ROSSBURG – Nick Hoffman has been winning major modified races across the United States, but Saturday night he etched his name into the Eldora Speedway record book by capturing his first Late Model checkered flag, winning the 25-lap Sunoco American Late Model Series main event in the speedway’s 64th season opener.
Jacob Hawkins dominated the 20-lap UMP Modified feature event while two-time and defending track champion Rob Trent closed out the evening with a win in the 15-lap Stock Car chase.
Hoffman, from Mooresville, North Carolina, inherited the lead when race leader Kent Robinson jumped a restart on the second lap, and Hoffman never looked back running the high-line around the high-banked, one-half mile oval to perfection to beat Robinson to the checkered flag by nearly five car lengths.
“This isn’t just my first win here in a late model, this is my first win ever in a late model,” Hoffman said. “I guess there is no better place to win one then here. This is really amazing.”
Robinson finished in the runner-up position while defending Late Model track champion Jon Henry finished in third place ahead of Hawkins and Jeff Babcock, who rallied to his top-five finish after a spin on the opening lap.
“I didn’t know the leader could jump a start,” a disappointed Robinson said. “But I am not sure it would have made any difference.”
Rusty Schlenk, Casey Noonan, Nick Latham, Jared Bailey and Dustin Nobbe completed the top 10.
Hawkins, of Fairmont, West Virginia, then jumped into his modified and jumped to the early lead from his outside pole starting position and never looked back, picking up his sixth career win at Eldora.
“We were a little off after the heat race, and the guys made a couple adjustments, and they obviously were the right one’s because the car was flawless,” Hawkins said.
Jerry Bowersock finished in the runner-up position while defending track champion Jeff Koz, Mike Learman and Jonathan Taylor completed the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Dylan Woodling, Jared Spalding, Evan Taylor, Joel Dick and Aaron Orr.
“He was really good up there in the top groove, and I just wasn’t sure I want to run that close to the wall,” Bowersock said. “I was hoping I could force him up a little higher on one of the restarts and maybe he would make a mistake, but he was just too good. We finished second to what I consider one of the best modified teams in the country so I have no complaints.”
Trent had dropped as far back as fifth place in the Stock Car main event but then got the break he needed when Woodard spun from the lead just three laps from the finish. Trent then moved around Craig Swartz and Paul Pardo on the restart and held off a late charge by Donnie Jeschke to pick up the opening night win.
“We were a little loose early, but the tires really came in right before that and we were hooked up those last three laps,” Trent, from Lima said.
Jeschke finished in second place ahead of Pardo, Craig Swartz and Ed Hounshell. Frank Paladino, Anthony Goode, Jeremy Creech and Brandon Archey rounded out the top 10.
Next Saturday night Eldora Speedway hosts the Saturday Night Speedfest featuring the UMP Modifieds, the Eldora Stock Cars and the Vores Compacts. The springtime start-times will once again be in effect with spectator gates opening at 4 p.m., hot laps beginning at 5 p.m. and show time at 6 p.m.