The 66th Annual Race of Champions takes place this weekend at Oswego Speedway (NY) and a stout field of Tour-Type Modifieds are expected to chase the $12,500 top prize. To help you prepare for the big race, the staff at Speed51.com powered by JEGS has come up with a list of drivers to keep an eye on throughout the big weekend.
(Editor’s Note: The list of drivers below are expected entries and are not part of an official entry list promoted by the Race of Champions.)
Chris Pasteryak – Pasteryak will make his debut in the Race of Champions this weekend. A veteran of Modified racing in New England for over 10 years, he is a two-time champion of the Valenti Modified Racing Series with 13 career wins. He is also a veteran of big name races both inside and outside the Northeast, winning in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series at Lee USA Speedway (NH) in 2015 and making multiple starts in the North South Shootout.
Chuck Hossfeld – A leader of the home guard, Hossfeld comes in to the weekend looking for his fourth career Race of Champions win. Hossfeld boasts a long resume both inside and outside the Modifieds. A three-time RoC Asphalt Tour champion win 27 career wins, seven career wins on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the 2012 New Smyrna World Series Modified champion.
Patrick Emerling – Since he began racing full time in Tour-Type Modifieds in 2010, Emerling achieved his first winning season in 2015 with three wins on the RoC Tour and a fourth-place finish in points, while also coming home fifth in points on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. In 2016 he has put his full effort into the RoC, leading the standings while collecting six wins, including his first tour win at Oswego back in May.
Matt Hirschman – “Big Money Matt” looks to live up to his nickname with $12,500 on the line this weekend. Hirschman won the Race of Champions last year in its one-off appearance at Chemung Speedrome (NY). Hirschman holds nine career victories total in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series at the “Steel Palace” include two Race of Champion wins. He is one of the tour’s greatest of all time, boasting seven championships and over 30 career wins. He also holds big event wins in the Star Speedway SBM 125 and North-South Shootout which he has won five times.
Jimmy Zacharias – He has earned a name for himself in NASCAR competition in New York, in particular at the Chemung Speedrome where he is five-time track champion in the Sunoco Modifieds and is twice a champion in the State of New York amongst NASCAR drivers. He is no stranger to the Race of Champions, coming home a career best third in 2012. He also knows how to get it done on the RoC tour where he is twice a winner.
Steve Masse – Masse has never been a points racer during his career, picking and choosing events throughout New England that are close to home. But when he shows up, he is always a contender. Masse has scored nine career wins in the Valenti Modified Racing Series since 2009. Just last month he earned his biggest single paycheck to date, winning the $10,000 Ron Bouchard Memorial at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT). This weekend would mark his debut in the Race of Champions.
Austin Kochenash – This Pennsylvania hot shoe has earned a stout reputation with his home state, particularly at the Mahoning Valley Speedway where he has earned multiple feature wins both in Modifieds and Late Models. While he has found consistency in the Race of Champions, finishing fourth on two occasions, as well as multiple podiums on the RoC Tour, which led to a third place finish in the standings in 2013, Kochenash has yet to find victory lane.
Richard Savary – A veteran of Pro 4 and Tour-Type Modified racing in New England, Savary will make his Race of Champions debut this weekend. Savary can commonly be found racing in the Valenti Modified Racing Series in New England where he has scored six career wins. Savary also has a big money race victory, winning the Seekonk Speedway Open Wheel Wednesday show in 2015.
Ron Silk – A true Modified pro, Silk is expected to make his debut in the Race of Champions of this weekend. He is best known as being the 2010 champion of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour where he has also amassed 10 career wins, including just this past May at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl ending an over three-year drought. He is also a champion in both the SK Modifieds and Tour Modifieds at the New Smyrna World Series. Silk scored a big check at Waterford one year ago driving for Bob Horn, who he will also drive for this weekend.
Mike Leaty – A long-time RoC tour driver, Leaty is a two-time champion at Spencer Speedway (NY). He heads into the weekend looking to finally breakthrough in the Race of Champions. With eight career RoC tour wins, Leaty looks to add the RoC 250 to that list on Saturday, coming off finishes of fifth and sixth the last two years.
Andy Jankowiak – Despite running part-time on the RoC Tour this season and drifting around the Modified ranks, Andy J is still a driver to keep a close watch on. A former champion at Holland Speedway in 2012, Jankowiak has primarily competed in the RoC the last two years, collecting two wins, including a 100-lapper at Oswego last September where he led from green to checkered. He followed that win up just three days later at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, his last Tour Mod win.
Tyler Rypkema – With drivers like Emerling and Hossfeld dominating the front of the field on the RoC Tour, it is easy to overlook some up and coming drivers, including Rypkema. While he has found success at his home tracks of Chemung and Shangri-La, Rypkema has yet to break through in his now third season on the RoC tour. Oswego has proven to be a top-five track for him, but this will be his first time in the Race of Champions Weekend running 250 laps.
Daren Scherer – A long-time member of the New York home guard, Scherer heads to Oswego looking for his biggest career moment yet. After a decade on the RoC tour Scherer finally got his first checkered flag in 2012 and followed up with his second last year, both at Spencer Speedway. A model of consistency on RoC Weekend throughout the past years, he hopes to finally put together a race winning effort this coming weekend.
Daryl Lewis, Jr. – After years of flying under the radar, Lewis is finally coming into the spotlight. While he has won in the Sunoco Modified ranks at Spencer Speedway, Lewis has yet to find success after years of running part-time on the RoC Tour. 2016 has been a year of promise, collecting four top five’s in eight appearances, including a career high third last time out at Lancaster. Lewis hopes to keep the momentum going this weekend and finally show some muscle on RoC Weekend.
Bryan Sherwood – A driver that has quietly picked up momentum over the past couple of seasons. Sherwood has found consistency in the 2016 RoC tour season with multiple top 10s and top fives, including a career best fourth place the last time the tour went to Oswego at the start of the season. Sherwood also picked up a 10th-place finish at RoC Weekend at Chemung last year.
TJ Zacharias – TJ Zacharias is a driver coming into the weekend with a lot to celebrate. He closed out the season at Chemung Speedrome winning the championship in the Sunoco Modifieds. Though his experience in the RoC is limited, do not count Zacharias out if the right circumstances come his way.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island)
-Photo credit: MoJo Photos