EVANS MILLS, NY – Many people spend holidays at home celebrating with their families. The true racer that he is, Vern LaFave spent this past Easter on the road instead, going to pick up a car for the debut of the Mills Modified class at Evans Mills Speedway. The trip paid off for LaFave this past Sunday, as he picked up his first win in the division.
Randy Brunelle, who picked up wins in both of the previous two races, started from the pole, alongside Mike Hall Jr. Hall Jr. got the jump at the drop of the green, but Brunelle quickly took it back, with LaFave following to take over second. The caution waved on lap six of the 30-lap race, setting the stage for a double-file restart with Brunelle on the inside and LaFave on the outside.
LaFave took full advantage of the opportunity, as he and Brunelle ran side-by-side over the next several laps, with LaFave staying just barely ahead of Brunelle. Once LaFave was able to clear Brunelle for the top spot, Terry Gardner began to challenge Brunelle for the second spot. As the pair battled behind him, LaFave was able to build a comfortable cushion.
The last thing LaFave wanted to see was the caution flag, which was displayed on lap 27. LaFave’s lead was erased, and he found himself on the point for a three-lap shootout, with Gardner on his back bumper and Brunelle in tow.
LaFave was able to defend his position as the trio ran the last three laps in close quarters. LaFave took the checkers over Gardner by a mere 0.288 seconds, and Brunelle crossed the line third.
The third time was the charm for Legends competitor Dalton Rombough, who had strong runs going in both of the previous two events before falling to mechanical issues. That all changed this past Sunday, as Rombough won his heat race, started the feature on the pole, and led every lap to pick up his first 2017 win at the 3/8-mile paved oval.
Rombough started alongside teenage competitor Daniel Carter, and Rombough shot out front at the drop of the green. Carter, who was having mechanical issues, fell quickly back through the field, allowing Anthony Riforgiato to take over second while Nate Plantz grabbed third. With three laps in the books, Carter slowed to a stop on the frontstretch, drawing the caution. Carter was able to refire the car and restart at the tail of the field, but he retired from the event on lap six as he continued to be plagued by issues with the car.
Meanwhile, Riforgiato laid chase to Rombough up front, while a heated battle took shape for third between Plantz and Breanne Gilligan. Gilligan was able to wrestle the spot from Plantz with three laps remaining, but Rombough proved to be unstoppable as he crossed the line ahead of Riforgiato and Gilligan.
Bandolero competitor Bryce Bailey made his first appearance of the 2017 season at Evans Mills this past weekend, and he scored a clean sweep, picking up wins in both his heat race and the feature.
The start of the feature saw Josh Duke – the winner of the two prior events – pitted against Bailey on the front row. At the drop of the green, Bailey shot to the lead and he never looked back, leading every lap of the caution-free, 15-lap affair. Duke sat solidly in second, while Tyler Christman wrestled with Shea Bailey for the third spot for much of the event. Christman was finally able to grab the spot just past the halfway point of the event, but he was unable to advance any further as B. Bailey crossed the line ahead of Duke and Christman.
Defending Pro Stock division champion Ray Bancroft’s car showed plenty of battle scars at the conclusion of the 25-lap event, but Bancroft was all smiles in Victory Lane as he picked up his first win of the year.
Bancroft led every lap of the race, as fans sat on the edges of their seats over the last half of the race while Bancroft and Bill Miner fought for the top spot. The two made slight contact several times as they ran in close quarters, but both were able to recover each time only to continue their battle. In the end, Miner was unable to rattle Bancroft, who claimed victory over Miner and Jason Duke.
Zac Stone emerged victorious when the dust settled after an exciting Thunder Stock race that saw the top four cars running side-by-side in rows of two for nearly the entire race distance.
Defending division champion Ike Stone challenged his son on the outside lap after lap throughout the caution-free event, while Daniel Swem and Zack Devoe looked for a way past. It came down to a photo finish, with Z. Stone claiming his first career win by just 0.064 seconds over Swem. Devoe was third in the final rundown. The gap from first to fourth was only 0.6 seconds.
The only repeat winner of the night was the 4 Cylinder Truck victor Bob Schroy, who notched his second win of the season.
For much of the race, Daniel Swem and Kyle Simpson battled it out up front, swapping the top spot several times. Lapped traffic came into play with just three laps remaining, and contact between Swem and Simpson while trying to get past took both out of contention for the win. Schroy inherited the lead as a result, and he was able to hold off the competition to pick up the win over Charles Sibley. Swem came back to finish third.
This coming Sunday, June 18, the Pro Stocks will take the night off, as the Oswego Small Block Supermodifieds will highlight the night with a 50-lap, $1,000-to-win spectacular. The night will also include a 25-lap Vernon LaFave Memorial race for the Legends cars, who will be joined on the schedule by the Mills Modified, Bandolero, Thunder Stock, and 4 Cylinder Truck classes. Hospice of Jefferson County will be recognized, with free grandstand admission to Hospice of Jefferson County employees with staff ID. Gates open at 2:30 pm, with hot laps at 3:30 pm, and racing set to go green at 5 pm. Grandstand admission is $10, with children age 15 and under admitted to the grandstands free of charge, and a $2 discount for military with valid ID. VIP booth upgrades are available. Pit entry fee is $25.
More information, including a complete 2017 schedule, can be obtained online at www.evansmillsspeedway.com, or by calling (315) 221-9180.
MILLS MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (30 laps): 1. Vern LaFave, 2. Terry Gardner, 3. Randy Brunelle, 4. Bobby Newman, 5. Mike Hall Jr.
LEGENDS FEATURE FINISH (20 laps): 1. Dalton Rombough, 2. Anthony Riforgiato, 3. Breanne Gilligan, 4. Nate Plantz, 5. Trevor Halladay, 6. Jason Christman, 7. Kyle Hafemann, 8. Bryan Chirico, 9. James Holland, 10. Mike Riforgiato, 11. Daniel Carter.
BANDOLERO FEATURE FINISH (15 laps): 1. Bryce Bailey, 2. Josh Duke, 3. Tyler Christman, 4. Shea Bailey, 5. Cole Perry, 6. Coleby Felber.
PRO STOCK FEATURE FINISH (25 laps): 1. Ray Bancroft, 2. Bill Miner, 3. Jason Duke, 4. Terry Gardner.
THUNDER STOCK FEATURE FINISH (20 laps): 1. Zac Stone, 2. Daniel Swem, 3. Zack Devoe, 4. Richard “Ike” Stone, 5. Ryan Rarick.
4 CYLINDER TRUCK FEATURE FINISH (20 laps): 1. Bob Schroy, 2. Charles Sibley, 3. Daniel Swem, 4. Kyle Simpson, 5. Ron White, 6. Zack Christman, 7. Pete Willsie.
PHOTO : Vern LaFave picked up the Mills Modified win at Evans Mills this past Sunday.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tracy Chirico