by Carol Houssock”
Photo Emily Knowlden
(Chemung, NY) Chemung Speedrome opened the 2021 season with a big show that honored two men and ended with several new faces in victory lane. While rain washed out the Friday portion of the track’s planned two-day opener, promoters Ray and Ellen Hodge added three scheduled divisions to the Saturday program. Sam’s Bar & Grill in Sayre, PA sponsored the show, which included a 75-lap memorial for the late Gary Marshall. During intermission the track presented a plaque to Gil “Buck” Sharpsteen as their Grand Marshall. Sharpsteen, well known in the area racing community, was deeply moved in receiving this honor in front of so many family members and friends.
Three heats and a draw among the top four in each set the field for the 75-lap headliner. Heat wins went to Daryl Lewis, Jr., Tony Hanbury and Zach Knowlden while Bill Chandler, Jr. and Lewis drew the two best starting spots.
Lewis sailed around on the outside during the opening lap and led the way, with Zack Curren in hot pursuit. Curren waited for the right moment coming off turn four and the lead was his on lap 12. TJ Potrzebowski and Tony Hanbury were also marching forward and when Chandler went high, they took over the inside lane. By lap 45 the top four had about 8 cars lengths between each of them.
The first caution came out with 51 laps complete when Gary Noe spun. The restart was disastrous for Curren, who got turned around in turn four. Hanbury was sent to the rear for initiating the action that resulted in both Curren and Teddy Bowen spinning. With Curren restarting at the rear, Lewis reclaimed the top spot.
A few more single car spins put the field under caution. Lewis faced challenges on those restarts by Potrzebowski, Bryan Sherwood and Knowlden. Meanwhile, both Hanbury and Curren were working the traffic and moving closer to Lewis.
The final caution came with six laps remaining. For this restart it was Charlie Sharpsteen alongside Lewis, with Knowlden and Curren right behind them. Over the final five laps Curren passed Sharpsteen but ran out of time to fight for the lead. Lewis went on to notch a career-first win at Chemung, followed to the line by Curren, Sharpsteen, Knowlden and Hanbury.
“That was a great race ‘til lap 51, and Zack was the class of the field,” Lewis said in victory lane. “I had a good ca that was tight in the center and we had a distributor problem earlier. But I’m glad it ended this way.” Racing at Chemung, challenging to drivers with the track’s unique corners, was different for Lewis for another reason. “It’s weird running with no mirror here. I kept looking and there was no mirror there.”
A lucky draw, on a day honoring his father, put heat winner Lee Sharpsteen on the pole for the 25-lap Super Stock feature. The race got off to a bad start when a sloppy start and bumping on the front stretch resulted in a wreck in turn one. As Anthony Gullo and Nick Robinson sat together in the turn under yellow, Paul Godby approached at speed. He drove up and right over Robinson’s car, and he continued with part of Robinson’s back bumper. Four more cautions came out by the time six laps had been recorded. Robinson got caught up in another incident that removed even more sheet metal from him battered #15. During the seventh caution Garrett Zacharias caught the back of Frank Chapman’s car as they entered turn two and turned him around. Both restarted at the rear, as had many cars up to that point. The race resumed with Cameron Nichols alongside Sharpsteen and with Tim Gullo and RJ Zacharias right behind them.
The end of the race was not good for either of the Zacharias racers. Garrett’s motor blew with seven laps remaining, and a lap later his father, RJ, lost the grip and spun by himself coming off turn four. It cost him an almost certain top-5 finish. The final six laps saw Gullo working hard to get around Sharpsteen. Gullo seemed to have the advantage in turns three and four but Sharpsteen had him covered in one and two.
When lap 25 clicked off Sharpsteen had led every lap and parked his new-to-him #8 in victory lane. Gullo finished second, followed by Nichols, Robinson, and Evan Rygielski. “I got a little tight. Tim raced me clean. Some others not. But I appreciate that he did,” Sharpsteen told the crowd. He was joined in victory lane by his father and many other family members on a special day. Bill Frisbie, Jr. and Rygielski won the other heat races.
The 4 Cylinder division ran a caution-free 20-lap race. Earlier Russ Bulger, Jr. and Greg Moldt, the track’s 2019 champion, had won their heats. Luck of the draw put Joey Bevacqua and Bulger on the front row while Moldt started fourth. As the field negotiated turns one and two, Moldt went three-wide and emerged as the race leader. He held that lead, over Bulger, for the first six laps before losing it to Bulger. Bevacqua and Monica Robinson waged a great battle for third and they were soon joined by John Byrd. Just as the checkered waved for Bulger, his father was involved in an incident on the back stretch.
