Thursday night's Tour-type Modified race at New Smyrna Speedway may not have matched the dramatics of Wednesday's John Blewett III Memorial, but it still came down to a late-race restart to determine the winner. At the end of the 35-lap race, it was 2019 Race of Champions (RoC) Asphalt Modified Series champion Patrick Emerling holding off a field of tough challengers to score his first victory of the 2020 season.
Emerling led 30 of the 35 laps and appeared en route to a relatively easy victory before a caution came out with three laps to go. While the restart created another exciting finish for the fans in attendance, it wasn't necessarily what Emerling wanted to see.
"We've been struggling the last couple [nights] here and we finally got it to where it needed to be tonight. That was the best car we had so far," Emerling said on the NBC Track Pass broadcast. "I was hoping for no caution there but the caution definitely made things interesting there. I liked it on the bottom there, and in most cases you wouldn't do that. I was able to get a good jump and it worked out. The next couple laps, all three of our cars were running the same exact pace all race, just probably the most fun couple of laps I've had in a long time. I'm pretty stoked we won down here. I've got to give it up to everyone on my team here, come here work their butts off and I'm happy to finally get it back in victory lane down here."
Starting from the pole position, Blewett jumped out to the early lead before Kyle Ebersole made a move to his inside on lap 5. After crossing the line as the leader of the lap, Ebersole made contact with the left front of Blewett’s car, sending Ebersole hard into the turn one wall. Blewett avoided major contact and held the lead on the ensuing lap 5 restart.
One lap later, Emerling made his move for the lead on the inside and completed the pass on lap 6. From there, the 2019 RoC Modified Series champion kept the field in his rearview mirror until a late-race caution stacked the field back up for a three-lap shootout.
Emerling elected to restart from the inside lane with Blewett to his outside and used a good restart to clear Blewett off of turn two. That set up a great battle between Blewett and Hirschman, a battle that Blewett ultimately won to earn his best finish of the week thus far.
"We had a fast car tonight. He just got by me early and he had a lot of speed. I wanted to save just a little bit if I could for the end there, which I did. I was going to cross him over coming off of two and I think Matt knew that, so he tried to cross me over as well. I wasn't going to put Patrick three-wide; we did the best we could. We got a big race tomorrow night. I know Matt is running for points and every spot counts for him, but he ran me like a gentlemen and so did Patrick. It's on to tomorrow night."
Hirschman's streak of three straight second-place finishes came to an end with a third-place finish; however, he was able to build up a six-point advantage over Anthony Nocella in the point standings heading into Friday night's finale.
"I just got tired of finishing second, so I decided we'd finish somewhere else," Hirschman joked. "I'm not aware of that until now. I knew earlier there he was with me. I guess we'll have a little cushion, but you've still go to execute tomorrow night so I'm not concerned with that. I probably should've finished. I think I could've probably gone in and slip up, but I thought about a run on the bottom off of four on Emerling and probably cost myself second. Once Jimmy got back ahead of me that last corner I was going to let them settle it and see what happened there."
The five-race series for the Tour-type Modifieds will come to a close Friday night with their biggest race of the week, the Richie Evans Memorial 100 on Friday night at New Smyrna.
Race fans can find on-demand updates, photos and more from Thursday night's race by visiting Speed51's Trackside Now coverage presented by C&R Radiators.
All of Speed51's coverage from the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing -- including stories, videos, results and more -- can be viewed by visiting Speedweeks Central.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Tiffany Swisher
Tour-type Modifieds Unofficial Results - Thursday
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