Erick Rudolph, Steve Shultz and Scott Bennett Are Sunday Fall Brawl Winners at Shangri-La II

By Carol Houssock

(Tioga Center, NY)   Shangri-la II Motor Speedway closed out the 2013 season with a trio of Sunday races that left many with race stories they’ll exchange over the winter months.  Mother Nature set the stage with beautiful weather, race teams and fans gathered, and day 2 of the Fall Brawl was on.  When it was over the hardware went home with Erick Rudolph (ROC Modified), Steve Shultz (Pudgies Pizza Street Stock) and Scott Bennett (IMCA Modified).

Ransomville’s Erick Rudolph did something no one else had accomplished in 2013 – he passed Matt Hirschman for a win.  Coming in to the ROC Modified Tour finale at Shangri-la II Motor Speedway, Hirschman had claimed all but one race.  Mike Leaty was the only other winner on the tour.  Hirschman’s consistency had already earned him the 2013 championship, but he wanted a Shangri-la sweep.  He had victory on his mind.  Rudolph’s team had that same vision.  And, on this day, their vision became reality when Erick parked Ed McGuire’s #51 in victory lane. Bobby Holmes, Billy Putney and Daren Scherer won the 3 qualifying events, whose top 4 finishers drew for starting positions 1-12.  Chris Whitenight drew the pole position while Matt Hirschman drew #12, something he said he always does.

Fans say that makes for a good race, and on Sunday it certainly did. ROC rookie driver Austin Kochenash started 2nd but by turn 2 had the top spot, something he held for 48 laps.  Fellow rookie, Nick Pecko, ran 2nd with Rudolph in 3rd.  Hirschman was consistently running 10th but by lap 40 he started working toward the front.  When Tommy Cloce slowed to a stop in turn 4 it brought out a race-altering caution.  The top 4 drivers (Kochenash, Pecko, Rudolph and Tony Hanbury) pitted for a fresh tire along with a half dozen other cars.  Mike Leaty, Whitenight and Hirschman all stayed out and restarted in the top 3 spots. Over the next 15 laps Leaty and Hirschman broke away from Brian Defebo and Rudolph, who ran together in a battle for 3rd.

Defebo’s day turned sour, when officials threw the caution for loose sheet metal on his car and a suspected leak.  Their suspicions were valid, as he was leaking gear fluid and his strong run was over. Following the restart Hirschman got around Leaty and many assumed that was the race-winning pass.  Not so.  Rudolph continued his charge and got to 2nd on lap 78.  From there it was all about passing Hirschman, whom he had easily caught with that fresher tire.  Rudolph didn’t disappoint, got the nose of the #51 under the #60 and passed Hirschman for the lead.    He held on for the popular win.  Hirschman settled for 2nd, followed by Leaty, Hanbury and Kochenash. “The tire change was key for us.  The car was fast but that gave us an edge,” he said from victory lane.  Hirschman commended Rudolph, who has impressed him with many wins on both asphalt and dirt this year.  Leaty said he likes the track, where he produced finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 3 ROC shows contested on the concrete in 2013.

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ROC Modifieds (100 Laps)  ERICK RUDOLPH, Matt Hirschman, Mike Leaty, Tony Hanbury, Austin Kochenash, Nick Pecko, Bobby Holmes, Daren Scherer, Chris Whitenight, Brandon Oltra, Doug Reaume, Billy Putney, Jim Storace, Dean Rypkema, Todd Geist, Tommy Cloce, Bryan Sherwood, Brian Defebo, Ken Canestrari

Heats:  Holmes, Putney, Scherer

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