Looking back at how the 2012 season concluded, many fans wrote down the note – Randy Rusnell was strong. After all, he closed out the year with some impressive feature victories, the championship and winning the Velocity 250. So when it came to the 2013 preview, it seemed easy to write it.
It’s hard to bet against defending series champion Randy Rusnell with how strong he ran throughout the season last year. He started off struggling, but once summer kicked in, he was on a terror the second half of the season. The 2012 Champion won five features with 10 top fives and 12 top 10s last year. If he can start off this season strong, he’ll defiantly be the one to beat all year.
In writing those words, I could have never guessed the season that Rusnell would end up producing. The Rocket would win 11 of the 14 features, finishing inside of the top five each night. In the 28 heat that were run, Rusnell brought home 18 wins and 27 top fives. It’s a season that will go down in the record books, considering the level of competition that Rusnell was up against. With that said, congratulations to Randy Rusnell and the entire 72 team on the championship.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s begin with what all happened this year because there was lots of excitement.
Right away when we kicked the year off, it was made clear that Rusnell would be the championship favourite as he won the first feature of the season. The first feature didn’t end without excitement as the second half of the feature saw an incredible battle between ‘The Thrillbilly’ Lane Zardo and ‘The Prodigy’ Cayden Lapcevich, which ended with the pair of them side-by-side at the line for second.
Rusnell kept the winning going the next three weeks to end off the month of May with a perfect record of four wins in four features. There were some impressive moments along those lines, including a three-wide pass on Dan Archibald and Lane Zardo on lap 14 of the third night.
The only downside to Rusnell’s first month of the year was when he failed to finish one of the heats due to a pulling off on lap eight of 10 due to a flat tire.
The final feature of May was the one that got the most talking though as the pass came in the middle of battling lap traffic. While Zardo was battling his way through lap traffic, Rusnell would catch up to his back bumper. Coming up behind the lap car of Coltin Everingham, Zardo would go underneath Everingham. Everingham, abiding the rule that lap cars are to go to the bottom, came down and made contact with Zardo. Meanwhile, Rusnell would sneak by on the outside and grab the lead to take the win.
While Rusnell was grabbing the wins, though, Zardo was being the master mind of consistency to keep the points gap between the pair close. Zardo had finishes of second, fourth, second and second to start the year. The same consistency was seen in the heats, as well. His heat finish average with the first eight heats in the books is 1.375. He has six wins and eight top fives in those eight heats, with his worst finish being third.
Another driver to watch in the first month was Lapcevich, who was entering his sophomore season. He would start the year off well too, with three top fives in the four features that were ran in May. The third feature of the month where he failed to finish in the top five was the result of cut brake line due to contact with someone. Lapcevich had the second best heat average at a 1.875. He had four wins and eight top fives in eight heats, with his worst finish being fifth.
Beyond the battle of those were up front, May offered our first look at how close the rookie of the year battle would be throughout the season. After the first four features of the year, Coltin Everingham and Nick Tooley were tied for seventh in the standings. It wasn’t easy for either driver starting the year as they each had their incidents. Tooley’s wreck off of two on the second night resulted in the front end of his car being completely destroyed. The result was the team buying a new car and debuting it the third week. However, the car he started the year with would return a couple weeks later, repaired and ready to go.
While Randy Rusnell dominated in trips to victory lane for May, he didn’t start off June in victory lane. Lane Zardo started off the month of June in victory lane after passing Dennis Cybalski on lap 10 of the 30 lap feature. Rusnell wasn’t far behind, though, as he finished third with Cayden Lapcevich third.
Rusnell got back to his winning ways, quickly, as he would win the feature a week later for his fifth victory of the season. Zardo would keep his consistency going, finishing second.
Now with only four heats run in the month, the averages were pretty easy to do. Zardo won each of his four heats to therefore give him a perfect average for the month. Zardo would also win both of his heats at the June 16th invitational, as well. So with 12 heats down for the year so far (not including the pair of invitational heats – just points night heats), Zardo’s average was 1.25. Now it should be noted that Lapcevich’s average was right there with Zardo’s as Lapcevich had an average of 1.83 at this point of the season.
The only other event that would happen on Sunset Speedway’s high-banks for the Super Stocks in June would be the 50-lap feature on Sunday June 16th. In the end, it’d be Matt Bentley driving his No. 21 Bentley Motorsports Super Stock to victory lane. The invitational wasn’t short of excitement, though. No surprise, right? Here is the recap of that as posted in the June Month of Review article.
After a late caution with 10 laps to go, it’d be Lapevich leading Zardo, Bentley, Donny Beatty, Travis Hallyburton, Munce, Dan Price, Archibald, Kevin Albers and Ryan Semple.
