Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – OSWEGO, NY – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s return to “The Steel Palace” did not disappoint one bit.
Twenty-four hard-charging stars took to the green flag with dirt modified regular Max McLaughlin and Chase Dowling on the front row. Matt Hirschman started 3rd and challenged early on “Mad Max,” looking to the inside on the exit of turns 3 and 4 with McLaughlin leading lap one. Craig Lutz would be an early contender challenging Hirschman for P2, allowing McLaughlin to pull away to a second lead. Filling Hirschman’s mirrors the entire time, it wouldn’t be until lap 37 when Lutz made his move on Hirschman inside the first set of corners.
McLaughlin then caught heavy lapped traffic on lap 42 that allowed Lutz and Hirschman to close in. Two laps later, McLaughlin opened a hole of the exit of four to lose not just the lead to Lutz but second to Hirschman. The top two drivers then pulled away from McLaughlin, Dowling on back.
Hirschman got back up to the spoiler of Lutz on lap 61 and tried everything to get by for the lead. Hirschman took a peek inside of turn one on lap 67 and grabbed the lead getting back on the gas first on the back straightaway. Lutz would then spin from contact while trying to get by lapped traffic to bring out the lone yellow of the night.
After about 15 laps under caution, Lutz would restart lap 82 as the leader after getting off pit road first. Hirschman, who resumed from 5th, quickly made his way up to 2nd within a lap and would challenge Lutz for the lead entering turn one on lap 84, taking it with no issues.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece restarted in 8th position but made his way up through the field, too. Making moves on the outside, he was up to 5th in two laps. Lapp 87, Preece would make a run inside of Ronnie Silk for P3. Lap 92, Preece would take the runner-up position with a downstairs move on Chuck Hossfeld.
Preece would close the gap on Hirschman big-time with 50 to go, and the race for the lead was on. Preece but a bunch of pressure but had no opportunity to get up to Hirschman’s quarter-bar and look to the inside. 15 to go, the leaders were in traffic. Preece tried to look anywhere on Hirschman, but nothing came to fruition. With a ten-lap shootout, the gap was three car lengths. Preece, giving everything he had, was swinging to the fences, racing Hirschman clean. Still, in the final laps, Hirschman was ticking off faster laps to get his 4th career Tour win, and the 2nd time he has won at Oswego with the NASCAR Whelen Modifieds.
“Just not make any mistakes. [Preece] wasn’t faster, but he was about equal. So if he got ahead of me, it would’ve been just as tough for me to pass him. He was right there, no slip-ups. That was the key,” Hirschman told RPW post-race.
Hirschman also confirmed he would be returning for the second Oswego date with the Tour on September 4th.
As for Preece, a winner at Oswego in ’17 didn’t think the car had enough to get by Hirschman.
“We were just too tight. Too tight to maneuver. Had speed but needed clean air,” Preece said to RPW.
On the lapped traffic, Preece said, “It was what it was. If maybe we got by them at first, we probably could’ve made something happen. Ultimately not terrible.”
The two shook hands afterward while Hirschman was parked in victory lane, saying good race, according to Preece.
In the point standings, the gap remains narrow between Patrick Emerling and Justin Bonsignore. Still, Emerling increased it thanks to a 3rd place finish as Bonsignore got 4th. Bonsignore tried to look for the position on Emerling with 20 to go that could’ve given Bonsignore the points, but nothing came through.
“We were riding, taking it easy, just taking our time passing up lapped cars. We both had good race cars, were looking for a caution,” Emerling responded.
While Chase Dowling filled in for Doug Coby due to SRX commitments, Coby won the SRX season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway, representing his home track. While Coby’s absence dropped him to 8th in standings 47 points back, Dowling’s top 10 performance keeps the Phillip Moran-owned #10 in the battle for the owner’s title, 11 points behind the Jennifer Emerling-owned #07.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls next week to Riverhead Raceway; it is the second stop for the Tour to the Long Island racetrack in 2021. They return to Oswego on September 4th for Classic Weekend.
For interviews with Hirschman, Preece, and Emerling post-race, plus session interviews with Hossfeld, Timmy Solomito, and McLaughlin, in addition to pre-race interviews with Emerling, Preece, Dowling, and Eric Goodale check out the RSN Trackside Facebook page.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (150 Laps)
60 Matt Hirschman, 2. 6 Ryan Preece (0.627s), 3. 07 Patrick Emerling (5.931s), 4. 51 Justin Bonsignore (6.206s), 5. 5 Kyle Ebersole (11.224s), 6. 1 Woody Pitkat (12.130s), 7. 32 Tyler Rypkema (14.977s), 8. 10 Chase Dowling (15.264s), 9. 82 Anthony Nocella (17.939s), 10. 85 Ron Silk (-1L), 11. 77 Max McLaughlin (-1L), 12. 24 Andrew Krause (-1L), 13. 64 Timmy Solomito (-1L), 14. 2 Chuck Hossfeld (-2L), 15. 54 Tommy Catalano (-2L), 16. 22 Kyle Bonsignore (-3L), 17. 46 Craig Lutz (-3L), 18. 34 J.B. Fortin (-3L), 19. 14 Scott Wylie (-5L), 20. 7 Jon McKennedy (-5L), 21. 58 Eric Goodale (-8L), 22. 25 Mike Leaty (-27L), 23. 78 Walter Sutcliffe Jr. (37L), 24. 01 Melissa Fifield (-59L)
Fastest Lap: 77 McLaughlin 17.934s
Polesitter: 77 McLaughlin 17.568s
Fastest in Practice: 2 Hossfeld 17.649s