Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – LANCASTER, NY – Mike Leaty led the final 34 laps of action to take the Lancaster Motorplex 59 in the ROC Modified Series’ return to the 5/8 mile for the first time since 2019.
It was difficult for the Williamson, NY driver as he had to hold off teammate Patrick Emerling and Matt Hirschman to get it done.
“We had two of the best in the business behind us. Restart after restart; it just seemed like it would never end. I just wanted to get into a rhythm and lay some laps down. Eventually, it did, glad we could prevail,” Leaty told RPW, who is batting 1.000 in the series after winning the season opener last week at Spencer.
Leaty would take the lead in a bizarre moment. Then-leader Andy Jankowiak was getting ready to bring the field to a restart on lap 26 when he spun while warming up his tires in turn one. Due to the spin, race control sent him to the rear of the field, giving Leaty the lead.
“It was the craziest thing. I still don’t know what happened. This is just a guess. I think he (Jankowiak) turned a wide arcing left-hand turn to try and scuff off his tire, and I think his right rear nerf bar hooked my left front. Somehow it got on top of my car. I thought we were done. It bent the upper a-frame just a little bit, and the toe was knocked out but didn’t seem to affect the car too bad,” Leaty thought.
Jankowiak started on the outside pole with Timmy Catalano to his inside for the 59-lap feature. Catalano would lead the early laps as Andy J would deal with a fight from George Skora on his inside. Still, he would reel in Catalano once Jankowiak got clear on Skora. Jankowiak looked outside on Timmy in turns three and four before the latter shut the door. On lap four, Andy J would cross over on Catalano to get the lead just as the lap was scored.
Lap eight would see the first yellow for Amy Catalano spinning off turn two.
On the restart, Leaty and Emerling would charge up to get to P2 and P3 entering lap 13, for the first of two green flag runs of over 10+ laps. On a short run, Jankowiak would, on average, gain two tenths a second, per live timing, but Leaty and Chuck Hossfeld, who passed Emerling for third on L22, would close it. The long run would end on lap 26 when Timmy Catalano would spin from P5.
After Jankowiak’s spin under caution, he would spin on the restart in turn one collecting Amy Catalano. The next restart would score the lap as Emerling would take now second.
Matt Hirschman would then start to go on the charge after redrawing the 12th spot for the second straight week. From drivers spinning to drivers going to the pits, “Big Money” would get to the top five before lap 29 when Daryl Lewis and Alan Bookmiller spun in turn four. It would be cautions breeding cautions. From a big wreck involving Jankowiak, Bookmiller, and Zane Zeiner, to Danny Knoll getting into the infield and back into Randall Richard, race control told them to keep it cool.
Hirschman would continue his charge to grab third and chase Emerling on lap 35. The final caution would fly two laps later for Amy Catalano’s second spin.
For two laps on the final restart, Emerling would pull up to the outside of Leaty to stay side by side. Still, it wouldn’t work as Leaty would go on to win over Emerling and Hirschman.
Leaty was concerned about when the race would end because the lap counter placed in turn one froze with 42 laps complete.
“Every time I would come by, I would see 42. 42. 42. My car was starting to fade at the end. It only had another ten laps or so in the end. I was just trying to keep it on the bottom. Keep my momentum up and not make any mistakes,” Leaty said.
“We started out not perfect, but we kept the rubber on the car. Towards the end of the race, we were a little bit better. I was fending off Hirschman. All it came down to were a couple of mistakes. The 14 was fast tonight,” Emerling said in the same car that Leaty drove to victory lane last week. “We’re buddies. We race hard and clean. There are a lot of people who would’ve done a bump and run, but I wasn’t going to do that. All it came to was a little slip off the corner.”
Hirschman would be able to save enough tires to make a significant charge from 12th to a podium finish.
“We saved a little bit early with the cautions. You don’t know when them cautions are going to come. We’re able to advance quickly from the 9-10th to about fourth. Got third, and then it was a three-car race.”
Despite spinning three times, Jankowiak would be able to recover to an impressive fourth-place finish, his best in the ROC Modifieds this season.
“I have no idea, honestly [on the spin]. I picked up some stuff on the front straightaway on my tires, so I gassed it once, did a hard push, and got tangled up. I think we would’ve won if it wasn’t for that. Needed a caution to catch those guys. We were loose at the end. I was on the verge of wrecking at the end. That’s kind of how things have been going lately. We’ll just have to regroup and get back to it,” Jankowiak explained.
24 modifieds checked in tonight.
The next ROC Modified event is July 1st at Spencer Speedway for the Billy Whittaker Ford F-50.
For interviews with your top three, head to the RSN Trackside Facebook page.
ROC Modified Series Lancaster Motorplex 59 (59 Laps)
1. 25-Mike Leaty; 2. 14-Patrick Emerling[8, 0.292]; 3. 60-Matt Hirschman[12, 0.531]; 4. 73X-Andy Jankowiak[2, 2.427]; 5. 65-George Skora III[3, 4.570]; 6. 1-Chuck Hossfeld[11, 6.048]; 7. 45-Austin Beers[6, 7.327]; 8. 10-Daryl Lewis Jr[5, 7.610]; 9. 22-Zane Zeiner[19, 8.817]; 10. 81-Jack Ely[10, 9.323]; 11. 17K-Danny Knoll Jr[7, 9.658]; 12. 45C-Timmy Catalano[1, 10.394]; 13. 64-Tyler Catalano[16, 12.461]; 14. 72-TJ Potrzebowski[15, 12.921]; 15. 56-Amy Catalano[13, 15.463]; 16. 0-Randall Richard[14, 15.746]; 17. 21-Paul Townsond[23, -2L]; 18. 40-Alan Bookmiller[17, -9L]; 19. 3-Daren Scherer[9, -29L]; 20. 88-Sean Verwys[18, -29L]; 21. 01-John Barber[22, -34L]; 22. 62-Cameron Ruggiero Jr[20, -46L]; 23. 88-Tim Garlock[21, -53L]; 24. 65L-Andy Lewis[24, -55L]
Heat Winners: Matt Hirschman, Mike Leaty, Patrick Emerling
Fastest Lap: 25 Leaty 17.568s (Lap 40)