With all eyes on favorites Matt Hirschman, Ryan Preece and Jon McKennedy, it was instead JR Bertuccio that stole the show in the opening Tour-Type Modified feature of the World Series of Asphalt.
Bertuccio worked his way around pole sitter Jimmy Zacharies on a lap 33 restart and held off challenges from Preece and Hirschman to claim Tuesday’s 50-lap feature at New Smyrna Speedway, his first win at the facility since 2002.
“This was pretty big to give the team some motivation,” Bertuccio said. “Now we have something to base the rest of the week off of, so they expect me to win every night.
“The car was on rails. It was real, real good. We have a little work to do still, but I think we’ll be here a couple more times this week.”
Zacharies surged to the lead from the front row at the race’s beginning, with Bertuccio following suit in second.
The two proceeded to play a game of cat and mouse for the opening half of the race. With the better handling machine of the two, Bertuccio found him, self within one second of Zacharies for the entire opening run, often diving his No. 2 under Zacharies in the turn, only to lose ground on corner exit.
In the end Bertuccio proved unable to complete the pass until the lone restart following the lap-33 caution, a fact he attributed to cautious driving.
“It was opening night, and you don’t want to make any enemies,” Bertuccio said. “Me and Zackaries have got a little bit of a past, so I tried to be as easy as I can with him. If he races me clean, I’ll race him clean. That’s in the past – we’ll move forward from it.”
After starting deep in the field, Preece maneuvered his way to second with 17 laps remaining, but the aggressive driving he required to get to the front betrayed him when his car began to suffer handling issues in the closing laps.
Hirschman would pass Preece with four laps to go to claim second.
“A good opening night considering we’ve got five ahead of us,” Hirschman said. “The No. 2 (Bertruccio) was just that good. He was on rails all night. He got better as the race went on, and I didn’t expect that.
“This is something to build on, that’s for sure. I knew Ryan (Preece) would be coming – he’s been the best car coming for two years, and I haven’t been here for two years, so to beat him was a good night for us.”
After experiencing troubles in practice and qualifying, Preece felt relief to hold on to a third-place result.
“I was really beating it up trying to move forward,” Preece said. “I was really nervous after qualifying, just wasn’t really happy with the race car. I literally spent all the way up until the super race scaling and getting everything right to where it needs to be.
“As soon as we went green I was like ‘yep, this is the best car that we’ve had here all week so far’. I’m really happy with it, and we have something to move forward with”
McKennedy and Ron Silk rounded out the top five, with Tommy Catalano, Timmy Solimito, Zacharies, Jimmy Blewett and Amy Catalano completing the top 10. The Tour-Type Modifieds will return for night two on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
- JR Bertuccio
- Matt Hirschman
- Ryan Preece
- Jon McKennedy
- Ron Silk
- Tommy Catalano
- Timmy Solomito
- Jimmy Zacharias
- Jimmy Blewett
- Amy Catalano
- Chuck Hossfeld
- Jeremy Gerstner
- Austin Pickens
- Shawn Balluzzo
- Calvin Caroll
- Ricky Moxley
- Joe DeGracia
- Tyler Rypkema
- Justin Bonsignore
- Paul Hartwig Jr.
- Tom Tohn
- TJ Zacharias
- Al Ermmarino