Night eight at New Smyrna Speedway played host to two major series finales. Drivers and teams have competed all week long for a shot at the overall World Series of Asphalt championships. Teams have invested thousands of dollars and hours upon hours of laborious time and effort to repair wrecked race cars.
In the end, heartbreak was the end result for some. Consistency and top-tier finishes guided two teams to overall points championships. The Pro Late Model and Tour Type Modified classes shined on their special nights to close out a wild trip south to the Sunshine State.
The 100 lap Pro Late Model feature had both World Series championship contenders on the front row. Conner Jones and Kody Swanson led the 28 car Pro Late Model finale to the green. The race began with three laps in the books before the third-place starter Jade Buford came to the pit area with mechanical trouble. Michael Hinde had a no-harm spin to bring out the first yellow. A major key to this final event would be the timing of the team’s mandatory pit stops.
A slew of drivers came down pit road on lap three merely to check the box on the rule book and get all four tires inside of their pit box, make minor adjustments, and go. Pit road was not a race for position for the drivers that came in on the same lap, teams that stayed out under the first yellow could start ahead of those that completed their stop. Those that stayed out, including points contenders Jones and Cody Swanson were subjected to poor track-position that proved hard to overcome for the remainder of the event.
The green flew again and the race was clean before Joey Miller whacked the inside backstretch wall so hard his hood flew seven feet in the air. The front end of that vehicle was missing many key components when the rollback came down the pitlane and showed a front end with no radiator, hood, or right front tire. Jett Noland assumed the lead on lap 22 after an off-cycle pit strategy from Zachary Tinkle failed to hold back the ravenous group behind him.
Noland had a strong car all week but a couple of mishaps hampered his consistent strong runs and kept him just out of mathematical reach for the World Series crown. On lap 33 Andrew Sheid and Jean Phillipe Bergeron tangled up with one another bringing out a yellow. The next sequence sent the points contenders to the middle of the pack Jones and Swanson journeyed on and off of pit road to find themselves in 16th and 19th place respectively.
The flagman displayed the green cloth again as the field shot off into the next third of the race with a quick pace. The group was able to string laps together as Stephen Nasse pushed to second from his seventh-place qualifying run. Lap 56, fifth place qualifier Hunter Wright suffered a mechanical problem. On lap 61 Nasse found the rear bumper of Noland and battled for several laps before getting a nose inside and surpassing the two-time World Series winner in 2021. Noland battled back strong and wrestled the lead back from Nasse. The yellow flag reappeared on lap 82 for an accident involving Colt Hensley and Jerry Artuso.
The restart bred actions that had serious points implications as Kevin Folan got together with the points leader Swanson in turn two. Swanson spun but recovered and would restart in the rear with just enough of a points cushion to maintain the lead. The very next restart spelled disaster for the contender of the Pro Late Model points battle. Jean Phillippe Bergeron made contact with Jones after the Hinde machine suffered a loose condition down the back straightaway. Jones went around and tagged the turn three wall with significant enough force to end his night and close the chapter on an improbable run for the World Series championship for the 14-year-old Fredericksburg, Virginia racer.
After a Cody Hall spin re-racked the restart order, a terrifying incident brought the Pro Late Model feature under the red flag when Chase Williams shot up the backstretch wall completely airborne and perpendicular to the racing surface. Williams was sandwiched three-wide between Andrew Sheid and Kevin Folan. Luckily the driver was unharmed but that car was completely killed as it came to rest back on all four wheels.
A clean restart allowed the front runners of Nasse and Noland to put on a show-up at the front. Noland did all he could to stay ahead, but Nasse was too strong, and with five to go Nasse pulled alongside and then ahead of Noland. The checkered flag fell and it was Nasse who would emerge victorious for the race and Swanson who claimed the championship after some eventful moments running mid-pack following pit road shuffles.
“I just had to stay on Noland there, I could see him burning the right front off of it,” Nasse recounted the back and forth battle. “He gave me a couple of hard door shots but we were able to get it clean; didn’t wreck any race cars.”
After Nasse and Noland, it was Casey Johnson, Will Cox, and Hinde rounding out the final top five for the Pro Late Model class. Steven Nasse will compete in the Orange Blossom 100, the Super Late Model division finale Saturday night.
Tour Modifieds had gone to war all week long. The wreck-filled events that came before the final 100 lap Richie Evans Memorial Tour-Type Modified feature were enough to convince teams and competitors to race each other in a cleaner capacity or suffer the financial and labor-intensive repercussions of more wrecked cars. For many teams in the field, it had already been a busy week of blood sweat and tears.
Mechanical resources were at their limit for some teams. The race began with an early spin by Eric Goodale in turn number four. After Goodale’s mishap, a majority of the laps were handled in a clean fashion with Craig Lutz showing the way from the pole. On lap 19 Andy Suess was the first contender to suffer mechanical woes as he came sputtering down the pit lane.
Last night’s winner Ryan Preece had made his way up to second before JR Bertuccio spun with assistance from Matthew Galko in turn number four bringing out the race’s second yellow of the night on lap 64. Tommy Catalano came to a stop in turn two on the restart. The field got going again and on lap 66, Patrick Emerling crept down the pit lane with a mechanical problem as parts and pieces showed their wear. In a surprising turn, the race leader that had dominated most of the finale suffered mechanical woes as well.
Lutz came down the pit lane from the lead and surrendered the point to Matt Hirschman on lap 77. Hirshman appeared to run away with the lead before Florida native, Jeremy Gerstner was spun around from sixth after starting 22nd with two laps to go. It was Preece and Hirschman on the front row. Both drivers accounted for the last six Richie Evans Memorial 100 victories. Two laps would settle the final night of Tour Modified action. Preece had a rough restart and Matt “Money” Hirschman ended his week in Florida with another feature win and the overall World Series Points Championship.
“We tried to do the best we could to perform, everybody did their job,” Hirschman said after he won his record-breaking fifth Richie Evans Memorial 100. “We missed some craziness and crashes in the middle of the week. We had a great car to compete tonight.”
Jon Mckennedy, Anthony Nocella, Preece, and Tyler Rypkema finished the final top five of 2021 for the Tour Modifieds at New Smyrna Speedway.
It was a long week for many teams in the Pro Late Model and Modified divisions at New Smyrna Speedway. The level of competition in these divisions is absolutely uncanny and the overall 2021 year is shaping up to burn the house down in terms of entertainment value all across the country.
Saturday’s Orange Blossom 100 will wrap up Speedweeks for the Super Late Models and the Florida Modifieds as they will crown their champion as well. Follow the action with live updates from race22.com, the Short Track Authority, and a recap of the final night from The World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway.