HARD WORK LAUNCHES RUDOLPH PAST HIRSCHMAN FOR FALL BRAWL RoC WIN
BY JR KENNERUP
Tioga Center, NY … As the old saying goes you work hard and keep your nose to the grindstone, good things will happen. That is exactly what happened on Sunday evening at the Shangri – La II Speedway in the 100 lap Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour finale.
Third generation driver Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, NY driving the Ed McGuire Motorsports entry has been chewing on the back bumper of Matt Hirschman all year long. Rudolph and McGuire just kept working hard at making their racecar faster and better at each event and the hard work paid off. Hirschman was crowned his sixth RoC title on this day where his runner-up finish was enough to accomplish the impressive feat.
On Sunday Rudolph had the car to beat and he proved it by making up a six car length advantage on Hirschman. Then after a full two laps of side by side racing Rudolph brought the crowd to their feet as he completed the winning pass exiting turn four with just 14 laps to go. After getting the lead Rudolph opened up a six car length advantage but Hirschman showing his championship form reeled Rudolph back in. Rudolph had to back off the throttle the final half a lap due to slower lap cars racing for position in a three wide formation in front of him. Hirschman gave it one final shot but came up a car length short as Rudolph claimed the $3,500 win.
Mike Leaty ended up in third with Tony Hanbury driving the Kurzejewski Motorsports entry finishing fourth and early race leader Austin Kochenash finishing fifth.
“Yes it felt good to finally pass that 60 car as we followed him enough the past two years,” said the soft spoken race winner while standing in the post-race tech area. “We had a really strong racecar today and that was proved as he (Hirschman) had a six or seven car length lead and we made that up quickly and once we got the lead we had the same amount of a lead.”
Chris Whitenight and Austin Kochenash brought the field to the green of starter Steve Kellogg. Kochenash quickly jumped into the lead followed by fourth place starter Nick Pecko, sixth place starter Erick Rudolph, Whitenight, and eighth place starter Mike Leaty.
All drivers were settling into a nice groove as they were pacing themselves in the early going. Tony Hanbury moved into fifth on lap seven by running the outside groove of the concrete oval. Hanbury continued his march to the front by taking fourth on lap 21 while Leaty got past Whitenight for fifth on lap 34.
The second yellow of the event came out on lap 48 for the stopped car of Tommy Cloce in turn four. During this caution flag period 12 of the 19 cars running all pitted for new rear tires. The big winner during the pit stop was Rudolph who entered the pits in third but came out of the pits in first position of the cars who pitted.
Rudolph spoke about the great pit stop. “Usually we struggle on the pit stops, but we worked at it and got real fast and that was proved by our pit stop today as we weren’t the first ones in but we were the first ones out.”
When the race resumed Leaty was the new leader with 12th place starter Matt Hirschman in second, Whitenight in third, 15th place starter Brian DeFebo in fourth and 17th place starter Dean Rypkema in fifth.
Rudolph quickly showed his dominance as he entered fifth on lap 58 while DeFebo moved into third on lap 62. Rudolph moved into fourth on lap 63 with Pecko taking fifth on lap 65.
During a yellow flag period on lap 66 DeFebo had his strong run end with the rear end leaking grease on to the speedway. Also during this time Hirschman was seen heating his front tires up by locking his brakes up.
On the restart Hirschman was like shot out of a cannon as he motored under Leaty to get the lead entering turn one, Kochenash moved into fifth at this time.
With 22 laps to go Rudolph got past Leaty for second and set his sights on leader Hirschman who had a seven car length lead.
Hanbury moved into fifth on lap 80 by using the extreme outside groove of the speedway.
Coming down to complete lap 84 Rudolph found something extra and he pulled even with Hirschman at the line. The two drivers then raced cleanly side by side for the next two laps which brought the crowd to their feet.
“Once I made up the advantage I was able to size him up and we were able to slip by him, the car was handling perfectly today,” said Erick.
Rudolph finally took the lead for good exiting turn four to complete lap 86. Once in front Rudolph opened up a six car length lead, Hanbury moved past Pecko for fourth on lap 88.
Up front Rudolph had one last obstacle in his way and that was a three lap car battle in front of him with five laps to go. This forced Rudolph to back off just a little bit as he didn’t know where to go because of the uncertainty of what groove they were going to run in.
Hirschman seeing this mounted one last charge to try and regain the lead and on the final lap Rudolph dropped low exiting turn four and Hirschman gave it one last shot, but came up a car length short at the line.
“It felt good to get a win today especially after everyone on this team has worked very hard all year long,” said Erick. “I really wanted to get a win for Ed (car owner) McGuire and doing it in the last race of the year is good as you end the year on a high note. Plus it was nice winning here because Ed is from this area (Rome, Pa. about 30 miles away) and he had a lot of his friends and family that come here to watch his car race. To go out and win in front of them is a pleasure.”
“He ( Rudolph) was pretty strong today,” said second place finisher Matt Hirschman. “They have been second best to me the last two years and they were overdue for a win. Certain races go certain ways and there have been probably two or three races that they should have won but didn’t.”
“A lot of people have made a big deal over this win streak. I don’t know if this could ever be duplicated again by me or anyone else. They (McGuire Motorsports) went about it the right way, they worked hard at getting their car better and they didn’t give up. Some people whine and complain and call a winner a cheater. But I’m glad they were the ones who beat me because they kept quiet about me winning all the time and just worked hard at getting their car better to beat me and they deserve it.”
Qualifying for the 19 car field saw heat wins captured by Bobby Holmes, Billy Putney, and Daren Scherer.
FALL BRAWL NOTES: Austin Kochenash locked up the “Rookie of the Year” honors with his fifth place finish. Bobby Holmes was driving the Kluth Motorsports entry while Tony Hanbury related that he was honored to be asked to drive the Kurzejewski Motorsports entry. Todd “ Hollywood “ Geist made his first RoC start of the year. Part time competitor Chris Whitenight ran strong all afternoon in an impressive effort. The youth of the RoC is starting to come of age as the youngsters were all near the front racing very competitively during the feature. RoC Administrative Director Andrew Harpell assured the drivers before the racing started that there will be a RoC Tour and a Sunoco Race of Champions event in 2014. Harpell said that there is a possibility that RoC will be racing at some new facilities in 2014 with the state of Pennsylvania mentioned as a possible destination.
FINISH; 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.
LAP LEADERS; Kochenash ( 1 – 48 ), Leaty ( 49 – 69 ), Hirschman ( 70 – 85 ), Rudolph ( 86 – 100 ).