MYERS AND HIRSCHMAN BATTLE FOR VICTORY
It was easy to get caught up in the geographical differences after the North-South Shootout Tour-type Modified feature at Concord Motor Speedway (NC). After all, for the first time in the six-year history of the race, a Southern racer won. Burt Myers out-dueled two-time defending winner Matt Hirschman of Pennsylvania.
The battle wasn’t so much about North vs. South though. It was just two hardcore Modified pilots who battled it out over the closing laps for a victory.
“North or South…whatever. We’re all Modified drivers,” said Myers. “We all do this because we love it and not to get rich.”
Of course, Myers couldn’t resist playing things up to the crowd a little bit. In victory lane, he brought out the stars and bars of the Confederate flag and draped the roof of his #1 Modified with it. The crowd went nuts for that, with North Carolinians shouting for joy and invading Yankees just plain shouting.
“We’re All Modified drivers?” Yeah right.
“That’s for the show and the politics. That’s for you in the media,” a smiling Myers insisted.
Myers was the polesitter for the race, but he dropped back at the start slightly. That put RoC Modified regular Erick Rudolph into the lead. Hirschman took over the top spot on a lap 19 restart and held it until making his pit stop for the race, a stop that was mandated to occur between laps 30 and 110, according to race rules.
Hirschman, and the majority of the leaders, pitted when the caution came out on lap 30 exactly. When they pitted, Myers inherited the lead. He took it and ran…and ran…and ran. Myers almost ran out of time when a long green run messed with his race strategy. Finally, on lap 98, the caution came out and Myers got to make his stop.
“When I looked up and the whole field ducked in, I was nervous,” admitted Myers. “But I said that we made our bed and now we had to lay in it. We were to the point where we would have had to come in under green on lap 109 to keep from losing two laps. Then I came into turn three and there was an air cleaner cover lying in the racetrack. I started shouting 'debris! debris! debris!' I knew that they wouldn’t believe me, but I wanted them to know it. Luckily, there was a caution.”
Myers now had just 27 laps to make it back through the field, catch Hirschman and pass him for the victory.
“I heard them say something about 15 laps to go and I had no idea what position I was in. I looked up on the scoreboard and I saw that the #79 was fifth and I knew that I was in front of him. So we came around the next time and I saw that I was in third and I knew I was catching them. I just didn’t know if we had enough time. Then the caution came out and I knew that we had a shot at it.”
When Myers did catch Hirschman, there wasn’t much of a fight for the lead.
“We just got beat by tires,” said Hirschman. “New tires for him more than old tires for me decided it. It’s about timing and the way that it played out, it played right into his hands. There was nothing that I could do about it. We did exactly what we needed to do and came up short.”
“I knew that if I was patient and got it just right, I would be the car to beat,” said Myers. “And everything worked out. It was great. We could have ended up in the back because of our strategy, but we got a caution and it played out just right.”
Hirschman held on to finish second, but he still managed to keep things in perspective after the race.
“My head is up and I’m fine with the way the race went,” said Hirschman. “You’re not going to win this race every year. We won it two years in a row and came up second this year…So I’m happy and have no regrets. “
Ronnie Silk, Ted Christopher and Bobby Santos rounded out the top five finishers in the Tour-type Modified race.
NORTH OR SOUTH?
Ronnie Silk claimed the final podium finish in the Shootout, but was it a run for the North or the South? Silk hails from Connecticut, but his Hillbilly Racing team is based in North Carolina.
“I don’t care. Whatever they score it as, I’m just happy that we had a good run,” said Silk. “There were points in the day yesterday where we were struggling. Today, we were up front for most of the race. The guys made the right call by pitting late.”
Silk used the same pit strategy as Myers did in the race. It was a strategy that nearly backfired, but ended up paying off big because of the advantage that new tires had late in the race.
“These tires that we have down south suck so bad that when someone gets new ones, it is a major difference,” said Silk. “I was worried about going past lap 110 without a caution. Then we would have had to pit under green. But luckily, the caution came out.”
BEERS RUNS OUT OF JUICE – TWICE
Eric Beers was a contender in both the SK Modified and Tour-type Modified features. But both times, his cars had electrical problems late in the going.
“The dead battery in the SK hurt,” said Beers. “The thing went dead when the alternator belt came off. With four to go, the thing just shut down. We had so many caution and red flags, that somehow we finished the SK race. I don’t know where we ended up, ninth or tenth, who cares?
“In the Modified race, a wire on the ignition somewhere came apart on that last restart. It went and then it didn’t go and it went and it didn’t go and then it just shut completely down. The engine still spins, so it’s probably a 20-cent piece of wire that broke apart.”
PROFESSIONAL COURTESY – AND PUTTING THE PAST IN THE PAST
There was plenty of respect between the two big adversaries in this year’s Shootout – winner Burt Myers and runner-up Matt Hirschman.
“Matt and I have run together several times,” said Myers. “Down here, at Martinsville and last year at the Turkey Derby. We run hard and we run clean. I knew if I got the position on him, that he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize either one of us.”
“Burt’s good and I have no problem with him. He is a good runner,” said Hirschman.
