CHEMUNG, N.Y. — Story by Carol Houssock — Photos and Audio by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens —
Race teams and faithful fans attending the postposed season opener at Chemung Speedrome had to dig out the hoodies and long johns to fight off a stiff wind and temperatures hovering in the 40’s.
Then a first – snow flurries fell while the Sunoco Modifieds were qualifying. Despite her best efforts, Mother Nature didn’t win this time. Rather, opening day wins went to Tony Hanbury (Sunoco Modifieds), Frank Chapman (Super Stocks), Maddy Virts (4 Cylinders), Alexandria Smith (INEXLegends), and Garrett Zacharias (Bandoleros). Racing continues this Friday night at 7 PM.
Tony Hanbury returned to Chemung Speedrome with one mission in mind. When he loaded up to leave Sunday evening he knew his mission was accomplished. But it wasn’t easy. Earlier in the day TJ Zacharias and Zack Curren won the heat races and made up the front row for the start.
Curren led at the drop of the green, with Zacharias and Hanbury running together for second. Larry Jaynes spun with 11 laps recorded but the restart resulted in spins by Tommy Rought and Jimmy Zacharias. Jimmy was running in the Cody Jackson #99 because his motor developed a problem at the end of his heat race.
Zacharias, the defending track champion, lined up at the back of the pack for the restart. Curren maintained the lead with Hanbury glued to his back deck. TJ Zacharias held third, just ahead of a great battle between Gene Sharpsteen and Charlie Sharpsteen.
Hanbury applied the chrome horn to Curren on the straightaways but found an opening under Curren going through turns one and two on lap 37. The clean pass gave him clean air and he pulled away over the remaining couple laps.
Hanbury got the win, finishing ahead of Curren, Gene Sharpsteen, Charlie Sharpsteen, and Jimmy Zacharias.
“That was a good race with Curren, but I saw his car was going away and mine was staying the same,” Hanbury stated. “I can’t say enough about this Morgantini power plant.” He went on to thank all of his sponsors, car owner and crew.
In Super Stock action the battle fans witnessed in the heat race, and likely expected in the feature, was not to be. Tim Gullo won the heat and was looking for his third consecutive opening day win; in the qualifier he faced tremendous pressure from Nick Robinson.
With the pair lined up side by side for the scheduled 25 lap feature the stage was set for another battle between them. It started out that way. A strong gust of wind blew a large chunk of foam from turn one onto Gullo’s car, forcing a caution to put it back in place with seven laps complete.
While working lap 11 Robinson’s new motor let go and spewed oil over half of the track, forcing a lengthy clean-up. With just four cars left officials shortened the race to 15 laps. The restart brought Frank Chapman up alongside Gullo, and he proved that his sharp Camaro could challenge for the win.
A late caution set up a final restart. Gullo prevailed but left an opening that Chapman found on the last lap. It was a popular win for a man some never knew, however.
“It’s been 39 years since I raced at Chemung,” he said from victory lane. By all accounts, the fans were glad he came back. Gullo was second, ahead of Rick Frisco, Chad Lane and Robinson.
The 4 Cylinder feature was rare battle of the ladies for all 20 laps, and also ended with a last lap pass for the win. Defending track champion Monica Green won the heat race and lined up beside Maddy Virts for the feature. Green took off and led the field. The only caution slowed the action after three laps when Eric Ellsworth spun coming off turn four.
On the restart Green again prevailed over Virts. Green had the straightaway speed while Virts closed the gap going through the corners. With 5 laps remaining Green seemed to be slowing and changed her line a bit. Virts was right there, took the lead on the last lap, and won the feature her first time at the track.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said about making that race-winning pass. Jordan Mathews, Zack Jaynes and Triston Kline rounded out the top five. Green won the qualifying race.
Thirty INEX Legend racers signed in for the season opener, forcing the running of a consolation race to fill the field for the 20-lap race. Heat wins went to Gary Ham, Brandon DeBrakeleer, Kevin Youngs and David French, while Brian DeMark took the consi.
Trouble came early, and often, in this feature. Ham led DeBrakeleer and held him off over several restarts. The most serious caution forced a red flag for clean-up with 6 laps complete. Just after taking the green DeMark, Matt Evans, Charlie Lohmeyer, Tony Gullo, Keith Youngs and Wayne Walker got together on the front stretch, ending the day early for most of those involved.
