Oltra set to compete in Modified RoC 250
Brandon Oltra came to Evergreen Raceway last Sunday with a dual purpose: He wanted to run the special 50-lap Modified feature and he wanted to use it as a tuneup for the 67th annual Race of Champions (RoC) 250, which will be held September 28-30 at Lake Eris Speedway in North East, Pa.
The granddaddy of Modified racing, the Race of Champions 250 is the second longest running race in the country in terms of longevity, next to only the Indianapolis 500.
It returns to Pennsylvania for the first time since 1992 when it was held at Pocono Raceway. It began in 1951 at Langhorne Speedway and has had turns at Trenton, Pocono, Flemington, Chemung and, in most years, at New York’s Oswego Speedway.
To win this race puts a driver in elite company as a who’s who of Modified greats have captured the coveted RoC. Locally, the big names include Jimmy Spencer, Eric Beers, Zane Zeiner and Tony and Matt Hirschman, who are both multiple winners.
Like those drivers, Oltra has been a winner at Evergreen and Mahoning Valley speedways.
The Alden racer understands and appreciates the great history of the RoC. He’s anxious to get another shot at running the time honored event.
“Lake Erie Speedway is a beautiful f acility and the RoC does a really good job of it all and we’re looking forward to going out there,’’ Oltra said. “Hopefully, we’ll make all 250 laps, get in a good solid run and bring it home in one piece.
“I probably had been to it over a dozen times, first as a crew member. When I finally got the chance to run in that show... to me that was the biggest race there is for us in Modifieds. So it’s really special getting the chance to race it the last three years.’’
Oltra has become one of Evergreen’s favorites when the speedway holds its monthly 50-lappers. It’s the track where he cut his teeth in racing, including his debut in Modifieds. From there he went on to Mahoning Valley and then the Sunoco Race of Champions Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
When 2017 rolled around, Oltra was ready to make a full assault with the RoC Tour, but his season was cut short after a hard crash at Jennerstown Speedway in June.
“We actually had expected to run every race here at Evergreen and as many races as we could on the RoC Tour,’’ Oltra said. “But after we ran Lake Erie, we went to the next RoC race at Jennerstown. I got in a bad wreck and ended up getting a concussion, so I had to sit out another two and half months until I got the okay to come back.”
Oltra had to sit out until early August when he returned to action at Chemun gS peed rome in New York. Everything went well and he came home with a solid top-10 finish.
“The hardest part is that it’s so hard ducking in and out of shows and you’re not running consistently ,” he said. “The problem with our program is that something is always changing. We get a new car and that gets wrecked or we have crew chief changes. Our then crew chief Joe Kaminski passed away on Father’s Day last year and that was a big blow to us. ... When that happened, we just decided to take a ste p back and just focus here at Evergreen.
“We had a really good year too, but I missed running on the RoC Tour. I love racing with those guys and going to different tracks and getting the experience that a lot of others may not get to do. This year we decided to do that and bounce back and forth from Evergreen and the (RoC) Tour, but the wreck set us back.”
Oltra went into last Sunday’s race meet with high expectations, especially after-sitting out most of the summer. He knew a good run would give him the momen- tum heading into the 250.
“It’s a big deal here today for us because we know we have a fast car today and I’m going to drive the wheels off it and hopefully get a win,” he said.
Unfortunately his day was cut short as he got collected in a wreck and was left with a damaged race car. But panice never set in as this is a team which has been through that type of situation and has proven its resiliency. You can expect them to be well-prepared for next week’s big show.
“We did quite a bit of maintenance on the car when I had all that down time,’’ Oltra explained. “Basically, we have everything freshened up. We have to go up there and have all our ducks in a row, so when we get there we don’t break anything.”