Guererri & Ruggles repeat, Grant & Eldredge claim first titles to close out Canandaigua’s 58th campaign
2021 LOLR Point Champions photo by Mark Ranalletta
(L-R: Darryl Ruggles, Paul Cole, Jimmy Grant, Justin Eldredge, Matt Guererri)
Geneva, NY – January 7, 2022 – Tom Skibinski, Land of Legends Raceway PR
Promoter Paul Cole staged the season-ending Land Of Legends Raceway awards banquet at Legott’s Club 86 for the first time on Friday, Jan. 7 and it was a most fitting affair for Justin Haers as the persevering pilot from Phelps captured his long-awaited first-ever Pepsi Big-Block Modified Championship at the historic Ontario County Fairgrounds oval.
Lead track announcer Steve Ovens joined Cole as the master of ceremonies in the celebration of 58 years of motorsports in Canandaigua, also honoring fellow track titlists Matt Guererri, Darryl Ruggles, Jimmy Grant and Justin Eldredge, as well as a handful of deserving drivers and speedway supporters that shared in receipt of special awards presented throughout the three-hour gala.
Cole opened the program recognizing many of his staff members for their ongoing efforts exhibited during the past year, providing preliminary plans for 2022 and highlighting what both fans and racers can look forward to when April arrives. Speaking on behalf of LOLR General Manager Tana Robinson, he also thanked and presented each division sponsor with an award of appreciation, confirming that all five —Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage, Speed Connection, Mike Emhof Motorsports, Eldredge & Son Scrap Recycling, Lloyd’s Contracting— have renewed their title roles for the upcoming season.
With COVID concerns forcing cancellation of last year’s banquet, Cole also acknowledged the accomplishments of 2020 LOLR point champions Larry Wight (Mod), Guererri, Alysha Bay (305), Josh Pangrazio (Sts) and Tyler Burnell (Hob).
“2021 was certainly a challenging year with just as many issues facing us away from the track, yet we’ve all grown stronger together and look forward to a bigger and better season ahead,” remarked ’19 DIRTcar Northeast Promoter of the Year Cole, 51, following his fourth season orchestrating activity in and around the fairgrounds. “Racing will always be a family activity here. From our track officials, safety crew and security team to our racers and sponsors, we’ve got one of the best groups around. Everyone in this room should be proud to call Land Of Legends Raceway home.”
While 230 drivers, owners, crew members, track officials, corporate partners, family and friends of racing enjoyed dinner and cocktails at the popular party house in Geneva, NY, it was Haers taking home the biggest cut of nearly $30,000 in point fund cash and contingencies that rewarded 66 drivers in both open-wheel and full-fender competition during the 2021 season. Top drivers were recognized for their accomplishments with personal interviews and high-speed video highlights further enhancing the annual event for all in attendance.
Along with dozens of door prizes distributed throughout the evening, trophies were presented to the Top-3 point-getters in each of the five headline divisions. In all, 12 drivers in Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage Big-Block and 16 in Speed Connection Sportsman plus Top-10 in Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car, Top-12 in Eldredge & Son Scrap Recycling Street Stock and seven in Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock classes received ample point fund checks. Haers pocketed $2,500 and Guererri banked $1,400 from the season-ending $8,675 Big-Block and $6,975 Sportsman funds, while Ruggles ($750) topped the $3,325 Sprint pool, Grant ($750) headed the $3,820 Street Stock payout and Eldredge banked $400 from the $1,400 Hobby Stock reserve.
Emerging as the fourth different driver to wear Canandaigua’s coveted Big-Block crown in as many seasons, Haers’ ticket to the top was not stamped until the final points show of the season. Still, a final recount was required to declare the champion with ‘T-Bone’ edging Erick Rudolph, 839-837, in the dramatic ’21 Canandaigua curtain-closer.
“It still gives me goosebumps just watching the (season highlight) video,” revealed Haers, 42, addressing the capacity crowd in an exclusive ‘live’ streaming video from his home due to what has become common COVID-19 quarantine protocol that continues to rock the planet. “I’m feeling fine, only wish I could be there but I know my family has good seats at the head table. Especially my dad, he has the best view looking over all of us. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be racing here today.”
