57th ANNUAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS MOVES TO CENTER STAGE AT OSWEGO SPEEDWAY by Jim Blacroch
Takes First Track Victory for Car Owner Troyer in RoC Event
Next weekend Oswego Speedway will play host once again to the 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions. For some, it’s a quest just to make it to the event, for others it’s a trip back in time to fond memories of a tradition that has been carried on from generation-to-generation and yet for a group of others it can be one of the most lucrative paydays during their asphalt modified racing season. Add to that the prestige of what the event means, and has meant to asphalt modified racers for so many years, and you have one of the most significant events of the season.
Wilbur Hebing (#66) and Matt Hirschman (#60) will be two of the favorites at Oswego. (Paul Cooper / Gater Racing News Photo)
Some people have stated that the Race of Champions has lost some of its luster but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Event promoter, Andy Harpell, who purchased the event from the Joe Gerber, moved the event to Oswego Speedway, which provided somewhat neutral turf for a traditional modified heavy weight battle. In recent years some great races have taken place at Oswego in the Race of Champions and Harpell deserves full credit for setting and/or resetting the stage.
What most people don’t recognize about Harpell is that he truly is a rarity in this division, he’s a race fan and as passionate about modified racing as anyone, past or present.
“I do enjoy modified racing,” stated Harpell. “I was a fan before I was a promoter, but I’ve always been around the sport because of my family’s heritage, so things have just really worked out.”
Harpell continued. “The Race of Champions at Oswego has established itself as one of the races that you can’t miss, you have to be there and I am very fortunate to help promote and carry on that tradition.
“Of course, I have a lot of help. Marylin and Don Toal selling the laps, Sunoco’s tremendous support and marketing partnership, plus all of the race teams that support us, not just in the Modified division, but throughout all of the divisions that participate in the event.”
DRIVERS TO WATCH
Heading into the 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions, it’s anyone’s guess who might take home the Silver Bowl at the end of the 200-lap feature around the challenging lakeside oval.
Last season T.J. Potrzebowski held off a charging Matt Hirschman to score the victory. The race, although a bit controversial in the closing laps, was as exciting. Eric Beers grabbed an obscene amount of lap money after leading well over 100 circuits.
In 2007, Matt Hirschman has been one of the more dominant driver’s in DART Race of Champions Tour competition, finishing in the top three in nearly every RoC event he had the opportunity to participate in, including a victory at Oswego, but the Race of Champions is different and he knows it.
With the rain out of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Thompson last weekend, the original reschedule date was for Saturday, September 22nd, the date of the Race of Champions, following several conversations took place and on Monday, the Thompson race was moved to Sunday the 23rd. Several drivers can now attempt to make the best of both events.
“The Race of Champions at Oswego is the race that I look forward to most all year,” explained Hirschman. “When the initial make up date for Thompson was announced I was very discouraged. Before we left Thompson I spoke to both Ben Dodge & Donald Hoening, they were unaware at the time of the conflict that was created and told me they would look into changing in Monday morning. I can't thank them enough for changing the date and allowing us to compete in modified racing's longest running event, the 57th annual Race of Champions.”
In recent weeks, Hossfeld has stuck to racing closer to home, mixed in with a trip to Seekonk.
“Doing well at Oswego is something we’re looking ahead to,” explained Hossfeld. “We’ve had plenty of success there in the past and there is no reason we can’t find success again this season. It’s just a matter of everything coming together.”
The entry list will be one of the best in recent years, but who really has a chance to win. We’ve taken our best Speed51.com shot at rating the potential winners, threats and tough competitors. Anyone who enters has a chance to win if it’s their night, it will be their night.
Potential Winners (Favorites):
Matt Hirschman – won the first DART RoC Tour race at Oswego earlier this year and has been fast at Oswego since last year.
Eric Beers – you can never count Beers out at Oswego, especially if the outside lane is working.
Tony Hirschman – one of the best asphalt Modified driver’s in the history of the sport.
HIrschman is good at winning the big races. And he hopes to add the Race of Champions to that.
Threats to Wins (Fast…):
Lee Sherwood, Erick Rudolph, Ted Christopher, Billy Putney, Sege Fidanza, Rick Kluth. Depending who shows up and who competes any of these drivers have an opportunity to score in the 57th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions.
Buck & Patsy Catalano, Bobby Holmes, Zane Zeiner, Earl Paules, Mike Leaty, Rick Kluth, Woody Pitkat, this list good go on-and-on, but these are just a few of some of the top names that will be challenging in competition at Oswego come Saturday afternoon. There are many more, but this is just a who-to-watch list.
Speed51.com will bring you all of the coverage from the 57th edition of the Sunoco Race of Champions beginning with Friday night’s SST Modified 100-lap championship battle all the way through the culmination of the 200-lap Race of Champions on Saturday evening.
SUNOCO RACE OF CHAMPIONS PAST MODIFIED WINNERS
11951Langhorne 1 mile dirt Hully Bunn 21952Langhorne 1 mile dirt Jim Delaney 31953Langhorne 1 mile dirt Ted Swaim 41954Langhorne 1 mile dirt Frankie Schneider 51955Langhorne 1 mile dirt Pete Corey 61956Langhorne 1 mile dirt Dutch Hoag 71957Langhorne 1 mile dirt Glenn Guthrie 81958Langhorne 1 mile dirt Jim Delaney 91959Langhorne 1 mile dirt Jim Delaney 101960Langhorne 1 mile dirt Dutch Hoag 111961Langhorne 1 mile dirt Freddy Adam 121962Langhorne 1 mile dirt Frankie Schneider 131963Langhorne 1 mile dirt Dutch Hoag 141964Langhorne 1 mile dirt Freddy Adam 151965Langhorne 1 mile pavedBill Slater 161966Langhorne 1 mile pavedWill Cagle 171967Langhorne 1 mile pavedDutch Hoag 181968Langhorne 1 mile pavedDutch Hoag 191969Langhorne 1 mile pavedRay Hendrick 201970Langhorne 1 mile pavedMerv Treichler 211971Langhorne 1 mile pavedRoger Treichler 221972Trenton 1.5 mile paved Geoff Bodine 231973Trenton 1.5 mile paved Richie Evans 241974Trenton 1.5 mile paved Fred DeSarro 251975Trenton 1.5 mile paved Ray Hendrick 261976Trenton 1.5 mile paved Maynard Troyer 271977Pocono 2.5 mile paved Maynard Troyer 281978Pocono 2.5 mile paved Geoff Bodine 291979Pocono 2.5 mile paved Richie Evans 301980Pocono .75 mile paved Richie Evans 311981Pocono .75 mile paved George Kent 321982Pocono .75 mile paved Greg Sacks 331983Pocono .75 mile paved Jimmy Spencer 341984Pocono .75 mile paved Brian Ross 351985Pocono .75 mile paved Brett Bodine 361986Pocono .75 mile paved George Kent 371987Pocono .75 mile paved George Brunnhoelzl 381988Pocono .75 mile paved Reggie Ruggiero 391989Pocono .75 mile paved Tony Hirschman 401990Pocono .75 mile paved Mike Stefanik 411991Pocono .75 mile paved Satch Worley 421992Flemington .625 mile pavedLenny Boyd 431993Flemington .625 mile pavedBilly Pauch 441994Flemington .625 mile pavedTony Siscone 451995 Flemington .625 mile pavedJohn Blewett III 461996Oswego .626 mile paved Jan Leaty 471997Oswego .626 mile paved Tony Hirschman 481998Oswego .626 mile paved Sege Fidanza 491999Oswego .626 mile paved Chuck Hossfeld 502000Oswego .626 mile paved George Kent 512001Oswego .626 mile paved George Kent 522002Oswego .626 mile paved Tim Mangus 532003Oswego .626 mile paved Sege Fidanza 542004Oswego .626 mile paved Eric Beers 552005Oswego .626 mile paved Chuck Hossfeld 562006Oswego .626 mile pavedT.J. Potrzebowski
Hirschman continued. “To some maybe the race has lost some of the luster it once had but to me it is the one race that I would like to win more than any other. In my lifetime the best years of the race was when it was held at Pocono, I can still remember when my father won the race in 1989 and what that meant to the entire Vecchio Racing team. I know the race fell on some hard times during the mid 90's and it has taken some time to recover but it is slowly returning to what it once was. Coming into this year’s race we should have as good of a chance to win as anyone. I'm confident in my team as a whole from the people to the equipment and I can't wait to get to Oswego next week.”
The younger Hirschman will have to battle his Father, Tony, who will also be in competition. Hirschman has won the event at Pocono in 1989 and then at Oswego in 1997. Only Hirschman and George Kent have been able to win at both Pocono and Oswego.
Sege Fidanza won the 53rd Annual event after an epic battle with Hirschman and Kent and those three driver’s plan on being in Saturday’s field.
Wilbur Hebing – won his first race at Oswego earlier this Summer and his been fast week-in-and-week-out.
Jan Leaty – won the Labor Day DART Roc Tour race at Oswego and has scored a number of big-time victories late this season. Leaty won the race at Oswego in 1996.
Pete Brittain – won earlier in the year at Oswego in the second DART RoC Tour race of the season at the lakeside oval and has had one of his best seasons in years.
T.J. Potrzebowski – Defending event champion.
Chuck Hossfeld – Hossfeld is coming off of winning the Mr. Modified race at Lancaster and is always a force when it comes to racing at Oswego.
Eric Beers, who won the event in 2004, heads into this year’s edition without an Oswego victory to date this season and a couple of disappointing runs at the ‘Steel Palace’, but Beers is optimistic about his chances at the 57th Annual event.
“We’ll be ready,” smiled Beers. “The Race of Champions is something that everyone gears up for and we’re no different. Last year, we ran very well throughout the race and it looked like we might be there at the end, but we were squeezed into the inside wall, still we did pretty well with the lap money. I need to thank Marylin Toal for that and Andy for having the race.”
Chuck Hossfeld, who won the 1999 and 2005, heads into this year’s edition during a year in which he lost his Tour ride, the Hill Racing entry, and seen him return his own potent 22 machine, which is based out of his family’s shop in Ransomville, N.Y.
Eric Beers (#9) will be a favorite to be at the front.
Oswego always makes for some close racing. (Paul Cooper / Gater Racing News Photo)