Story By: DAVE BUCHANAN / LANCASTER SPEEDWAY – LANCASTER, NY – Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA won the 30th annual U.S. Open 125 Race of Champions Modified Series event on Sunday afternoon at Lancaster National Speedway for his record-tying fifth U.S. Open Modified win.
In additional action from U.S. Open Sunday, Tommy Catalano of Ontario, N.Y. won the 30-lap Race of Champions Late Model Series event. Rich Sharpe of Lancaster won the Advance Auto Parts Street Stock U.S. Open feature for the third year in a row.
The 30th edition of the U.S. Open 125 featured an all Catalano front row as brothers Tommy and Timmy Catalano drew the top two spots during the redraw. They lined up in front of Hirschman and Mike Leaty for the opening green flag. Tommy Catalano and Hirschman launched from their inside row starting positions to take first and second place on the opening lap.
Catalano and Hirschman broke away from the pack early on with Leaty running third. Chuck Hossfeld made his way from the eighth starting position to fourth place. The caution flag came out for just the second time on lap 43 when Chris Ridsdale spun out in turn 1. Close to half of the field pitted during the caution period, including Leaty, Hossfeld, Patrick Emerling, Daren Scherer, Daryl Lewis, Jr., and George Skora III.
Catalano and Hirschman stayed out along with Timmy Catalano, Tyler Rypkema, Danny Knoll, Jr. and Scott Wylie. Hirschman took advantage of the lap 50 restart to take the lead from Catalano from the outside of the front row. His stay in first place was short lived, however, as Catalano managed to take back on lap 54. Catalano drove under Hirschman down the frontstretch to regain the top spot.
While Catalano and Hirschman battled for the lead, the cars that pitted for a new tire were barnstorming their way back to the front of the field led by Leaty, Hossfeld and Andy Jankowiak. Leaty took over second from Hirschman on lap 64. It looked like Leaty would then track down Catalano, but two laps later slid out of the groove in turn 2 to give the runner-up spot back to Hirschman.
The yellow flag flew for the third time on lap 79 when Eric Beers spun into the grass off of turn 4. Hirschman used this opportunity to make his tire stop and surrendered his track position. This put Leaty back in second followed by Jankowiak and Emerling. Jankowiak, the 2017 U.S. Open 125 winner, needed just two laps after the restart to get by Leaty and Catalano to take the lead on lap 90.
Jankowiak had command of the field with 25 laps to go followed by Leaty, Skora, Emerling and Hirschman. Hirschman got by Emerling and Skora on lap 103 to take back third. The final caution period of the race happened on lap 103 when Daryl Lewis, Jr. spun out in turn 3. Hirschman dispatched of Leaty for second shortly after the ensuing restart.
On lap 110, Hirschman dove under Jankowiak down the front straightaway, and by the time the pair exited turn 2 Hirschman had taken the lead. Hirschman then cruised the final 15 laps to score his fifth U.S. Open Modified victory. He tied Chuck Hossfeld for most Modified win in the 30 years of the event.
Jankowiak finished second after leading 20 laps late in the race. He closed within five points of Hossfeld for the RoC Modified Series championship with one race to go. Leaty finished third followed by teammate Patrick Emerling. Tommy Catalano completed the top five after leading 86 of the first 90 laps.
Emerling’s fourth place finish gave him enough points to clinch the Treichler-Troyer Trophy as the RoC Modified driver to earn the most points in the five RoC Series races at Lancaster in 2018. The points were based on the scoring system used by Lancaster’s weekly divisions. He was awarded a unique championship trophy that was designed and built by NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Corey LaJoie.
Before starting on the pole for the Modified feature, Tommy Catalano won the RoC Late Model Series feature for his first U.S. Open victory. Catalano, driving the Joe Brainard-owned #98, passed Eldon King III for the lead on a lap 13, and then held on for the win.
King took the lead from Sam Fullone on the race’s second lap. He originally lost the lead to Catalano following a restart on lap 12 when Catalano drove under him and Bobby Weber. The pass was negated, however, when the yellow flag came out again for a spin by Dave Whittaker. Catalano made a similar move after the ensuing restart to pass King and Weber again out of turn 2.
Rich Sharpe dominated the 35-lap Advanced Auto Parts Street Stock feature as he led every lap after starting on the pole. The win was Sharpe’s third U.S. Open Street Stock win in a row.
While Sharpe pulled away from the pack there was an intense battle for the rest of the top five spots. Mike Scott, Nik Welshans and Jake Wylie were among the drivers that fiercely ran hard side-by-side for most of the race. Welshans eventually secured his spot at the top of the heap as he finished second. Wylie finished third. Jarrod Brown and Tommy Wentland rounded out the top five.
The 30th U.S. Open brings an end to the 2018 X-Press Signs Stock Car Series at Lancaster National Speedway. The day had a bittersweet feel as it was the final stock car event for both Track President Tim Packman and race director Todd Hannon. We wish both Packman and Hannon all the best in the future endeavors, and thank them for their years of dedication to LNS.
About Lancaster National Speedway & Dragway: Founded in 1959, Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, WNY’s Premier Motorsports and Event Facility, is a multi-use facility located on 77 acres just outside of metropolitan Buffalo, N.Y. The facility features a 1/8-mile drag strip, a 1/2-mile oval track and hosts several non-motorsports events such as car shows and concerts. For the latest information on Lancaster National Speedway & Dragway check out our website www.lancasternationalspeedway.com. Additional information for racers and fans can be found on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LancasterSpeedway) and on Twitter (@LancasterSpdwy).
RACE OF CHAMPIONS MODIFIED SERIES
Fast Qualifier: Mike Leaty – 17.012
Heat Winners: Daren Scherer, Andy Jankowiak, Matt Hirschman
U.S. Open 125 Finish: MATT HIRSCHMAN, Andy Jankowiak, Mike Leaty, Patrick Emerling, Tommy Catalano, George Skora III, Eric Beers, Scott Wylie, Chuck Hossfeld, Tyler Rypkema, Timmy Catalano, Daryl Lewis, Jr., Karl Hehr, Danny Knoll, Jr., Alan Bookmiller, Larry Jackson, Amy Catalano, Chris Ridsdale, Daren Scherer, Jack Ely DNS: Chris Finocchario
RACE OF CHAMPIONS LATE MODEL SERIES
Heat Winners: Bobby Weber, Eldon King III
Feature: TOMMY CATALANO, Eldon King III, Bobby Weber, Terry Weldy, Dave Heitzhaus, Bob Minacapelli, Frank Batista, Jr., Nick Crassi, Sam Fullone, Dave Whittaker, Ron Richter, Mark Mecurio DNS: Dave Russell, Matt Bove
ADVANCE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS
Heat Winners: Max Northem, Brian Hoffman, Dave Vona, Jim Mallaber
Feature: RICH SHARPE, Nik Welshans, Jake Wylie, Jarrod Brown, Tommy Wentland, Jim Mallaber, Max Northem, Andy Cryan, Dave Vona, Tim Welshans, Chris Powers, Mike Scott, Tim Garlock, Kenny Hejna, Garrett Cleversley, Frank Prell, Kory Rider, Jay Canonico, Rick Meyers, Jeff Szafraniec, Brian Hoffman, Bob Blaszak, Jr., Scott Soos, Scott Chaplin DNS: Lou Carbone, Mike Rogers