July 18th, 2014
15 Year-Old Rookie Connor Sellars Tames Chemung Sunoco Modifieds, Gets Career-First Win
 
By: Carol Houssock

  The weather was perfect Friday night at Chemung Speedrome, and the crowd on hand witnessed a little bit of everything. Connor Sellars won the 40-lap Sunoco Modified feature, his first as a newcomer to the division this year. Lee Sharpsteen got his wish for three wins in a row, and four overall, in the Super Stock division. Ryan Purvis had a good news, bad news scenario in the Four Cylinder division and he and Dustin Hall celebrated their RWD and FWD wins. Brandon DeBrakeleer got his second win in the INEX Legends, while it was win number four for David French in the Bandoleros.

  It was just a matter of time when 15-year old rookie Connor Sellars would park his 00 in victory lane. He did so on a night when he looked more like a Sunoco Modified division veteran, exercising patience and skills one would have expected from a driver with way more experience.

  Sellars, currently second in points, started the 40-lap feature on the inside of row five but quickly moved up to third. Early race leaders TJ Zacharias and Zack Curren yielded to Jimmy Zacharias on a restart following the second caution. J Zacharias and Tony Hanbury, up to second, pulled away from Curren and Sellars over the next dozen laps.

  At the halfway point, and during a caution, Curren pulled into the pits with a transmission issue and his fine run came to an end. The race up front, when the green came back out, was classic Zacharias and Hanbury, with the latter taking the lead on lap 23. They got together, however, with 28 laps complete and that handed the race lead to Jody Buckley. Sellars restarted beside him in the front row.

  This one appeared to be in the hands of Buckley but a pair of cautions with five laps to go changed that, and a whole lot more. Buckley became the pressed meat in a Hanbury/Zacharias sandwich and he had to pit for repairs. Troubles continued for both Zacharias and Hanbury, who ended up watching those final five laps from the pits.

  All the drama played into the hands of Sellars. With five laps to go Connor restarted beside new race leader Randy Brokaw and in front of Gene Sharpsteen. Sellars made a beautiful pass to take the lead from Brokaw then held off Sharpsteen, who made an unsuccessful inside bonsai move in turn three. Sellars sailed across the finish line first, and brought many in the crowd to their feet. Sharpsteen was second, followed by Brokaw, Buckley and Chris Clemens.

  Connor Sellars thanked his parents and sponsors who have been such a help this year. “I also want to thank the Zacharias’s for helping us get the car repaired from last week,” Sellars said from victory lane. A week ago his car broke, made a sharp right coming off turn two, and he tagged the outside wall. The young rookie is no newcomer to racing, but he made the huge leap from microds to a Sunoco Modified this year. To him it’s not that much of a deal. “It’s not all that different except the car is bigger,” he said. And faster. And now a winning car.

  Someone needs to pack a broom in Lee Sharpsteen’s car hauler. The tough competitor claimed his fourth Super Stock feature of the season, and third in a row, with a sweep of the action. He and his brother, Charlie, dominated the night and delivered a one-two punch at the finish. Charlie started on the pole and led the first two laps. The first of two cautions came out when Nick Robinson slowed in turn four. Charlie held off Jody Buckley on the restart but Buckley had a problem and lost several positions. That brought Terry Potrzebowski, Lee Sharpsteen and Jeff Goodwin into the picture.

  Following the second caution Lee Sharpsteen got the better of his brother and left him to hold off Potrzebowski, Goodwin and point leader Tim Gullo. Their battle was a great one but enabled Lee Sharpsteen to fade off into the distance and out of reach. His advantage was a big one when lap 25 clicked off, and he celebrated his third consecutive win in the tough division. Charlie Sharpsteen finished second to his brother but ahead of Gullo, Potrzebowski and Goodwin. Mike Nichols won the other heat race.

  That old saying, Déjà vu all over again, played out in the track’s Four Cylinder division. Last week Ryan Purvis won his heat but crossed the finish line silent as his motor let go at the end of the 8-lap race. Friday night Purvis won the 20-lap feature. That was the good news. Again his car slowed and was silent, having blown the replacement motor at the stripe. That was the bad news.

  Purvis started the feature fourth but made a nice outside pass to overtake early leader Justin Hall. The race, run caution-free, boiled down to a battle for positions two through five as Purvis checked out and had a huge lead by lap 15. Nick Morich, who had battled early on with fellow heat race winner Ken Benjamin and Sam Warren, then set his sights on Hall. Over the final laps Morich took over second and both he and Hall started to close the gap between them and Purvis. The gap was enough for Purvis to hold on for the win. Morich padded his point lead with his runner-up finish. Hall finished third but parked in victory lane as the highest-finishing FWD car. Warren and Benjamin rounded out the top five.

