By Larry Lott
Special to The News
With one victory already in his back pocket in 2014, that accomplished during Freedom Speedway’s season opener last Friday, Jeremy Wonderling of Scio now looks to further his early season good fortune. His quest for another 2014 checkered flag will include Sunday’s season opener at Little Valley Speedway, where Wonderling is a defending champion.
If Wonderling is to again achieve success on the ½-mile Little Valley facility this season, it will come in a different division. After winning 360 Late Model titles at the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds-based dirt track in both 2011 and 2013, Wonderling has switched to the Crate Late Model class this season. He won the Crate Late Model feature last Friday at Freedom Speedway in Delevan.
“I just want to travel a bit more and with the Crate Late Model there are more opportunities to do that, especially with traveling tours like the RUSH Late Models and the Go Nuclear Tour,” said Wonderling, 34. “It’s fun to race different tracks like the ones you have never raced at or seldom raced before.
“I plan to race pretty regularly at Freedom and race at Little Valley every time they have the Crate Late Models there.”
Wonderling leaves behind a stellar career in the 360 Late Models. After first racing in the IMCA Modifieds from 1998 to 2000, he jumped into the 360 Late Models in 2001, with highlights including two season point championships apiece at both Little Valley and Black Rock Speedway (Dundee) as well as the championship of the BRP Can-Am 360 Late Model Series in 2011. Last season he emerged victorious in four of six races held at Little Valley.
“My 360 career had some ups and some downs, but overall it was pretty successful,” Wonderling said. “The biggest thing was winning the BRP title. Because I was traveling to different tracks and racing against good drivers, the BRP title means a lot to me.”
During the offseason, Wonderling purchased a Close Racing Supply (CRS) 2011 Crate Late Model chassis and has raced three or four times in 2014. He scored a second place at McKean County Raceway prior to last Friday’s Freedom triumph.
“The Crate Late Model and the 360 Late Model are two completely different cars,” he said. “They have completely different engines, completely different chassis. Pretty much everything about them is different, and so far I would say that the Crate Late Model handles much better.”
Wonderling is not the only family member who fans will see competing this season. His father, Mike Wonderling Sr., and brother, Mikey Wonderling, will also race at tracks such as Little Valley, competing in the 360 Late Model division.
Wonderling’s racing crew consists of Cody James, Randy Greenman and Billy Demming. Moral support is provided by Wonderling’s wife, Abby, and 6-year-old son, Carson.
Wonderling says he enjoys competing at Little Valley and acknowledges that it will not be easy trying to grab checkered flags there in 2014. “I enjoy racing at Little Valley because I love the speed there of that large track and they get the best of the best competition there.”
In a recent development finalized last week, the Super Late Model headlining portion of Little Valley’s season opener has been made part of the traveling National Dirt Racing League (NDRL) Super Late Model Series.
Little Valley promoter John Charlesworth added the NDRL sanction for Sunday’s race. NDRL officials have guaranteed that at least eight more cars will race in Sunday’s program that might not have come had the race remained an open-competition format. The NDRL will also return to Little Valley Aug. 23.
Freedom rings again
Last Friday night a new era in area motorsports began when Freedom Speedway reopened to stock car racing under new promoter Troy Shuknecht. Freedom last ran stock car racing weekly three years ago, when it was known as South Arcade Speedway. Like other area tracks, Freedom’s debut was delayed by the recent persistent rains this early season until this past Friday.
“Of course the grounds were still pretty wet and it made things difficult but at least we finally got a race in,” Shuknecht said of his first race at Freedom. “The track was good but a little wet, but due to all the rain keeping the clay surface moist, the cars had plenty of good bite.
“We had about 42 cars in the pits and we’re hoping for a few more. It wasn’t bad for the first night. I saw many drivers who came last Friday to watch but didn’t bring their cars because I guess they wanted to see how the track would be and how we would do with running our race. I hope they decide to bring their cars out now.”
• Veteran local race announcer Ken Hangauer Jr. was honored April 16 with his induction to the Batavia-based Raceway 5 Hall of Fame. Hangauer will continue to host his “Motorsports Journal” racing radio program on WXRL 1300 AM Wednesday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. He will also announce this season at Freedom Speedway as well at the NYPA TQ Midgets.
• Holland Motorsports Complex and Wyoming County International Speedway will both kick off their 2014 asphalt racing campaigns on Saturday night.
• If any group of racers needs far better weather luck, it is the IHRA drag racers of Elegant Builders Raceway Park, whose season points opener was rained out for the fourth week in a row last Friday evening.