Justin Haers came out on top of a dramatic Saturday night at Land of Legends Raceway, securing his first career Land of Legends Big Block Modified track championship.
Haers, 41, a 17-year veteran of the big blocks, edged Erick Rudolph to score the title, finishing third. Peter Britten was fourth, and a surging Erick Rudolph ranked fifth in the final rundown, passing James Sweeting as the checkers were flying. The feature paid double points, and the final margin was a thin two points.
“Numerous 2nd-place finishes, tied Matt (Sheppard) a few years ago, and to finally get it is unbelievable,” Haers said before taking trackside pictures with family.
The historical credit of a title run eluded Haers when he tied Matt Sheppard in points in 2017, but the title went to Sheppard on a tie breaker of more wins. Haers is now the fourth different track champion in the division in the last four years. Larry Wight won it last year, with Sheppard (2019) and Rudolph (2018) taking crowns prior to that. However, dating back to 2000 — the year before Haers’ DIRTcar Sportsman Land of Legends Track Championship — only five drivers have won the Modified Track Championship. Steve Paine won the points race every season from 2000 to 2008, and in 2010. Sheppard won his first in 2009, and each one from 2011 to 2017. Haers was second to Sheppard in points in 2011 and 2015, as well.
Entering Saturday, Haers needed to make up 11 points on Erick Rudolph. Rudolph failed to score any points in a tight heat race while Haers posted a win worth five points, cutting the lead to six. Haers faced some tight scenarios, with mathematical contender Peter Britten starting next to him in the eighth spot, and Rudolph behind in 12th.
Haers needed to win or finish second. There were some complexities in the scenario if each finished outside the top five, but in terms of controlling your own destiny, Haers looked at the former versus the latter. However, it’s not exactly the simplest of tasks in a stacked modified field. Haers entered the 2021 season on an extended dry spell, having been absent from Victory Lane since a weekly win at Land of Legends Raceway in 2017. His season took a turn for the better when he broke that this summer, winning June 26 and putting his potent No. 3 in victory lane for the first time since Gerald Haers, his grandfather, passed away.
Tim Fuller swept to the lead, and raced off ahead of Alan Johnson by 15 lengths in a landslide feature win. Behind him, it was far more thrilling. Right away, Rudolph tried to gain position, but there was no room to be had. By halfway, Haers was up to sixth, and Rudolph was ninth. On lap 29, Dan Wiesner slowed on the backstretch, bunching the field.
On the restart, Fuller set sail to rebuild his 12-second lead, and Haers rocketed to fourth. Rudolph rallied to sixth. Haers moved to third with four to go in the 35-lapper, while Rudolph moved to fifth on the final lap. The final total: Haers 839, Rudolph, 837.
“Just the pressure coming into this thing, tried not to let it get to me but it’s always in the back of your mind,” reflected Haers. “Was just looking at some stats. Saw 20 years ago I won the Sportsman Championship here in the same way. Needed to beat Karl Comfort to win and I did it, now here we are again.”
In an odd twist, not only did Haers win his second title at Land of Legends 20-years removed from a final-night rally for that Sportsman crown, he did it beating Rudolph, who had to work some magic of his own in his 2018 title effort. Rudolph entered the final night of racing down 22 points to Sheppard before etching his name in the history books as champion that year. For Haers, it was a year of redemption, potentially saving the veteran’s driving career; the long winless streak was weighing on his confidence.
“Beginning of this year I did my homework. If I had the year I did in 2020 I think this would be my last one. We really struggled and I said I’m going to work, learn these cars and learn what I need to do,” said Haers. “Obviously it paid off here. Have a great crew and sponsors, and I’ve got some really awesome fans... Got to thank my family, there’s a lot of volunteers that do this deal and without all of them none of this would ever be possible.”
In the final run down, Fuller was ahead of Alan Johnnson at the line, followed by Haers, Britten and Rudolph.