Hirschman even had enough respect for Myers and his abilities that he discounted the advantage that Myers may have had when he took the checkered flag for a NASCAR Whelen Modified /Whelen Southern Modified Tour event at Martinsville Speedway (VA) earlier this year. After post-race tech, Myers got disqualified for the victory because of issues with his transmission. Hirschman didn’t think that made a world of difference though.
“Burt runs good,” said Hirschman. “He won Martinsville and then he got caught cheating. He was cheating, but you know, I don’t think that he needed to cheat to win there.”
Myers also revisited the DQ for what he hopes is the final time. And maybe winning at Concord can finally close the book on that hot topic.
“You can say whatever you want about what won the race and what didn’t there,” said Myers. “There isn’t one thing that makes you win a race. Everything has to go your way. By the rulebook, it [the transmission] was wrong. But was it a competitive advantage? Absolutely not. But that’s behind us now and this makes it all better.”
BRUNNHOELZL NOTCHES A STRONG FINISH
George Brunnhoelzl powered his way to a strong finish at the North South Shootout, but it didn’t come easy.
“We had a really good car and an awesome motor,” said Brunnhoelzl. “It was the best motor out there. The best one out there and this is a motor track. I’ve got to thank the guys at Performance Technologies because it was just awesome.
“All day and all weekend, we had a great car. We came in when everyone else did, early in the race, to take tires. We rode it out to save tires at the end and got to the top three or four when I ran something over under caution and ended up cutting down the right rear. At the end of the race, I only had 13 pounds in it and it was killing me at the end.”
The story of Brunnhoelzl’s weekend is that persistence pays off.
“You never give up and we came home sixth. The car is in one piece, so we’re good.”
SANTOS DOESN’T GIVE UP…AND FINISHES IN THE TOP FIVE
Things weren’t looking to good for Bobby Santos with less than 30 laps to go in the North-South Shootout. He half-spun in turn four and had to make a pit stop. But even still, Santos was able to motor back through the field to collect a top five finish.
That surprised even Santos.
“No, I didn’t think that we would get back to where we got to,” said Santos. “I just wish that we could have finished the season a little better. I’ve just got the Turkey Night race left and that’s it for the year.”
PREECE’S HOPES RUN OUT OF GAS
Ryan Preece battled within the top five all race long at Concord, but he dropped to a finish of 14th after running out of fuel late in the going.
“Another heartbreaker,” said Preece. “That’s the story of my year. I’m just hoping that I got all of my bad luck out of the way this year and I’ll have some good luck next year. We ran out of gas at lap 117. I was pretty lucky that the caution came out within a lap because after that, it went completely dead. I just popped it into neutral and rolled it in. At first, I said ‘oh no, there goes another motor,’ but then I realized that when it cut out, it might be fuel.”
Having a long run of caution periods early in the race likely contributed to Preece’s misfortunes.
“Probably too many cautions. I don’t know how those others guys made it honestly. We had our fuel cell packed tight.”
The Shootout will conclude Preece’s season. He’s looking ahead to the Turkey Derby at Wall later this month, but not as a driver.
“I think that I’m just going to go and watch. I’ll stay at Jimmy Blewett’s and just go to have fun.”
REEN REFLECTS ON SHOOTOUT AND HIS ENTIRE SEASON
Last year’s North-South Shootout SK Light winner, Glen Reen, came to the track this year with a goal of repeating his performance in a Tour-Type Modified car. He did not win the race but came across the finish line eighth with a car unscathed from the day of racing. That put an end to Reen’s 2008 racing season.
“First off, I have to thank the good Lord for giving me the opportunity for this year and all the friends and family for helping,” said Reen. “A lot of my friends are not even race car enthusiasts. They are just my best friends and they are supporting me. They are taking days off and they are not making money. I can’t thank them enough for helping me follow my dream. This one goes out to them and all of the fans that have been following me through the year.”
Reen lived his dream of racing a Tour Modified in 2008 and he’s very thankful for that chance.
“It feels really good. As a driver you always could want more. You know what I mean? I feel that we could have finished with a top ten in points if we did not have all of that bad luck. But that is racing. We still had the big goal in mind, which was being the Rookie of the Year. And we got that, so I can’t be more happy then that. We reached our goal. Now we will move on from here; we will keep digging.”
In the beginning of the Shootout, Reen pitted frequently for the crew to tweak the car. The car was just not performing and they knew it needed something.
“At the beginning of the race we were really fighting. It (the car) was really loose. I had no forward bite and the car was really loose off of third turn. It was really loose off of the dog leg. I almost lost it one time into the fence coming off of the dog leg.”
Then the team zeroed in on the tires and a potential issue with the set that they selected to start the race with.
“Out of six sets of tires we ran three or four yesterday in practice, and then the one we started the run with today had a bad right rear. It (the tire) just kept blowing up and it would not stay down so we had a ton of stagger and finally we took two tires around lap 60 after making a ton of adjustments to try to make it better. Then we were a rocket ship after that. The car was really good at the end of the race.”
This was the second trip for the Reen team to Concord Motorsports Park facility and their trips have brought them some good times.
“I love this track. We came here last year in the SK Light and we won. It was good to be back. It was a lot different though in a Tour car. You have about 300 more horsepower so you have to really throttle it (the car). Momentum is the other thing. In the SK Light you have a lot of momentum. So you lift with no brakes and you get right back on it. These things (Tour Mods) you are driving it in about 50 MPH faster and you are hard on the brakes and then you let it roll and then you have to get right back into the throttle as hard as you can without spinning the tires. So it is a whole other element.
“Before (with the SK Light car) you did not have to worry about spinning the tires, you just smashed it to the floor and go. It is tough. I tell you this is probably the hardest track that we have run this year besides Riverhead.”
TC WASTES NO TIME WINNING FOR A NEW TEAM
When it came to the SK Modified feature, everyone was buzzing about the numerous red flag and caution flag periods and the nearly two-hours needed to run the 50-lap feature.
But we won’t dwell on that. You can revisit it by reading Speed51.com’s Trackside Now coverage of the race line-by-line. Trust us; you won’t miss the blow-by-blow recap because documenting the carnage took up plenty of space.
What we will dwell on about the SK race is the fact that a new car owner/driver combination clicked instantly. Car owner James Paige, who fielded a Sunoco Modified at Thompson International Speedway (CT) for Bobby Grigas, III this year, put Ted Christopher in the car at Concord. Bad luck did not ride along with him and all of the potential that Grigas showed for the team all season long turned into a winning result when Christopher took the checkered flag for the race.
“I’m real happy for the guy who owns this car,” said Christopher. “Jimmy is a good guy who had a lot of tough luck this year at Thompson. So it’s nice to give someone like that their first win.”
Winning the first time out isn’t new for Christopher.
“You know how many times I’ve done that in my career? A lot!” said Christopher. “I won my race in the #36, this #00, Joe Brady’s car, for Clinton Teague…his first time at Thompson in his PASS car…for the Hills, the first time at Caraway…my first time in a Supermodified. “
Christopher even used his performance to lobby for a ride in Speed51.com founder Bob Dillner’s BDI Racing #51 Chevrolet Super Late Model for next month’s Snowball Derby.
“Now make sure to tell your boss that the odds are with him if he puts me in his Super Late Model [for the Snowball Derby],” said TC.
Jimmy Blewett kept things exciting at the end of the SK feature. He got to Christopher’s rear bumper and became well acquainted with it before having to settle for second place.
“He got up to me because he never lifted,” said Christopher. “I was driving it frickin’ deeper than anybody. He hit me and I just set my head back so I didn’t get whiplash.”
“I used up a lot of car trying to come back through the field,” said Blewett. “He just had a superior car at the end and my car was just too tight. I tried. I gave it everything I had and I even tried to take him out, but he wouldn’t budge. I knew how hard I could hit him without having a problem though.”
Steven Reed, Tom Ferrell and Doug Coby rounded out the top five finishers in the SK Modified race.
FLAGMAN RANDY SMITH PUTS ON PROTECTION FROM FLYING RUBBER
Fans that sit low in the stands at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) are used to getting chunks of rubber flying in their face, their food and their drinks in the sections that do not have a fence. The sting from a small chunk of a tire can tingle for a few moments, but that is part of the fan experience at the Madhouse.
At Concord Motorsport Park though, with the much higher speeds, chunks of rubber can do more than bounce off. That is why flagman Randy Smith wore protection from the flying rubber.
"It is a grinder shield," said Smith. "It protects me from the rubber when it flies up.
"When I first started flagging here, I got hit in the jaw with a piece of rubber. It hurt pretty good and left a red mark. I tried to get the track to put up a piece of Plexiglas, but that didn't work. So I got this shield and it works just as good."
Smith is one of the well-known short-track flaggers. He tours with the PASS South Super Late Model Series as well as flagging wherever needed. But, he only brings out the shield for the Modified races, due to the nature of the flying chunks.
"I flag for the PASS South Series, and the difference between those cars and here with the Modifieds is that they are full-fendered, but the Modifieds, without the fenders, allows the rubber to fly up easier. I do use goggles for my eyes, but I used the shield to protect my face and neck area."
NOVEMBER NIGHTMARE ADDED MORE EXCITEMENT TO THE NORTH-SOUTH
It might have been the sixth-annual North-South Shootout, but a new tradition might have been born as the event included two days of racing action on the quarter-mile oval behind the half-mile track, called November Nightmare. On the card were Legends Cars, Bandoleros, Stadium Stocks and Ford Focus Midgets.
On Wednesday night, Dillon Bassett (Bandolero Bandits), Matt Linker (Bandolero Young Guns), Scott Hensley (Legends Semi-Pro), Daniel Hemric (Legends Pro), Hoyt Demis (Legends Masters), Steven Truell (Stadium Stocks) and Shane McMillian (Ford Focus Midgets) went to victory lane.
On Thursday, the Legends and Bandolero drivers that won the night before went back to victory lane. AJ Sanders went to victory lane in the Stadium Stock race while Bradley Reithmeyer took the checkers first in the Ford Focus Midgets.
For more on the Legends and Bandolero races during November Nightmare, visit Speed51.com's sister site LegendsNation.com.