Matt Hirschman Flips the Switch for All-Star Mod Win by Matt Kentfield
From Wide-Open NHMS to All-Star Bullring, Hirschman Gets It Done
Matt Hirschman leads Louie Mechalides to the checkers at All-Star. (51 Photos)
“I knew we had a good car,” added Hirschman. “We practiced last night and it was good. But when you’re starting in a group when you’ve got (Jon) McKennedy, who runs great here, next to you and Teddy (Christopher) one row behind you, you’ve got to go. You can’t fool around. It’s 50 laps, but it’s a Saturday night shootout. You’ve got to get it done.
“The car just hooked up great at the start. I let those guys sit and I was just trying to get them as quick as I could, but I got up to first or second and my dad got on the radio and said, ‘You left those guys sitting.’ That’s when I knew I was tearing through the field pretty good. We ended up passing nine cars in like 10 laps, so the car was pretty good.”
It was like Tom Brady leaving the Super Bowl and going to play in an Arena Football League game, but still having a 300-pound NFL linebacker in his mug. It was like Manny Ramirez swinging at a 100-mph fastball from Randy Johnson in a Little League ballpark.
Matt Hirschman battled with the best of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the showcase track for the open-wheeled groundpounders with long straightaways full of chrome horn bump-drafting.
Then, after finishing 13th at NHMS, Hirschman flipped the switch from taking on a wide-open big track at the NHMS mile to becoming crafty short track warrior. The transition seemed seamless for the young Pennsylvania driver at All-Star Speedway in Epping, NH Saturday night, as Hirschman made quick work of the field after starting 10th to earn the victory in the $2500-to-win 50-lap All-Star Modified feature.
“I think I take to these kinds of places and I love this place,” said Hirschman. “I won the first-ever time I came here last year. You could’ve probably run me at Daytona earlier today and then put me out here and I probably would’ve done just as good. I feel at home at places like this.
“Plus, I probably had a little bit of built-up frustration in me because we didn’t run as good as we wanted to at New Hampshire. Last year, we finished fourth, but this year we weren’t nowhere near as good and finished 12th. We were between an eighth and 10th-place car all day. I’m not getting down on anybody or myself, but I wanted to perform better than that. Coming over here, I just had a little frustration built-up and I used that in the first few laps.”
Hirschman started deep in the field of All-Star regulars as well as several competitors from the True Value Modified Racing Series and fellow WMT invader Ted Christopher, who finished second at NHMS earlier in the day. Hirschman wasted little time in getting to the front of the field, however, running as wide-open as a tight bullring like All-Star would allow.
Hirschman used the high road to make his way towards the front of the All-Star field.
Once out front, Hirschman was on cruise control for the majority of the event. As contenders came and went, Hirschman stayed about eight car lengths ahead of any adversaries. But, several late-race cautions kept track favorite Louie Mechalides close.
With just five laps remaining, Mechalides had a shot at Hirschman on the outside groove on a restart. Hirschman slammed the gas off the fourth turn coming to the green, leaving Mechalides sitting still. Just when Hirschman appeared to have an easy win in his grasp after that restart, the yellow flew once again just a lap later, giving Mechalides another chance at victory. This time, however, Mechalides stayed even with Hirschman, but with the preferred lane, Hirschman wound up pulling ahead and holding off Mechalides and Mike Murphy at the line.
“That was a killer restart,” said Hirschman of his second-to-last restart. “You’ve got to try different things. That one we killed him on, but on other ones he kept up pretty good like on the last one. He knew what to expect on that last one. He was pretty stout, but so was I.”
Mechalides gave Hirschman a run for his $2,500 winner’s purse, but it was only good enough for second this night.
“He was going really good and I could hang with him for a couple of laps, but then he could just pull away. That’s all I had,” said Mechalides. “On that second-to-last restart, I was trying to go with him and the guy behind me ran into me and knocked it out of gear. On that last restart I stuck with him pretty good, but staying with him and passing him are two different things. He’s got a fast car.”
Murphy came home third, getting into a brief war of words with Mechalides’ team about the late-race restart contact as the top-three finishers assembled on the frontstretch for victory lane ceremonies. Josh Cantara and Jacob Dore rounded out the top-five.