VERNON, NY- It was Championship Night at the Utica-Rome Rome Speedway this past Sunday, September 4, evening which also saw the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints make a stop and when the craziness ended, some familiar faces found themselves in Victory Lane and crowned the champion in the respective division.  The winners on Broedel Energy and Rasmussen Rents night were Matt Sheppard in the Gates-Cole Insurance Modifieds, Matt Janczuk in the SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman, Claude Hutchings Jr. in the Broedel Energy Open Sportsman, and Nick Stone in the G&I Homes of Vernon Pro Stocks.  Sheppard, Janczuk, Steve Way, and Pete Stefanski were the 2016 champions in their respective divisions.

When the Gates-Cole Insurance Modifieds took the green flag to begin their 30 lap main event, it was Matt Hulsizer and Tim Mayne leading the field with Hulsizer grabbing the point to lead lap one.  Bu but t it was seventh place starter Matt Sheppard, who was going for his second consecutive title and third overall, that was on the move early.  Sheppard blitzed by the front of the field using the bottom of the track to grab the lead by lap two.  Hulsizer tried to keep up with Sheppard’s pace early on, but Sheppard was too quick.  As the field approached the halfway point, it was Sheppard way out front with fourth place starter Vic Coffey up to second while Pat Ward, Alan Johnson, and Mike Mahaney rounding out the top five.

The best battle for position on the track was for the third spot as Ward, Johnson, and Mahaney ran nearly three wide around the track on several occasions for the final podium spot.  The first caution flag flew on lap 22 for a spun car, which brought Sheppard back to the rest of the field.  On the restart, Coffey kept pace with Sheppard, even taking a peek around the outside of Sheppard but would never have enough to slip by.  One final yellow flag on lap 29 gave the field one last shot at Sheppard but it would not matter as Sheppard raced off to his fifth win of the season with Ward, Johnson, Rob Bellinger, Danny Varin trailing in the top 10 spots.  Sheppard would be crowned the 2016 Gates-Cole Insurance Modified champion.

Young Charles Tibbitts would lead the first 12 laps of the SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman 20 lap feature, yielding it to fifth place starter Kyle Kiehn on lap 13.  Kiehn looked like he would be in position to win his first ever main event but point leader Matt Janczuk, from the 10th spot, would slide by on the outside of Kiehn to lead lap17.  Kiehn then battle back and regained the lead on lap 18, and as the duo entered turn three a half lap later, Kiehn made contact with a lapped car, causing damage to his car and ending his fine run.  Janczuk was handed the lead at that point, but had an issue of his own as his left front tire was losing air under the caution.  When the green flag waved, Janczuk held on to the lead and took the win and claimed the 2016 championship.  Casey Williams came home in the runner-up spot followed by David Schilling, title contender Rocky Warner, and Tibbitts.

Heath Carney would rocket off with the lead in the early portion of the 20 lap Broedel Energy Open Sportsman feature event from his pole starting spot, outpacing fellow front row starter Tom Tophoven at the drop of the green.  Two caution flags flew in the event, both on lap 10, and one of them involved point leader Steve Way.  Way’s mount survived the incident and was able to return to the fray to continue his quest for a back to back championship.  When the green lights blinked back on again, Carney continued to lead but now had Claude Hutchings Jr. to contend with as Hutchings was hoping to capitalize on Way’s misfortune and snatch the division title.  Lap 14 saw Hutchings take the lead away from Carney, a lead that he would never relinquish as he sped off to his division leading fourth win.  Carney, Jack Miller, Way, and Randy Shantel all chased Hutchings to the checkered flag.  Way’s fourth place run was enough for him to capture the 2016 Open Sportsman title, his second overall.

Ernie Staelens led the opening circuit of the G&I Homes of Vernon Pro Stock 20 lap nightcap with Bill Knapp getting by to lead lap two.  Knapp would on to the lead until the seventh circuit when Nick Stone, making a late season appearance at Utica-Rome Speedway, took over the point.  Stone would never give up the lead, despite the best efforts of Pete Stefanski and Luke Horning, and he would race to his first ever win at the Vernon oval.  Stefanski, Horning, Knapp, and Chris Carr rounded out the top five.  Stefanski’s second place finish would be enough for him to secure the 2016 title by a mere eight points over Mike Welch.

The final weekend event of the year at the Utica-Rome Speedway comes next week in the form of a two-day event.  On Saturday, September 10, the King of Dirt Series for both the 602 Sportsman and Pro Stocks return to the Vernon half-mile after a highly successful and competitive debut back in June.  Joining the King of Dirt will be the CRSA 305 Sprints plus practice for the Modifieds and 360 Sprints in preparation for the next day’s events.  The very next day, Sunday September 11, one of the biggest 360 Sprints events in the northeast is scheduled with the 3rd Annual Cole Cup, paying $10,000 to win and $500 to start.  This event has attracted the attention of the best Sprint drivers in the region, and as far away as Texas.  The Race of Champions will also see action in a $3,000 to win 40 lap affair being dubbed the “New Yorker 40” plus the Race of Champions 602 Sportsman Series.


GATES-COLE INSURANCE MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (30 LAPS)-MATT SHEPPARD, Vic Coffey, Pat Ward, Alan Johnson, Rob Bellinger, Danny Varin, Larry Wight, Marc Johnson, Mike Mahaney, Tim Mayne, Brandon Walters, Jim Nagle, Pete Taylor, Beth Bellinger, and Matt Hulsizer.

SUNY CANTON 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)-MATT JANCZUK, Casey Williams, David Schilling, Rocky Warner, Charles Tibbitts, Jason Rood, Brent Joy, AJ Filbeck, Rocco Leone, Brad Alger, Stephen Denton, AJ Digsby, Chris Mackey, AJ Miller, Kyle Kiehn, Jimmy Moyer, and John Christian. DNS-Daryl Nutting.

SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES OPEN SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (35 LAPS)-CLAUDE HUTCHINGS JR., Heath Carney, Jack Miller, Steve Way, Randy Shantel, Mark Effner, Tom Tophoven, Aaron Jacobs, Lucas Heintz, and Jeremy Vunk.

G&I HOMES OF VERNON PRO STOCK FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)-NICK STONE, Pete Stefanski, Luke Horning, Bill Knapp, Chris Carr, Mike Welch, James Normoyle Jr., Andrew Walters, Mike Kazlauskas, Frank Hyatt, Ernie Staelens, Jerry Streeter, Chris Welch, Gus Hollner, Aaron Page, and Jim Normoyle.

LUCAS OIL EMPIRE SUPER SPRINTS A-MAIN FINISH (25 LAPS)-DANNY VARIN, Steve Poirier, Chuck Hebing, Bryan Howland, Larry Wight, Jeff Cook, Dylan Swiernik, Mike Mahaney, Justin Barger, Parker Evans, Ryan Turner, Jason Barney, Billy VanInwegan, Mark Smith, Bobby Varin, Brandon Kidd, Jordan Thomas, Chad Miller, Tim Axton, Matt Tanner, Paulie Colagiovanni, Cory Turner, Shawn Donath, Paul Kinney, Jessica Zemken.