two, he’ll be right where I’m at.  It will be easier then for me to become a crew chief or co-crew chief then.  I’ll never really leave the sport.”

Tony Hirschman is a proud father, but he doesn’t plan to give Matt any special consideration on the racetrack this year.  He doesn’t expect any in return either.

“Matt’s not going to pull over and let me by.  Hopefully, we can race each other hard, but clean.”

Matt Hirschman has served as his father’s co-crew chief during the last two championship years.  Racing against the #48 team will mean that he will have to make some adjustments to that role.
Youngster to Run for Whelen Tour RoY Title
Getting a foothold as a driver in racing these days isn’t an easy thing to do.  Even if you have the bloodline of a champion, without a large bankroll you might be on the outside looking in.

It’s not much easier for a young team to get going either.  Committing to a full schedule on a major tour is quite a quite a task given the resources that are needed to compete.
up,” explained Hirschman.  “I don’t know if it is going to be an even split or how it’s going to be yet exactly, but we are looking at combining the two teams to run the full schedule.”

The Darling team is best known for running the #52 Busch North (now Busch East) cars of out their Massachusetts shop with Jerry Marquis behind the wheel for a limited schedule.  They will continue doing that this season in addition to their Modified program.  That made the team a perfect fit for Hirschman.

“They are only looking to run a limited schedule because they are still going to run a limited Busch East schedule with Jerry,” said Hirschman.  “They knew what I wanted to do and it’s going to work out for this year.  Beyond that, we’ll see.  Who know what we happen in the future, but we are hoping to built a relationship that will last.”

The racing community is a small world.  It is small enough that even though car owner and driver have not met yet, they have so many common acquaintances that putting the deal together without even sitting down together was pretty easy.
So to make things work, sometimes you need to get a little creative.  That is exactly what Matt Hirschman and a pair of car owners, Ed Bennett and Darling Racing, are doing to approach the 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.

Hirschman, who made seven Tour starts for Bennett’s #59 team in 2005, will divide his time between both operations in 2006.

“I’m going to be back with Ed Bennett in the #59 again and we’re also going to team up with Darling Racing to put together a Modified next year to split the schedule
“I don’t personally know the Darlings yet, but everyone that I talked to spoke very highly of them.  We’ve just talked by phone so far.  I’ve talked to Jerry and he thought this would be a good situation for me.  In a sense, we’ll be teammates.  I get along with Jerry and I’ve got my Dad to help.  There are a lot of guys that I can go to for information.  I have a lot of respect for all of the veteran drivers.”

One of those veteran drivers is Matt’s father, Tony Hirschman.  The elder Hirschman has won five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships, including the last two.  He doesn’t plan on stepping out of the driver’s seat anytime soon, so it looks like he’ll be going wheel to wheel with his son for the foreseeable future on the Modified Tour.

Having his son behind the wheel might make retirement more palatable when that day comes though.

“It seems like I’ve been asked for the last 100 years, when I’m going to retire,” said Tony Hirschman.  “Well, when I don’t qualify and race well anymore, I hope that I’ll be the first one to notice that and I’ll hang it up then.  Matt’s coming along and in a year or
Matt (L) and his father Tony (R) talk before Matt's debut at Waterford this past season.  (51 Photo)
Matt Hirschman will be back in the #59 Modified this season - for some races.  He'll have another ride for the rest of the schedule.  (Hodge Photo)
Role Reversal: Chris talks with Charlie before a race last season at Thompson (T), Charlie gives Chris some pointers this past week at Waterford. (B)
“It looks like there is going to be a lot of talent running for that.  James Civali in the #28, Danny Sammons in Ralph Solhem’s #0, possibly Chris Pasteryak, maybe Anthony Sesley will run the full season.  There are some good drivers in that group who are aiming for it.”

Another thing that Hirschman is not doing yet is making a master plan for his racing future.  In an era of five-year plans to get into Cup racing or chasing down the proverbial ARCA, Busch Series or Truck ride, this is one young man who just wants to master his craft in the series where he is at before worrying about moving to another one.  The fact that Darling Racing competes in the Busch East Series isn’t lost on Hirschman, but he’s not planning on gunning for a ride in that car anytime soon.

“You never really know what lies down the road.  I would be open to [Busch East].  Regionally, running in the same area and at some of the same tracks would be good, but I don’t have a plan mapped out either.  I just want to race the Modifieds right now and do the best that we can do.”

“We really haven’t talked about it yet,” said Matt.  “With my racing every race this year, I really won’t be able to do what I’ve done before.  I can still do the set-ups at the shop and the homework at home.  I’ve made the set-up calls during the races and I like to call pit strategy.  Obviously, I won’t be able to do that so my role will change.  It’s probably more important this year that we can communicate well and work together than ever.  In the past, I could do my own thing but there were a lot of things that the driver didn’t need to know.  Now, we’ll both be drivers.  We’ll work together, but that relationship will change.”

This season, Hirschman will be up for an honor of his own as well.  He is eligible for NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year award, but isn’t necessarily banking on winning it either.

“I have my rookie status and I will definitely be running the schedule to go for that [award],” said Hirschman.  “Winning Rookie of the Year is not going to make or break the season for us.  It would be nice, but it isn’t our biggest goal.  We’re hoping to just be competitive everywhere and make every race.  If we can win Rookie of the Year, that would be a bonus.
When he's not racing, Matt helps makes the calls for his father's races.  (51 Photo)
Matt Hirschman won't be spending as much time calling the shots on the #48 this year.  (Top - 51 Photo).  Instead, he'll be going wheel to wheel with it like he did last fall at Thompson.  (Hodge Photo)