Volney’s Jason Simmons tasted victory lane for the very first time Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway, racing his D&S Landscaping No. 98 into the history books in winning the annual Tony White Memorial event. Having had the spoils of victory dangled in front of him numerous times over his seven seasons of racing in the small block supermodified division, Simmons was finally able to savor the sweetness for himself.
Whether it be a mechanical gremlin while leading a race, having been first in line to take the white flag, but second to take the checkered, or the loss of a lead on the final turns of the final lap, Simmons had experienced it all. However, on Saturday night, losing the lead in lapped traffic, a rash of late-race restarts nor hungry chasers would deny him triumph.
“The car was just hooked up,” Simmons said regarding some much needed changes the team made after their qualifying heat. “Ray Hedger and these guys, Mike O’Connor, Brian Dana, they know their stuff … the best in the business. I wouldn’t change anything. We were able to go out there and shock the heck out of me. The cautions at the end definitely messed with my head a little bit, but I just knew that if I hit my marks we’d be alright.”
Listen to – Jason Simmons
Mike Bruce beat Dalton Doyle to the line to begin the 35-lap main event. JJ Andrews, Simmons and Tim Gareau filled out the top five as the field completed its maiden lap. Bruce was setting the early pace when Andrew Schartner’s No. 18 took a hard trip into the wall between turns three and four.
Bruce had looked good on the restart, but two laps later, Doyle put his No. 01 underneath Bruce’s No. 22 as the duo dove into the first turn. As they raced out of turn No. 2, Doyle had taken command of the race.
However, Bruce was quick to fight back. As they fought for the top spot, Simmons carefully maneuvered his way around teammate Andrews for third place and set sail for the two leaders. On the ninth lap, he powered his No. 98 under Bruce down the backstretch, taking the runner-up spot away. Two laps later, he took a peek under Doyle as they raced into the third turn. Liking what he saw, he made his move under Doyle’s SBS racer No. 01 half a lap later, taking the lead on the 12th circuit of the race.
Sooner after Simmons took command, Bruce followed the new leader under Doyle to take back second place. By the 15th lap, Simmons and Bruce had begun to ease away from the rest of the field. Doyle, Andrews, Gareau, Russ Brown, Jon Tesoriero, Mike Bond, Kreig Heroth and Jack Patrick filled out the top 10.
On this night for Simmons, it appeared as if lapped traffic would emerge as this week’s Achilles’ heel. Bruce would find life as the two met the back end of the field. They raced high and low around traffic on the 16th lap, but Simmons managed to hold on. However, he chose the wrong line when attempting to lap rookie, Anthony Losurdo’s No. 1, allowing Bruce to pin him behind the slower machine and re-take the lead on the 20th lap.
Though not as cruel as in the past, Simmons’ bid for his first win had taken a familiar route. However, he regrouped and was soon back on the rear bumper of Bruce’s No.22. Wasting no time, he was quick to pounce at the first opportunity he was given, retaking the point from Bruce with an inside move in turn No. 3 on the 22nd lap.
One trip around the lakeside oval’s five-eighths mile later, a small block foursome had gathered in turn No. 3, bringing out the yellow flag and resetting the field. With 13 laps remaining, Simmons led Bruce, Doyle and Andrews. A great battle for fifth had been raging, involving Gareau, Brown, Tesoriero and Bond.
Simmons took full advantage of the clear track ahead to sprint out to a huge advantage as the field went back to racing. Three laps into the run, Simmons was enjoying a 20-car advantage over his nearest chasers. The open tracked worked in his favor, but lapped traffic was in the horizon.
On the 27th lap, Brown was finally able to clear Gareau. Tesoriero and Bond followed Brown’s No. 13 to move into sixth and seventh places respectively. Not quite a full lap later, Rob Pullen, Patrick and AJ Bernys made contact in turn No. 2, bringing out the caution flag. With the field being reset, Simmons would lose his massive lead. However, he would once again have clean, free track ahead.
Simmons immediately pulled away on the ensuing restart. Behind him, Bond took to the outside to move around Tesoriero’s No. 47 for sixth. He tried carrying the outside momentum around Brown’s No. 13, but to no avail. Brown held on to fifth, while pressing Andrews for fourth. The trio would dice for the top five position the rest of the way, but it was Simmons who would soon be dancing into victory lane – laying down a 19.1 second lap with five to go, 20 lengths ahead of the field.
A final caution flag would fly for Mark Castiglia’s No. 67, but it would only delay the inevitable. Simmons pounced on the green flag moments later and raced his No. 98 Hedger Racing Chassis into victory lane for the very first time.
Bruce landed his double-deuce numbered car in second.
Listen to – Mike Bruce
Like Bruce, Doyle would overcome two difficult weeks to begin the season by scoring a podium finish on Tony White Memorial Night.
Listen to – Dalton Doyle
Brown would take advantage of contact between Doyle and Andrews on the final lap and pass the latter of the two, to finish in fourth.
Listen to – Russ Brown
Andrews had a top-five run all evening, crossing the checkered stripe on the final lap in the five spot.
Listen to – JJ Andrews
Bond was able to close the championship points gap on with Brown by scoring a heat race earlier in the evening, but had to settle a few spots behind him in the feature go, bringing his No. 74 home in sixth.
Listen to – Mike Bond
Tesoriero ran near the front all race, driving home his No. 47 to a solid seventh-place finish.
Listen to – Jon Tesoriero
Gareau, Heroth and Patrick completed the top 10. The highest finishing rookie on the night was Jeremy Pitcher. After some confusion with the finishing order following a late race passing penalty given to another driver, the highly touted rookie pilot of the No. 14 finished in 11th.
Listen to – Jeremy Pitcher
Tony White Memorial 35: 1. Jason Simmons (98), 2. Mike Bruce (22), 3. Dalton Doyle (01), 4. Russ Brown (13), 5. JJ Andrews (93), 6. Mike Bond (74), 7. Jon Tesoriero (47), 8. Tim Gareau (17), 9. Kreig Heroth (04), 10. Jack Patrick (9), 11. Jeremy Pitcher (14), 12. Josh Kerr (8), 13. Cameron Rowe (77), 14. Justin Connell (07), 15. Scott Shafer (76), 16. Anthony Losurdo (1), 17. Nate Noto (19), 18. Dennis Rupert (99), 19. Greg O’Connor (90), 20. Rob Pullen (2), 21. Mark Castiglia (67), 22. Dan Abt (57), 23. AJ Bernys (24), 24. Zach Amo (44), 25. Andrew Schartner (18)
Heat #1: 1. Kreig Heroth, 2. Mike Bruce, 3. Russ Brown, 4. Jason Simmons, 5. Jack Patrick, 6. Josh Kerr, 7. Jason Pitcher, 8. Nate Noto
Heat #2: 1. Tim Gareau, 2. Dalton Doyle, 3. Jon Tesoriero, 4. Anthony Losurdo, 5. Rob Pullen, 6. Zach Amo, 7. Bernys, 8. Black, 9. Castiglia
Heat #3: 1. Mike Bond, 2. JJ Andrews, 3. Cameron Rowe, 4. Andrew Schartner, 5. Justin Connell, 6. Scott Shafer, 7. Greg O’Connor (90), 8. Scott Black, 9. Dan Abt
Consi: 1. AJ Bernys, 2. Castiglia, 3. Pitcher, 4. Noto, 5. Abt, 6. Rupert, 7. O’Connor, 8. Black