Holland, NY … The old saying is that you will always remember your first feature win. That held true on Saturday night at the Holland Speedway in the RoC Modified 100 as Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, NY will always remember this night with his first ever RoC Modified victory. Jankowiak took the lead with 35 laps remaining and with many of his supporters standing the final ten laps he held off the last ditch attempts of Matt Hirschman to claim his first career RoC Modified win. Early race leader Chuck Hossfeld finished third with Patrick Emerling in fourth and Mike Leaty in fifth.
“This unbelievable to be standing here and it hasn’t even sunk in yet,” said race winner Jankowiak among hundreds of his supporters surrounding him. “We worked really hard on this race, we came here and tested with our Sportsman car. That test session worked out perfectly for us as the car was just about perfect all race long. We gave up a little bit for the final ten laps as our tires were worn out pretty good as that loosened us up the last ten laps.” He added, “Matty had the fresher tires but we had the preferred line and he ran me clean, we had the perfect, perfect night.”
Jimmy Zacharias and Brian DeFebo brought the 21 car starting field to green with Zacharias leading DeFebo, Mike Leaty, Sam Fullone, and Matt Hirschman. With this race being the third year in a row that the RoC Modifieds invaded the Holland high banks the drivers are getting use to racing here. This familiarity breeds plenty of passing and that is exactly took place during the early portions with many drivers making big advances towards the front.
Two short track specialists in Zacharias and DeFebo thrilled the crowd with some excellent side by side racing for the lead. This battle for the lead which included some nerf bar rubbing between the two stayed like this until a lap 36 caution flag period. That is when Zacharias pitted for fresh right side tires along with Leaty, Chuck Hossfeld, and Andy Jankowiak.
DeFebo and Hirschman who both stayed on the track led the field back to green with DeFebo in his first ever Holland appearance taking the lead. Hirschman moved into the lead two laps later and behind him a three wide battle took place for second between DeFebo, Daren Scherer, and Austin Kochenash. Holland Pro Four Modified track champion George Skora, III soon joined the crowd pleasing battle for second.
At the crossed flags Hirschman found himself in the lead over Scherer, Kochenash, Skora, and DeFebo. But the entire top five were now under pressure as the cars who pitted on lap 36 for fresh tires were now breathing down their necks.
Hossfeld was the first of the lap 36 cars to pit to reach the top five and he made quick work of them by quickly moving into the lead on lap 60. But right on the back bumper of Hossfeld was second generation racer Andy Jankowiak who moved past Hirschman for second on lap 62. Jankowiak wasn’t done with passing as he took the lead from Hossfeld in turn four with an inside pass on lap 65.
Just after Jankowiak moved into the lead the yellow lights flashed on which was good news for Hirschman, Kochenash, Scherer, and DeFebo who all pitted for much needed right side tires.
Jankowiak spoke about his pit strategy versus these teams. “We worked on plenty of stuff to rotate the center of the turns and able to drive off the turns which is a key here. We were just about perfect as we were able to drive off the turns better than anyone tonight. I thought we pitted a little bit early but as a driver sometimes you need to pit when certain drivers pit. When I saw Chuck pit I knew that he was one of the guys I had to beat so I had to pit at that time. Sometimes that strategy works and sometimes it doesn’t work and tonight it worked. ”
After the pit stops all eyes were on Hirschman and he didn’t disappoint. Hirschman quickly moved into fifth on lap 71 and three laps later he moved into fourth. With 25 laps to go Hirschman got past Emerling for third but the problem was that he was a full straightaway behind the leading duo of Jankowiak and Hossfeld.
Jankowiak then turned up the wick and started to pull away from Hosssfeld and just as he reached lap traffic on lap 90 Hirschman got past Hossfeld for second. The lap traffic slowed Jankowiak and this allowed Hirschman to close right on in Jankowiak for the lead. Now with the crowd on their feet Hirschman made one final attempt for the win with an outside turn two pass on lap 98. But Hirschman ran out of room to make the pass and Jankowiak led the final two laps to claim the popular win.
“I got a little loose when they said 60 was in second,” said Andy. “We ran about 80 % when we were following Chuck up through the field and trying to save the car a little bit. When I got the lead I ran the car at about 90 % and then the final ten laps I was at 100 %.”
Andy thinking back to last year said, “It is a lot better finishing the race like this instead of how we finished it last year.”
“They pitted a little earlier and we were getting better the longer we raced but just ran out of laps and chances to make a pass,” said second place finisher Matt Hirschman. “I thought that pitting at 36 was a little too early and after 60 was a little too late, but I liked it that we were going forward at the end.”
“He was very deserving of the win and I’m happy to see him get his first victory,” said Matt when referring to the first win for Jankowiak. “He’s always been good to me and I think he always looked up to me too. Anytime he asked me for advice I have always steered him in the right direction because he is a good kid.”
Hirschman spoke about his love of racing Modifieds at Holland. “The Modifieds are awesome here, somehow someway I hope to see this event continue here. The car count continues to increase, the crowd looked to me to be better this year, and the racing was really good once again. I hope we can continue to come back here each year and maybe make multiple appearances here.”
Qualifying heat races for the 23 car field saw wins captured by Hossfeld, Hirschman, and Kochenash.
RACE OF CHAMPIONS MODIFIED TOUR 100 OFFICIAL FEATURE FINISH; Andy Jankowiak, Matt Hirschman, Chuck Hossfeld, Patrick Emerling, Mike Leaty, Austin Kochenash, Jimmy Zacharias, George Skora, III, Daren Scherer, TJ Potrzebowski, Sam Fullone, Brian DeFebo, Tommy Cloce, Bryan Sherwood, Tyler Rypkema, Karl Hehr, Doug Reaume, Kirk Totten, Nick Pecko, Michael LeBreche, Daryl Lewis, Jr.
DNS; Randall Richard, Ed Weber.
Team PR – Photo from Series Facebook