Sixteen years to the exact day since last crossing the border, the Race of Champions (RoC) Asphalt Modified Series visited the same property now known as Jukasa Motor Speedway southwest of Hamilton, Ontario. The 100-lap event at the recently refurbished facility formerly named Cayuga Motor Speedway featured some close racing and a pivotal final restart which ultimately decided the final outcome in favor of 2016 champion Patrick Emerling.
Mike Leaty is the defending RoC champion, but has been absent from victory lane for more than two years in the series. After redrawing the pole position, the Williamson, New York native was able to smoothly get the lead advantage on every restart and hold the bottom during each green flag period. That was the case, until the final time the field came up to speed with less than 10 laps remaining.
“I blew it,” Leaty told Speed51.com. “I had been getting really good starts all night. I don’t know. We went through speedy dry a bunch of times and my only thought is that I didn’t get the tires cleaned off good enough. I picked up the throttle and third gear coming out of four and spun the rear tires, violently. It wasn’t even close.”
“I was just prepared to finish second,” Emerling admitted. “Mike had an awesome run going and I’d like to see him win too. I knew I wasn’t going to pass him so I wasn’t even going to challenge him, and then on the restart I don’t know what happened. Just a little wheel spin there it looked like and he just chased it up the track. I was just there and had a good restart and was able to capitalize. I feel real bad for him. He was going to win this race and I was going to finish second.”
Emerling, the first repeat winner of 2018, was not entirely sure if his Modified initially had enough to survive for a top finishing spot the entire distance.
“I had a motor issue,” Emerling said. “It was just laying down earlier today, bobbling coming up out of the corner. It didn’t seem that bad earlier on today, but during the race it just kind of got worse and worse. We definitely had the best handling race car here tonight. I could just roll right up to anybody in the corners and get on the gas.”
For numerous laps, Leaty and Emerling enjoyed a remarkable battle up front with Andy Jankowiak. With Leaty shuffling back to a fourth-place finishing position behind Daryl Lewis Jr., it was Jankowiak slipping by for the runner-up result.
“That was everything I had,” Jankowiak noted. “It’s not a heavy braking track so it’s hard to out-brake somebody here. I’d get the run and I tried it once on Mike earlier in the race where I kind of had a lane in there and it didn’t get there. I didn’t want to take a chance on wrecking us both. I wanted to bring it home.”
Despite coming up one position short, Jankowiak, who raced the night before several hours away at Evergreen Raceway in Pennsylvania, was satisfied with the performance.
“That was just too much fun,” Jankowiak commented. “Congratulations to Pat; I was on the outside of him for a good five or 10 laps and he gave me room to work. We beat and banged a little bit, raced hard and shook hands afterward. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I hope we come back here and I hope the fans enjoyed that show because it was wild.”
Emerling echoed Jankowiak thoughts about their first time at the immaculate 5/8-mile facility.
“This place is unbelievable,” Emerling said. “Definitely the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time and a couple of other guys said the same. It’s a really fun and great race track so I hope we’ll be racing here a lot more in the future.”
Next week the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series goes to The Track at Hillside (formerly Holland International Speedway) in Western New York for another 100-lap race.
Race fans can watch Saturday’s thrilling RoC Asphalt Modified Series feature on-demand by becoming a Speed51 Network premium subscriber today.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com National Correspondent – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Great Canadian 100 Unofficial Results
Jukasa Motor Speedway (ON) – July 14, 2018
|3||10||10||Daryl Lewis Jr.||100|
|7||16||17||Danny Knoll Jr.||100|
|15||12||65||George Skora III||87|