, in a car swap with son Parker, settled into the top-5 with a handful of laps in the books. Grant increased his margin to five car-lengths halfway through, but when Chris Beyea spun out between turns one and two in front of the leaders on lap 11, a fire was lit under runner-up Welch that burned brighter as the laps dwindled.
As Grant was stubborn to retreat from his preferred inside line, lap after lap Welch made his presence known testing the outside lane. Yet despite Canandaigua’s all-time stock car winner stuck to his bumper, the black #36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Champion Scrap Chevrolet Monte Carlo never waivered and the popular Penn Yan pilot held on for a three car-length victory, his fourth career in Canandaigua.
The running order of Minutolo and Pangrazio remained intact while Quinn Sutherland rallied from 15th in the 17-car line-up to salvage a front-five finish in the nightcap.
“Saw Mike and he showed me his nose, that just made me push it a little harder, so we got the win,” added Grant matter-of-factly. “Saw him coming out of (turn) two high, that’s why I knew I had to pick up the pace a little bit. And low was the place to go for me the rest of the way.”
Saturday’s 50/50 beneficiary was CareNet Pregnancy Center in Canandaigua, NY,
a Christ-centered ministry empowering women to make informed, life-affirming choices in a non-judgmental environment. Provisions include free pregnancy tests, pregnancy options/peer counseling, referrals, post-abortion healing, and parenting classes. All of our services are free and confidential. Care Net Pregnancy Center of Canandaigua is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Ontario County Fairgrounds remains dark on Sat., Aug. 15 before returning to action for the final two shows of the month.
The five-star card on Aug. 22 features the Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Speed Connection Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint, Street Stock and Hobby Stock classes with the first qualifying heat going green at 7 o’clock sharp.
Aug. 29 is ‘Championship Night’ for the Modifieds with the 2020 points title on the line for top Big-Block contenders. A return of the CRSA 305 Sprint Car Series adds to the program along with regular point events for Sportsman and Street Stock teams. The remaining track point champs will be crowned on Sept. 5 before the 2nd Annual Gerald Haers Memorial Super DIRTcar Series shootout brings the curtain down Sept. 19.
Race Attendance & Coverage
LIVE video coverage continues to be offered for the remaining race dates and can be viewed on Land of Legends TV for $15.
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As LOLR’s 57th race season enters the home stretch, be sure to follow the point standings and breaking news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. To discuss the remaining marketing opportunities available at the track, please contact LOLR GM Greg Emerson via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 – August 13, 2020
Honeoye Auto Parts presents Thursday Groundpounders Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
Feature (40 laps)
1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($4,000), 2. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 3. 91-Billy Decker, 4. 25-Erick Rudolph, 5. 14j-Alan Johnson, 6. 19-Tim Fuller, 7. 3-Justin Haers, 8. 23-Kyle Coffey, 9. 2L-Jack Lehner, 10. 3b-Chad Brachmann, 11. 83x-Tim Sears Jr., 12. 42p-Pat Ward, 13. 63-Adam Roberts, 14. m1-Dave Marcuccilli, 15. 19m-Jessey Mueller, 16. 19w-Justin Wright, 17. 11j-James Sweeting, 18. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 19. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 20. 12x-Dillon Groover, 21. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 22. 7f-Matt Farnham, 23. 44-Russell Morseman, 24. 16b-Alan Barker, 25. 49-Billy Dunn, 26. 99L-Larry Wight, 27. 77-Lance Dusett, 28. 14ny-Daniel Johnson Jr., 29. 71-Jimmy Zacharias.
Heats (8 laps / 5 Qualify / Top-3 Re-Draw)
#1: Rudolph, Haers, A.Johnson, Groover, Dunn, Dusett, Brachmann, J.Lawrence.
#2: Phelps, Fuller, Sears, Decker, Tegg, Dinkins, Podsiadlo, E.Lawrence.
