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Larry Ott: Hossfeld and Jankowiak make Lancaster U.S. Open history

During the Victory Lane ceremony that followed this past Saturday's Race of Champions Sportsman Series 75 portion of the 29th annual U.S. Open Weekend at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, when victor Chuck Hossfeld was asked what it felt like to have just made U.S. Open history, the veteran driver responded with two short words, "that's cool".

Less then 24 hours later, Andy Jankowiak incredibly got to answer the same question as he led all 125 laps to win the U.S. Open's Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series 125 on Sunday evening.

With their wins this weekend, Hossfeld and Jankowiak both earned their seventh overall career U.S. Open feature race triumphs, now more than any other driver in the event's long history. Over his many years of driving, Hossfeld, nicknamed the "Hot Shoe," has authored five Modified and two Sportsman U.S. Open victories. His Sportsman triumphs have come each of the last two years.

Jankowiak has amassed a ROC Modified, five Sportsman and a Street Stock victory in U.S. Open competition.

Coming into this past weekend, Hossfeld and Jankowiak were tied with Kirk Rutherford and Jeremy Haudricourt for the most overall career U.S. Open feature race victories at six but now Hossfeld and Jankowiak stand alone in the U.S. Open history books with seven U.S. Open triumphs each following this weekend.

Jankowiak's fortunes took a big jump Sunday when his mother Debbie Jankowiak drew the pole for her son in the pre race starting draw.

Jankowiak dedicated his win to the late Ted Christopher, the NASCAR Modified driver who lost his life in a plane crash Sept. 16.

"I wanted to win this race the way Teddy would by driving hard in the race and not saving the tires and go for the lead and win," Andy said.

Hossfeld was in an equally celebratory mood following his Sportsman triumph Saturday.

"I tell you that early in my career I couldn't win a U.S. Open," Hossfeld said. "They used to be 40-lappers and then I got on a roll. All I can do is thank my guys, the sponsors and Hutter engine power and everyone else involved. They make it fun for me. Other than getting older I enjoy every minute of it."

In the 75-lap Sportsman contest, Hossfeld started ninth but worked his way into second going by Kevin Miller on lap 11. Hossfeld pursued leader Tommy Catalano and took the top sport on lap 13 only to be repassed by Catalano two laps later. Hossfeld kept the pressure on and sailed by Catalano to regain the lead a second time as the field accepted the halfway signal. Catalano was far from done and trapped Hossfeld in lapped traffic to go to the front on lap 49.

Then history was made on the race's 51st circuit when Hossfeld reclaimed the lead from Catalano following a restart and from there was never headed as he went on to score his historical win by five-car lengths over Catalano and Tyler Rypkema.

Also during Sunday's third and final day of U.S. Open racing, when leaders Ron Nurmi and Bobby Weber collided and spun on lap 14 of the 30-lap ROC Late Model event, Dave Heitzhaus inherited the lead and went on to victory over Terry Weldy and David Rigan. It was the second U.S. Open win in a row for Heitzhaus and the fifth of his career.

"I was biding my time and riding a little bit and keeping it safe," Heizhaus said. "I'm just happy. I'm real happy for my family."

Proving that this season there was Rich Sharpe and then everybody else in Lancaster's Street Stock class, Sharpe won the 35-lapper Sunday scoring his tenth Lancaster Street Stock triumph of this season and his third career U.S. Open Street Stock triumph. Sharpe is Lancaster's 2017 Street Stock champion.

"I ran the race just as hard the last lap as I did the first lap and it was really cool," Sharpe said.

During other U.S. Open activity Saturday, two drivers, Kevin Bainbridge and Tim Gullo came up from their respective 10th starting positions to claim U.S. Open divisional wins.   Bainbridge earned his second consecutive U.S. Open 4-Cylinder win while Gullo scored his first career U.S. Open triumph in the 30-lap ROC Super Stock Series event.

Bainbridge hunted down his King Oil Racing teammate and race leader Chris Bugenhagen in the waning laps of the 4-Cylinder 25-lap contest and finally gained the lead when Bugenhagen got stuck behind a lapped car going into the first turn allowing Bainbridge to slip by in the inside lane on lap 22. Bainbridge emerged victorious over Dave Brunka and Bugenhagen.

"I was kind of glad I drew tenth to start the race because it was fun," Bainbridge said. "Like if you draw the pole it's a little normal out there but tonight was fun. I had to use the lapped traffic and Chris raced me clean which I really appreciate."

Gullo was equally happy. Gullo was able to get by Joe Mancuso on lap 23 as Mancuso temporarily lost traction in Turn Two and gained the top spot and the eventual victory.

"I was just being patient," Gullo said. "I had to do a lot more passing on the outside then I like to do but it seemed like it was the only place to go." Gullo won four ROC Super Stock races at Lancaster in 2017.

NYPA TQ Midget driver Dave Wollaber continues to build quite an impressive U.S. Open winning resume of his own as the 2017 Holland International Speedway TQ Midget champion passed Kyle Hutchinson, the 2017 overall NYPA series titlist on lap 18 and went on to score the win in Saturday's 25-lap NYPA TQ Midget joust. The victory was Wollaber's fifth career U.S. Open victory which is the most in U.S. Open TQ Midget racing history.

Wollaber won the U.S. Open in 2002 and then reigned supreme three straight years from 2007-2009 and had a U.S. Open dry spell until collecting his fifth win Saturday.

"I heard you say that 2002 I won my first U.S. Open 15 years ago," Wollaber said to race announcer Dave Buchanan. "I guess I'm old. Boy do I feel old. I got three kids now. Things are different but actually the last few years or so I've been losing a little at Lancaster and we found something this season and the car's just been great."

The  2017 U.S. Open produced  ROC Modifieds, 39 Sportsman,  Late Models,  Street Stocks, ROC Super Stocks, NYPA TQ Midgets and 4-Cylinders.


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