Matt Hirschman Takes Second Consecutive North-South Shootout Victory   By Jim Blacroch
"Mud Lane" Finishes One-Two in John Blewett III Memorial Mod Show
During the 2007 asphalt modified racing season the two drivers who dominated the late stages of Saturday evening’s John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park, and who also happen to be neighbors, had been on two different paths. Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa., has been on the rise ever since winning last season’s North-South Shootout, while his neighbor on a road called "Mud Lane", Eric Beers had hit a bit of a rough stretch in his career. On Saturday the duo showed the asphalt modified racing that they are both two of the strongest competitors in the division.
The usually reserved Hirschman was pumped up in victory lane. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Hirschman, who piloted his own DART Race of Champions modified, qualified second and inherited the lead when young Ryan Preece headed for pit road to make his mandatory pit stop. Beers had to work his way past Pete Brittain and then set sail for Hirschman, but it was to no avail as Hirschman held Beers off by a little less then a car length at the finish to collect his second consecutive North-South Shootout trophy.

“Wow, this one feels pretty good,” stated Hirschman, who is typically grounded in his celebrations, but showed plenty of emotion when exiting the car as he pounded on the roof of his red, white and black Troyer machine. “Eric (Beers) had two tires, with a few less laps on them.  At some point that was going to start showing up and I think it did in the final couple of laps, but we had enough. It was pretty close.”

Hirschman continued about the race following the pitstop. “The only people I kept tabs on during the race were Jimmy Blewett, his practice times were the best of anyone on Thursday, so I knew he would be competitive. Then in the race the guys I was keeping tabs on were Eric [Beers] and Bobby [Santos, III].  Bobby has been strong lately and if
he had got by Eric my thought would have come ‘here he comes again, because he passed me late at Thompson and got the win.”

Hirschman, who qualified second to Jimmy Blewett, in the star-studded field, took the lead on the start and other then a brief stretch led by young Ryan Preece when Hirschman headed pit side, it was all Hirschman, all night.
The difference in the race proved to be Hirschman’s no-tire strategy on the pitstop. The race rules stated that competitors had to make a mandatory pitstop between lap 25 and 75 and when the yellow waved on lap 32 for a Jason Myers spin everyone, with the exception of Ryan Preece, headed down pit road for their mandatory pit stop. With Preece still having to make his mandatory pitstop, the stage was set for the remainder of the race. Hirschman and ‘Pistol’ Pete Brittain took tires and went back out. Beers and Bobby Santos, III, behind the wheel of Ole’ Blue were the first of the cars that took tires to work their way back through the field up to Hirschman before Preece pitted.

“The option to take tires was definitely there,” explained Hirschman following the event. “Last year the no tire strategy worked for me, but we were definitely prepared to go with tires if we felt the need to, but the car was pretty good so we went with last year’s strategy and it worked again.”

Two Mod-men from Mud Lane were the top-dogs at the Concord Motorrsports Park North-South Shootout. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
As the race wore on the other contenders seemingly slipped by the wayside, beginning with Ted Christopher falling out with his second mechanical failure of the weekend (Christopher’s primary Ford mount had an engine expire in practice on Friday). James Civali and Donny Lia made contact with Civali spinning. Late in the race pole sitter Jimmy Blewett and Chuck Hossfeld made contact with Blewett spinning and Hossfeld going to the rear for his involvement, which left the final laps to the trio of Hirschman, Beers and Santos, and that’s the way it finished, but it wasn’t without excitement.
Bobby Santos III had the "Ol Blue #3" in position to pouce behind the two leaders. . (Jamie Williams Photo)
Hirschman was beginning to fade as Beers was closing. Santos, who looked like he was saving his car during the middle portion of the race, was staying in contact. Over the last couple of laps Hirschman and Beers began to stretch their lead over Santos, with Beers making one last ditch effort on the final corner of the final lap.

“The race off pit road ended up being the race, but we definitely needed the tires,” stated Beers following the event, who made his debut chauffeuring the Reynold’s Auto Wrecking, Viverios Insurance, JR Precast Troyer. “This was our first time in this car and I think I’ll be in the car for 2008 and we sure wanted to win, but Matt was good enough to hold us off. He’s got this place figured out. I’ve got to thank everyone that made this possible for us. I mean, we didn’t have that good of a year on the Tour and it just seemed like we were snake bitten everywhere but at Mahoning, but my guys, they stuck by my side and Bobby (Cayden) and his guys gave me a shot in this car and look at the results. I’m pretty happy with second, but believe me, I wanted to win this thing pretty bad.”

Santos, who hung on for third, has shown his true potential in a modified as the season closed. His third place run at Concord put an exclamation point on his win in the Tour finale at Thompson. Santos, who doesn’t have any immediate plans for the future, finished up the season on a high note.

“We were decent, but we definitely weren’t as good as Matt or Eric,” stated Santos. “Those guys were good tonight and we had a third place car tonight. I’ve got to thank everyone for the opportunity to drive this car and the success we’ve had. It’s been a pretty cool season. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens for next year.”

Burt Myers and Donny Lia rounded out the top five. Chuck Hossfeld, Charlie Pasteryak and Beers all won 25-lap qualifying races on Friday night of the event, while Ted Christopher and Bobby Grigas, III, won the consolation races on Saturday afternoon, which helped set the 33-car field. Carl Pasteryak won the non-qualifiers race.

Look for extended coverage of the 5th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout later this week in 51’s Leftovers section.

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