Hanbury Victory Gets Oswego Race of Champions Weekend Rolling by Jim Blacroch
Warm Weather and Hot Racing in New York State
46 SST Modifieds showed up to Oswego Speedway (NY) for the Friday night portion of the 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions weekend and the Motorsports Expo 2008 100.
Practice for the Race of Champions also began on Friday.  (Oswego Speedway Photo)
Unseasonably warm weather greeted race teams as the Race of Champions kicked into high gear with six qualifying races for the SST Modifieds. The SST division is similar to the SK & Wall Township Speedway Modifieds, running a 10” Hoosier tire.

Tony Hanbury of Owego, N.Y., scored one of the biggest races in his career as he captured the SST Modified Motorsports Expo 100 at the Oswego Speedway on Friday night to kick off the 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions weekend.

Hanbury slipped by Dan Kurzejweski of Mansfield, Pa., on lap 54 and never looked back. Hanbury piloted a family-owned Troyer Chevrolet to the victory.

“We didn’t break anything getting here this time,” offered Hanbury with a smile as he joked with trackside announcer, Chris Zacharias, referring to Zacharias’ own Race of Champions Late Model victory in which Hanbury served as a crew member. “I can’t thank my family, friends and everyone that helps me enough. It’s what gets us here.”
Hanbury then referred to the race itself, after starting fourth and chasing Kurzejewski until just past the halfway point.

“I tried to go right to the front early, but then I got loose,” began Hanbury. “When I was behind Danny we kept getting a little looser, so I just relaxed. Then he started to get tight. Once I relaxed our car drove better and the tires wore a little better and we were able to get by him. He was fast tonight and for awhile, I didn’t know if we could get by him.”

The race ran off without many issues. A handful of cautions dotted much green flag racing. Driver’s performing double-duty, who will be competing in Saturday night’s Modified Race of Champions, didn’t fair so well in the SST race. Wilbur Hebing and Mike Leaty struggled. Hebing was involved in a couple of skirmishes, while Leaty’s engine expired and brought out the first yellow on lap 18.

It looked as though the legend, George ‘The Duke’ Kent, might have something for the leaders as he raced up to the back bumper of Kurzejewski. On lap 78, while Hanbury was pulling away, Kent stuffed his nose under Kurzejewski while he tried to shut the door heading into turn three. Kurzejewski spun giving Kent and young Erik Rudolph, who was making a strong run, no room to miss him and the trio slid up into the turn three foam. It seemed as though Rudolph suffered the most damage as all three drove away following the incident.

The incident moved Jon Price of Colden, N.Y., and Kevin Timmerman into the top three, with Jeff Hamman and T.J. Potrzebowski into the top five.

With just 12 laps to go Kent’s night and any chances of a solid finish came to an end as he crashed in turns three and four.

Hanbury had to survive several other late race restarts, but he stretched his lead out during each restart to take home his first major Oswego Speedway and Sunoco Race of Champions victory.

“This is by far the best win I’ve ever had,” offered Hanbury from victory lane. “It’s definitely our best season, we’ve won twelve races this season and in 2004 we won eleven, but right here, this is special. Winning at Oswego is just awesome. I can’t forget my sponsors and the folks that help us out. Gail Clark Race Engines, Papa Johns Pizza, Jackson’s Body Shop, Allstate, Billy Ray Pruitt, we’re going to have a car for Patti Pruitt to race all next season at Chemung. If I’ve left anyone off, I apologize, but I’m pretty excited about this win and I really do appreciate everyone’s help to get us here.”

In the closing laps Kevin Timmerman slipped by Price for second. Price finished third with defending event champion, T.J. Potrzebowski fourth and Spencer Speedway SST Track Champion, Jeff Hamman of Ontario, N.Y., finishing fifth.

Jeff Polaski of Hilton, N.Y.; Tommy Ferrell, Neptune, N.J.; Rick Zacharias, Vestal, N.Y.; Hanbury; Kurzejewski and Timmerman captured the wild qualifying races for the SST Modifieds. Craig Dolphin and Tom MacLeod captured the two B-Mains.

In other racing action at Oswego, Jason Brigham won in Mini Stocks; Rob Pullen won in NORA Small Block Supermodifieds and Andy Jankowiak of North Tonawanda, N.Y., son of the late Modified star Tony Jankowiak, won the Street Stock event.

On Saturday practice begins at 10:00am with qualifying slated to begin at 12:00pm (noon). Modified time trials are at 12:15pm, with the qualifying races to follow at 1:00pm. The 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions is slated to take the green flag at approximately at 6:00pm. The Bender Cup Lites, Late Models and Super Stocks are also set to compete on the Race of Champions card.