Although there were many contenders over the course of 75 laps, Saturday night’s Queen City Clash at Lancaster National Speedway came down to two of the best in the Western New York region. It was also a similar sight to earlier in the evening.
Orchard Park’s Patrick Emerling and Ransomville’s Chuck Hossfeld competed in the 35-lap local Sportsman Modified precursor prior to the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series show. Hossfeld grabbed the lead early on it that race, but it was Emerling who had to start from the back after post-heat race contact and marched to the front to make the winning pass for his second straight division win at the 5/8-mile track.
The RoC Modified feature was a different story, but similar result. Emerling drew the better starting position, and once he gained the lead from Brian Defebo on lap 27 the 23-year-old held off numerous challenges from Hossfeld for the remainder of the distance.
“Chuck is a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time,” Emerling told Speed51.com powered by JEGS regarding the former multi-time RoC champion. “To be in our position, I definitely had to put the work in to try and stay ahead of him. This is his house so he’s always really good here. He’s a hard guy to beat here.”
Over the closing laps, it was evident that Hossfeld had the advantage in turns three and four, which came as a surprise to Emerling. In the end, track position became key in a duel that saw both drivers turning their fastest laps toward the end of the race.
“That’s where I’ve been putting the work down with the setups I have in my race cars,” Emerling indicated. “We definitely struggled a little bit down in three and four, but we made it all up in one and two. I was trying to protect my lanes and protect the bottom and try to run a nice smooth and fast pace where towards the end I was kind of just going all out.”
For Hossfeld, despite coming home second twice in one night, it was a satisfying performance for the team. They started bringing out the Sportsman Modified for extra track time this season and continually improve their teamwork.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Hossfeld said. “It’s a big effort to bring two cars and one thing I can always say is we have fun. This isn’t like a big loss; those were two great races and we just happened to be the runner-up.”
The only major difference was technically out of Hossfeld’s hands, even though he was the one that drew the 12th starting position for the feature.
“For whatever reason, I’m just a terrible drawer,” Hossfeld joked. “I pick 12 all the time; it’s almost become funny, but that’s not an excuse. We did have to start in the back, but Patrick’s car was hooked up. They did a great job. Our RoC car for the majority of the race, I think was faster and he was just able to not make a mistake and keep me behind him.”
With Emerling setting the bar high for the 2016, Hossfeld knows through his years of experience that they simply have to stick with what they are doing right and is optimistic to get that first win of the year and many more at tracks the series will revisit as the season winds down.
“I’ve been racing a long time and racing is like a roller coaster,” Hossfeld said. “They have their ups and downs and cycles involved. I think we’re hot right now. We’ve got this (Sportsman Modified) so we can race more (at Lancaster) and be a better team. I think you’ll see that we’ll come on pretty strong here. We didn’t get to show it at Oswego, and at Mahoning Valley we the first non-regular and that’s a pretty different track.”
After starting off the season a little slow in Florida and at the first race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and RoC seasons, Emerling has hit his stride. It has certainly been a confidence booster for him and the Leaty Autosport team.
“We made an impact last season, but this season I really want to make an even larger impact and be even more competitive,” Emerling noted. “Once we got that first win the confidence level raised and that definitely is a big factor.”
Jimmy Zacharias finishes third, while Tyler Rypkema turned in a stellar result in fourth. Emerling’s teammate Mike Leaty rounded out the top five.
For an on-demand replay of Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage, click here.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos