VERNON — There is no denying that Matt Janczuk, from Sherrill, was a favorite going into the recent DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Central Region kickoff race at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Janczuk has been a master on the Vernon half-mile oval. He won the 2019 track championship.
The 32-car field was jammed with the premier DIRTcar Sportsman Modified drivers of the Northeast, all vying to win the first series race of the 2020 season. Janczuk redrew the eighth starting position behind Kyle Inman, defending Series champion Kevin Root, Zach Sobotka, Chris Mackey, and other standouts.
The 30-lap feature had just a single caution flag slowing the action.
Janczuk used speed, multiple lines, and a little luck to work his way by the best in the business. The defending track champion reeled in leader Inman in the closing stages, and on the final lap and in the final corner, Janczuk muscled his No. 33x machine ahead of Inman at the line.
“We’ve won four in a row with tonight,” said Janczcuk. “Things have just been really good thanks to this Bicknell, DIG, and Fastline Performance.”
From the drop of the initial green flag, the racing was top to bottom on the track.
“We were pretty good in (turns) 3 and 4 at the top and the bottom was good if you hit it in 1 and 2. I was going in on the top of 1 and 2 and going across the track for the bottom to get off,” said Janczuk. “It was kind of the old ‘Stewie Friesen move,’ they call it. I made it work. I don’t know how but we did.”
Janczuk now has a guaranteed starting position in the World Short Track Championship invitational feature at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
After cleaning up the Sportsman race, Janczuk hopped in his DIRTcar 358 Modified and picked up a top-five finish there as well in Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship competition.
A late-race triumph for one driver can only mean heartbreak for another. Inman led most of the 30-lap sportsman feature but crossed the finish line second.
On the fateful final lap, Inman tried to fend off Janczuk and both cars came out of turn 4 wheel-to-wheel. Janczuk had momentum on the outside, which propelled him down the long Utica-Rome frontstretch ahead of Inman’s No. 20x for the win.
“It was tough. We were racing really hard there at the beginning. I had to run lines that I really shouldn’t have run,” said Inman. “I worked the tires a little too much going through the middle. I probably used up a little too much car early on. I’ll take a second place.”
Third-place finisher Chris Mackey showed a lot of speed to capture his podium finish. He stayed in the top five, dicing in and out of lapped traffic with the leaders for 30 laps. Mackey was quickest in his Timed Hot Laps group and finished second in his heat race.
“We made some changes after the last two races out and it seemed to help tonight, but we are still lacking a little bit. We started losing ground in lapped traffic. I knew Inman was right there. I got him on the restart and kept the lead for a while,” said Mackey.
Mackey had a close call with defending series champion Kevin Root. While racing side-by-side, Mackey pinched him down to the implement tires and Root had to jump on the brakes to prevent an unwanted wheelie or broken racecar.
“When you are out there racing against these guys you’ve got to keep your foot in it when you can. But we always try to race clean and hard, so I feel bad about that,” Mackey said.
Root finished fourth and Zach Sobotka rounded out the top five.
The next Central Region race in the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Serie is scheduled for today at Land of Legends Raceway in Canandaigua.
Feature finish: 1. Matt Janczuk, 2. Kyle Inman, 3. Chris Mackey, 4. Kevin Root, 5. Zach Sobotka, 6. Payton Talbot, 7. Alan Fink, 8. A.J. Miller, 9. Will Shields, 10. Willy Decker Jr., 11. Dalton Rombough, 12. Mike Fowler, 13. Addison Bowman, 14. Dylan Zacharias, 15. Brent Joy, 16. Dave Moyer, 17. Alex Payne, 18. Tyler Corcoran, 19. Mike Button, 20. Charlie Tibbits, 21. Mark Yorker, 22. A.J. Digsby, 23. Rocco Leone, 24. Bailey Groves, 25. Kyle Rood, 26, Mike Grover, 27. Tim Falter, 28. Mark Effner, 29. Ernie Staelens, 30. Ryan Dolbear, 31. Matt Richardson, 32. Ed Lukas.