In the opening half of the Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour 125 Sunday, it was not about how fast Matt Hirschman could go early on but rather how slow he could go.
But once it was time to get to business at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, Hirschman turned it on and charged to the win in this race for the fourth time in his U.S. Open career.
The ROC 125 was part of Lancaster’s 27th annual U.S. Open Weekend. Hirschman and several others stayed around near the tail of the 27-car field on a tire-saving mission for the first 64 laps.
When the yellow waved on lap 64 when leader John Wilber spun in Turn One, the entire field, except two cars, went to pit road for new tires, including Hirschman. As the race wore on Mike Leaty eventually picked up the top spot during a lap 75 caution period.
On lap 84, the caution flag flew as cars spun in Turn One. Hirschman had to come to an abrupt stop to avoid the accident. Hirschman restarted near the rear of the field.
Following the lap 84 restart, Leaty was still leading with Andy Jankowiak second. Bobby Holmes moved into second on lap 101 but Hirschman was on the move. Hirschman was seventh on lap 97 but began his charge. Hirschman gained third on lap 103 and then passed both Leaty and Holmes for the lead on lap 107. From there he cruised to the win over Jankowiak and Chuck Hossfeld.
“I was really focused on this,” Hirschman said. “Even with the unfortunate stopping for that caution there when I went to the back, I was just determined to get it done. The car came on. We really just had everything right. After a while I just starting digging and I worked my way to the front.”
In other U.S. Open racing, Tony Hanbury, who started fifth in the Sportsman 75 Saturday, survived an early race lead swapping joust with pole sitter Jeff Brown and then a late race battle with Rusty Smith to record the victory. The race featured 13 caution flags.
Hanbury executed the winning pass on lap 67 when he dove to the inside of Smith entering Turn One and slid up into Smith as he went by in Turn Two, making slight contact. Hanbury took it the distance from there, winning by three car lengths over Smith and Jankowiak.
“The race I had with Brown was one of the best races I’ve ever had with anybody,” said Hanbury. “I started on the bottom a lot and he had the lead the one time he started on the outside so I tried it. You know that’s the nice thing about this track is there’s two grooves.”
Hanbury explained the winning pass of Smith.
“Rusty was obviously better than I was for awhile. We caught lapped traffic and I think he got tightened up or something happened there,” Hanbury said. “I got on his bumper coming out of Turn Four and I had a good run. I figured if I can pull down before the start-finish line I’m going to be able to get him going into Turn One but I got in real hot. I didn’t want to win it like that but we’re here to win this race and that’s what I did.”
The win was Hanbury’s second career U.S. Open victory, having won the ROC 125 last year.
Brown did double duty this past weekend, also driving in the Late Model 25 Sunday, and found himself in another tough battle for the lead, this time with Dave Russell. Russell prevailed over Brown by 10 car lengths to win the Late Model portion of the U.S. Open.
“Last year we finished second so all the way through this year we only had one position to get and we got it,” said Russell. “I was determined that we were going to win this race from the beginning of the year and we did it.”
Jake Wylie started fifth and sailed underneath Tom Krawczyk coming out of Turn Four on lap 3 and went on to capture the 25-lap “Big 10” Super Stock Series race Sunday afternoon. Wylie joins his father, three-time U.S. Open winner Rick Wylie (Late Models), and brother, two time U.S. Open victor Scott Wylie (E-Mods, Cup Lites), as a U.S. Open winner.
With the victory, Jake clinched the 2015 “Big 10” point championship.
“This is unbelievable and to top it off I’m champ for the Big 10 in just my second year,” said Jake. “I’m speechless. This is nuts!”
In other U.S. Open competition Saturday, Terry Weldy jumped into the lead from his outside pole starting position and went the distance to record his third career U.S. Open win, that in the Street Stock 25-lapper. It was his first U.S Open win in the last 13 years. Rich Sharpe was second. Weldy was driving the No. 22 entry normally driven by Heather Weber. Weldy also has U.S. Open career wins in the 2002 Super Stock and 1999 Street Stock events.
In the 4-Cylinder 25-lap contest Saturday, Bobby Hanel Jr. also broke a 13 year U.S. Open victory drought by emerging triumphant by a car length in a green-white-checker finish over a hard-charging defending U.S. Open 4-Cylinder winner Al Piasecki. Hanel’s last U.S. Open win was in the Street Stocks in 2002.
For the sixth time in his very successful career, Jeremy Haudricourt is a U.S. Open Legend car victor after holding a competitive Carl Vilardo IV at bay in this 15-lap contest Saturday. Haudricourt started on the pole but had to hold off a couple of stiff challenges from Vilardo in the late laps.
In a caution-plagued affair Saturday in which the NYPA TQ Midget 25-lapper produced an astounding 10 caution flags in 25 laps, Jonathan Reid barely held off the torrid late race challenges of Dave Wollaber and Kyle Hutchinson to record his third career U.S. Open TQ Midget triumph. Wollaber was second and Hutchinson third.
The 2015 U.S. Open produced solid car counts with 27 Modifieds, 37 Sportsman, 16 Late Models, 22 Super Stocks, 22 Street Stocks, 21 of the 4-Cylinders, 18 TQ Midgets and eight Legend cars.
Lancaster officials announced Sunday that their 2016 stock car season opener will be next April 17.