Matt Hirschman Sprouts Fenders by Mike Twist
One of Modified's Hottest Drivers Gets a CW East Test With Evernham Team
Matt Hirschman (51 Photo)
Steve Park, Brett Bodine and Greg Sacks, the Tour is widely ignored now when it comes to developing talent.
Opportunities for young Mod drivers lately have been few and far between. Donny Lia advanced to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series after winning the 2007 Modified Tour championship, Todd Szegedy got a very brief chance to race a few events for car owner Joe Nemechek in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series after winning the 2003 Tour title and current point leader Chuck Hossfeld got a doomed chance at one of Jack Roush's Trucks several years back, but largely most of the young talent in that type of racing haven't been called up to the majors very much in recent times.
However, team owner Ray Evernham is a former Modified racer himself and many of his key people came from the short track ranks as well. The lure of a talented young driver, who earlier this summer went on a four-race win streak, was too powerful to ignore and recently, Hirschman's phone rang.
Anyone who has seen the move Forest Gump can remember the character Bubba talk about all of the things that you can do with shrimp. That monotone list can be changed around slightly to also describe what Matt Hirschman has raced in his career to date.
Tour Modifieds…RoC Modifieds…Open Show Modifieds…SK Modifieds…Weekly Track Modifieds...the list goes on.
And while the young Pennsylvania driver has won in most of those racecars, he has gotten some heat for the fact that everything he has every raced - from day one of his career to the current day - has been a type Modified.
On Tuesday though, Hirschman sprouted fenders and got the chance to test a NASCAR Camping World East Series car for Gillette-Evernham Motorsports at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It could be a start to seeing Hirschman make the move to a racecar with fenders - and eventually towards one of NASCAR's big three series.
“It's been awhile since someone came out of the Modifieds [into one of NASCAR's big three series],” said Hirschman. “But getting this test shows that there are people out there who pay attention to the Modifieds. Right now, it's just a test. But it could turn into something more.”
Hirschman is correct in the fact that while the Modifieds were once one of NASCAR's top talent factories - producing NASCAR Cup winners Geoff Bodine, Jimmy Spencer,
Hirschman heads out to the track in the #9 car at New Hampshire. (NHMS Photo)
went trouble-free. It was a great opportunity and I really have to thank Gillette-Evernham Motorsports and Dave Davis for giving it to me.”
The biggest difference between the Modifieds and the CW East cars was an obvious one. Just by looking at the cars
“The view is much different and that took some getting used to. In the Modifieds, you are low to the ground and everything is open. You've got a great view of your surroundings. In these cars, you don't see as much.”
Hirschman did get enough laps in to feel race-ready in case the opportunity presents itself.
“At the end of the day, I felt comfortable enough in the car that I thought I could race one,” said Hirschman. “Our times that we were running, in comparison to the other cars that were there, were very competitive times. So I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be ready.”
So will Hirschman get a chance to race the car?
“It came about at the last minute,” said Hirschman. “It just happened and I really learned the details as things progressed. The car was prepared by Dave Davis Motorsports and they were the ones who first contacted me. But basically, it was an Evernham test. Later, I was contacted by Ray and a representative from the team. They wanted to evaluate a couple of drivers and they had myself and Kevin Swindell there to test. Another Dave Davis car was also there with a new driver [ACT Late Model standout Joey Pole] as well.
“Ray Evernham has Modified roots and raced with my father [five-time NASCAR Modified Tour champion Tony Hirschman] going back to the 80's.”
Despite being a new experience to Hirschman, the test went very well after a few laps to get acquainted with a new type of car.
“The first time out was a little bit different,” admitted Hirschman. “But we made progress all day and by the end of the day, I felt pretty comfortable in the car. I made probably 60 laps and each time out, we made steady improvements. It was a good test and it
Hirschman has kept busy by racing Modifieds everywhere and anywhere - even sometimes on the same day! In June, he raced at NHMS in the afternoon (Top) and then won at All-Star Speedway that night. (51 Photo)
“That's a possibility,” said Hirschman. “They do plan on racing a few events this year and three of them are combination events with the Modifieds. They were going to evaluate everything after the test to see what they learned and let us know who would be in the car. So I could be in it for one of the final races of the year, but that hasn't been determined yet.”
While Matt's father Tony is best known for his five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships and 35 victories on that Tour, he was also quite a racy competitor in what is now the CW East Series as well in the early 1990's. Driving the #1 Oldsmobiles owned by Tony Vecchio won the 1991 Busch North Series Rookie of the Year crown, a September 1992 race at Oxford Plains Speedway and placed in the top 10 of the standings for two seasons.
“I remember very well when dad raced,” said Matt Hirschman. “I remember of all the place where we went.”
And the Camping World East definitely isn't his Father's Series…
“My Dad ran from 1991 through 1993 in Busch North and at that time, other than Loudon, they just went to short tracks. We'd go to Lee, All-Star, Holland and places like that. Those tracks are now gone from the schedule and it's quite a bit different now. It went from a short track series to a development series. They run bigger venues and it is a feeder series. Back then, the veterans, who were short track graduates from the New England area, dominated the series. It's changed a lot.”