The Marion Decker Hobby Stock feature was reduced to 10 laps, but fans saw some history made, nonetheless. Jason Peck swept the action. However, his previous racing was not on a pavement. The caution-free race was a great battle between Peck and Dave Decker, who tried repeatedly to find a way around the leader but came up a couple car lengths short at the finish. Tyler Harbst finished third. “I’ve been a dirt guy for 20 years. I live nearby and thought I’d try something different,” Peck said from victory lane.
The youngsters in the INEX Bandolero division had a tough time keeping their machines out of the spin cycle. But some much-needed adjustments mid-race worked for Chase Sinsabaugh. Devin Gullo led the first few laps before yielding to heat winner Derrick Vogler. The final restart, with three to go, set up a great battle among the trio, but it was Sinsabaugh who got the overall win as a Bandit. Vogler’s second place finish gave him the Outlaw win. Gullo and Cullen Sharpsteen completed the rundown.
The visiting NYPA Midgets provided some scary moments during their 20-lap feature. The bulk of the race was a classic battle between heat winners Kyle Hutchinson and Bobby Holmes. Moose Rutherford kept his streak, of rolling his car, alive when he ended up on his side in turn four just three laps into the 20-lap race. Hutchinson led the first 11 laps before Holmes made what was his race-winning pass. With four laps remaining Hutchinson rolled his car and slammed the turn four foam blocks. Holmes went on for the win. “Kyle had a little faster car than me, but when we got tagged up in four it knocked the wheel right out of my hands,” he said from victory lane. “I hope he’s ok.”
This Saturday Northeast ATV presents the Race of Champions Modified Tour for their first of two appearances this season. They’ll be running a 75-lap feature event and joined on the race card by the Insinger Super Stocks (25 laps), 4 Cylinders (20 laps), Marion Decker Agency Hobby Stocks (20 laps), and INEX Bandoleros (10 laps). Pit gates open at 11 AM and grandstand at 12 Noon. Practice will begin at 1 PM and racing at 2 PM. Admission is $23 for adults, $18 for seniors, $5 for kids ages 6-12 and free for kids 5 and under.
For information, log on to the track’s website: chemung-speedrome.com, ‘like’ us on Facebook: Chemung Speedrome – Racing at the Drome, or call Ray Hodge, Promoter, at 607-483-3468.
Ten boys and girls won free bicycles, donated as part of the Marshall Memorial event.
The 50/50 winner’s share went across the border with a fan from Gillette, PA.
Sam’s Bar & Grill Night Results:
Sunoco Modifieds (75 Laps) DARYL LEWIS, JR., Zack Curren, Charlie Sharpsteen, Zach Knowlden, Tony Hanbury, TJ Potrzebowski, Bryan Sherwood, Andy Lewis, Teddy Bowen, Gary Noe, Bill Chandler, Jr., Leo Becker, Pat Judson, Shawn Nye, Ed Dachenhausen (DNS)
Heats: D. Lewis, Hanbury, Knowlden
Insinger Performance Super Stocks (25 Laps): LEE SHARPSTEEN, Tim Gullo, Cameron Nichols, Nick Robinson, Evan Rygielski, RJ Zacharias, Frank Chapman, Jim Yamelski, Paul Godby, Garrett Zacharias, Bill Frisbie, Jr., Jason Duke, Jr., Mark Taylor, Derrick Tarbox, Anthony Gullo
Heats: RJ Zacharias, Frisbie, Rygielski
4 Cylinders (20 Laps): RUSS BULGER, JR., Joey Bevacqua, Monica Robinson, Greg Moldt, John Byrd, Russ Bulger, Sr., Ricky Lane, Mike Ferris, Paul Flye, Jason Peck, Dustin Pruyne, Nick Galusha
Heats: Bulger, Jr., Moldt
Marion Decker Hobby Stocks (10 Laps): JASON PARKER, Dave Decker, Tyler Harbst
INEX Bandoleros (10 Laps): CHASE SINSABAUGH (Bandit), Derrick Vogler (Outlaw), Devin Gullo, Cullen Sharpsteen
NYPA Midgets: (20 Laps): BOBBY HOLMES
Heats: Kyle Hutchinson, Holmes