  INEX Legends point leader, Alexandria Smith, and Alex Bowen, second in points, got things going by winning their respective heat races. Handicapping put Smith on the outside of the front row but it was clear early on that this one would be a duel between her and former feature winner Brandon DeBrakeleer. He took the early lead and the pair pulled away from Gary Ham and Bowen.

  Just past the halfway point track officials had to red-flag the race so that the ambulance could cross the track and attend to a medical emergency in the grandstand area. When the race resumed, with 11 laps remaining, DeBrakeleer took command and began to pull away from Smith and the rest of the field. When the checkered flag flew DeBrakeleer had his second win of the season, this one over Smith, Brad Salatino, Ham, and Bowen.

  The competition level increased in the Bandolero division, but when your car is hooked up and you’re on a roll the outcome is often the same. That’s the story for David French, who won his fourth feature in their six events. Newcomer Rudy Roth, who had won his heat race, led the first two laps but lost the top spot to French on a lap three restart. He held the lead over the remaining laps and parked the #53 in a familiar place. Roth finished second, followed to the line by Teddy Bowen, heat winner Lars McElravy and Nick Morich.

  This Friday night Chemung presents the Sunoco Modifieds in a special 75-lap feature. Also on tap are the Super Stocks (25 laps and double points), Four Cylinders (20), INEX Legends (20) and Bandoleros (08). Pits open at 4:00, practice and grandstand open at 6:00 and racing gets underway at 7:15 PM. Admission: adults $12; seniors 65 and older $10; kids 6-12 $5; kids five and under free. Fans are reminded that their ticket stub from July 18th is good for $2 off this Friday night.

  Notes:

  Gordon Carpenter was the honorary Veteran of the Race. He served our country for seven years, from 1947 to 1954. His service took him to Korea, where he survived Outpost Harry, often referred to as the ‘Iron Triangle’ that sustained heavy casualties over eight days in 1953. He received two Bronze Stars, a Korean Service Medal and a United Nations Service Medal, among other awards and honors.

  A dozen or more on-air and engineering staff from WENY-TV in Elmira were on hand and tested their mettle in go-karts. Dave Carpenter from Carpenter’s Custom Carts and Frank Morich from the Horseheads Rental Center made all the arrangements, and the event provided entertainment during intermission. WENY is the Speedrome’s primary media partner this year. Their sports anchors also obtained footage for an upcoming special to be aired during NASCAR weekend at Watkins Glen next month.

  Results:

  Sunoco Modifieds (40 Laps) CONNOR SELLARS, Gene Sharpsteen, Randy Brokaw, Jody Buckley, Chris Clemens, Larry Jaynes, Corey Mosher, Jimmy Zacharias, Tony Hanbury, Matt Clemens, Zack Curren, TJ Zacharias, Cam Ayres
Finish unofficial, pending the review of some unsportsmanlike conduct
Heats: Curren, Hanbury

  Super Stocks (25 Laps) LEE SHARSTEEN, Charlie Sharpsteen, Tim Gullo, Terry Potrzebowski, Jeff Goodwin, Mike Nichols, Dan Mathews, Joe Snell, Jody Buckley, Nick Robinson, Jake Snell, Dusty Snell
Heats: L Sharpsteen, Nichols

  4 Cylinders (20 Laps) RYAN PURVIS, Nick Morich, Justin Hall (1st FWD), Sam Warren, Ken Benjamin, Monica Green, CJ Krapf, Cody Jackson, David Shaw, Robbie Decker (DNS), Jared Sullivan (DNS)
Heats: Morich, Benjamin

  INEX Legends (20 Laps) BRANDON DEBRAKELEER, Alexandria Smith, Brad Salatino, Gary Ham, Alex Bowen, Chuck Lohmeyer, Daren Scherer, Jason Duke, Wayne Walker, Beth Scherer, John Bacon, Andrew Bickford, Charlie Lohmeyer, Jimmer Ulrich, Lee DeBrakeleer (DNS)
Heats: Smith, Bowen

  Bandoleros (10 Laps) DAVID FRENCH, Rudy Roth, Teddy Bowen, Lars McElravy, Nick Morich, Damon Frutchey, Timothy Bowen, Michael Roth
Heats: McElravy, R Roth

 

                               

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