Justin’s father, Jerry Haers, a true racing patriarch, long-time mentor and supporter of Land of Legends, Vietnam War Veteran, as well as loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to so many more, passed away at age 74 on July 15, 2019. The 4th Annual Gerald Haers Memorial has expanded in 2022 with the 2-day event scheduled for Sept. 16-17.
Haers actually tied Matt Sheppard for the LOLR title in 2017 only to settle for runner-up laurels as ‘Super Matt’ registered a division-best feature win total in the deciding tie-breaker. This year was nearly as close with ‘T-Bone’ overtaking Rudolph in the dramatic double-points duel to come out on top 839-837 in the final tally.
“The last few weeks of the season you start looking at the championship, just seeing where things need to line up,” said Haers, who broke a 4-year drought with his first feature win in June then parked the black Finger Lakes-powered #3 Honeoye Auto Parts-Phelps Cement Products-Jeff Jolly Masonry-FLX Home Solutions/Bicknell entry in victory lane twice more en route to the elusive title. Now with 17 career Big-Block wins, he ended ’21 with 13 top-5 feature finishes in 16 starts.
“You make sure your equipment stays together and keep fresh stuff underneath so you don’t have any mechanical failures that would pretty much take you out of the championship altogether. We had a ton of seconds the last few years, just could never break through and get a feature win so to get that first one since my dad passed away was a big deal. Along with my crew and sponsors, I have a lot of family support that shows up every Saturday night and that makes everything worthwhile in the end,” added Haers, Canandaigua’s top Sportsman points earner in 2001, who also finished runner-up to Sheppard in 2011 and 2015.
Sharing the spotlight with his driver on this festive occasion was Todd Kirkwood, winner of the 2021 “Crew Chief/Team of the Year” award for the Haers Bros. Racing season-long success. Head wrench Kirkwood remains a key cog in the team shop during the week and pitside on raceday while providing timely updates on social media throughout the season.
Putting up a successful defense of his inaugural title earned in 2020, Guererri’s trade-off of checkered flags for consistency this past season was just as effective.
“Winning a handful of races the year before kind of set the bar a little high, tough to do that again,” remarked Guererri, 32, who tied Zach Sobotka in ’20 points yet was declared champion with a division-best five feature wins to a pair for Sobotka. “There’s a lot of great competitors that we race with here every week and we were able to be more consistent this year. Put in a lot of work last year, did a lot of homework and its really paid off.”
Cracking the winner’s circle three times in ’21 steering the #12G Tradition Automotive Group-Mojo’s Tavern-Product 9-Mohawk Northeast/Bicknell entry, the Waterloo wheelman’s career total of 14 Sportsman wins now ranks him 10th all-time at the fairgrounds, still well below his uncle and recent LOLR Wall of Fame inductee Paul Guererri’s class-high count of 45.
“When you’re a little kid you wanna be like (Paul), he’s won a lot a lot of races and some championships,” noted Guererri, who was a perfect 15 for 15 in feature race Top-10 finishes, with a dozen of those in the Top-5. “Not really sure why we’ve clicked the past two years but I think confidence has a lot to do with it. A lot of success, its all in your head. We did a lot of work in the shop and that’s what it takes. We did it and its starting to show.”
Winged warrior Ruggles has been showing his stuff for years, nine to be exact, in that same time frame capturing a division-best 42 A-Mains while garnering six track point championships. He pulled pitside for the final night facing a 564-556 deficit to Clifton Springs’ Brandyn Griffin yet his second win of the year in the double-points event carried him to a 676-668 decision on the final points chart.
“I’m still old but I’m ready for the challenge from all the young guns,” smiled Ruggles, who at 56 knows the fastest way around Canandaigua’s historic half-mile clay oval. “I’m not ready to quit yet, gonna make them work for everything they get.”
Ruggles’ ‘safety yellow’ Mastin-powered #48jr. Batzel’s Auto Service-Danny Willmes Ent.-VanBortel Trucking/Eagle placed out of the front-five just once in 12 races helping the Hopewell pilot to dethrone his daughter Alysha sporting her own “hotter than pink’ painted sprinter.
“I said the week before the final race we’ve got to put together a car that’s gonna win,” recalled Ruggles, a speedway lifer with feature wins recorded in every major division running regularly on Saturdays. “Started early in the week, put one together in the shop, got it to the track and that thing was the best car I ever drove.”