#3: Mueller, Wight, Coffey, Roberts, Marcuccilli, Ward, Lehner, Morseman.
#4: Sheppard, Farnham, Wright, Sweeting, Barker, D.Johnson, Payne, Zacharias.
Consolation (6 laps)
#1: Lehner, Dusett, Podsiadlo, Brachmann, Dinkins, D.Johnson, Zacharias, Morseman, WardDNS), 28p-Eldon Payne, Jr.DNS), 1L-Jeff Lawrence(SB/DNS), 29m-Ed Lawrence(SB/DNS).
Speed Connection Sportsman Modified
Feature (25 laps)
1. 33x-Matt Janczuk ($1,000), 2. 20k-Kyle Inman, 3. 25g-Nick Guererr, 4. 70a-Alex Payne, 5. 38-Zach Sobotka, 6. 7s-Torrey Stoughtenger, 7. 12g-Matt Guererri, 8. 56-Garrison Krentz, 9. 14t-Payton Talbot, 10. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 11. 1-Andrew Smith, 12. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 13. 7z-Zach Payne, 14. 111-Brett Senek, 15. 61-Andrew Jacobson, 16. 9-Tim Baker, 17. 31-Kane Bristol, 18. 35-Nick Cooper, 19. 6-Cody Manitta, 20. 00-Sam Hoxie, 21. 117jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 22. 2-Loren Lincoln, 23. z1-Chaz Thompson, 24. 410-Mike Fowler, 25. 34-Kevin Root, 26. 10g-Austin Germinio.
B-Feature (15 laps)
1. 22-Noah Walker, 2. 21v-Tony Velez, 3. 32-Ryan Shanahan, 4. 28x-Jordan Moden, 5. 90-Nathan Peckham, 6. 22j-Stacy Jackson, 7. 4e-Emmett Waldron, 8. 21x-Ryan Barrett, 9. 63-Jessica Kriegisch, 2k-Anthony Kimble(DNS), 07-Brian Harris(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Root, N.Guererri, Stoughtenger, Fowler, Lloyd, M.Guererri, Thompson, Kimble, Harris, Velez.
#2: Inman, Krentz, Lincoln, Germinio, Talbot, Castelletti, Peckham, Jackson, Waldron.
#3: Z.Payne, Manitta, A.Payne, Baker, Jacobson, Cooper, Shanahan, Barrett, Kriegisch.
#4: Sobotka, Janczuk, Smith, Hoxie, Ridley, Senek, Bristol, Walker, Moden.
Consolations (8 laps)
#1: M.Guererri, Thompson, Castelletti, Velez, Jackson, Peckham, Kimble, Waldron, Harris(DNS).
#2: Cooper, Senek, Bristol, Shanahan, Walker, Barrett, Moden, Kriegisch(DNS).
Feature (20 laps)
1. 36-Jimmy Grant ($500), 2. 00-Mike Welch, 3. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 4. 7-Josh Pangrazio, 5. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 6. 55b-Blane Smith, 7. 74d-Dennis Cummings, 8. 14a-Lanson Albanese, 9. 34q-Jason Quigley, 10. 5c-Rick Crego, 11. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 12. 64-Bob Buono, 13. 55p-Parker Smith, 14. 25j-Justin Eldredge, 15. 122-Chris Beyea, 16. 92-Dave Bansmar, 17. 93-Jared Hill.
Heats (6 laps / Top-4 Re-Draw)
#1: Pangrazio, Grant, Welch, Cummings, Metcalf, Bansmar, Eldredge, Sutherland, Crego.
#2: Minutolo, B.Smith, Hill, Albanese, Quigley, Buono, Beyea, P.Smith(DNS).
Saturday Spectacular, Aug. 22 @ 7pm; Sherwin-Williams Paint Store of Canandaigua presents Big-Block Modified/Sportsman/305 Sprint/Street Stock/Hobby Stock. *No Racing Sat., Aug. 15.
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.