Sometimes where you finish in your heat and the redraw for your starting position is of the utmost importance in short track racing. That was certainly the case during Saturday evening’s Richie Evans Memorial 75 Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour event at Oswego Speedway (NY).
Williamson, New York second generation driver Mike Leaty won his heat race, while some other top competitors would not even be able to move up into a top-three finishing position in order to be eligible for the redraw. Leaty drew the number-one pill, and that’s where he would stay from start to finish.
“It’s well known that this race at the beginning of the year is hard,” Leaty told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “There’s not much outside, because there’s no rubber built up out there. The cars going around the bottom really get the inside groove really fast. Drawing the number one pill was the lucky break today.”
Leaty pointed out some similarities to his win earlier in the season at the “Steel Palace” in 2006, in which he powered by Ryan Preece early from a front row starting position and held off a charging Matt Hirschman for the win on that day.
Hirschman was in the field again as well as Chemung winner Chuck Hossfeld, and former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bobby Santos III driving a new LFR Chassis fielded by Oswego Supermodified owner and driver Ray Graham. All three were expected to move up from their starting positions in the second half of the field, but with passing opportunities only at a premium there would not be much success. Hirschman was the top finisher among the three, coming home in eighth-place.
Behind Leaty, the fight of the night was for the runner-up position. Tyler Rypkema, who entered this race with a best career finish of fifth at this same event last year, held off a hungry Patrick Emerling for the spot until a late caution set up a green-white-checkered finish. Emerling would dive to the inside and take the spot coming to the white flag, allowing Tony Hanbury to follow by for the final podium position. Rypkema still salvaged a fourth-place finish, the best in his brief RoC career.
“I knew the restart was going to be kind of tricky, because I knew the car was starting to fade a little bit,” the teenage Rypkema said. “If I was in the position he was in I would have done the same move. Just another racing deal, you just move on. We still had a good run, the car is in one piece, and we were very competitive so all in all it was a good night.”
Rypkema now heads to his home track, Shangri-La II Motor Speedway (NY), the site of the next RoC race on Memorial Day weekend.
“It definitely gives us a lot of momentum,” Rypkema said. “We know how to set up a car there a little better. We know the ins and outs of the track. I have a lot more experience at the track, so all of that helps.”
Emerling, also a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular, matched his best career RoC finish with the daring move at the end after searching high and low for several laps.
“I was just working on him the whole race, and he was protecting the bottom really good,” analyzed Emerling. “You’re just going to waste your time going to the outside here. Finally I saw a hole when I saw he was kind of slow on the restarts. With my car it started off real loose and just kept on getting better and better as the run went on.”
His finish completed a one-two sweep for Leaty Racing, in which both competitors were utilizing the new Troyer TA1 Modified chassis.
“It was the second time out with Mike’s and the first time out with mine, and we’ve been really happy with the car and all,” Emerling said. “(Crew chief) Jan Leaty and the whole crew did a phenomenal job setting up the car.”
Mike Leaty, who has several RoC victories but has previously never won more than once throughout the course of a season, feels like the new car has helped bring his team’s performance to another level.
“Troyer Race Cars has always been great to work with,” applauded Leaty. “They worked with my family and my dad for years. (Owner) Billy Colton is just a great down to earth guy. We have a great relationship.
“But this racecar, I went and took it to Chemung the day before we raced. It turns; it’s unlike all the ’08 style cars I’ve ever had. I just can’t explain it. At Chemung we had a flat right rear early in the race. I was 24th or 25th and drove all the way to sixth with minimal cautions. Nobody really noticed, but I passed a lot of cars that day and I knew that if I had track position at any point in the race I could have raced with the leaders. So I was really excited to come here with the same racecar at a racetrack with a setup that Troyer recommended and here we are.”
Leaty looks forward to the schedule ahead, including an upcoming race at his home track Spencer Speedway (NY). But despite the early success in the Troyer, he will be racing another chassis for another team for the next time out.
“When we go to Shangri-La II, believe it or not, we’ve got a new LFR for there,” Leaty said. “I’m going to drive for Jeff DeMinck. We’ve got really good equipment, and who knows. Things are really looking up for us.”
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com
Richie Evans Memorial 75 Results
1 1 25 Mike Leaty
2 4 07 Patrick Emerling
3 6 21 Tony Hanbury
4 3 32 Tyler Rypkema
5 5 34 Rusty Smith
6 7 3 Daren Scherer
7 8 51b T.J. Potrzebowski
8 14 60 Matt Hirschman
9 11 8 Bobby Holmes
10 12 69 Tommy Cloce
11 10 53 Brian Defebo
12 20 22 Chuck Hossfeld
13 24 65 George Skora III
14 9 57x Andy Jankowiak
15 26 90 Bobby Santos III
16 23 54 Tommy Catalano
17 2 45 Kevin Timmerman
18 16 51r Lee Sharpsteen
19 27 10 Daryl Lewis Jr.
20 15 11 Kirk Totten
21 22 47 Jim Storace
22 17 95 Bryan Sherwood
23 18 59 Karl Hehr
24 25 13 Jim Steffenhagen
25 21 42 Nick Pecko
26 19 64 Amy Catalano
27 13 48 Sam Fullone