After settling for runner-up laurels the previous two seasons behind Josh Pangrazio (2020) and Adam DePuy (2019), Grant had enough and purchased a brand new CRS Chassis to adorn his #36 Hands Performance & Powder Coating-Knapp & Schlappi Lumber Co.-Washburn Excavation Chevrolet Camaro. Just five races into the 2021 season the “Wild Willy Special” had chalked up four wins and the points championship was his for the taking.
“Its been a long road to the top after getting second in points a couple years,” said Grant, 36, who ended his final full-fender campaign with six wins and a dozen Top-5 finishes in 14 feature race starts. “We stepped up and bought a car, did our homework and won some races.”
“Did real good in the beginning but thought we needed to go faster and kinda steppped on our peter. Tweaked the car too much and it went backwards on us but we were able to hold on til the end. I have a lot of great people I need to thank … my wife, my crew, sponsors and of course my dad. Couldn’t do any of this without all of them around to help,” added the popular Penn Yan driver.
Eldredge was even more dominant in the entry level Hobby Stock ranks, not only claiming his first-ever win at LOLR in the season-opener, but going on to post a track-high total of seven victories en route to the coveted track crown.
“When we brought out a new car we definitely had our sights set on a championship,” professed Eldredge, who turned 24 just two days after his banquet celebration. “The car was just so good from day one and everything worked out good for us.”
Eldredge was so good his white #25J Eldredge & Sons Scrap-Big Mike’s Auto Repair-Joe Wilcox Performance Automatics Chevrolet Monte Carlo machine carried the Waterloo driver to a 68-point advantage over inaugural division champ Tyler Burnell.
“The first win was probably the biggest since it was a new car and we didn’t really know what it was going to do,” added Eldredge, who plans to defend his title at LOLR and gain additional experience fielding a Street Stock entry. “We’ll try to make it back-to-back championships at Canandaigua then move up to the Streets. Will certainly be a busy season but hopefully a lot of fun with a few more wins.”
Finishing second to two-time defending points champion Chuck Hebing in 2019, Cicero, NY speedster Paulie Colagiovanni improved one spot to clinch the 2021 PJC Sprayfoam 360 Sprint Challenge Series. Colagiovanni, 20, tallied a pair of top-3 finishes steering his potent #10 Ground Control Landscaping-All Star Performance/Eagle to secure the title.
Matt Farnham won the Empire Super Sprint A-Main in early August while eventual Patriot Sprint Tour champion Jordan Thomas triumphed in the lone PST stop at LOLR in round two to close out the month. A two-time mini-series race winner, Colagiovanni (118 pts) out-gained runner-ups Farnham (115) and Joe Trenca (115), and veteran wingman Jason Barney (106) in the final 360 Challenge standings.
The top touring drivers shared in the lucrative $3,000 point fund with Colagiovanni collecting the lion’s share of $1,000 followed by Trenca-$600, Farnham-$350, Jason Barney-$250 (4th), Jeff Cook-$200 (5th), Matt Tanner-$175 (6th), Jonathan Preston-$150 (7th), Hebing-$125 (8th), Steve Glover-$100 (9th) and Sammy Reakes IV-$50 (10th).
Cole closed out the program with an emotional presentation of his annual ‘Employee Of The Year’ award, this year handed out to the Land of Legends TV production team spearheaded by Art Rorick and Brad Ovens. Rorick accepted the award on behalf of Ovens, who at age 31 died tragically on November 19 after a brief battle with COVID-19. Brother of PR stalwart Steve Ovens, Brad passed away just 16 days following the death of his father Stewart, 62, himself a two-time stock car feature winner at Canandaigua Speedway in the late 1970s.
Brad exuded his talents in the motorsports world with his work featured on ESPN, MavTV, SPEED Channel and on TSN in Canada. He served as the Graphics Designer and Assistant Producer for LOLR TV and will be inducted into the Ontario County Fairgrounds’ speedway ‘Wall of Fame’ during the 2022 race season.
Cole also paid special tribute to LOLR Race Director Greg Hixson, who was unable to attend this year’s season-ending festivities due to his own COVID-related health issues.
