PHOTO: Devil’s Bowl Speedway Modified winner Mike Bruno (right) in victory lane with NASCAR Weekly Racing Operations managers Kevin Nevalainen (center) and Brett Tisdale (left). (Justin St. Louis/VMM photo)

Laquerre, 68, takes back-to-front Pro Late feature after penalty

WEST HAVEN — Mike Bruno completed an emotional weekend sweep of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified victories at the Champlain Valley Racing Association’s two tracks on Sunday, winning the 30-lap feature race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven. Riding with a tribute to his late father, the Castleton driver opened the weekend with a victory at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway sister track in Malta, N.Y., on Friday.

Bruno led every lap at Devil’s Bowl from his outside pole starting position, but was dogged by Ron Proctor, who tried on three separate occasions over the final 17 circuits to complete an outside-lane pass on Bruno.

The race’s lone caution flag flew on lap 29 for Jessey Mueller, who was running fifth when he hit the wall. A one-lap sprint to the finish bunched the field and put Proctor on Bruno’s rear bumper, but the field stacked up when Bruno’s car momentarily slowed and Proctor made hard contact just before the restart. Bruno was able to drive away and secure his first Modified win of the season at Devil’s Bowl. Charlton, N.Y., veteran Proctor held on to second with Hunter Bates of Pittsford third. Frank Hoard, III, finished fourth for the third-straight week, with Bobby Hackel fifth.

Several drivers were upset with Bruno’s hesitation at the lap 29 restart, insisting that he mashed the brake pedal to create a logjam before taking off.

“I went to step on the gas and [the engine] sputtered, it just didn’t take off,” Bruno said. “I don’t jack the brakes like that, and even if I did, I’m the leader of the race. I’ve watched a lot of guys race in my day, and you pick up the pace, then you slow down right in the middle of the corner, then you take off to get a good restart.”

Proctor wouldn’t speculate about Bruno hitting the brakes. “You never know,” he said. “We were all going into [turn] three, we were going to take off, and Mike slowed up. I was in the gas and it caused a big mess and we all hit each other.”

Riding in Bruno’s car over the weekend was a hat worn by his father John when he was killed in a highway accident in 1998. Team member Tony Andrews found the hat while working on the car during the week.

“Tony found it this week, and then we won on Friday night he was a little torn up about it because he knew my dad and worked with us. We left it in there for tonight, so I guess we better keep it around for a while. It was the last hat he was wearing when he was killed, so it’s just a little special. We haven’t been good lately. I gave [my crew] a hard time last week when the races were over. I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want you guys touching that Late Model until Thursday,’ and it shows. The Late Model was nowhere near as good [tonight] as it has been because they put all their time into this. The Modified is special to my heart. It’s where we grew up. My father was a big Modified person.”

Combining Friday’s Albany-Saratoga victory and his Pro Late Model wins with CVRA this season, the win was Bruno’s seventh of the year.

Sixty-eight year-old Joey Laquerre was dominant in the 20-lap Pro Late Model event. The East Montpelier veteran, making his first NASCAR Whelen  All-American Series start of the year at Devil’s Bowl, spun leader Chris Wilk just after the first lap was completed. Both drivers were sent to the rear of the eight-car field, then produced an entertaining drive from the back to finish 1-2.

Laquerre passed Bruno to take the lead at lap 8. Wilk got past Bruno three laps later, then chased Laquerre down to finish three car lengths behind at the finish. Bruno edged Bates at the finish for third, with Kevin Elliott fifth. Laquerre’s 14 year-old grandson by the same name finished sixth.

“It was all my fault,” Laquerre said of his run-in with Wilk. “My car can just drive [into the corners] so deep, and I thought that he could go in deep. I practiced with him and he was going in deep then, but I think he was probably protecting the inside. It was my fault. Absolutely one-hundred percent my fault.”

“I wasn’t expecting that, but I kind of was,” Wilk said. “Joey’s a good hard runner. It was fun. I was pretty upset. I couldn’t believe it. My spotter was telling me, ‘He’s inside…’ Boom! He hit me and I went around. I said, ‘You blankity-blankity-blank,’ but it actually turned out good. We put on a good show from the back and the fans loved it.”

Defending champion Frank Monroe of Granville, N.Y., picked up his third Renegade victory of the season in that division’s 20-lap event, with rookie Matt Livingston a career-best second. Jonathan Hayes was third. Previous point leader Bill Duprey of Hydeville was unable to start due to a mechanical failure.

Fair Haven’s Eddie Bruno took his second Bomber Warrior win in a row, beating Ray Germain and Kevin Brown in a 12-lap feature.

Devil’s Bowl’s double-points Mid-Season Championship is next on the schedule on Sunday, July 24 at 6:00pm. The speedway is also holding a fan appreciation celebration with an ice cream party for all spectators.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS — NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
Devil’s Bowl Speedway, West Haven, Vt.
Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pos.-Driver-Hometown

NASCAR Modified (30 laps)
1. Mike Bruno, Castleton
2. Ron Proctor, Charlton, N.Y.
3. Hunter Bates, Pittsford
4. Frank Hoard, III, Manchester
5. Bobby Hackel, East Greenbush, N.Y.
6. Paul Braymer, Granville, N.Y.
7. Mike Bush, Hudson Falls, N.Y.
8. Joey Trudeau, Hague, N.Y.
9. Jessey Mueller, Olmstedville, N.Y.
10. Matt Atwood, Whitehall, N.Y.

Pro Late Model (20 laps)
1. Joey Laquerre, East Montpelier
2. Chris Wilk, Mendon
3. Mike Bruno, Castleton
4. Hunter Bates, Pittsford
5. Kevin Elliott, Rutland

Renegade (20 laps)
1. Frank Monroe, Granville, N.Y.
2. Matt Livingston, Ganford, N.Y.
3. Jonathan Hayes, Queensbury, N.Y.

Bomber Warrior (12 laps)
1. Eddie Bruno, Fair Haven
2. Ray Germain, Bristol
3. Kevin Brown, Middlebury