Jimmy Zacharias is constantly a threat for the win on the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour, especially at his home tracks in the southern tier of New York including Shangri-La II Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, a series of cut tires and part failures on more than one occasion while leading have eluded him from visiting victory lane since the 2012 annual running of the Fall Brawl 100 at “The Concrete Castle.”
In fact, after redrawing the pole position for Sunday’s feature the team found a loose steering shaft and went to work on the frontstretch in front of the fans that came down for a short pre-race meet-and-greet. With the problems all figured out it was now up to Zacharias to set the pace. He would have to fend off two of the best Modified drivers in the region, Chuck Hossfeld and Matt Hirschman, down the stretch. After the two series point leaders battled hard for the runner up spot, Zacharias would slightly pull ahead for the flag-to-flag win.
Despite the win not making up for other races that got away, the Candor, New York driver was satisfied.
“It definitely feels really good to finally cap it off,” Zacharias told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The last 10 laps of that race I was just thinking to myself ‘what could go wrong, what’s going to break, what’s going to blow’ and I was just shaking. It was nerve-wracking.”
There was a mix of pit strategies that took place throughout the race as teams were given the option to change up to two tires. Zacharias elected not to come in at all and had good reason for that.
“Knowing the track and running here weekly, sun up, sun down, I know how to change my driving through the track and the conditions,” explained Zacharias. “Right from the start I knew we weren’t pitting no matter what.”
Hirschman pitted shortly after halfway and had to work past several lead lap cars over the remainder of the event. He moved into third on a restart closing in on 20 laps to go and set his sights on championship rival Hossfeld, who pitted for right side tires earlier in the event.
Hirschman made numerous attempts to the inside of Hossfeld to no avail until the final lap when he slipped by for the second finishing position.
Although he admitted that no one ever knows when the cautions may fall, Hirschman believed his strategy was the right move.
“It was a bit more of a gamble, but I thought it was the only shot at maybe winning the race,” said Hirschman. “Made a lot more work out of it, but made a lot better show for the fans. I’m happy with the outcome.”
Hossfeld mentioned in a track post-race interview that he was disappointed in himself for losing the second spot in the end, but at the same time knew he did not have much of a shot for the win.
“The bottom line was (Zacharias) was the class of the field today,” said Hossfeld. “I had Matty up until the very last lap when some lapped cars – I can’t even blame them. I got just a touch loose around him and he was able to make a run at me.”
Hossfeld now goes into the season finale this Saturday, the Tommy Druar / Tony Jankowiak 125 Memorial as part of the rescheduled U.S. Open weekend at Lancaster Raceway Park (NY), with a comfortable point lead, but knows that Hirschman could still have an outside shot.
“He’s a very tough competitor,” said two-time RoC champion Hossfeld regarding Hirschman, the tour champion in five of the last six years. “I guess we’ve got a pretty good lead. I’d have to do something really dumb, but we’ll make sure the car is prepared well and we’ll make sure we give it our best effort. As long as we do everything smartly we’ll be champions.”
Perennial contenders Austin Kochenash and Andy Jankowiak rounded out the top five.
The Race of Champions feature was part of an annual two-day event at the Tioga Center 1/2-mile facility. Additional winners for the weekend were Tony Hanbury in the Sportsman Modifieds, Gary Noe in the Street Stocks, Jake Wylie in the Big 10 Super Stocks, Matt Kurzejewski in the INEX Legends and Dylan Swirnik in the Four Cylinders.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed. Featured photo credit: MoJo Photos.