For our first race in the ROC Late Model series our expectations as a team were very high. With that being said we were definitely very happy at the end of the night.
On September 26th the Marhefka Motorsports race team converged on Lake Erie Speedway for the First Annual “Rick Wylie Classic” with a sizable purse on the line. Some of the biggest names in racing were also there to make sure their presence was felt at Lake Erie Speedway that weekend. A field that included the names of Patrick Emerling, Tommy Catalano, Sam Fullone, Eldon King, and Jerrick Johnson was never going to be an easy race to be competitive in yet alone have a shot at the win, which is just what our team did.
Brandan started the feature in the 10th position after getting put in a very fast heat. After some big changes from the heat race to the feature Brandan quickly started passing cars. After only a few laps, he drove his way into the top 5 and was on his way forward when a caution came out only a few laps into the 48 lap contest. On the following restart, Brandan drove up to 4th and it would stay this way the next handful of laps with the top 4 nose to tail breaking away from the pack.
With 15 laps left Brandan started to make his move to the front having a much faster car than the two cars in front of him. On lap 36 Brandan was on the inside of Tommy Catalano passing for 3rd place when the two made contact sending Brandan spinning to the infield. Brandan had to start shotgun on the field with only 12 laps left and what followed in the next 12 laps was nothing short of amazing. Our Wheelman drove through the field passing cars on the outside and inside and starting racing side by side with 4th place with 2 laps left.
Coming out of turn 4 on the last circuit of Lake Erie Speedway for the “Rick Wylie Classic” Brandan edged out Dave Heitzhaus for a 4th place finish. An inspired drive by Brandan allowed us to finish out Asphalt Season on a high. We also have a video of the race on our YouTube Page! To find the video simply search “Marhefka Motorsports” and scroll down to the “Rick Wylie Classic”!
After the Saturday morning practice, Brandan felt like we had a decent car to go into the 150 lap main event, “The car feels good, it is drivable I just feel like we are missing a little bit of speed.”. Brandan was not wrong we were not the fastest car on the short run however on the long run the car seemed to come alive. After qualifying and heat races where all said and done Brandan would start the “3rd Annual Motor Mountain Masters” from the 23rd starting spot in a stout 35 car field. At the start of the race, Brandan was just making laps and he was getting frustrated because he felt like his car was so much faster than everyone around him. Over the radio, at one point he said “I have to get going forward otherwise I am going to get ran over”, and he did just that! After following Joe Maruca, the third-place finisher from the week before, Brandan made his move to the inside and completed the pass. Brandan managed to drive his way up to 17th, advancing 6 positions, in a caution shortened first stage.
At the start of the second stage, Brandan found himself battling with local favorites Barry Awtey and Zane Ferrell for an extended period of time. Brandan had the faster car but was unable to make the bottom work as he was battling tight conditions all night long. He then worked his way to the high side of the race track and really started to make his march toward the front of the pack. On the final lap of the stage, Brandan was able to put it three wide and pass two cars in the same corner! This put Brandan up to 12th, another 5 spots gained this segment! Over the segment break, we decided to put a few gallons of fuel in the car and put right-side tires on the car to make it to the end of the race.
On the initial restart for the final stage of the race, Brandan would fire off very tight, which is in most cases the opposite of what putting right-side tires only on the car would typically do! But the wheelman adjusted his driving style and drove his way up to 11th before the next caution. On the following restart, Brandan worked his way up to as high as 8th and was having a solid top 10 run and was even the highest running competitor from Pennsylvania! Then on a restart with three laps to go there was a massive crash in front of Brandan. He was able to avoid too much major damage but did clip Eldon King, a New York driver, on his way through the accident. We were forced to relinquish our 10th place running spot to come down pit road and fix our damage. It was unbeknownst to the Marhefka Motorsports crew that you were able to make repairs under red flag conditions so we did lose a few spots coming to pit road under yellow. Then a car that was a lap down then restarted in our position which took away our opportunity to restart on the outside, Brandan’s preferred line throughout the night. Brandan still drove his way through a few cars on the Green, white, checkered restart and managed to bring his car home in the tenth position.
After the race, all the crew had to say about Brandan’s performance was “WOW”. Brandan was exhausted after wheeling the car for 2 hours on a hot night. After some fluids, Brandan was able to sign some autographs and meet some eager fans! It was a great night for Marhefka Motorsports!