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Anthony Nocella holds off Matt Hirschman in thrilling World Series opener

To be the best, Anthony Nocella had to beat the best …


To score his first Tour Type Modified victory in the World Series of Asphalt, Anthony Nocella needed to hold off a superstar with the nickname Big Money.

No easy task.

But Nocella kept Matt Hirschman at bay by the checkered flag to win the 50-lap Speedweeks opener on Monday at New Smyrna Speedway.

“I knew we had a pretty good car, but I know that he’s always fast here and I knew he’d be there at the end,” Nocella said. “He’s probably one of the best at saving his tires and making a run to the end. He knows this place really well. We had a good starting spot up there on the front row and I just figured if I could keep him behind me, I’d have a shot there at the end because I knew he’d be able to save his tires.

“I figured if I could make my car wide and reverse the roles, it may be hard for him to get by.”

Hirschman spent much of the race in third, picking off Patrick Emerling for second by Lap 43, but only after a seven-lap battle through lapped traffic.  Nocella had taken the lead from Craig Lutz on the Lap 13 restart but started to fade back to Hirschman in the closing laps.

The leaders ran nose-to-tail for the final four laps, Hirschman moving to the outside on the final lap, getting side-by-side for a drag race to the finish line.

Big Money simply ran out of time.

“No excuses,” Hirschman said. “Exciting finish and it’s Monday night. I’m happy with where we’re at. I’d like to win, but I’d like to win every race. That’s just not going to happen. We’ve got four ahead of us coming up. It was a good show. These Modifieds put on a better show than any fendered class any day of the week.”

Emerling held on to finish third with Ryan Preece finishing fourth ahead of Lutz.

After the race, Preece immediately climbed from his car and lifted it off the ground to begin making changes in advance of Tuesday’s follow-up.

“We sucked,” Preece said with a laugh. “We just weren’t as good as we needed to be. I knew it as soon as we fired off. I was hoping they would start falling back to me sooner than they did. One more lap and we might have gotten third. If we’re going to win tomorrow or Wednesday, we’re going to need more forward drive.”

A total of 31 cars took the green flag and each of them are expected back for the second race of the week, a 35-sprint.

  1. Anthony Nocella
  2. Matt Hirschman
  3. Patrick Emerling
  4. Ryan Preece
  5. Craig Lutz
  6. Tyler Rypkema
  7. J.R. Bertuccio
  8. Kyle Ebersole
  9. Jeremy Gerstner
  10. Mike Willis, Jr.
  11. Jimmy Blewett
  12. David Sapienza
  13. Eddie McCarthy
  14. Brad Vanhouten
  15. Tommy Catalano
  16. Jeffrey Gallup
  17. Jimmy Zacharias
  18. Anthony Sesely
  19. Eric Goodale
  20. Amy Catalano
  21. Andy Petree
  22. Paul Townsond
  23. Joe DeGracia
  24. Tyler Catalano
  25. Rich Parker
  26. Brett Meservey
  27. Adam LaCicero
  28. Ray Fattaruso
  29. Mike Bologna
  30. Broc Brown
  31. Kevin Shea

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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