Wight and Sheppard Kick-Off 2016 Season with Impressive Wins at Utica-Rome; Warner, Vunk and Horning Also Victorious
VERNON, NY- The Utica-Rome Speedway kicked off it’s 2016 season this past Sunday, April 17th, with a pair of 20-lap feature events for the Gates-Cole Insurance Modifieds. The two events were won by familiar faces as Larry Wight picked up the win in the first and Matt Sheppard made an exciting pass at the end of the race for the win in the second. The night also saw Rocky Warner return to Victory Lane for the SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman, Jeremy Vunk for the Broedel Energy Open Sportsman and Luke Horning for the Pro Stocks.
The first Gates-Cole Insurance 20-lap Modified feature of the season Wight got the win but it didn’t come easy. Marc Johnson and Matt Hulsizer opened the race swapping the lead multiple in the first five circuits before Hulsizer finally settled in as the leader. Hulsizer then began feeling the pressure from Wight. Wight pressured him before finally getting by on lap eight. Wight blasted by Hulsizer in traffic on the cushion in turns and four.
The only caution came on lap 12 when Vinnie Vitale had problems and slowed in turns three and four. Once the race got back underway Wight felt some pressure from Tim Fuller. Fuller worked every lane he could but it didn’t matter as Wight refused to give up the lead. Wight picked up the $1,500 victory with Fuller and Hulsizer finishing out the podium. Sheppard finished fourth while Pat Ward finished fifth.
The second 20-lap feature Chris Hile bolted from his outside front row starting position to the lead around Mike Mahaney. Hile had constant pressure from Mahaney as they both worked the high-groove on the race track. They remained in the top two spots while Sheppard was advancing from fifth to third. Sheppard several efforts on the inside to get into the top two but couldn’t get it done early.
Just like the first feature, a caution bunched the field on lap 12. The restart allowed action to pick up once again. Hile held off Mahaney as much as he could but Mahaney pulled a classic slide job on lap 16 to secure the top position in turns three and four. The action wasn’t done at this point. Sheppard closed in on Mahaney and used a slide job of his own on lap 19 to take over the lead. Sheppard led the final circuit for the 26th win of his career at Utica-Rome. Danny Varin charged from 10th to finish in second. Mahaney crossed the line third but was later disqualified after running out of fuel and coming up light on the scales. This moved Hile back into third with Ward and Fuller rounding out the top five.
Warner picked up where he left off in the 2015 season by dominating the first SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman feature of the season. Warner started on the pole by virtue of his win in the first heat and drove away from the competition. Warner, who had a series medical issue during the off-season, was all smiles after his win in the 20-lap affair. Matt Janczuk did all he could to get to Warner to no avail and end up second. JaMike Sowle finished third while Dave Marcuccilli and Kevin Root completed the top five.
In Pro Stock action Horning dominated the 20-lap main. Horning started on the outside of the front row and contended with challenges from Jay Casey. Casey worked over Horning for the first half of the race before having his hands full with sixth starter Nick Stone. Stone eventually worked past Casey into second but he couldn’t run down Horning who scored his first career Utica-Rome Speedway win. Stone settled for second with Gus Holner, Casey and Mike Welch rounding out the top five.
Vunk came up short a few markers short in 2015 to claiming a track championship. On Sunday night Vunk showed that he wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a win in the Broedel Energy Open Sportsman. Vunk won his heat and earned the pole. From there wasn’t any doubt as Vunk cruised to the win in the 20-lap feature. Steve Way finished second, Heath Carney was third with Randy Shantel and Lucas Heintz completing the top five.
Coming up next week at the Utica-Rome Speedway is another exciting event for the Gates-Cole Insurance Modifieds, SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman, the Broedel Energy Open Sportsman and the Pro Stocks. They’ll be joined by the Go Nuclear Late Models in the Prelude to the Gnome Cup. Action starts for the program presented by Wilber-Duck Chevrolet at 6 p.m.
For more information about the speedway please visit our website at www.uticaromespeedway.com.
BUSCH BEER 55TH SEASON OPENER RACE SUMMARY
GATES-COLE INSURANCE MODIFIED FEATURE #1 FINISH (20 LAPS)- LARRY WIGHT, Tim Fuller, Matt Hulsizer, Matt Sheppard, Pat Ward, Ronnie Johnson, Chris Hile, Mike Mahaney, Marc Johnson, Danny Varin, Ryan Phelps, Danny Johnson, Rob Bellinger, Vic Coffey, Mat Williamson, Josh Hohenforst, Billy Whittaker, Ryan Bartlett, Max McLaughlin, Tim Mayne, Justin Haers, Mark Kislowski, Vinnie Vitale, and Shaun Pangman.
GATES-COLE INSURANCE MODIFIED FEATURE #2 FINISH (20 LAPS)- MATT SHEPPARD, Danny Varin, Chris Hile, Pat Ward, Tim Fuller, Larry Wight, Ronnie Johnson, Matt Hulsizer, Danny Johnson, Vic Coffey, Marc Johnson, Ryan Phelps, Mat Williamson, Josh Hohenforst, Billy Whittaker, Vinnie Vitale, Max McLaughlin, Ryan Bartlett, Katelyn Hile, Shaun Pangman, Mark Kislowski, Rob Bellinger, Justin Haers, and Mike Mahaney.
SUNY CANTON 602 SPORSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- ROCKY WARNER, Matt Janczuk, JaMike Sowle, Dave Marcuccilli, Kevin Root, John Christian, A.J. Filbeck, Chris Cunningham, Rocco Leone, Chris Mackey, Glenn Forward, Corey Barker, Jordan Bennett, Alan Fink, Beth Bellinger, David Schilling, Joey Scarborough, Kyle Kiehn, Stephen Denton, Chris Johnson, Todd Root, Tony Farone, Brent Joy, and Ronnie Davis III.
BROEDEL ENERGY OPEN SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- JEREMY VUNK, Steve Way, Heath Carney, Randy Shantel, Lucas Heintz, Tom Tophoven, Jim Rothwell, Craig Pope, Mark Effner, Claude Hutchings Jr., Jack Miller, and John DeForest.
PRO STOCK FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- LUKE HORNING, Nick Stone, Gus Hollner, Jay Casey, Mike Welch, Pete Stefanski, Jason Casey, Bill Knapp, Chris Carr, Tome Denton, Travis Welch, Andrew Walter, Dennis Joslin, Mike White, Justin knight, Frank Hyatt, Todd Hoff, Mike Kazlauskas, Jim Normoyle, James Normoyle Jr., Ernie Staelens, Jerry Streeter, Andy LaShure, Chris Welch, Joe Palmer, and Aaron Page.