On the restart DeBrakeleer took the lead from Ham and soon had French and Alexandria Smith right behind him, while Ham slid back to fourth. Smith was relentless in disposing of French and then DeBrakeleer. Once in front she had to hold off DeBrakeleer on two restarts but she did so and took her first checkered flag of the year. DeBrakeleer was second, followed by Alex McCollum, Pat Judson, and French.
“This is a tough division but I had a great car,” Smith told the crowd.
The 10-lap Bandolero feature was also plagued with cautions but ended with a third generation driver picking up a career-first win. Garrett Zacharias, who spun then was twice penalized during the race for passing cars too soon on restarts, powered his way around the competition and celebrated in victory lane. Teddy Bowen led the first half of the race then the pair, who earlier won their heat races, got together battling for the top spot.
Over the second half of the race Zacharias stormed ahead with one goal in mind. Asked how he felt after the win, Zacharias yelled “Wooooo”. An apparent second place finish for Tyler Dachenhausen went away during post-race inspection. His DQ moved Bowen up to second, ahead of Bryce Bailey, Gage Michael and Dominick Wood. Bailey was the highest finishing Bandit.
- Lissa DePew, widow of the late Doug DePew, presented $100 to both Tony Hanbury and Frank Chapman in honor of her late husband. DePew passed away over the winter and was a big part of the Chemung family back in the day. During opening ceremonies the track observed a moment of silence for him and for Dutch Hoag.
- Another Chemung loss was announced during the event. Ethel Bennett, a longtime supporter of the track back in the day, passed away in Texas Sunday morning at her sister’s home. Her son Chet, head tech inspector at the track, said he had just left her on Wednesday. Before he left Texas his mother told him she believed she’d be gone within two weeks.
- Racing scheduled for Friday, May 27th will now be held on Saturday, May 28th instead. The Ferris Mowers Race of Champions will be joined by the track’s NASCAR Super Stocks along with the INEX Legends and Bandoleros. Race time is 3PM.
It’s a rapid turnaround, as racing resumes this Friday, May 20th , under the lights. Pits open at 4, grandstand gates at 5:30, practice gets underway at 6, and racing begins at 7 PM. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors 65+, $5 for kids 6-12, and free for kids 5 and under. Fans are reminded that they will receive $3 off their adult or senior admission this Friday if they present their ticket stub from Sunday’s event.
For more information, log on to www.chemungspeedrome.net or “like” us on Facebook. Chemung Speedrome and NASCAR, Asphalt Racing at its Finest!
Sunoco Modifieds (40 Laps) TONY HANBURY, Zack Curren, Gene Sharpsteen, Charlie Sharpsteen, Jimmy
Zacharias, Nick Morich, Jody Buckley, Jesse Kent, Zack Knowlden, Connor Sellars, Tommy Rought, Paul
Johnson, Ken Hammond, Chris Clemens, Larry Jaynes, Joe Lane, TJ Zacharias
Heats: TJ Zacharias, Curren
Super Stocks (15 Laps) FRANK CHAPMAN, Tim Gullo, Rick Frisco, Chad Lane, Nick Robinson, Rich Talada
4 Cylinders (20 Laps) MADDY VIRTS, Monica Green, Jordan Mathews, Zack Jaynes, Triston Kline, Eric
Ellsworth, Ricky Lane, James Peck
INEX Legends (20 Laps) ALEXANDRIA SMITH, Brandon DeBrakeleer, Alex McCollum, Pat Judson, David
French, Mitchell Dowd, Matt Evans, Gary Ham, Teddy Hodgdon, Cody Frantz, Daniel Carter, Tony
Hanbury, Max Evans, Breanne Gilligan, Jerry Macchia, Brian DeMark, Kevin Youngs, Kevin Wilkins, Kyle
Youngs, Tony Gullo, Chuck Lohmeyer, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Keith Youngs, Wayne Walker, Charlie
Lohmeyer. DNQ – Dalton Ranbough, Zack Bennett, Timothy Bowen, Jimmer Ulrich, John Bowen (DQ)
Heats: Ham, DeBrakeleer, Kevin Youngs, French
Bandoleros: GARRETT ZACHARIAS, Teddy Bowen, Bryce Bailey, Gage Michael, Dominick Wood, Connor
McCarthy, Joshua Duke, Joey Bernatavitz, Griffin Montfort, Shea Bailey, DJ Shaw, Sean Verwys, Nathan
Musso (DNS), Tyler Dachenhausen (DQ, finished 2 nd )
Heats: Bowen, Zacharias
Hear from Sunoco Modified winner Tony Hanbury:
Zack Curren spoke to the difference between winning and finishing 2nd on Sunday afternoon: