It was everything a race and season championship battle should be. With 20 laps to go in Sunday's US Open Modified 100 at Dunn Tire Raceway Park (DTRP), both the race result and the traveling Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour season points title developed into a two-car battle between Jan Leaty and Matt Hirschman.
Hirschman, of Northampton, Pa., prevailed in dramatic fashion to win both prizes. The Modified 100 was the headliner of DTRP's 21st annual US Open Weekend.
In the waning laps Leaty, of Williamson, was leading but was under attack from Hirschman. Hirschman pinned Leaty behind a lapped car in the first turn with six laps to go to take the lead and win both the US Open and the ROC championship by two points over Leaty.
"What a way to decide a championship," said an elated Hirschman. "All I had to do was finish ahead of him today and it was no short task. It's pretty simple.
"You tell yourself if you want to win the championship you've got to win the race. It took a little slip with the lapped traffic and the hole was there and I took it."
"I'm proud of my guys," said Leaty. "Congratulations to Matt. It's been a great season and it's a testament to the series that it came down to two points, in the last 10 laps of the last race to settle the championship."
In a key caution on lap 75, race leader Tom McGrath pitted for a tire, handing the lead to T.J. Potrzebowski with Leaty, Erick Rudolph and Hirschman next. Once under green, Hirschman flew up toward the front quickly.
Leaty disposed of Potrzebowski on lap 78 for the lead. Hirschman pursued Leaty until executing the winning pass on lap 94.
"In my 20 years of doing this I've never seen a season championship come down to a battle between the top two race leading cars for the race win and the championship," said ROC director Andrew Harpell. "It was amazing it all came down to two points."
In other US Open racing, Bobby Weber won the 75-lap Late Model event for the fourth time.
"The car started getting loose toward the end but I looked in my mirror and I didn't see anybody so I started backing off a little bit," declared Weber of Clarence Center. "It's a joy when you get a car that handles like this."
George Skora III took an early lead under caution when leader Dave Heitzhaus pulled his car onto the infield.
When the race resumed, Skora remained up front with Weber sailing into second two laps later. Weber drove under Skora on lap nine in Turn Four to move out front. The field then enjoyed a long green flag run until the end, with Weber easily holding Skora at bay by 10 car lengths. Todd Hoddick was third.
Sunday's Late Model race marked the only appearance of this division in 2009 at DTRP. The Late Models were once a regular class at this facility.
Lockport's Bobby Holmes dominated a strong field of 23 Casey's TQ Midget Series competitors over 25 laps for his first US Open TQ victory. He did win the SST Sportsman segment of the US Open in 2003.
"These hot days it's so tough to pass," replied Holmes. "Starting sixth I knew I had to get them early on when everyone's all bunched up. It worked out to our advantage. My right rear [tire] is gone. I just noticed it."
Dan Lawrence took the lead on an early restart with Camden Barber and Dave Wollaber following. Holmes next moved into the fray flying into the top spot getting by Lawrence on lap four. From there Holmes blew away his fellow drivers, besting teammate Jamie Collard by half a straightway.
John Hewson used lapped traffic to his advantage to wrestle the lead from DTRP 2009 Street Stock champion Tim Garlock with 13 laps to go to win the US Open Street Stock 50 Sunday over Cory Gallagher.
"The lapped traffic did make it pretty interesting," said Hewson, who won this race a year ago. "That's one of the reasons why I got around Garlock."
Garlock began Sunday's race from the pole and took off at the drop of the green to get the lead on the 20-car field over Kris Hamann and Mike Maggiore.
Hewson snuck into third early in the going. On a lap 11 restart, Garlock continued his run up front with Hewson now gaining second. Hewson closed in on Garlock in the ensuing laps until passing him in heavy lapped traffic with 13 laps to go.
During the Saturday night portion of the US Open, Andy Jankowiak and Nick Cappelli crashed on the final straightway of the SST Sportsman 75. Todd Hoddick was declared the winner. Matt Druar in the 4-Cylinders and Jay Mudra in the Super Stocks also claimed checkered flags.
The stock car season at DTRP is complete while the IHRA drag racing has two meets left, Oct. 3 and 10.
>Victory Lane /1The weekend's winners
Dunn Tire RP
Quick 16: Mike Nowak
Top ET: Paul Cochi
Mod ET: Jeff Kerl
Sleds/Bikes: Pete Marston
Street: Marc Schifferle
ROC Modifieds: Matt Hirschman
Late Models: Bobby Weber
SST Sportsman: Todd Hoddick
Super Stocks: Jay Mudra
Street Stocks: John Hewson
4-Cylinder: Matt Druar
TQ Midget: Bobby Holmes
Sportsman: Don Spatorico,
Street Stocks: Pat Dell,
King of the Hill: Roger Israel
Modified Midget: Darryl Ruggles,
4-Banger: Derek Wagner
Sportsman: Chris Raabe
Late Models: Dave DuBois
Street Stocks: Jeff Bridge
Mini Stocks: Dan Norton
Micro Sprints: Timex Morgan