NORTH EAST, PA – Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA, took home his sixth consecutive and eighth overall Al Gerber Memorial Trophy after winning the 70th Annual Race of Champions 250 Sunday at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, PA. The platinum edition of the race capped off the Presque Isle Downs & Casino Race of Champions Weekend.
“Everyone is getting tougher, as they should, but here we are again,” Hirschman said from victory lane. “It’s just incredible. We are making history.”
The win paid out $12,570.70 in celebration of the race’s 70th running, and Hirschman added another $250 for leading the pack at the halfway point. Hirschman has now won eight of the last nine Race of Champions 250 races dating back to 2012.
Despite being a favorite, a win for Hirschman never really seemed certain. He was involved in a collision on lap 36 that forced him to pit, but he escaped with a bent front bumper and no serious damage. He slowly worked his way back through the pack before taking the lead on lap 116, where he stayed until deciding to pit from the lead on lap 140 for new right side tires.
“I’m not even sure what happened there [during the crash]. It happened quick, that’s for sure,”
Hirschman said. “The competition is getting better [every year] and then you have something like that to make it a little harder again.”
Jon McKennedy delivered a gutsy performance while taking an alternative approach to pitting, opting to stay out during the lap-140 caution that saw a large portion of the top-10 pit and give him the lead. McKennedy was able to hold onto the lead until he finally headed to the pits on lap 205. Despite a last-minute run, he would be forced to settle for fifth place.
Hirschman took the lead from Tommy Catalano of Ontario, NY, on lap 215 for the final time, riding out the final 35 laps despite a couple of late cautions and restarts. Catalano would finish sixth.
Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY, completed his triple-duty weekend with a second-place finish, while 17-year-old Austin Beers of Northampton placed third. Austin Kochenash of Danielsville, PA, turned in a fourth-place finish.
Rounding out the top 10 finishers was Calvin Carroll of Andover, NJ, Chris Finocchario of Macedon, NY, Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, NY, and Timmy Catalano, respectively.
The action got underway with Bobby Holmes of Lockport, NY, winning the Harry Macy Classic 29-lap race in the second night of TQ Midget racing.
The win was Holmes’ second of the weekend as he picked up the win in Saturday’s NYPA series race. Starting next year, Race of Champions and the NYPA will partner to award the
“Printed Image Cup” to the driver who performs best in the two weekend races.
Holmes won his qualifying heat to earn his way onto the pole, but not without a challenge from Andrew Nye of West Seneca, NY, who finished second in the feature after passing Tyler Wagner of Chester, NJ, with two laps to go. Wagner would finish third.
“I was kind of disappointed starting at the pole, because if you don’t win you have no excuse,” Holmes said following his win. “I like starting from the back, but I will take this for sure.”
Ronnie Flaim of Olean, NY, started and finished fourth, and Kyle Hutchinson of East Aurora, NY, finished fifth.
The Dash Series Triple Challenge came to an exciting conclusion as Jason Anasiewicz of Alden, NY, took the win in the Butch Palmer Classic. With top-3 finishes Friday and Saturday, the win Sunday secured his victory in the overall challenge.
“It’s been a tough road,” Anasiewicz said. “I made a couple of adjustments on the car today and it hooked. It was gone. This is what I’ve been waiting for, to win it all.”
Briar Dils of Derby, NY, who won the series opener Friday but settled for a 15th-place finish Saturday, worked hard and battled back from a bad restart on lap 21 to finish in second. Corey Copeland of Ontario, NY, climbed from a start in the middle of the pack to finish third.
Nicholas Robinson of Waverly, NY, placed fourth. David Milbrand of Clarence, NY, was a factor at the front of the pack for most of the race after starting on the pole, but could not follow up his Saturday victory and ultimately fell to fifth.
Rich Sharpe of Depew, NY, turned in a dominant performance in the Street Stocks Series Feature after also winning his qualifying heat earlier in the day.
“We changed [the car] from the last time we came down here,” Sharpe said after his win in the 30-lap race. “It definitely made it better. This is definitely a fun track to drive.”
Brian Hoffman of South Wales, NY, who narrowly finished behind Sharpe in qualifying, was able to hang on for a second-place finish in the feature.
Tim and Nik Welshans finished back-to-back to take third and fourth, respectively, while Chris Powers of Blasdell, NY, rounded out the top five.
The Presque Isle Downs & Casino Race of Champions Weekend will return for the 71st Annual Race of Champions 250 at Lake Erie Speedway Sept. 24-26, 2021. Tickets for the 71st Annual event will go on sale at www.lakeeriespeedway.com. The pricing for 2021 will remain the same as 2020.
The Race of Champions is a sanctioning body presenting Modified and Stock Car racing on asphalt and dirt surfaces throughout the Northeast, with events in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with primary marketing partners Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Upstate Automotive Group, Waddell Communications, Pilat Graphic Design, DH Refrigeration, Sherwood Racing Wheels, PavedTrackDigest.com and Speed51.com. The 70th annual Race of Champions weekend will take place in 2020 at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pennsylvania and is the second longest consecutive auto-racing event in North America, second only to the Indianapolis 500.
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