Former Track Champion and long-time Eastern star, Number 64, "Mean" Gene Bonsignore, turned 64 today and to celebrate he raced his way into the B main with 8 points!
Mother nature was nice and gave us a perfect evening to stage a speedway event, and not just any event but the Omar Lightner Cup, honoring the former track worker and Vestal, NY Police officer. Omar's wife, Connie, and her grandchildren were on hand to present the award at evening's end.
There was a full field of top shelf Division 1 riders looking to take home this prestigious trophy and to prevent Casey Donholt from winning his third main event in a row in this young speedway season. In round one the first heat saw Mike Buman, who is getting used to the smaller tracks after his spring run of fixtures in Europe, lineup in gate one, joining him at the tapes was Josh Carr, "Jammin" Jeff Garlinghouse and Andy Crawford. Buman pulled the gate from the pole and cruises to the win followed by Carr, Garlinghouse and then Crawford.
Heat two had local track favorite, Keith Hawkins, lining up to take on hot shot, Jeremy "Dark Horse" Parsons, Warren "Warrior" Diem and Lee "The Destroyer" Bailey. Hawkins jams it into the first turn from the first gate position and Parsons made the long trip from four to sandwich Diem and Bailey in the middle. Side by side, Hawkins and Parsons drag race down the back stretch into turn three they go, with Hawkins controlling the inside and Parsons looking for a little dirt on the outside to get around. Lap one complete neither rider giving up knowing that every point is vital if they wanted to make the trip to the A main for a chance to win the Cup and then at the end of lap two Parsons found just that little bit of drive he needed and inched his way past Hawkins going into turn one. Hawkins ended up on the ground trying to defend his position as he pushed it a little too hard. This left the door open for Diem to steal second and Bailey was third.
Heat three saw the return of "Flyin" Brian Hollenbeck " looking to lower the colors of Casey Donholt, Dave Clark and Ron "The Reaper" Walker. As the tapes go up Hollenbeck gets way too much drive and his bike launches out from underneath him and flips spitting him to the ground in the process. The ref calls for a restart with Hollenbeck starting on the penalty line for causing a stoppage of the race. On attempt number two it was Walker's turn as he lifted from the tapes and went over backwards. On the third try with two riders on the line and two on the penalty line the race got off to a clean start and it was Clark who held the first position. By now the track was starting to show, with the high temps we have been having, that there was not going to be much dirt on the outside making it critical to get a good start. Clark held on for the win followed by Donholt, Hollenbeck and Walker.
Heat four saw the likes of the birthday man himself, sixty four year old Gene Bonsignore, taking on Adam "The Missile" Mittl, Stefan Laessig and Russ Cornell. Mittl got the gate but Bonsignore showed no signs of slowing down and chased Mittl all the way to the checkered flag, finishing a strong second place followed by Cornell and Laessig.
As the rounds rolled on and the evening progressed and the points added up it was Buman on 11 points, suffering his only defeat at the hands of Mittl. Mittl also stood on 11 points dropping his only point to Clark, and Clark had 11 points getting his perfect night ruined by Buman. Parsons stood alone on 10 points. Donholt was working very hard all evening came up with 8 points and was level with Bonsignore which meant they would be left to fight their way into the A main by winning the B main. Donholt got his wish and won the B main giving him a chance to keep his string of wins alive but he would have to do it against the will of four other very capable and determined riders.
The A main saw riders line up from the inside Buman, Mittl, Clark, Parsons and Donholt, all knowing that getting the gate was going to be vital to take home the Omar Lightner cup. When the tapes went up Buman made a brilliant start and never looked back. He was followed across the line by Clark, Mittl, Donholt and Parsons.
The racing has been great the past couple weeks at Champion, with the field of Division One pros being as good and deep as it has been in years. The go-kart fun track has been a big hit with fans and been very busy on race nights.
The BMX season has now kicked off at Champion as well and it is great to see the track busy again after all the flood damage last Fall.
The next Speedway race is slated for July, 7 at 7pm at Champion.
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