A fierce last-lap battle between a pair of accomplished drivers determined the winner during the opening night of Tour-type Modified racing at New Smyrna Speedway's World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. After leading the majority of the 50-lap race, Anthony Nocella survived a last-lap charge from Matt Hirschman and prevailed in a side-by-side battle to the checkered flag to claim his first career World Series victory.
Nocella started from the front row and took over the lead for the first time on Lap 3. From there, he established a comfortable lead up front as the rest of the field, including Hirschman, battled behind him. When Hirschman eventually made his way by Patrick Emerling for the second position with seven laps remaining, a late-race battle for the win was inevitable.
After a few bumps from behind, Hirschman charged to the outside lane in turn three on the final lap. That resulted in a drag race to the finish line, with Nocella edging out Hirschman by a slim margin of 0.032 seconds.
"I knew we had a pretty good car, but I know that he's always fast here and I knew he'd be there at the end," Nocella said on the NBC Track Pass broadcast. "He's probably one of the best at saving his tires and making a run to the end. He knows this place really well. We had a good starting spot up there on the front row and I just figured if I could keep him behind me I'd have a shot there at the end because I knew he'd be able to save his tires. I figured if I could make my car and reverse the roles, it may be hard for him to get by."
Although he didn't come out on top, Hirschman was pleased to open the World Series with a runner-up finish, while giving fans in the grandstands a thrilling finish.
"My chances were getting really good, but I just ran out of time. But no excuses," Hirschman said. "The 07 (Emerling) and I started right next to each other and I was ahead of him but then on the restart he got ahead of me, and that took away some time at the end. Exciting finish and it's Monday night, so I'm happy with where we're at. I like to win, I like to win every race but that's just not going to happen. We got four ahead of us coming up. It was a good show. Modifieds will put on a better show than any fendered class any day of the week, so thank for coming out tonight. Hopefully you'll be back this week because we have more shows for you."
Behind the thrilling battle for the win, Patrick Emerling kicked off his Florida Speedweeks with a third-place finish. NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece finished fourth in the first of three races he plans to compete in this week, while 2019 Fall Final winner Craig Lutz completed the top five.
Thirty-one Tour-type Modifieds took the green flag on the opening night of the World Series. The division will be back in action Tuesday night for a 35-lap race at New Smyrna Speedway.
Find on-demand updates, photos and more from Monday night by visiting Speed51's Trackside Now presented by PFC Brakes. A full list of Speed51's coverage from Florida can be viewed by visiting Speedweeks Central.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Kyler Hope
Tour-type Modifieds Results - Race #1
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