2022 72nd Annual Race of Champions 250 at Lake Erie Speedway

Historic Race Of Champions 250 Ready For Its 72nd Edition At Lake Erie

Historic Race Of Champions 250 Ready For Its 72nd Edition At Lake Erie

The Race of Champions 250 is one of the longest consecutively running races in America, second only to the Indianapolis 500

Sep 21, 2022 by Rob Blount
Historic Race Of Champions 250 Ready For Its 72nd Edition At Lake Erie

The beautiful Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania is getting ready to host one of the longest-running racing events in the United States, the 72nd Annual Race of Champions 250. The only race that has run longer is the Indianapolis 500. With a record book that deep, there’s plenty of history to go along with the prestige. 

“Modified racing is fortunate to lay claim to having the longest consecutively running event only behind the Indianapolis 500,” said eight-time Race of Champions 250 winner, Matt Hirschman.

The Race of Champions 250 started way back in 1951 on the one-mile dirt oval of Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. That race was a dirt Modified race and was won by Hully Bunn.

The first 14 versions of this race were on the dirt at Langhorne before the track was paved in 1965. Then it became a pavement Modified race and was won by Bill Slater. Legendary Modified drivers like Ray Hendrick and Dutch Hoag scored Race of Champions 250 victories on the pavement at Langhorne.

In total, the Race of Champions 250 has been hosted at seven different race tracks throughout its 72-year history. The first 21 events were held at Langhorne before the race was moved to the 1.5-mile Trenton International Speedway in Trenton, New Jersey in 1972. That first race at Trenton was won by 1986 Daytona 500 champion Geoff Bodine. In addition to Bodine, the “King of the Modifieds” Richie Evans, Fred De Sarro, Ray Hendrick and Maynard Troyer all scored victories while Trenton was the home for the Race of Champions.

Trenton hosted the Race of Champions for just five years before the race was moved back to Pennsylvania at Pocono Raceway. Pocono held this event on two different configurations throughout a 15-year time period from 1977 to 1991. The first four versions at Pocono were contested on the entire 2.5-mile triangle. Bodine, Evans, and Troyer were the only drivers to go to victory lane on the big track.

The final 11 installments of the event at Pocono were held on a three-quarter mile oval made up of the frontstretch and pavement that went into the infield behind pit road. This time period is often considered to be the heyday for the Race of Champions 250. The names that went to victory lane during this time period on the ¾-mile oval include George Kent, Greg Sacks, Jimmy Spencer, Brian Ross, Brett Bodine, George Brunnhoelzl, Reggie Ruggiero, Tony Hirschman, Mike Stefanik and Satch Worley.

In 1992 the Race of Champions was moved back to The Garden State for four years at the .625-mile Flemington Speedway. Billy Pauch, Tony Siscone, Lenny Boyd and John Blewett III captured victories in this race at Flemington Speedway.

Beginning in 1996, the race moved north into New York for the first time in its history. It was held at the historic Oswego Speedway where it remained for the next 19 years. The 5/8-mile Oswego Speedway is the second-longest tenured home for the Race of Champions 250, hosting 20 races in total. Jan Leaty, Tony Hirschman, Sege Fidanza, Chuck Hossfeld, George Kent Sr., Tim Mangus, Eric Beers, TJ Potrzebowski, Bill Putney, Zane Zeiner, and Matt Hirschman all went to victory lane while this race was held at Oswego.

In 2015 the race was moved to New York’s Chemung Speedrome for just one year. That race was won by Matt Hirschman, and then the following year the race was back at Oswego for the final time to date. Hirschman won that race as well.

Since then, the .375-mile state-of-the-art Lake Erie Speedway has been the home for the Race of Champions 250, and so far it has been Matt Hirschman’s personal playground. Hirschman has won four of the first five races held at Lake Erie from 2017 to 2020. Tonawonda, New York’s Andy Jankowiak is the most recent race winner one year ago.

Throughout this events 72-year history, just 12 drivers have won the Race of Champions multiple times. Matt Hirschman is the all-time leader in victories with eight wins, including six of the last seven races. Dutch Hoag is second on the all-time list with five. Hoag and Hirschman are the only drivers with five or more victories. Five drivers have won this race twice, three drivers have won it three times, and two drivers have won it four times.

For Hirschman, one of the most decorated Modified drivers of all time, winning the Race of Champions 250 even just once is one of his proudest accomplishments. And he’s very clear about how it has not gotten old to win this race as many times as he has.

“Just look at the names that have won previously,” said Hirschman. “It’s a who’s-who list of most of the greatest to ever strap in a Modified. Hoisting that trophy is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I’ve ever felt.”

Race fans that cannot make it to the Lake Erie Speedway to see the event in person can catch the 72nd Annual Race of Champions 250 live on FloRacing on Sunday, September 25.