by Carol Houssock
(Chemung, NY) It was another fun- and action-filled Friday night at Chemung Speedrome under perfect weather conditions. Zack’s Grill in Pine City, NY was the title sponsor of a night when feature wins were earned by Zack Knowlden (Sunoco Modifieds), Mike Nichols (Super Stocks), Joey Bevacqua (4 Cylinders), Michael Riforgiato (INEX Legends), and Josh Duke (Outlaw) and Kaden Rogers (Bandits) in the INEX Bandolero division. This Friday, Costy’s Used Car and Truck Parts in Mansfield, PA comes on board as the sponsor on Fan Appreciation Night.
Zack Knowlden from Horseheads, NY not only was a double winner Friday night when he won the 40-lap feature and took over the point lead in the headline Sunoco Modified division. It was his second win at Chemung but first since 2017.
Knowlden started on the outside of the front row and powered his way around Gene Sharpsteen to lead the first two laps. Sharpsteen had a narrow edge on lap three but then Knowlden took over again. Sharpsteen, meanwhile, had a great battle going with his cousin, Charlie Sharpsteen, and Tim Gullo. While the trio fought for position, Knowlden bettered his and put some distance between himself and them. Just prior to the halfway point Gullo got around Sharpsteen and began to chase down Knowlden.
The only caution came out with 20 down and 20 to go. The restart had Knowlden and Gullo in row one and the Sharpsteens in row two. Heat winner Charlie got around Tim and was up to second, while heat winner Zack Curren was on the move and eventually took fourth from G. Sharpsteen.Over the final dozen laps it was all Knowlden, whose advantage only grew while C. Sharpsteen and Gullo resumed their tussle for second. When lap 40 clicked off, Knowlden was the victor. He was followed to the line by Gullo, C. Sharpsteen, Curren and G. Sharpsteen.
“The car was fast all night and I have my fathe
r and crew to thank for that,” he told the crowd, many of whom had gathered in front of him in victory lane. “I knew I had the car to beat and I just had to hold my line and I was able to do that thanks to them.”
Super Stock ace Mike Nichols often shows up at the track with a unique smirk on his face. Perhaps it’s a mind game, but many know it means he’s got something for the competition. Such was the case on Friday night, but he had to get around heat race winner Jim House first. That happened on lap five and from then on, he cruised around the track in the caution-free 25-lap race.
The best battle in this one was for second. House, in the best car he’s had in years, held off Nick Robinson for several laps. Robinson took over second at the halfway point and then set his sights on Nichols, who by then had a comfortable advantage. Robinson closed the gap a bunch but the caution he needed never came.
This one boiled down to which former track champion would park in victory lane, and on this night, it was Nichols. Robinson finished right behind him in second, with House, RJ Zacharias and Frank Chapman rounding out the top five. When asked if his program, especially the car itself, is coming together he said, “it did come together. It was fast, but I hope there’s a lot left in the tank.” With that, the smirk turned into a smile and he pretty much put the competition on notice.
When car owner, Nick Robinson, put Joey Bevacqua in one of his two 4 Cylinder race cars this year he saw the potential the 14-year old possessed. Since pre-season practice days he’s been turning heads and on Friday night turned in his career-first feature win as a division rookie. Monica Green and Greg Moldt won the two qualifying races. That was the only good news for Moldt, whose car broke on the opening lap and he was out before it really got started. Bevacqua led lap one but his teammate, Green, took the lead a lap later. While working lap five, the young rookie got to the inside of Green’s car #5 and reclaimed the lead he would never surrender.
Over the course of the race Bevacqua and Green fought hard, working lap traffic in the closing laps, but she was unable to get around him. When it was over Bevacqua parked it in victory lane and was quickly congratulated by many others in the class. “The inside lane worked best for me, I had to go there and hope for the best,” he said regarding racing with two-time champion Green. DJ Shaw was third, followed to the stripe by Mark Taylor and Jason Peck.
Coming out of retirement was a good decision for Brockton, NY’s Anthony Riforgiato, who swept the action in the INEX Legend division. He and Gary Ham won the two heats that set up the field for the 20-lap feature. It was an all-Anthony front row with Anthony Gullo starting alongside Riforgiato, but it was the 2018 champ, Daniel Carter, who led the first five laps before Riforgiato got around. Three cautions slowed the action but not the leader. Riforgiato was solid and able to hold off Carter until he retired after a wreck with Ham.