Zach Payne posted a win in the DIRTcar Sportsman action ahead of Kane Bristol, Zach George, Zach Sobotka and AJ Lloyd. Trever Years won the 305 Sprint main ahead of Brandyn Griffin, Dan Craun, Alysha Bay and Darryl Ruggles. Josh Pangrazio was victorious in the Street Stocks over Jimmy Grant and Adam Depuy, Parker Smith and Nick Dandino.
Jordan Thomas won a thrilling 25-lap Patriot Sprint Tour feature, holding off Paulie Colagiovanni and Joe Trenca for the win. Jason Barney and Matt Farnham filled the top five. Colagiovanni’s runner up effort locked down his win in the Land of Legends 360 Sprint Car Challenge, topping Trenca and Farnham, who tied for second. The Patriot Sprint Tour will race next at Utica-Rome Speedway on September 5, as part of the New Yorker event.
The Sportsman, 305 Sprints, Street Stocks, and Hobby Stocks will crown champions following double point features Saturday Sept. 4 and open big blocks are also on the card. The Les Whyte Top Gun Shootout will anchor the Full Fender Frenzy on Sept. 11, and The Super DIRTcar Series big blocks will be back at Land of Legends for the Gerald Haers Memorial event September 18. For details, visit LandofLegendsRaceway.com.
Before the Super DIRTcar Series arrives at Land of Legends for the Haers Memorial, there is plenty of racing to be done.
The series heads to Lebanon Valley for the Mr. DIRT Track USA event September 4, where Kenny Tremont Jr. has won the last two marquee events. Cavalcade Weekend at Weedsport Speedway is set for September 11 and 12, then the Haers Memorial at LOLR on September 18.
Stewart Friesen has six wins and 1,632 points to his credit and has a 75-point lead in the standings over Matt Sheppard. For a full rundown, visit www.SuperDIRTcarSeries.com.
The Short Track Super Series will visit Thunder Mountain Speedway Tuesday, Aug 31. The modified 50-lapper will pay $5,000 and $400 to start. The 602 sportsman program will pay $1,500 to win their 25-lap main. Gates open at 4 pm with qualifying set for 7 pm.
Sheppard leads Anthony Perrego after seven races, winning twice and finishing in the top 10 in each stop. For more, visit www.ShortTrackSuperSeries.com.
The winged Empire Super Sprints will be busy Labor Day weekend, as well. ESS races at Brewerton and Fulton Speedway Friday and Saturday. Can-Am is scheduled for September 11 and then Weedsport September 12 and Ransomville has been added on September 17. It marks the first ESS visit there since 2009.
Jason Barney has three wins thus far, and leads Paulie Colagiovanni in the point standings, 1,145 to 1,091.
At Can-Am Speedway, Jeff Sykes triumphed in the 358-Modified feature. Having blown an engine at Fulton and losing a rear end a week ago, Sykes was distraught and it didn’t help he was mired in an extended winless streak. He rallied, however, topping Tim Fuller and Nick Webb in a dynamite feature. Fuller held for second ahead of Webb, Billy Dunn and Lance Willix.
Mike Fowler won the DIRTcar Sportsman feature ahead of Ryan Shanahan, Josh Reome, David Rogers and Dalton Rombough. Burton Ward scored the DIRTcar Pro Stock main ahead of Justin White and Ian Bressett. Tony Frezzo (Thunderstock) and Paul DeRuyter (Limited Sportsman) took divisional wins. The point races will conclude next week for all divisions.
At Brewerton Speedway, Tyler Trump earned his first modified feature in the 35-lap main. Trump took the lead on a lap 15 restart, and he held off the likes of Pat Ward, and then Tim Sears Jr. Jimmy Phelps was third behind Sears Jr., with Ward and Decker rounding out the top five.
As the title hunt winds down, contact in the back of the field caused trouble for Larry Wight. He raced to 11th after a flat tire while rival Phelps took third. The two have traded the points lead the last few weeks, and with the eight position difference, Phelps enters the final Friday this week with a 10 point edge.
