Heitzhaus & Sharpe repeat as U.S. Open winners
LANCASTER, N.Y. (September 24, 2017) – Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, N.Y. captured the U.S. Open 125 Race of Champions Modified Series event on Sunday afternoon at Lancaster National Speedway. Jankowiak started on the pole and lead 124 of 125 laps for his first U.S. Open Modified victory and his seventh U.S. Open win overall.
“Total team effort today,” said Jankowiak, “we went out and practiced and we were fast right out of the box.” “I gotta thank my crew, I killed them today with mounting tires. We all came together as a team.”
Jankowiak was joined on the front row by Tommy Catalano to lead the 23-car field to the initial green flag. A total of 25 cars signed in at the start of the day before Tony Hanbury and Eric Beers were forced to withdraw from the event. Beers had drawn the outside pole position for the feature, but a broken rocker arm took him out of competition.
The first half of the race was dominated by Jankowiak and Catalano as the pair pulled away from the pack during a run of 66 green flag laps without a caution. Daryl Lewis, Jr., Daren Scherer and Mike Leaty settled into the rest of the top five slots.
By the halfway point of a race Jankowiak was catching a pack of lapped cars that included former U.S. Open winners Matt Hirschman and Chuck Hossfeld. Hirschman had started 11th and was leading the group of cars that were hanging on to the tail end of the lead lap. Hossfeld time trialed third fastest overall, but a mechanical problem kept him from running his heat race and he had to start at the rear of the field.
The caution flag came on lap 66 just before Jankowiak was going to put Hossfeld a lap down. Bobby Holmes spun in turn 2 to bring out the first yellow flag of the race.
This led to the entire field coming down pit road to change a tire and make adjustments. Jankowiak’s crew got him back out on the track in the lead. The big winners were Hossfeld and Hirschman as they followed Jankowiak out of the pits to move into second and third place respectively.
Hirschman eventually moved into second after a restart on lap 79 and he and Jankowiak pulled away from the field as the went into the later stages. Jankowiak then started to pull away from Hirschman as the race went past lap 100.
A couple of late cautions put the end of the race in doubt for a just little longer. The first caution came on lap 121 for a spin by Jack Ely on the frontstretch. Patrick Emerling then spun out in turn four on lap 123 to set up a green-white-checkered run to the finish.
Jankowiak would not be denied as he held on to earn his first win in the U.S. Open 125. The win gives him seven career U.S. Open victories, which ties Chuck Hossfeld for most overall wins. Jankowiak also joins Karl Hehr and Todd Hoddick as the only drivers to win U.S. Open features in three different divisions.
In victory lane, Jankowiak dedicated the win to the memory of Ted Christopher. He had a piece of duct tape in his car with the phrase “Be Ted” written on it as inspiration. “I just wanted to win this for Teddy, I don’t even think he liked me,” said Jankowiak. “It’s been an emotional time for Modified racing and just what Teddy meant to racing. I always ride around and I always try to save my tires, but TC never did that. I went out and led every single lap because that’s what TC would’ve done.”
Hirschman cruised to his second place finish in his first Modified start at Lancaster this season. Mike Leaty finished third and he gained ground on teammate Emerling for the RoC Modified Series championship. Scott Wylie and George Skora III rounded out the top five.
Dave Heitzhaus of Strykersville, N.Y. won the 30-lap Race of Champions Late Model Series feature. Heitzhaus inherited the lead on lap 14 after Ron Nurmi and Bobby Weber tangled in turn two while racing for the top spot. He then held off a late race challenge from Terry Weldy to score his second-straight U.S. Open Late Model win.
Nurmi was making his final Late Model start before hanging up his helmet in retirement. The three-time track champion started on the pole and led the first 14 laps, but he got caught up in a couple incidents to finish ninth.
Rich Sharpe of Lancaster dominated the 35-lap Advance Auto Parts Street Stock feature for his tenth win of the season. Sharpe took the lead from Mark Hoch on lap 8 and never looked back as he cruised his way to a second-straight U.S. Open victory.
A long green flag run during the second half of the race combined unseasonably hot temperatures made the race a war of attrition for several drivers. Brian Hoffman finished second followed by Andy Cryan, Garrett Cleversley and Jarrod Brown.
The conclusion of the 29th annual U.S. Open brings the X-Press Signs Stock Car Series season to a close for Lancaster National Speedway. The next event will be the annual Season Awards Banquet on Saturday, November 11.
RACE OF CHAMPIONS MODIFIED SERIES
Fast Qualifier: Matt Hirschman (17.077 seconds)
Heat Winners: Patrick Emerling, Matt Hirschman, Bobby Holmes
U.S. Open 125 Finish: ANDY JANKOWIAK, Matt Hirschman, Mike Leaty, Scott Wylie, George Skora III, Tyler Rypkema, Chuck Hossfeld, Daryl Lewis, Jr., Austin Kochenash, Tommy Catalano, Cam Barber, Bryan Sherwood, Daren Scherer, Jack Ely, Patrick Emerling, Amy Catalano, Bobby Holmes, John Barber, Matthew Galko, Karl Hehr, Danny Knoll, Jr., Jake Rought, Chris Ridsdale DNS: Eric Beers, Tony Hanbury
RACE OF CHAMPIONS LATE MODEL SERIES
Heat Winners: Dave Heitzhaus, Eldon King III
Feature: DAVE HEITZHAUS, Terry Weldy, Dave Rigan, Sam Fullone, Tommy Catalno, Frank Batista, Jr., Jeff Ruddy, John Julicher, Ron Nurmi, Ron Richter, Bobby Weber, Nick Crassi, Eldon King III DNS: Dave Russell
ADVANCE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS
Heat Winners: Eric Brown, Andy Cryan, Rich Sharpe, Brian Hoffman
Feature: RICH SHARPE, Brian Hoffman, Andy Cryan, Garrett Cleversley, Jarrod Brown, Mark Hoch, TJ Cochrane, Ken Maltby, Dave Wilson, Tim Welshans, Dave Vona, Craig Orr, Rich Pocobello, Matt Druar, Frank Prell, Scott Gleed, Steve DeCapua, Keith Flanigan, Tommy Wentland, Gino Pinto, Rick Meyers, John Carlson, Lou Carbone, Tommy Reese, Dylan Carbone, Nik Welshans, Eric Brown DNS: Jason Deiter
PHOTOS BY JOE GRBAIANOWSKI