Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Johnny Bruno grabs first appearance at Devil’s Bowl Speedway

   The 2023 stock car racing season roared to life at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Saturday, May 6, and the storylines already read like a novel. Third-generation driver Johnny Bruno was a first-time winner in his only planned appearance of the season, and Randy Ryan led an emotional charge for his family. Other first-time winners included Levi Cram and Rob Steele, with Robert Gauthier, Logan Denis, and Damian Olden also visiting the victory lane.

Bruno scored the first win of his career in the 30-lap “draw race” feature for the top-level Sportsman Modified division. The former Limited Sportsman champion was running in the only race he has planned for the 2023 regular season, as he returns to classes at the University of Central Florida soon.

Bruno used a fast car and a good starting position to find himself dicing with leaders Frank Hoard III, Tim LaDuc, and Justin Comes all race long. He survived a couple of late restarts to fend off LaDuc and Comes to land a popular $3,000 payday. Mike Bruno — the track’s promoter and the winner’s father — announced to the crowd that his son’s $3,000 prize would be divided evenly throughout the balance of the 31-car field to much applause.

Former track champion LaDuc settled for the runner-up position after a fierce battle with the younger Bruno. Comes stayed in line for third place, followed by Tanner Siemons and Billy Lussier. The top 10 was completed in order by Wayne Stearns, Kevin Chaffee, Hoard, Floyd Billington, and Brent Warren. Qualifying heat wins went to Bruno, Chaffee, and LaDuc.

The Ryan family authored its own emotional story in the Limited Sportsman division. Orwell’s Randy Ryan and his cousin, Benson’s Anthony Ryan, finished 1-2 in the 25-lap main event — the first race since the passing of the Ryan family matriarch, “Lady Jane” Ryan, who was a fixture at Devil’s Bowl Speedway since its opening in 1967.

A.J. Munger appeared to be headed for the win when his engine went up in smoke with 10 laps remaining as he held the lead and was driving away from the field. That allowed the Ryans to mix it up in the front with Jason Quenneville, Timmy Aldrighetti, Alex Layn, and others, eventually sealing the sweep of the top two positions. Quenneville took third place ahead of Layn and Justin Lilly. Steve Miller recovered from a spin to finish sixth, followed by Aldrighetti, Hunter Nutter, Bob Kilburn, and Gary English.

The Limited Sportsman race was a rough-and-tumble affair, and a scary lap 8 crash eliminated Daryl Gebo, John Gosselin, and others; no injuries were reported. Heats were won by Randy Ryan, English, and Nutter.

The Novice Sportsman division ran its first-ever championship points-counting race, and found Williston’s Robert Gauthier in the victory lane after 20 laps. Gauthier held off a  hard-charging Tyler Travis in the closing laps for the win. Donald Williams was third with Randy Edson fourth and Adam LaFountain fifth. Holden Bass, Matt Wade, Eric Shaw, Boomer Patterson, and Josh Bussino rounded out the top 10 in order. Heat wins went to Williams, Bass, and Bussino.

Defending champion Logan Denis opened his sophomore season with a win in the 500cc Mini Sprint division. The Whiting, Vt., racer, who is just 14 years old, drew the outside pole position for the start and ran away with the 15-lap race.

Veteran drivers John Smith and Ray Hanson rounded out the podium finishers, followed by Gage Provencher and Roger LaDuc. Chayton Young was sixth ahead of rookie John Carleton, Tommie Kasuba, Aiden Benoure, and Caiden Herbert, who is driving in place of the injured Vern Woodard this season. Hanson and Denis won the heats.

Leicester’s Levi Cram was a first-time winner in the 15-lap “A” Feature for the Mini Stock division. Cram took the lead from Mark Mahoney late in the race and sped away for the checkered flag. Mahoney held on for the runner-up finish, followed by Cody Dion, Jakobee Alger, and Austin McKirryher. Mahoney, McKirryher, and Ronnie Alger won the qualifiers. Ronnie Alger and Kyle Botala both walked away uninjured from multi-time rollovers during the race. The Mini Stock “B” Feature for non-qualifiers was won by Fair Haven’s Damian Olden.

The new Crown Vic division made its debut with a four-car field, which is expected to grow quickly. Bomoseen’s Rob Steele made history by scoring the inaugural victory. Norm Morrill, Jackson Ducharme, and Derek St. George completed the order.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway returns to action on Saturday, May 13, at 6 p.m. with the Mother’s Day Weekend Special including the first visit of the season for the Sprint Cars of New England tour; all weekly divisions (except Crown Vics) will be on the card as well. Grandstand general admission is $15 for adults and free for children aged 12 and under. Infield drive-in parking is also available for $20 for adults and free for kids. Pit area passes are $28 for members and $38 for non-members; the minimum age in the pit area is 10 years old, per Vermont state law.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, 4 miles north of Route 4, exit 2, and just 20 minutes from Rutland.  

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