It would be an understatement to say that certain factors played a role in Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour point leader Patrick Emerling’s victory in Saturday night’s annual return to Holland Motorsports Complex (NY). A timely restart in a time-shortened race brought Emerling back to victory lane.
“In the race, how they changed to single file (restarts) and then counting cautions, that, I believe, helped me a little bit,” Emerling told Speed51.com powered by JEGS following his second career RoC win. “I just had some stuff figured out on restarts. We had an awesome car that rolled well. Towards the end of the race it came into our favor a little bit.”
The first scheduled 100-lap feature of the 2015 season featured the first real opportunity to see pit strategy come into play, as the proverbial shuffling of the deck of competitors occurred when teams came in to take a fresh right rear tire at different times. Chuck Hossfeld jumped out to the early lead from his pole starting position before electing to come in for service at a lap 36 yellow. Emerling would follow, but for the both of them it was not the only time they would have to pit.
Brian Defebo would stay out and lead a number of laps as he searched for his first career RoC victory, but 20 circuits later Hossfeld had found his way under him for the top spot once again. Nearly 20 laps after that, the complexion of the race would change as Hossfeld’s car was noticeably different forcing him to enter the pits on another occasion. He would not fully recover this time around and would finish eighth.
“We made all the right decisions, but what happened was when we were leading with 30 to go, when we got the green, the car would not turn,” Hossfeld explained. “Turns out it was a right front flat, and once we put the sticker on the right front we couldn’t get any heat into it because it just took too long and I couldn’t make any progress. We really should have won and we would have been tough to beat. Bottom line is we had such a good car to drive; it was such a pleasure to drive. I was proud of everything we did. ”
In the second half of the race Emerling and 2014 Holland winner Andy Jankowiak were working their way back up to the front , challenging drivers such as George Skora III and Brandon Oltra who were searching for their best ever RoC finishes. Emerling had to pit a second time earlier due to an issue with the right front.
Ironically, it was Emerling’s contact with Oltra which powered him to get by Skora for the lead with less than 10 laps remaining.
“What happened was we came in and got our right rear, and the pit road was so narrow that I actually bumped a wheel and pulled my right front back a little bit,” Emerling explained. “We towed it out major, so then we had to take another round and come in to get it a little bit closer. Actually a little later on I was racing with Brandon Oltra and we kind of got into each other a little bit and it seemed to knock it back in to where I liked it. I had an awesome racecar and I was confident going in. I have to thank (crew chief) Jan Leaty for that.”
Jankowiak made his way to second, but with the feature being cut short due to more than one multiple-car altercation behind him it was evident that he was not satisfied with the finish.
“Sometimes circumstances are just out of your control,” Jankowiak plainly stated. “Patrick ran a great race, congrats to those guys and we are in one piece and will go on to the next one.”
Skora, a local favorite at the 3/8-mile high-banked facility, turned in a career run in third place. Despite losing the lead with only a handful of laps left, he was still all smiles after the race. The Eden, New York resident was the only driver in the field not to take on fresh rubber during the course of the race.
“With the way we have been running this year, we are ecstatic with a third place,” Skora said. “To have a shot for the win and lead all the laps we did lead without taking a tire was pretty big for us. We’ve talked about it all year long that this is one stout field from first all the way back to 20th, and if you take that tire it’s not going to be easy to get back through the field. Just having the car underneath that drove good like it did was big for us, because we need the confidence going into the next couple races. If we would have gotten a tire, who knows, we could have been in one of those wrecks.”
It was also the highlight of Brandon Oltra’s Modified career, climbing from a 26th starting spot after transferring in from a 10 lap consolation race earlier to finish fourth. In the pit area following the conclusion he called it “the fastest car I’ve ever driven”. Oltra’s former car owner that got him into Modified racing, Joe Kaminski, passed away recently, and it was clear that he was somewhat overcome with emotion after the stellar run the team had.
After a review of what would eventually be the final lap of the race, Tommy Catalano was awarded a fifth-place finish. It was also the rookie’s best RoC run to date after climbing from the rear on two occasions.
For Emerling, a driver that has never really focused on a championship before, those thoughts may be changing for him and the L2 Autosport team.
“It was an awesome points night, which is great,” Emerling said. “I’m really happy we’ve got our program on track this year. We struggled a lot in past years, and we’ve just kept on getting better and better. I think we have an awesome thing going on.”
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com
|RoC Modified 100 Official Results|
|3||12||65||George Skora III|
|16||17||10||Daryl Lewis Jr.|