On the restart, Lapcevich would clear Zardo, though down the front stretch, Zardo would go to dive underneath for the crossover. However, the caution would fly before Zardo got to play out his move for a flat tire on Semple’s car. Then on the restart, the flat tire madness would continue as Zardo would bring out the caution with a right front flat on his car.
The restart would see tight racing between Lapcevich and Bentley for the lead, with Lapcevich getting loose underneath Bentley in turn two and going around. Bentley would be deemed “not involved” and get to keep his spot.
Matt Bentley would hold on the final laps to pick up his first feature victory of the season. Travis Hallyburton finished second, followed by Donny Munce, Lane Zardo and Donny Beatty.
While past division champions found victory lane in June, a fresh face found feature victory. Third year driver Paul Geniole Jr. became the fourth straight different face in victory lane after scoring his first career feature win to start off the month. Geniole held off Dan Archibald in the final laps to grab the win. Randy Rusnell kept his consistency going, with a third place finish with Lane Zardo fourth.
Dan Archibald looked like he’d score his first feature victory a couple weeks later, though that wouldn’t be the case as Randy Rusnell edged him out at the line to take the win. A nice gesture happened in victory lane that night, too, as Archibald and Rusnell shared a hug with each other following the race. Oh, and on the topic of consistency, mark Zardo down in third.
Rusnell kept himself solid in the heats, scoring three wins and a fourth for an average of 1.75 for the month. Zardo had a win, a second and a pair of thirds to keep his average for the year to this point at 1.5 across the 16 heats. Lapcevich kept his average down, as well, scoring a win, a pair of seconds and fourth to have it at 1.935 across the 16 heats thus far in the year.
A key moment in Rusnell’s season happened this month, as well. Following the second heat, Rusnell broke a timing chain. He would step into Steve Cashmore’s car for the feature, starting at the back of the field, and drove his way through the traffic in Cashmore’s car to finish third.
Also checking in with the rookies, NickTooley led Coltin Everingham by 12 points at this point.
He finished the month of July in victory lane, so why not start the month of August in victory lane? Randy Rusnell started off August with a win, despite being involved in an early-race incident. The feature on August 3rd started out with Dennis Cybalski and Archibald getting into each other to bring out the first caution. Their contact caused a check-up throughout the field with both points’contenders Zardo and Rusnell included in those who got damage. Rusnell came down pit road and made repairs to the front of his Monte Carlo, before returning to the track and driving through the field to pick up the win. Donny Munce finished second followed by Archibald, Paul Geniole Jr. and Paul Maltese.
Rusnell went for the sweep that weekend, as he won the Sunday Dilley Dog 50 invitational.
Remember how Dan Archibald came close in July? Well, he’d get his first career feature win after taking the lead from Steven Wilson early race and holding on the rest of the way. Rusnell finished second, followed by Geniole Jr., Lane Zardo and Paul Maltese.
Rusnell went back to victory lane mid-month after taking the lead with 10 laps to go from Geniole Jr. Geniole Jr. finished second with Cayden Lapcevich third. The third place finish marked an awesome return for the 13-year-old after having to get the front and rear of that car redone following a wreck at the beginning of the month that saw Lapevich make hard contact with the outside backstretch wall due to contact from Steve Cashmore.
Rusnell would score the victory a week later once again, beating Zardo to the line. It marked a feat for the points leader as he had to restart at the back of the field on lap seven due to making contact with Egor Boegoev.
Rusnell finished off the month in victory lane with his 10th feature victory of the season after passing Geniole Jr. on a late race restart with three laps to go.
Seeing the speed that Rusnell had throughout the month, it’s no surprise that he had the best heat average at a 1.3 with eight wins, a second and a third for August.
While the competition got rougher and some nights didn’t go as pretty as hoped, Zardo was able to be consistent to continue to hold down second in points. He had three heat wins for the month of August, bringing his heat average for the season down at 2.11 across the 26 heats. Like I said, though, the features didn’t go as well as Zardo would’ve hoped. He started off the month with a seventh due to motor problems. He then turned it around with a fourth, though then suffered an eighth place feature finish after having trouble getting through the traffic. He finished off the month with a second and a third.
Speaking of the heat races, we saw one of the most memorable heat races of the entire season during the month of August. Donny Munce and Paul Geniole Jr. started off the battle for the lead side-by-side when Dennis Cybalski made it three-wide and swept by them both. Then Cybalski and Munce battled for the lead, till Geniole Jr. made it three-wide off of turn four with them. Cybalski would grab the lead at that point ahead of Geniole and Munce. Geniole then gave Cybalski a slight bump a couple laps later to get by and grab the lead and led the rest of the way. If this isn’t the heat race of the season, then I don’t know what it is.
