Saturday night’s second annual Kickoff to Speedweeks 50-lap Tour-Type Modified event at Bronson Speedway (FL) featured an unexpected turn of events in the closing laps that led to a winner who played the right strategy.
Candor, New York’s Jimmy Zacharias led the race early, starting from the pole after a six-car invert from qualifying, but fell back to third in the second half of the distance when Modified heavyweights Ryan Preece and Matt Hirschman charged to the front.
A caution bunched the field with 11 laps remaining and an incident ensued between the two champion Modified racers with five circuits to go. Zacharias, who was in the right place at the right time, took advantage of the contact between the two drivers to take the lead and pull away.
“What to even say? We won the 50-lap race at Bronson Speedway tonight. Right place at the right time, but we’re bringing back the trophy,” Zacharias said on his Facebook page. “Best part about it, my son called me yesterday and told me ‘dad, you better bring me home a trophy. Don’t come home unless you got a trophy for me.’ Well buddy, we got you a trophy.”
Zacharias, the New York state NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion, attributed the strategy of watching the events unfold from his front windshield to his spotter, Wayne Darling.
“Can’t thank everyone enough who has helped make this possible,” Zacharias said. “Thanks to Wayne Darling for the awesome job on the radio and coaching me along during the race. I owe it all to him.”
Preece and Hirschman were the fastest in qualifying and each did not take very long to make their way to the front to bid for the lead. While Preece admitted to going too hard early on, the Berlin, Connecticut driver fought with all his power to keep Hirschman behind him during the closing laps.
The contact between the two talented drivers coming out of turn four resulted in both cars uncontrollably heading toward the front straightaway outside fence. Each driver involved talked after the race and deemed it a racing incident.
“I was trying to hold him off and as soon as he got under me in three it was game over and just unfortunate,” Preece, who still plans to primarily compete in the Modified used at Bronson for New Smyrna this week as well, concluded. “Open wheel racecars; his right front hit my left front, we locked wheels, and we really couldn’t do anything after that. It’s just a product of open wheel racing and just unfortunate, but we will move on to New Smyrna on Monday.”
Matt Hirschman’s opinion was much the same, although the Northampton, Pennsylvania critiqued his own driving style some when going for the win with numerous attempts to make a clean pass.
“My right front hopped on his car and we were both just along for the ride,” Hirschman, whose lone PeeDee Motorsports ride will have to be repaired for the week at New Smyrna, explained. “There was no intent by either of us of wrecking each other or anything like that. I’ve just got to rethink how I handled it because most other guys wouldn’t be so nice and a lot of times I’m just too nice.”
Finishing second in the final running order was Chris Young, who entered the event with a bit of a different strategy. Teams were given the opportunity to choose from the facility’s American Racer tire or the Hoosier compound that is being provided for the week in New Smyrna.
Young was the only competitor that elected to run on the track tire and was ecstatic about the result.
“To come out here and race with all the biggest names in Modified racing and to be competitive and come home second; I’m floored,” Young said. “The car was consistently a handful, but it was consistent. Once we got rolling my car was tight in, tight in the center, and loose off, and it stayed about the same level the whole race.
“On the long run they heat up slower than the Hoosiers do, so they’re not as good on a two lap shot, but on a five lap shot they would come up to temperature and that’s when I could really get after (Zacharias). If the whole field was on them, it would have been a totally different race.”
Chris’ mother Ann Young is the owner of Bronson Speedway and was a huge proponent to making this Kickoff to Speedweeks happen again.
“The weeks leading up to it were a lot of work, but I knew if I got these guys here and they just tested the high banks once or twice they would come off smiling,” Ann Young commented. “They were beating and banging to get to the front and that’s what I wanted with a 50-lap race. I want them up on the wheel every lap so the fans have to go ‘oh my God, we’re standing up to watch too’.”
The increase to get this event from small beginnings to a doubled car count had several hands involved. A crowdfunding campaign exceeded its goal to provide some additional incentive for the traveling racers and teams.
“The staff, Bobby Finan, the sponsors that jumped on board, Sunoco Race Fuels,” Ann Young added. “They stand behind us at Bronson Speedway, they put money in the purse. All of the 42 people from GoFundMe jumped on, they brought it to Bronson and I’m just thrilled to be here.”
Chris was also a pivotal part of the effort to have this second annual race occur and gave his concluding thoughts and a window into the future.
“There was months of planning and blood, sweat, and tears and everything that goes into this race,” Chris Young continued. “Building on this event coming forward I know guys like Hossfeld and a bunch of others at New Smyrna said they wanted to come, but they hadn’t planned for it. Next year I know they are planning to be here, so I would look for the car count to go up. If the racing stays the same with more cars out there it’s going to be even more of an exciting show.”
Fans can find on-demand coverage of Saturday’s race by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage presented by JEGS.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Kickoff to Speedweeks Unofficial Results