The Race of Champions Modified Series made its second visit of the season to Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie Speedway for the 31st running of the Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak 110, honoring two of Western New York’s Modified legends. Although the race is typically held at the Lancaster Speedway, COVID-19 guidelines kept the race from it’s New York home and pushed it just south of the NY/PA border. That didn’t stop the racing action from being exciting and allowing the Modified community to remember the lives of Druar and Jankowiak.
With 110 laps being the distance as the combination of Druar’s #37 and Jankowiak’s #73, it would be Race of Champions Modified Series newcomer Kevin Timmerman and defending series champion Patrick Emerling leading the field to green. It wouldn’t take long and Emerling would jump out to the early lead as Timmerman slowly began to fade his was towards the tail end of the top 10 over the opening stint of the race. Filling in behind Emerling would be young sensation Austin Beers and Kyle Ebersole. Through the beginning stages, the top three ran nose to tail until a caution on lap 32 would shake things up. Emerling, Mike Leaty, Andy Jankowiak and a host of other drivers would pit while under caution for a tire, putting them to the rear of the field and handing the lead over to Beers.
As the green flag waved, Beers would jump to the top spot, securing his first laps led with the Race of Champions. He would stay out front as many of the drivers who had pitted had a hard time coming back through the field. Another caution on lap 60 would help tighten the field back up as the remainder of the cars would come down and take their tire for the race. The only drivers to not pit would be TJ Potrzebowski and Kirk Totten as they would lead the field back to racing. This cycle of drivers coming to pit road would put Emerling as the first driver to have already pitted in the fourth position.
With the restart coming on lap 67, it made the battle for the lead intense as a $730 bonus awaited the leader of lap 73. As Potrzebowski and Totten duked it out side by side for the top spot, Emerling would put heavy pressure on the leaders, trying to score the bonus as well. He would make a daring three-wide move to the line on lap 73 to take the lead as the field made its way through the first set of corners. From there, it was all Patrick Emerling. After a few late cautions and a challenge from teammate Mike Leaty, Emerling would hang on to claim the win.
“We just had an awesome car tonight. We were able to keep our track position pretty good. We pitted a little on the early side there, but I knew we had a good enough car to get the job done,” Emerling told Speed51.com. “I knew if we were out front, I didn’t think we couldn’t get passed. It was a good night, we just had a strategy and the team executed. It was a good way to honor Tony (Jankowiak) and Tommy (Druar) and we had a lot of fun.”
Coming across the line behind Emerling was his L2 Autosport teammate, Mike Leaty. After making his way through the field from pitting early in the event, he was able to challenge Emerling for the win but came up just a little short.
“The team was spot on. We had good pit strategy and a really good racecar all night. We just came out behind Pat (Emerling) there and he beat me through traffic I guess and I couldn’t get around him. We were pretty much the same speed or he might have been just a tick better. We were really close,” explained Leaty. “It was a fun race, I love Lake Erie Speedway. Love running the Tommy/Tony race in honor of the Druars and Jankowiaks. We had fun, just came up one spot short tonight.”
Rounding out the podium at Lake Erie Speedway was Andy Jankowiak. After running just outside of the top 10 for much of the race, a charge in the late stages would bring the #12x home in the third position.
“We had to pit when they did because we were behind them. So we had to pit when they did. It took us a little while to get through traffic so we pitted about 30 laps later and I got to third with about 20-25 laps to go. We really could have used a caution a little bit sooner,” said Jankowiak. “They were good. I had a 30 lap fresher right rear so I had my opportunity to go get them. We were working them over, I think we were a tick better. It’s just tough here. We couldn’t really run the bottom like we did last time here and they were kinda running the top, so when you’re running the same lane as them it’s tough to pass. Like I said, we put a little pressure on them there at the end but too little, too late.”
The next scheduled event for the Race of Champions Modified Series will be back at the Lake Erie Speedway for the 70th Annual Race of Champions 250 Weekend on September 24th-26th.
-Story by: Evan Canfield, Speed51 Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ecanfield17
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo