To the naked eye, it did not appear that Andy Jankowiak would have been a factor to win Friday at Oswego Speedway (NY). That was until about a third of the way into the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour 100 when the Tonawanda, New York driver began his march to the front.
A leaking power steering line forced Jankowiak to make an early exit from his heat race and as a result started at the rear of the field for the feature. From there, pit strategy would be the main difference when he and 2014 Oswego winner Chuck Hossfeld elected to pit for a fresh right rear tire during the first quarter of the attrition-filled event. Being the first race in which the RoC Tour switched from American Racer to Hoosier rubber played a part as well.
“We started in the back and that was the hand that we were dealt,” Jankowiak told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We opted to pit early and try to go for the track position. We did some track testing on the Hoosiers and I was confident that we could make it from where we were, and we made it.”
By a third of the way through the race Jankowiak made his first appearance in the top 10. Out front, Matt Hirschman was able to get the lead on an early restart from Daren Scherer and pulled away. The Northampton, Pennsylvania driver, who was surprisingly still searching for his first RoC win of 2015, elected not to come in for a fresh tire but appeared to be the car to beat during the middle stages.
Jankowiak continued making his moves, advancing up to fourth when the flagman indicated halfway. The brightly colored No. 73x Modified worked by Hossfeld and T.J. Potrzebowski to move into second just 10 laps later.
From there, Jankowiak’s pursuit for the top spot would not waver. A yellow flag involving Potrzebowski with 11 laps remaining bunched up the field. On the ensuing single-file restart, Jankowiak got a run along the outside and dove low clearing Hirschman in turn one.
As it has been witnessed in Modified racing before, tires ended up making a difference between first and second in the end.
“I love Matt Hirschman; I wasn’t going to do it dirty,” Jankowiak commented about his pass for the lead. “The guys were pumping me up on the radio and I was saying ‘if we get there then we get there’. I knew his tires were going a little bit because I knew he was on the no tire deal. He had trouble getting in the throttle on the one restart. I think his tires cycled out, and we had an opportunity and we just capitalized. I still can’t believe it.”
Hirschman came up shy of the victory once again during the 2015 season. A lengthy caution came out in the second half when Hossfeld was sidelined due to a leaking rear end issue. That meant that continued laps on the tire would not fall in Hirschman’s favor.
“The heat cycles just caught up to me on the tires with the pitting,” Hirschman explained. “The oil down and the long caution for the cleanup, that hurt. When it stayed green prior to that we were holding our own, but just came up a little bit short that way. Andy played the tire management game well today with the heat race on. He put himself in a good position in the event that we get those cautions. It definitely caught up to me.”
With Hossfeld’s problems and also point leader Patrick Emerling being forced to the pits with a motor issue after running as high as third, Hirschman now finds himself five points out of the lead despite being without a win. Being in the championship hunt definitely plays into his overall strategy as well.
“It’s important to bring the car home in one piece,” Hirschman mentioned. “That is something that does factor in. If you have less to lose maybe you take more risks and I’ve been a little conservative that way. That’s the position I’m in so I have to take responsibility.”
Even with momentum going in Hirschman’s direction, he knows the performance, in relation to his closest competitors, has to be demonstrated on the track in order to win the title.
“(Emerling) had misfortune tonight and we’re obviously in position with two races to go, but we have to go to those two races and we have to outrace them and not anything else. We’ll see how it goes and see where the next two races take us.”
Tony Hanbury, Nick Pecko, and Tyler Rypkema all survived the distance and rounded out the top five in that order.
For Jankowiak, this is only the first of a holiday weekend slate of competition he plans to travel for. His Sportsman Modified will make an appearance in a 100 lap race at Holland Motorsports Complex (NY) on Saturday, and then he and the team head south to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) for the KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series show on Labor Day.
With a successful race under his belt on the same brand of tire that the KOMA Tour uses as well as some additional advice, he could definitely be a contender with the southern competitors as well.
“I feel confident in our Hoosier program now,” Jankowiak said. “We practiced on old stuff and were confident where I was and we just absolutely nailed it. Just got to thank Ricky Kluth over at 2Kwik (Chassis) for working with me. He takes good care of me. I wouldn’t have had that setup without him so I owe him a lot of credit. He’s the smartest guy in the world.”
On Friday night it was a Western New York celebration, albeit not entirely expected.
“I told the guys wouldn’t it be perfectly ironic for this season if we came to the big motor track where typically we would be less of a pick to win and ended up winning here. If I had to pick one to win this would have been it.”
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com
RoC Modified 100 Results
1 21 73 Andy Jankowiak 100
2 4 60 Matt Hirschman 100
3 10 21 Tony Hanbury 100
4 19 42 Nick Pecko 100
5 8 32 Tyler Rypkema 100
6 15 14 Doug Reaume 100
7 17 31 Nick Barzee 100
8 9 51 T.J. Potrzebowski 100
9 2 11 Kirk Totten 100
10 3 3 Daren Scherer 100
11 16 8 Bobby Holmes 97
12 7 27 Donny Hartzell 93
13 18 69 Tommy Cloce 80
14 12 22 Chuck Hossfeld 80
15 1 95 Bryan Sherwood 76
16 13 47 Jim Storace 72
17 11 07 Patrick Emerling 43
18 6 4 John Wilber 28
19 20 17 Ken Canestrari 16
20 5 19 Brandon Oltra 2
21 14 1 Chris Risdale 2
22 22 25 Mike Leaty DNS