Brandon Carvey won the DIRTcar Sportsman 25-lap main ahead of Quinn Wallis, Chris Mackey, Tyler Murray and Zach Sobotka. Tom Mackey (Mod Lites) and Ray Belcher (four-cylinders) earned class wins. Chuck Powelczyk was third in the four cylinder feature and secured his 10th career division championship.
At Outlaw Speedway, Tyler Siri bested Phil Vigneri to win the held-over Modified feature. Jim LaRock, Eldon Payne and Steve Paine filled the top five. In the regularly scheduled event, Bobby Varin took the checkers ahead of Danny Johnson, Cory Costa, Siri and Eldon Payne.
The held-over DIRTcar Hoosier Sportsman feature went to Andrew Jacobson ahead of AJ Lloyd and Tim Guild. Zac McDonald and Adam Hilton rounded out the top five. Hilton improved to win the regularly scheduled feature ahead dof Alex Payne, Timmy Borden, Randy Chrysler and Lloyd. Chris Fisher won the American Racer Tire Sportsman main ahead of Karl Comfort and McDonald, with Tommy Paine and Dale Welty rounding out the front five.
Glenn Whritenour won the Street Stock feature ahead of John Carpenter, Chuck Winslow, Jared Hill and Zach Teed. Brian Grant topped Scott Lehman and Jayson Smart, Brian Avery and Mike Webster to win the four-cylinder main. Marc Minutolo triumphed in the Hobby Stock feature, racing ahead of Glen Vancise, Shawn Lloyd, Bruce Kinner and Jason Clugstone.
With a multitude of rainouts this spring, and a packed August schedule, Tyler Siri decided to push the double point season finales at Outlaw back to September 10. Not everything could be squeezed in during the final weeks of racing.
“We got into a situation in August where rain washed out the show after the heat events were in the books, so we had to double up on several feature events. With running two make-up events per week, we couldn’t get them all in prior to our Championship Night. In all fairness to everyone and to help get one more additional show into the books I’ve decided to finish playing catch up on September 3 and push the Double Point Finale to September 10,” Siri said in a release.
All divisions will race on September 3, with make up features booked for that night, and then the regular season will conclude September 10.
After the September 10 point finale Outlaw will take two weeks off before the 6th Annual Fall Nationals on set for September 24-25.
At Utica Rome, Rocky Warner won a remarkable 30-lap feature that boasted four leaders. The stalwart feature had the top seven cars within a half-straightaway, and it was Warner who slipped past Jessica Friesen to win the $2,400 main. Stewart Friesen rallied to second ahead of Jessica, with Alan Johnson and Danny Varin rounding out the first five. Payton Talbot won the 602 Sportsman feature ahead of Matt Janczuk and Addison Bowman. Nick Stone won the Pro Stock main, and was chased by Josh Coonradt and Kenny Gates. Jeremy Slosek won the Limited Sportsman feature, while Justin Pope (DOHC) and Jacob Kimball (SOHC) posted four-cylinder wins. Dan Slosek (All Star) and Corky Warner (Junior) took slingshot wins.
Utica-Rome will conclude their weekly point season Friday. Two Days later, the New Yorker returns to Utica-Rome.
The first New Yorker was a 400 lap race, won by Lou Lazzaro on September 1, 1963. It has been contested in various forms, from 200 laps to as short as 40 laps. It was last contested May 13, 2018, with Matt Sheppard winning a 100-lap main. This year, the 100-lap event will pay $12,000 to win. The Patriot Sprints will race for $3,000 to win. The 602 Crate Sportsman feature will pay $2,000 to win. Pro Stock purse monies have been increased as well. The event stands as the final Thunder on the Thruway Point event for the Modifieds, 602 Sportsman and Pr Stocks.
Gates will open at 4 pm with racing at 7:15 pm; visit www.uticaromespeedway.com for details.
Saturday at Fulton Speedway, Ron Davis III won a wild DIRTcar 358-modified feature.
Davis started 14th, and a wide-open feature brought him to the lead on lap 24. He checked out to win his third main of the year, with traffic fanning out two and three wide behind him. Dave Marcuccilli raced from 18th to second, and Tim Sears Jr. rallied from a spin to take third. Jeff Taylor and Andrew Ferguson ranked fifth. The win puts Davis out front in the points by 15 markers over Larry Wight going into the point finale next Saturday. Larry Wight and Sears Jr. are platinum Super DIRTcar Series drivers, and Lebanon Valley’s Mr. DIRT Track USA series event is Saturday night.
Andrew Buff won the first of two DIRTcar Sportsman features. Jeff Prentice and Steve Marshall were second and third. Chris Mackey won the second ahead of Matt Janczuk and Kyle Devendorf. Austin Cooper won the Novice Sportsman feature. Robert Hartman won the chain-and-bang demo derby while Freddy White won the Junkyard Run.
Saturday at Genesee Speedway, Chad Homan rallied to win the Late Model feature. Trying to find something on the extreme inside line, Homan was fruitless. However, on a restart, Homan lined up on the outside and found some magic on the high groove. He surprised leader Bill Holmes on lap 21, rolling the top to take the lead and the win. It is his first win at Genesee in just his second 2021 start in Batavia. Holmes held for second ahead of Doug Ricotta, Dave Dubois and Paul Grigsby.
Cam Tuttle won the Sportsman feature over Jim Harbison, Noah Walker, Dave Conant and Ray Bliss. Dan Schulz won the Street Stock feature ahead of Bill Taylor and Brandon Sherwood. Rich Conte (Mini Stocks), Jame Bansmer (Novice Sportsman) and Seth Johnson (Youth Four Cylinder) earned class wins.
The point season will conclude September 4 with racing to start at 6 pm.
Oswego was scheduled to be off this weekend, with the 65th running of Classic Weekend coming up.
September 3 is booked as Pole Day, with qualifying for the 350 Supers, Small Block Super and Supermodifieds set for 2 pm. Heat Races and Features for the New York State Compact Championship (18 laps) and 75-lap New York Super Stock Dave London Memorial XII are set for 7 pm. September 4 is marked for several features, including the NASCAR modifieds. Heats begin at 3:30 pm, with the NEMA lites, and National Compact Touring Series US Open at the top of the feature card, with the NEMA Midges Marvin Richin Memorial and 150-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Toyota Mod Classic anchoring day 2. Classic Sunday will feature the 4th Annual J&S Paving 350 Supermodified Classic (40-laps), 30th Annual Pathfinder Bank SBS Bud Light Classic (75-laps) and the 200-lap
65th Annual Novelis Supermodified Budweiser International Classic; racing begins at 12:30 pm with the Supermodified last chance qualifier.
Nick Nye won the modified feature at Thunder Mountain. Jimmy Zacharias and Alan Barker earned podium finishes. Glenn Forward topped Jordan McCreadie and Tom Collins in the DIRTcar 358 Modified feature. Alan Fink won the DIRTcar Crate Sportsman feature with Brandon Carvey and Hunter Lapp chasing. Jake Waibel won the 600cc modified feature. Steven Deinhardt (Street Stocks), Mike Morse (Factory Stock), Ray Reynolds (Budget Sportsman) and Evan O’Hara (Junior Slingshots) earned class wins.
After the STSS events, September 4 will be the final points event. After that, Thunder Mountain will host the Wade Decker Memorial on Sept. 5. Modifieds, DIRTcar Sportsman, Street Stock and 600cc Modifieds are on the card. The DIRTcar Sportsman will race for a $2,000 prize. Racing is set to start at 6:45 pm. Details are online at ThunderMtnSpeedway.net.