On the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour, defending champion Chuck Hossfeld seemingly can never be ruled out for the victory until the checkered flag flies. The Ransomville, New York veteran came into the season opener at Chemung Speedrome (NY) without a previous win at the 3/8-mile facility and was most likely not the fastest car in the field on Sunday afternoon.
After climbing from his 12th starting spot and riding around in the third position for a majority of the 75-lap race, fate would change for the better with 10 laps remaining for Hossfeld.
Front row starters after a redraw, Jimmy Zacharias and Andy Jankowiak, each took turns in the lead with Zacharias being able to stretch his advantage when out front. On lap 65, Zacharias’ machine began to show smoke and would slow.
Hossfeld kept up with Jankowiak as the laps would wind down, but with four laps remaining Jankowiak would uncharacteristically slip up in the second turn allowing Hossfeld to go around the outside for the lead and eventual win.
“We had two good drivers up front, Andy J. and Jimmy,” Hossfeld told Speed51.com powered by JEGS following his 24th career RoC victory. “Jimmy looked like he had a motor problem and I was able to work over Andy and put a good race on. (Jankowiak) had, I guess, a mechanical problem.
“The bottom line is we won not only because we had a fast car but mechanically we were prepared and in a position to win.”
Jankowiak would go on to salvage a runner up finish, but was very critical of himself post-race.
“We blew a tube steel in the rear end,” Jankowiak explained. “It just stepped out on me and never gave me any warning. It’s my fault. I put that rear end together quick and I didn’t have the right tool to put the steel in. Kind of disappointed with myself; I just don’t seem to learn.”
Despite the bitter end result, the Western New York driver who often ran up front with the championship contenders last season is optimistic heading into next weekend’s race.
“We’re going to go into Oswego with a positive mind-frame,” Jankowiak said. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the day we were going to run second I would have been happy with it, but it sucks giving one away like that.”
Perhaps the biggest heartbreak of the afternoon happened to Zacharias. The motor turned out to be the culprit leaving the Candor, New York driver shaking his head when all was said and done.
“I just don’t know when it’s going to end,” said a noticeably disappointed Zacharias. “It started showing signs the first restart when Andy was outside of me. It started spitting and sputtering a little bit. He cleared me and once the momentum kicked in it showed that I was the best car today.”
This was far from the first occurrence in which bad luck bit the four-time defending Chemung track champion late in an event.
“Between last year and carrying over to this year it’s about probably the ninth race we should have won, and have a mechanical failure,” Zacharias said. “We had the race locked up here until the last restart last year and broke an axle. At Shangri-La we blew a rear end, at Oswego I was leading the (Race of Champions) 200 and an oil line broke; stupid stuff that sometimes is controllable and sometimes isn’t.”
It was even harder to take after a difficult week for Zacharias and the entire RoC and Chemung family. Matt Clemens, a fellow racer, crew member, close family friend, and always smiling face in the pit area, passed away unexpectedly the previous Sunday.
“Matt was always my right hand guy,” said an emotional Zacharias. “When nobody else could go to the races, it was just me and him. We would take four hour truck rides by ourselves. Wherever I went, he went with me whether it was to Florida or Connecticut. Whatever he had to do, if he had to work, he didn’t care. He drove all night to make sure he was at the races with me, and now it’s nowhere near the same without him today.”
In a fitting tribute, Clemens’ brother Chris paced the field prior to the green flag in a Modified assembled by the Zacharias team with Matt’s familiar No. 9X on the side.
It was an electric day to open the RoC and Chemung seasons, with sunny skies, close to 80 degree weather, and a full field of 28 Modifieds.
“What a great weekend for racing here,” Hossfeld commented. “The series looks good and healthy with a lot of great young drivers and good cars and equipment.”
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: MoJo Photos
RoC Modifieds 75 Finishing Order
1 12 22 Chuck Hossfeld
2 2 57x Andy Jankowiak
3 10 51b T.J. Potrzebowski
4 5 51r Lee Sharpsteen
5 8 66 Austin Kochenash
6 19 25 Mike Leaty
7 6 07 Patrick Emerling
8 23 32 Tyler Rypkema
9 13 71s TJ Zacharias
10 9 60 Matt Hirschman
11 15 19 Brandon Oltra
12 4 21 Tony Hanbury
13 22 65 George Skora III
14 18 34 Rusty Smith
15 3 53 Brian Defebo
16 17 17 Roger Coss
17 24 14 Doug Reaume
18 20 95 Bryan Sherwood
19 26 64 Amy Catalano
20 25 94 Zack Curren
21 28 11 Kirk Totten
22 16 42 Nick Pecko
23 1 71 Jimmy Zacharias
24 14 3 Daren Scherer
25 21 69 Tommy Cloce
26 11 54 Tommy Catalano
27 7 10 Daryl Lewis Jr.
28 27 1 Chris Risdale