First-year Big-Block racer Garrison Krentz (30 yrs.), seasoned Sportsman chauffeur Tim Lafler (60) and rising Sprint star Jordan Hutton (16) earned 2021 LOLR Rookie of the Year awards, with each receiving commemorative trophies on Saturday.
Following his lone LOLR Sportsman triumph in 2020, Krentz graduated into the mighty Big-Block Modified ranks, wasting little time putting his #56 WNY Amateur Sports-Mark’s Plumbing-ConEquip/Bicknell into 5th-place on opening night last May. The Pendleton pilot finished the season 8th in points with 2 Top-5s and 6 Top-10s.
Certainly a late-bloomer in modern-day standards, a late-season drive in fellow Sportsman driver Loren Lincoln’s TEO Pro Car in 2020 for Lafler soonafter blossomed into an all-out assault following purchase of the top-caliber Bicknell entry of Kane Bristol. The renumbered #51 Lafler Construction-Federal Hollow Staples-Gruschow Grinding/BRP ride ultimately carried the man from Middlesex up to 16th in points with one Top-10 feature finish and two heat wins to his credit.
Among the youngest weekly contenders in any division at Canandaigua in 2021, Hannibal’s Hutton qualified for all but two of the 12 MEM 305 events. A late-season CRSA tour winner downstate, he scored 2 Top-5s and 6 Top-10s and added a heat win to reach 10th-place in the final point standings aboard the #66 JB Farms & Logging-Longley Dodge-Travis Florist/Eagle entry. This season younger brother Jacob Hutton will be looking to match his sibling’s rookie success.
Second-generation driver Daniel Johnson Jr. was the reluctant recipient of the annual ‘Hard Luck’ award after a season of suffering misfortune seemingly week after week. The most expensive mishap for the young Middlesex motorist came in Super DIRTcar Series competition when his #27J Traction Grabber-Finger Lakes Auto Machine/TEO rolled wildly down the frontstretch in a four-car melee that required a lengthy red flag period to clear the track. He settled for 13th in points by season’s end, scoring 3 Top-10 finishes while leading 20 laps in 14 main events and notching his first heat race win.
A pair of ‘Best Appearing Car’ awards were handed out to open-wheel standout Frank Guererri Jr. from Seneca Falls in the Sportsman division and full-fender Street Stocker Parker Smith from Gorham. Guererri’s no. 113jr. Fuccillo Ford/Seneca Falls-Precision Automotive & Fabrication/Bicknell and Smith’s #55P Smith Drywall-ReMax-Dobber’s Sports Bar Chevrolet Camaro cars boasted eye-catching wraps by ImageX with Smith’s creation designed by Sheldon Hall.
Sportsman stalwart Ricky Newton (31 yrs.) from Oakfield and Dundee’s Jared Hill (38) received special ‘Sportsmanship’ awards. Newton steered his #11N LiquiTube-Fab Shop 54-L&L Transmission-Red Osier Landmark Restaurant/Bicknell entry to 10th-place in points and Hill showed 8th in the final Street Stock standings aboard his #93 Beauty Craft Hair Fashion-Turn 5 Media Chevrolet Camaro.
Car owner, multi-team parts supplier and Batzel’s Automotive Repair Shop proprietor Bruce Batzel from Avon was honored with receipt of the 3rd Annual Spirit of Racing award. Batzel owned the Big-Block Mod cars of Lance Dusett and Dan Wiesner, helped fund efforts by Jimmy & Henry Maier as well as Sportsman driver Brandon Grover, and provided plenty of product support to the father/daughter duo of Darry Ruggles and Alysha Bay. His latest addition is the father/son combo of Eldon Payne Jr. and talented teen Alex Payne who will be sporting Batzel-backed powerplants in their own Big-Block cars in 2022.
In a crowd-pleasing first-time presentation, Anthony Guererri earned an ‘Unsung Hero’ award for all his behind-the-scenes work not only for brothers Nick and Matt, uncle Paul and cousin Frank Guererri Jr., but many more racers in any division needing assistance. Recognized around the pits as a tire specialist, Guererri shows favoritism only to those seeking success and leaves the glory to the teams he helps reach victory lane.
