Unexpected but Talented Drivers Rise to the Top
Oxford, ME (August 24, 2019): The Tri-Track Open Modified Series (TTOMS) made their debut at Oxford Plains Speedway (OPS) on Saturday night as part of the Oxford 250 weekend. And, while Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA, had never raced at the Oxford, ME, oval his ‘inexperience’ at the track proved to be inconsequential for the experienced veteran who dominated the race to take down the victory.
Ronnie Williams of Ellington, CT chased Hirschman to the checkers and Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, NY, put on quite a show to complete the podium. Andy Shaw of Center Conway, NH, a multi-time winner at OPS in both Late Models and PASS Modifieds, was fourth followed by Brian Robie of Sunapee, NH.
Hirschman officially led all the laps of competition. The race; however, was not without some tense moments for the eventual winner.
By virtue of his heat race victory and a good pull during the redraw, Hirschman started the 100- lap event from the pole. He jumped out to the lead from the drop of the green with Anthony Nocella of Berlin, MA, taking chase. Woody Pitkat of Bellingham, MA, and Brad Babb of Windham, ME, were looking racy in the early going; running inside the top-five.
Johnny Kievman, of Deerfield Beach, FL, who had started fifth, was falling back through the field. In the early going, contenders like Matt Swanson were struggling to make headway. Up front, Nocella began to falter losing positions to Pitkat and Babb. Babb immediately went in search of second. Williams had moved up a few positions and into fifth. Ron Silk of Norwalk, CT, too, was making slow progress. Gaining two positions to move into seventh.
By lap 20, Babb got by Pitkat to take over the runner-up spot. A bit deeper in the pack, Shaw was keeping pace with Silk as the two worked their way toward the front. Leader Hirschman could not get any breathing room over Babb during the green flag run. Pitkat and Nocella ran nose-to-tail as Williams took chase in fifth.
At lap 30, the battle was heating up between Pitkat, Nocella, and Williams while Shaw continued to shadow Silk. Nocella was able to take the spot away from Pitkat on lap 37. Just outside of the top-five, Robie, Jankowiak, Matt Galko of Meriden, CT, Les Hinckley of Windsor Locks, CT and Russ Hersey of Swanzey, NH, were locked in a battle of their own.
By lap 40, Williams had also gotten by Pitkat. A few laps later Pitkat lost ground to Shaw and Silk; falling further down in the running order. Up front it was all Hirschman and Babb. Just shy of halfway, Nocella showed a surge. Passing Babb for second on lap 49 and bringing others along for the ride.
At the halfway marker Hirschman now led Nocella, Williams, Shaw, and Babb inside the top-five. Silk, Pitkat, Robie, Jankowiak and Hinckley comprised the top-ten at the crossed flags.
Williams begin to look low on Nocella for second with Shaw right in his tire tracks. He made the pass stick on lap 55. Shaw followed suit. Williams immediately caught Hirschman. Robie began to pressure Silk for sixth. This allowed Jankowiak, Hersey and Hinckley to join the fray.
Up front, Hirschman had a mirror full of Williams who, in turn, had to contend with Andy Shaw. The lead pack was in heavy lapped traffic before the first caution flew on lap 71 for a single car spin by Calvin Carroll of Andover, NJ. Tommy Barrett of Millis, MA, was put to the rear of the field for his involvement in the incident.
Under the caution everyone headed to pit road except for four cars – of which Jankowiak and Hersey where only on the lead lap. After quick service from his crew, Hirschman came off pit road first followed by Nocella, Williams, Swanson, Silk, Richard Savary of Canton, MA, Robie, Babb, Hinckley and others. Shaw lost the most ground on pit road and was relegated to restarting outside of the top ten.
The ensuing restart found Jankowiak and Hersey on the front row. What could have been a race-winning strategy was for naught; especially for Hersey. Contact between the lead duo sent both cars sliding and the second caution flag flying. With contact, Hirschman got hooked together with Jankowiak. Showing veteran prowess, the duo continued driving and eventually became dislodged. When the dust settled Galko, Nocella and Savary were also collected. Under caution, Hersey, Jankowiak, Galko, Nocella and Savary headed to pit road. All but Savary were able to continue.
Without a lap complete, it was once again Hirschman and Williams at the head of the field for the ensuing restart. Swanson and Silk made up row two. Back under green, there was three-wide action deeper in the pack with Carl Medeiros, Jr., of Westport, MA, Pitkat and Hinckley vying for position. Medeiros got the short end of the exchange; falling back several positions. A spin by Babb on lap 75 brought out the third caution.
When racing resumed it was Hirschman once again showing the way with Williams taking chase. Swanson ran a distance back in third with Shaw and Robie in tow. Silk was experiencing some woes having faltered and falling back toward the rear of the field. He would soon retire from the event.
The front duo had worked their way out to a half-straightaway advantage, but Hirschman had no real pressure from Williams. The best battle on the field was for fourth between Shaw and Jankowiak. Robie and Nocella were locked in a heated battle as well.
Jankowiak got by Shaw on lap 88 and immediately hunted down Swanson. The complexion of the race changed for several drivers on lap 90. Jankowiak was looking to get by Swanson for the third when the two made contact. Jankowiak went spinning also collecting Swanson and Nocella. The caution was the fourth and final of the event
The new running order inside the top -five with 10 to go was Hirschman, Williams, Shaw, Robie, and Pitkat. The likes of Carroll, Joey Jarvis of Ascutney, VT, and Jacob Dore of Sanford, ME, were setting up to have strong nights restarting inside the top-ten with the dash to the checkers.
On the ensuing restart Hirschman began to check out on the field. Williams ran a distant second. Shaw and Pitkat were duking it out for third. Robie headed a battle for fifth that included none-other than a recovered and fast Jankowiak, Hinckley and Babb. Jankowiak took over the position and was looking for more. He got by Robie, took a position from Pitkat. Not done yet, the hard-charger took third position from Shaw with only a couple of laps left.
With Hirschman handily taking the win over Williams. Jankowiak had a stout run to come home third. Coming to the checkers, contact found Pitkat spinning with Shaw running to a fourth-place finish over Robie. Hinckley, Babb and Carroll wound up in sixth through eighth. Pitkat, who took the checkered backward, was credited with ninth. Kirk Alexander of W. Swanzey, NH, completed the top-ten.
Heat race victories went to Nocella, Hirschman, Swanson and Robie. The consolation event was won by Alexander. The feature event was paced by two different era Modifieds owned by the late, great Bob Judkins, after the Series’ paid tribute to the Hall of Fame driver.
Tri-Track Open Modified -Oxford 100 Official Finish – August 24, 2019 – Oxford Plains Speedway – Oxford, ME: 1. Matt Hirschman, Northampton, PA; 2. Ronnie Williams, Ellington, CT; 3. Andy Jankowiak, Tonawanda, NY; 4. Andy Shaw, Center Conway, NH; 5. Brian Robie, Sunapee, NH; 6. Les Hinckley, Windsor Locks, CT; 7. Brad Babb, Windham, ME; 8. Calvin Carroll, Andover, NJ; 9. Woody Pitkat, Bellingham, MA; 10. Kirk Alexander, W. Swanzey, NH; 11. Anthony Nocella, Berlin, MA; 12. Jacob Dore, Sanford, ME; 13. Matt Galko, Meriden, CT; 14. Matt Swanson, Acton, MA; 15. Joey Jarvis, Ascutney, VT; 16. Jon Kievman, Deerfield Beach, FL; 17. Larry Barnett, Moosup, CT; 18 .Geoff Rollins, Groton, MA; 19. Colbey Fournier, Berkley, MA; 20. Kurt Vigeant, Oxford, MA; 21. Russ Hersey, Swanzey, NH; 22. Tommy Barrett, Millis, MA; 23. Anthony Sesely, Matawah, NJ; 24. Ron Silk, Norwalk, NJ; 25. Carl Medeiros, Jr., Westport, MA; 26. Richard Savary, Canton, MA; 27. Kris Watson, Hermon, ME. DNQ: Andrew Charron, E. Greenwich, RI; Steven Dickey, Milford, NH; Derek Robie, Bellingham, MA; Bill Dixon N. Waterboro, ME; George Sherman, Framingham, MA.