For the second time in two nights, a first-time winner visited victory lane Tuesday night during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. Craig Lutz of Miller Place, New York wrestled away the lead from Monday night winner Anthony Nocella on a restart with 11 laps to go and held off a charge from Matt Hirschman to win the 35-lap feature.
"It's huge. To come down to Florida, you race against the best of the best. I'm just so grateful for this opportunity," Lutz said on the NBC Track Pass broadcast. "I have the best car owner imaginable. This one is a little extra special between me and my dad. This car was out of our garage. I've got an awesome team; part of my tour guys came and part of my guys are at home on the TV checking in all the time. It wasn't pretty but we got the job done."
The deciding moment of the race occurred on a Lap 24 restart when Nocella, the leader at the time, elected to restart from the outside groove with Lutz to his inside. Lutz took advantage of the opportunity, rubbing nerf bars with Nocella before powering away with the lead down the backstretch.
"You're stuck on the bottom and you don't have much you can do but try to beat the guy into turn one," Lutz said. "You know, short track racing. We've got nerf bars and we rubbed. We both ended up down here on the podium, and it's just an awesome day."
Nocella wasn't thrilled with the pass made by Lutz for the lead, but recognized after the race that he did what he needed to in order to win the race.
"I still think the outside is the preferred grove and the place to fire off here if you didn't get put way up in the marbles, but that's racing," Nocella stated. "We were a little free off on the bottom, so I knew my best shot was really to get it in deep and get around him like the time before. He did what he had to do to win. I would've run him a little cleaner than that, maybe run him up but not in the fourth groove. But he did what he had to do to win, and we'll go from there."
When Nocella got out of shape on the restart with 11 laps to go, Matt Hirschman inserted himself into the second position. From there, he chased down Lutz and challenged for the lead. Like on Monday night, Hirschman came up just short when the checkered flag waved.
"We're right there. I like wins but we'll just take a second," Hirschman said. "We're in one piece and some guys behind us aren't, they had trouble. We'll move on to tomorrow night."
When asked about the drive of his race car compared to his closest competitors, Hirschman attributed it to the different rules packages used during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
"In a straight line, some of these cars are more like drag cars than stock cars but they try to balance things out. Certain packages have good points and bad points," Hirschman explained. "They're definitely strong. The opening restart the 46 was able to shove the 92 all the way down the back straightaway and I'm wide open, and that's more than a car lengths advantage. Quite a bit under the hood, but I'm fine. We're in a good position."
2019 Modified Racing Series champion Mike Willis, Jr. and New York racer Brad Vanhouten completed the top five.
The Tour-type Modifieds will be back in action Wednesday night for the John Blewett III Memorial 76.
Race fans can find results, photos and on-demand updates from Tuesday night's race by visiting Speed51's Trackside Now presented by PFC Brakes. Exclusive video content, including interviews with the top finishers, will be available soon on the Speed51 Network.
Fans can also visit Speedweeks Central to get up to date on all of the latest news, videos and more from Florida Speedweeks during the month of February.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Tiffany Swisher
Tour-type Modifieds 35 Unofficial Results
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