Craig Lutz didn’t want to wait until Tuesday night to visit New Smyrna Speedway victory lane. After winning the Tuesday night race during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing one year ago, Lutz did one better on Monday night by winning the Tour-type Modified opener. The Miller Place, New York native bested a strong field of 40 drivers to claim the 50-lap victory, which didn’t end until early Tuesday morning.
To get the job done, Lutz was forced to hold off some of the best in the business on a handful of late-race restarts, including a green-white-checkered finish with Matt Hirschman, Ron Silk and Doug Coby breathing down his neck.
“I was just hoping it was going to be the last [restart],” Lutz said on the NBC Trackpass broadcast. “This was the longest 50 laps I’ve ever raced, but it all worked out. We struggled a little bit in practice, but this is an awesome group.”
Lutz of Miller Place, New York started from the pole after an eight-car invert following qualifying. He jumped out to the early lead over Patrick Emerling and led the first 14 laps before a red flag for a multi-car accident on the backstretch. The incident, which started with contact between Ryan Preece and Jon McKennedy, claimed a handful of competitors including Anthony Nocella, Eric Goodale, Tyler Rypkema and Tommy Catalano.
Race of Champions Modified Series champion Patrick Emerling jumped out to the lead for one lap on the ensuing restart before Lutz battled back on the outside to reclaim the lead on Lap 16. Lutz controlled the majority of the race from that point forward until defending champion Matt Hirschman lined up to his inside for a restart with four laps to go.
Hirschman briefly took over the lead on the restart before receiving directive from race control to give back the spot for jumping the restart. From there, Lutz reclaimed the spot and survived a trio of restarts with Hirschman to his inside.
“I was told that I beat him to the line. It’s one of those things that I need to watch a video to form an opinion,” Hirschman said of the restart that he initially took the lead on. “I can have an opinion, but I may watch a video and think it’s different. We’ll take a look and analyze the whole race and see what we can do to be better.
“The part about that official call doesn’t concern me at all; it’s more the straight line speed that they out-pull you,” he continued. “It almost forces you to try to jump a little because he’s still coming with a head of steam. It’s a difference in engine packages. It’s pretty tough; they definitely out pull you. It’s like drag cars and they’re going to win the drag race every day.”
Ron Silk remained inside the top-five throughout the race before finishing third behind Lutz and Hirschman. Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby charged from his 21st qualifying position to finish fourth, while 10-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion Burt Myers made a late charge into the top five.
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-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Director of Content – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Will Bellamy
Tour-type Modified 50 Unofficial Results
|12||17K||Danny Knoll, Jr.||30|
|25||9||Tom Martino, Jr.||28|