The “Hangover 100” Enduro Championships rescheduled due to unseasonably warm temperatures on New Year’s Day kicks off trackside activity on Sat. January 22. This year presented by Nashvilles Rockin’ Country Redneck Tavern, $1,000 goes to the winner of both the 6-Cylinder and 4-Cylinder division 50-lap events. The weather delay has also pushed back the registration deadline to Jan. 21 at 6pm. $50 Pre-Registration covers the car and driver pit pass. Raceday registration will be $50 for the car and $25 pit passes for driver and crew.
2022 SEASON OPENING
The 59th season of motorsports at Land of Legends Raceway leads off with ‘open’ practice sessions on Sat. April 16 with any type of race car welcome for the evening event that runs 6:00-9:00 pm. Pit gates open at 4:00pm and grandstand seating offered free of charge.
The 2022 lid-lifter follows on Sat. April 23 for the mighty Big-Block Modifieds, 305 Sprints, Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Sportsman in the first of five Gerald Haers Memorial Series qualifiers. Pit gates unlock at 4pm, grandstands open at 5 o’clock, hot laps begin at 5:30pm and racing starts at 6:30pm. Grandstand Admission is $15 for adults and $13 for senior citizens while those 16 yrs. & under are FREE. Pit admission for all ages is $40.
Check out www.landoflegendsraceway.com often as further information for the upcoming season will be posted right up to raceday. To discuss marketing opportunities available at the track in 2022, please contact General Manager Tana Robinson via phone 716-799-5669 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 Land Of Legends Raceway Point Leaders & Award Winners
Pepsi/Geneva Club Beverage Big-Block Modified: JUSTIN HAERS-champion, Erick Rudolph-2nd, Peter Britten-3rd, Alan Johnson-4th, Kyle Coffey-5th, Tim Fuller-6th, Gil Tegg Jr.-7th, Garrison Krentz-8th, Robbie Johnston III-9th, Matt Farnham-10th. Rookie – Garrison Krentz, Hard Luck – Daniel Johnson, Crew Chief/Team of the Year – Todd Kirkwood/Haers Bros. Racing #3 Team, Spirit of Racing – Bruce Batzel. 2021 feature winners: Matt Sheppard (4), Haers (3), Britten (3), Rudolph (2), Fuller (2), Johnson, Stewart Friesen.
Speed Connection Modified Sportsman: MATT GUERERRI-champion, Zach Payne-2nd, Zach Sobotka-3rd, Alex Payne-4th, Paul Guererri-5th, A.J. Lloyd & Zachary George-6th(tie), Frank Guererri Jr.-8th, Kane Bristol-9th, Ricky Newton-10th. Rookie – Tim Lafler, Sportsmanship – Ricky Newton, Best Appearing Car – #113jr. Frank Guererri Jr. 2021 feature winners: Sobotka (4), M.Guererri (3), Z.Payne (2), A.Payne, F.Guererri, Jordan Moden, Tim Baker, Tyler Corcoran, Troy Sperring.
Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car: DARRYL RUGGLES-champion, Brandyn Griffin-2nd, Alysha Bay-3rd, Jason Whipple-4th, Trevor Years-5th, Randy Years-6th, Bobby Parrow-7th, Dan Craun-8th, Matt Rotz-9th, Jordan Hutton-10th. Rookie – Jordan Hutton. 2021 feature winners: Ruggles (2), Griffin (2), Bay (2), Whipple (2), Parrow (2), T.Years, Jeff Trombley.
Eldredge & Son Scrap Recycling Street Stock: JIMMY GRANT-champion, Mike Welch-2nd, Marc Minutolo -3rd, Adam DePuy -4th, Parker Smith-5th, Rick Crego-6th, Josh Pangrazio-7th, Jared Hill-8th, Chris Beyea-9th, Aksel Jensen-10th. Sportsmanship – Jared Hill, Best Appearing Car – #55P Parker Smith. 2021 feature winners: Pangrazio (7), Grant (6), DePuy.
Lloyd’s Contracting Hobby Stock: JUSTIN ELDREDGE-champion, Tyler Burnell-2nd, Brian Lloyd & Marc Minutolo -3rd(tie), Casey Wagner-5th, Willy Grant-6th, Brandon Barron-7th, Jeremy Trank-8th, Shawn Lloyd-9th, Jamie Eldredge Jr.-10th. 2021 feature winners: Ju.Eldredge (7), T.Burnell (2), Frank Burnell Jr. (2), Grant, Trank.