Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before Mario Toniolo would win a feature race.
That time came on Saturday night.
Toniolo posted his first victory in his 10 years driving in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds class at South Buxton Raceway.
It was his first feature win since 2004 in his final year in the Sport Stocks class.
“Wow, 10 years in the Mods … it’s been a long time coming,” the Belle River native said after climbing out of his winning car in Victory Lane.
“This car is awesome … it just keeps getting better and better and better.”
Toniolo took the lead from Essex’s Gerald Martin on the second lap and held off eight-time track champion Jim Dale Jr. of Shrewsbury over the final 19 laps.
The two battled door-to-door for several laps, with Dale Jr. twice taking the lead after restarts through turns one and two but Toniolo battled back both times to regain the lead on the bottom of three and four.
“When I fell back to third and got the lead right back, I knew it was mine, there was no doubt in my mind,” Toniolo said, as he was also passed at one point by Merlin’s Jeff Daniels on a lap 17 restart.
“The bottom line had some pretty good stick, it was the place to race tonight,” Toniolo said.
“Jimmy was good on the restarts but I learned his game and the last couple of restarts we were good.”
Photos by James MacDonald, ApexOne Photo (click on photos for larger views)
Daniels got by Dale Jr. with two laps to go as their side-by-side battle allowed Toniolo to open a little gap as he took the checkered.
Chatham’s Brian Speelman and Leamington’s Joel Dick finished fourth and fifth.
It has been a breakout year for Toniolo, as the veteran driver has 13th top-five finishes in 17 features, including two seconds and four third-place finishes.
His turnaround season, however, has been overshadowed by Leamington’s Joel Dick, who has 10 feature wins and has been atop the point standings since opening night.
Toniolo, who has been second in the standings since May 10, reduced the deficit to 124 points with two race nights remaining in the season.
While a points title is all but out of the question, Toniolo remained confident he was going to earn his elusive first Modified feature win because of his consistency and solid runs all year.
“Tonight, I was confident about halfway through, I said this ‘one’s mine, I’m not giving it up,’ ” he said.
“I was tired of being the bridesmaid, tonight I’m the bride,” Toniolo said, with a smile.
Dick won his heat and the dash for a track-leading 21 checkereds while Daniels won the other heat.
Pinsonneault makes his point with another feature win
With a points title out of the equation, Chatham’s John Pinsonneault is concentrating on winning.
And the two-time track champion couldn’t do any better than he did on Saturday, posting his first three-for-three sweep of the season in the Tirecraft Mini-Mods.
Pinsonneault inherited the lead on lap 15 of the feature when Rob Quick’s car slowed coming out of turn two and brought out the fourth of eight cautions.
“I was keeping the heat on him, but holding back to let him use up his equipment a little bit, all of sudden his car turned right in one and two and we were there to take the lead … and go on to a thousand cautions,” Pinsonneault said.
It took three attempts at a green-white-checkered, with points leader Trevor Jones, of Blenheim, on his back bumper, before Pinsonneault finally took the checkered to end a long race night.
“I had my gloves off at one point because I thought I had won it, but then they said we were going green again…” Pinsonneault said, shaking his head at the number of cautions.
Dresden’s Matt Sorrell was in the mix as well as the three cars battled it out on the four restarts after Pinsonneault took the lead.
“I was getting the lead through one and two every time but it was getting to the point where I thought these guys were going to catch on to me, so I started doing a few different little things,” Pinsonneault said of his strategy on restarts.
Jones held on for a second straight runner-up finish, followed by Sorrell, Kingsville’s Larry Hart and 14-year-old Dylan Wolters, of Kingsville, with his first career to-five finish.
It was Pinsonneault’s fifth feature win of the season and the sixth for the ‘0′ car as Tim Mackenzie won the first on May 24. His three-for-three sweep gives the ‘0′ team a division leading 19 checkereds for the season.
However, two DNS’s all but knocked Pinsonneault out of the points race, as he sits third in the standings, 88 points behind Jones and 32 points behind Quick, who finished 17th in the feature.