During this month, we also got to see a glimpse at another one of the future starts of the division. In his third career start, Egor Boegoev led eight laps of his heat before being passed by Randy Rusnell in the late laps. The young stand-out was also running solidly in the top five during the last feature for the month of August, when contact with Lapcevich took him out of contention. Look for Boegoev to grow into a star in the coming years.
While there were supposed to be two nights of racing for the month of September, we only got one night end thanks to mother nature. On that final night of the season, for the 11th time during the season out of the 14 features ran, Randy Rusnell would score the feature victory after taking the lead with eight laps to go after an incident took place in front of him. As a result, the driver of the No. 72 Travis Ind. Maintaince, Dreamdoodles.net, Cournyeas Poodles, Speedy Auto Service Burling, Spira Fire Protection, J&K Converters Ltd., Partimer Signs, Chetty’s Hot Sauce, Brant Transmission and McCordick Glove & Safety Monte Carlo scores his second straight championship at Sunset Speedway and his sixth championship overall in his career.
The incident that took place in front of him had the whole crowd in a furry. As the race hit the halfway mark, the top three ran nose-to-tail as Cayden Lapcevich caught Dan Archibald for the lead. Lapcevich would get alongside Archibald on lap 18, though that is when heck would break loose. Contact between the two resulted in Lapcevich making hard contact with the outside turn three wall, resulting in Lapcevich being done for the night. As a result of his part in the contact, Archibald was blackflagged for rough driving and sent off the track. The course of events handed the lead to Rusnell.
Capping off the Season
As mentioned, Randy Rusnell’s success this year was second to none. 14 features ran – 11 wins, 14 top fives. 28 heats ran – 18 wins, 27 top fives. There was no doubt to be left in the fact that he deserved the crown for 2013.
With his solid consistency across the year, Lane Zardo finished the year second in points with a feature win and 13 top fives in the 14 features, as well as 14 wins and 27 top fives in the 28 heats ran. Remember how I kept saying ‘consistancy is key’. Well, for the season of 28 heat races, Zardo’s average finish was 2.16.
Congratulations should also be spread to third year driver Paul Geniole Jr. as he had his best season to date, finishing third in points. This season, Geniole Jr. looked to have stepped it up a notch from being a top five driver to a race-winning contender.
Consistency played the part for Paul Maltese as he followed the rule to a key. You didn’t see him mentioned a ton throughout the article, but he was quietly consistant and rattled off a solid fourth place finish in points.
Cayden Lapcevich rounded out the top five – leaving his sophomore season with a lot of people asking questions. When will his first Sunset feature win come? What would have happened if he hadn’t missed a week there?
Oh, and who can forget those rookies, eh? Both Nick Tooley and Coltin Everingham showed improvement throughout the year, fighting their fair share of the battle, to both finish inside of the top 10. When it comes to the banquet this weekend, Nick Tooley will look to pick up Rookie of the Year honors following a year of solid improvement each week.
While I’ve bragged about Randy Rusnell’s accomplishments this year, I’d be wrong without mentioning two more.
For the second straight year in a row, Randy Rusnell was able to pick up the victory in the Velocity 250 for the Super Stock division at Sunset Speedway. Rusnell would grab the lead on the lap 27 restart and never looked back as he led the rest of the way to get the win.
To add to that, Rusnell went down to Peterborough Speedway and won the crown jewel of them all – the Autumn Colours Classic. When Travis Hallyburton and John Baker Jr. made contact with a lap 46 restart, it’d be Rusnell inheriting the lead. Rusnell then held off Sauble Speedway drivers Ken Grubb and Todd Davenport to grab the win. Shoutout to Cayden Lapcevich for finishing fourth!
Now, we also had Sunset drivers making headlines down at Autumn Colours for other reasons as well. Lane Zardo took the excitement to an extra level. On Friday during practice, the drive shaft would break and he would put the car on its roof down in turns three and four. Instead of loading the car up, the Zardo Racing team would work throughout the afternoon to have the car ready for the qualifying heat that night. He would finish second in the Friday heat and had a strong enough finish despite a flat tire on Saturday to qualify for the feature. After starting 21st, he worked his way up to ninth with four laps to go – when, well, the excitement wasn’t over yet. On a restart, Doucette slowed the field up when he found some trouble. In trying to scatter around him, Archibald, Praysner and Zardo got three-wide, contact was made and the three of them found themselves in a wreck. Zardo got the worst of it as he would be stuck against the turn four wall, with his right side tires on top of it. he would be okay and has already started preparing the car for the 2013 season.
Oh, and the fans got to answer the ever burning question of when Lapcevich would score his first career win – in the biggest way possible. Cayden Lapcevich went down to Flamboro Speedway for Frost Fest and was able to win both features to win the event overall. With the monkey off his back, look for Lapcevich to find victory lane more in 2014.