With the caution flag on display and the laps winding down in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Thunder in the Hills 100 Saturday night at The Track at Hillside, many observers might have figured that leader Andy Jankowiak was hoping for the very light mist to intensify so that the race would not be restarted and he could win the easy way.
The easy way however is not the Jankowiak way.
The rains would stay away allowing the race to run to its conclusion and Jankowiak would hold off Matt Hirschman to score the win.
Incredibly, that trip to Victory Lane Saturday was Jankowiak's second on the night as earlier in the evening he bested Kyle Hutchinson and Dave Wollaber to win the NYPA Midget Association 25-lap affair.
"The double victory might not have been my finiest night in my career but it's definitely in the top-five," Jankowiak said. "I've had a lot of awesome days in my life. Winning the U.S. Open at Lancaster last year and honoring Ted Christopher with it was pretty special at my home track."
Christopher was a top Modified driver who died in a plane crash last September.
Jankowiak started Saturday's Modified race fourth but worked his way into the lead, sailing by Scott Wylie on lap 15. Hirschman started 10th and spent the majority of the race working through the field, including a pit stop for adjustments on lap 61. Hirschman finally gained the runner-up position on lap 78. Soon a very light mist developed with heavier precipitation just minutes away.
The caution flag flew on lap 81. While under caution had the rains arrived, as the race was beyond the halfway point, Jankowiak would have been declared the victor. The wet stuff did not arrive until a few minutes after the checkered flag forcing Jankowiak to put on an impressive drive to defend his lead which he did by a few feet over Hirschman all the way to the end.
"We had a good car tonight," Jankowiak said. "I knew Matt was probably saving a little bit more than me. We were a little tight. I knew it was going to be a battle. I saw that it started raining with 24 laps to go and they were kind of calling it on the radio and I was screaming like, 'We don't want it to rain! I want to race. I don't want to win this thing and wonder if I got off easy. I want to go into the next race with confidence.' We had a good strategy and I knew we were going to be all right."
Earlier Saturday, Jankowiak made a rare start in the NYPA race driving the second John Casey-owned team car and got involved in an intense struggle for supremacy with his Casey teammate for the evening, Hutchinson, that saw Jankowiak prevail.
"I give that boy (Hutchinson) credit because I put a big steering wheel on that car and his car still has a little one," Jankowiak said. "I was more wore out after 25 laps in the Midget than I was 100 laps in the Modified. His girlfriend goes to the gym a lot and he must follow her because I was falling out of that Midget. With 10 laps to go I didn't think I was going to make it. Overall I had just a great day."
Jankowiak also participated in the night's 25-lap Sportsman race finishing mid-pack.
The ROC brought a solid field of 19 Modifieds to Hillside Saturday. Some of the ROC regular competitors were absent because they chose to race in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, also run Saturday in Loudon, N.H.
Patrick Emerling, Tommy Catalano and Calvin Carroll were at Loudon. Catalano's mother, Amy, was at Loudon supporting her son.
Defending ROC champion Mike Leaty had an engine problem while still at his shop and could not make the trip to Hillside.
Also Saturday, Travis Montgomery (ROC Mini Stocks), Neal Dietz Jr., Sportsman and Brian Hoffman, Street 8 won at Hillside.
Hoffman is perfect
After getting a late start to his racing this year due to the fishing season, Street Stock driver "Flying" Brian Hoffman has won both of the races he has entered since returning last week. Hoffman won the Street 8 feature Saturday at Hillside after capturing the event at Lancaster July 14.