“We kind of threw that out the window awhile ago with those DNS’s … even finishing last is 30-some points, so that puts us right in the mix,” Pinsonneault said of the points race, which concludes Sept. 20 in the Mini-Mods championship race.
“We just want to win features,” he said of his goals in the final month of the season.
“We won the mid-season, we want to win the championship and the $1,000 (at the Shootout), even though we’re a little under power right now.”
Pinsonneault dedicated the win to Aaron Jubenville, of Tilbury, who is in a wheelchair and collected over 1,000,000 beer and pop tabs for the Tabs4Kids foundation, which helps raise funds for children in wheelchairs in southwestern Ontario.
Kyle Hope and Quick won the other heats.
Lozon gets to keep second feature flag
Tyler Lozon took the feature checkered flag for the fourth time this season in the Tirecraft Sport Stocks - but this time he wasn’t giving it back.
Lozon took the lead on lap on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered when he was putting the pressure on the leader Steve Shaw, who spun between turns one and two to bring out the caution.
Lozon held off Essex’s Doris Lajeunesse on the final two laps to win his second feature of the year.
Shaw rebounded for a third-place finish, followed by Kingsville’s Rob Young and Essex’s Dillon Moody, the first top-five finish for the Essex rookie.
Lozon had feature wins on May 31 and Aug. 2 taken away in post-race tech inspection.
The win was a come-from-behind effort for Lozon, who had to go to the back after an incident with Merlin’s Eren Vanderiviere on the third attempt to get the first lap in the books.
He moved into the top five on lap 10 and pulled into second behind Shaw on lap 15.
Chatham’s Eric Vanderiviere, who won his heat and pursuit earlier in the night, led the first two laps before Shaw took the lead.
Lozon, who came into the night seventh in the standings, had feature wins on May 31 and Aug. 2 taken away in post-race tech inspection.
Merlin’s Eren Vanderiviere posted his first DNF of the season as he went to the infield on lap four.
His 13th-place finish, coupled with Shaw’s third-place run, reduces Vanderiviere’s lead to 42 points with three race nights remaining before the Sept. 20 championship race.
Wheatley’s Steve Clements won the other heat race.
Hope rides hot streak into Bomber championship night
Blenheim’s Shawn Hope was the hottest driver in the Autotech Services Bombers class from mid-July to the end of August.
He only needs one race night to be the hottest driver in September.
On Saturday night, Hope won his fifth feature in the last seven race nights along with a heat race win, giving the 19-year-old Blenheim driver a total of 10 checkereds in that time span.
The Bomber season championship race has been moved up to this coming Saturday, as drivers will line up according to points.
Hope will enter the night eighth in the standings, which means a fourth-row outside starting position.
Three of his five wins have come from starting positions third row on back, including Saturday.
Four drivers 14-years and younger rounded out the top-five - Merlin’s Cale Johns (14), Ridgetown’s Nick Glassford (14), Blenheim’s Austin Pickering (14) and Port Lambton’s Tate O’Leary (12).
Points leader Jeff Schives, of Blenheim, had Brad Maynard behind the wheel of his No. 98 again Saturday, as Maynard finished sixth.
Schives takes a 58-point lead over Chatham’s Chris Ellerbeck into Saturday, meaning the 19-year-old Blenheim native only has to start the championship race to clinch the points title.
Ridgetown’s Nick Glassford won his fifth heat race and second in two weeks.
Hope’s two wins gives him 14 checkered on the season, with with Schives for the division lead.
- South Buxton management moved the Bombers championship race up one week for safety reasons, since there are no lights on the infield racing surface and darkness falling earlier every week.
- The four main classes were consistent on Saturday - all four features had eight cautions and only the Modifieds avoided a green-white-checkered finish.
- This Saturday will Halloween In September, as the Junior Fan Club members will be dressing up in costume and will go to the pits, so drivers can hand out candy and/or Heroes Cards to the ‘trick-or-treaters.’
- Katie Moore, of Leamington, won the 50-50 draw from the Tri-County Optimists, with $831.