PENN YAN, NY — Blog by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Rich Eider photo — Tech inspection. It has been a story all season here in the Finger Lakes of New York State and the season ending championship races have been no different.
We have seen tech inspection surrounding the GM Crate Sportsman ranks become a rather hot-button issue here in New York in 2014. A story that popped up with the season-ending championship night in the Pure Stock division at Canandaigua Motorsports Park has raised a lot of eyebrows and has led me to the conclusion: ‘Race fans just want to see transparency.’
Now, I’m not here to bash anyone from CMP and I’m not here to bash the way in which tech inspection is carried out at CMP. Enough people have certainly done so and I am a big supporter of CMP and local dirt racing. I am, however, going to speak on behalf of the legion of fans that have been scratching their heads since the August 30th championship night at Canandaigua where the track championship has exchanged hands three different times — which also includes where the point fund monies will be awarded to.
Everyone knew that going into championship night, the Pure Stock division was one to have your eyes on because of how close the points differential was between the top 2. Add on to that, the fact that the Pure Stocks were running double features — one makeup feature awarding regular points and the championship night feature awarding double points. Both races were great battles in their own right, but what happened afterwards is what garnered all of the attention.
CJ Guererri was poised to claim the Pure Stock track championship over Marc Minutolo after the features were run.
A rather thorough tech inspection was planned for by the CMP Tech Officials which makes a lot of sense on championship night — you want the racers and fans to know that their champion won it fair and square. The CMP tech officials planned an engine teardown in a barn located on the Ontario County Fairgrounds facility that would eliminate the concern for dirt and dust. They also provided jackstands to ensure a safe engine teardown which isn’t provided at most dirt tracks you might travel to.
This story took its first twist and turn when Guererri and the CJ1 crew chose to refuse the tech inspection.
The team would later post on Social Media:
“The 2014 racing season was meant to have fun for me and my amazing team being torn down would have ended our season early so after a long talk with the crew we decided racing other tracks and continuing the fun meant more then a championship so congrats to the 25B of Marc Minutolo.”
The team would go on to further say that the cost of a gasket set and rebuild was far too high to incur and still be able to participate in the season-ending fall money show season. This left their team open for criticism, which they faced a great deal of, once fans found out that the CJ1 had been stripped of all points from the 2014 season, costing him a CMP track championship.
Some fans have taken the stance that the CJ1 team is hiding what is underneath the hood. Others question why you would sacrifice a season points title at CMP where you enter your name into a book of champions that include some of the best that have ever strapped into a dirt stock car in the Northeast? This has left a ton of questions for race fans, fellow competitors and tech officials at surrounding race tracks.
If the CJ1 machine does choose to compete at area tracks where extra money/extra distance races will take place, they should expect to be having more than just a ‘hello, how do you do?’ from those speedway’s tech officials.
The focus then turned to the Big Mike’s Garage racing team consisting of multi-time Pure Stock track champion Marc Minutolo’s 25B and Nick Dandino’s 52B which was thought to some as being the feel-good story of 2014. By virtue of the Guererri disqualification, Minutolo would be crowned track champion.
However, this story took another twist as the Minutolo 25B and Dandino 52B were both found with separate rule infractions within their engine compartments. At the time of the engine teardown, Minutolo and Dandino were disqualified from the championship feature event and lost their points for that feature. Even with the DQ that night, Minutolo was still crowned track champion as losing his points from the championship feature only did not make a difference.
Everything changed though, after everyone’s Labor Day celebrations were complete. Minutolo received a phone call from CMP track promoter Jeremie Corcoran telling Minutolo that he had been stripped of the track championship and lost all of his points for the 2014 season. Dandino, too, suffered the same fate and lost all of his points for the entire season. Minutolo was told that the CMP officials all conversed over the days since the championship night fiasco and felt that Minutolo had been ‘cheating’ all season long.
This is where I had to take a moment to sit back and realize just how much of a head scratcher this whole deal really is. Minutolo and Dandino lost their points for the entire season. But earlier on in 2014 a Crate Sportsman competitor was found with tampered engine seals- a huge Crate engine no-no. The Gray 29G was DQ’ed from his feature win and lost his points on just that night of competition. He also had his engine confiscated and was fined $1,000. Gray didn’t lose his points for the entire season and it wasn’t inferred that he had been ‘cheating all season long’ when the win that night was his 4th of the season.
I’ll be clear and say that I have no horse in either of these races. What I will say is that the lack of transparency is something that not only CMP, but other local speedway officials need to consider as we look toward the 2015 season. With attendance being an increasingly important issue for every dirt track, having a transparent rulebook and how those rules are applied across every division should be viewed just as important. I think there were a lot of lessons learned in this whole ordeal and I think 2015 will be a season of change and progress forward for Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Silver Lining From This Story
After the Top 3 finishers in the Pure Stock division were disqualified from the 2014 season, Canandaigua Motorsports Park announced they would be donating the points fund monies from the Top 3 to Camp Good Days and Special Times. Camp Good Days’ mission is found on the homepage of their website:
“Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc. is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges. All of the programs and services provided by Camp Good Days are offered free of charge for the participants, which is only possible through the generosity of so many individuals and organizations and the success of our many special fundraising events.”
Shawn Lloyd will be listed as the 2014 Pure Stock track champion in the Canandaigua Motorsport Park history books.