The final restart brought Chuck Lohmeyer up to second, a position he held until Kyle Youngs passed him. Riforgiato took the checkered flag in a win over Youngs, Lohmeyer, Jody Buckley and Charlie Lohmeyer. “This is my first night out of retirement, so I just had to remember the basics,” he said from victory lane. When asked about getting the lead back from Carter, he said “I can see why he was your champion last year, he put up a great race, and I had to just focus on getting far away from him.”
Josh Duke flaunted his Outlaw skills in the 10-lap Bandolero feature, leading every lap and picking up the overall win. The race was slowed by one caution with two laps complete. Duke kept newcomer Kaden Rogers at bay on the restart and left him in a lively battle with Jeffrey Noe for second. Heat winner Chase Sinsabaugh made it a three-way battle for second, but Rogers held off his challenges. Duke and Rogers celebrated in victory lane for their wins in the Outlaw and Bandit divisions. Noe finished third, with Sinsabaugh and Nial Gardner rounding out the top five.
This Friday, Costy’s Used Car and Truck in Mansfield, PA is sponsoring Fan Appreciation Night. The race card includes the track’s five regular divisions – Sunoco Modifieds, Super Stocks and 4 Cylinders, along with the INEX Legends and Bandoleros. Fans in attendance can also expect some cool surprises. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $5 for kids ages 6 to 12, and free to kids ages 5 and under. Pits open at 5 PM, with practice and grandstand gates at 6 PM and racing starting at 7 PM.
For information, log on to the track’s
website: chemungspeedrome.net, ‘like’ us on Facebook: Chemung Speedrome – Racing at the Drome, or call Ray Hodge, Promoter, at 607-483-3468.
Of Note:During intermission the track recognized Billy “The Kid” Griffin for providing and running the Chemung Speedrome pace car for the past 16 years. Griffin was also a big part of Chemung’s history, starting his own racing career at the track in 1969. Griffin arrived Friday night in his street-legal modified, which was on display until he paced the Sunoco Modified feature. Fans stood for him during the wave lap.
Media partner WEBP Radio brought their production van and provided coverage throughout the evening. The van joined the Buckley’s Automotive pace truck on the track for the Super Stock feature.
The six Bandolero drivers drew tickets and six kids won new bicycles, provided by Bobby Osgood Auto Sales, Dave Osgood Auto Sales, and Service Machine and Tool.
Many youngsters sporting their little league uniforms, admitted free with their families or coaches, were recognized by the fans.
One lucky fan won a package of racing collectibles by having the winning number in the track’s souvenir program, with all sales going to the Spalding Foundation for Injured Drivers.
Zack Knowlden, Mike Nichols and Joey Bevacqua won free wings from Buffalo Wild Wings in Horseheads, NY in the “Winner ,Winner – Chicken Dinner” bonus.
Knowlden was recently named a Mark Twain Scholar for being in the top five in his class at Horseheads High School, where he will graduate next month.
A lucky fan from Tioga, PA picked up $324 in 50/50 cash.
Zack’s Grill Night Results: Sunoco Modifieds (40 Laps): ZACK KNOWLDEN, Tim Gullo, Charlie Sharpsteen, Zack Curren, Gene Sharpsteen, Kevin Youngs, Bryan Sherwood, Teddy Bowen, Keith Youngs, Damon Frutchey, Steven Sherwood, Pat Judson (DNS – Bill Chandler, Jr.)Heats: C. Sharpsteen, Curren
Super Stocks (25 Laps): MIKE NICHOLS, Nick Robinson, Jim House, RJ Zacharias, Frank Chapman, Jesse Hurley, Brian DeMark, Dennis Beardslee, Garrett Zacharias, Jason Duke, JP Harbst, Derrick Tarbox (DNS: James Stanley)Heats: Chapman, House
4 Cylinders: JOEY BEVACQUA, Monica Green, DJ Shaw, Mark Taylor, Jason Peck, Kenneth Evans, Alex Brown, Greg Moldt, Tyler Harbst, Ricky LaneHeats: Green, Moldt
INEX Legends: ANTHONY RIFORGIATO, Kyle Youngs, Chuck Lohmeyer, Jody Buckley, Charlie Lohmeyer, Chris Chilson, Anthony Gullo, Gary Ham, Daniel Carter (DNS: Michael Riforgiato)Heats: Ham, A. Riforgiato
INEX Bandoleros: JOSH DUKE (Outlaw), KADEN ROGERS (Bandit), Jeffrey Noe, Chase Sinsabaugh, Nial Gardner, Nolan Baker, Aidan GardnerHeat: Sinsabaugh