"Speed Racer" Hirschman Toys With Oswego Field by Jim Blacroch
RoC's Richie Evans Memorial Goes to Versatile Young Racer
It is ironic that the release of the major motion picture Speed Racer has taken place recently since Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Penn., has developed into the DART Asphalt Modified Tour version of 'Speed Racer', especially when the Tour visits the Oswego Speedway near Lake Ontario.
In the last several visits to the historic oval, Hirschman has either finished first or second and he's always been in contention to win. On Saturday night, 'Speed Racer Hirschman' looked as though he was just toying with the field in the season opener for the DART RoC Asphalt Tour, which is also a part of the Parts Plus Modified Series at Oswego. He pulled a good number in the draw and then dominated all comers to win the 100-lap go, which provided some entertaining racing throughout the field, even though the lead was never hotly contested.
After the victory Hirschman pulled his machine into victory lane for the laurels.
“I think luck is overrated in our sport,” explained Hirschman after his win. “You still have to have the car to win with, even if you start on the pole. We don't have to start on the pole to win, but when we do, we have the kind of car that can win.”
Hirschman's biggest challenges came from Dave Wollaber, then Sege Fidanza and finally Jan Leaty, where the rolls were reversed from last year's 200-lap Race of Champions.
“In the end it came down to me and Jan Leaty, in fact, it's come down to me and Jan Leaty a lot lately, and it's carried over to this year,” stated Hirschman. “Jan had a long day, but their program hasn't fallen off and neither has ours, so I don't think it's the last time I'll be seeing him this year. When Jan got to second, I knew he would be coming, he was one of they guys at the top of our list as far as competition goes. I just dug down deep and we had enough to hold him off.”
Matt Hirschman leading Oswego (Dave Wollaber #5,
Billy Putney #88, Farrell in the #11). (Paul Cooper Photos reprinted with the permission of GATER Racing News)
The 60 car that Matt has become synonymous with is now his, it has been for the past two seasons and that's when Hirschman really began his roll at Oswego. Following the race he reflected on it a bit.
“The last two years and starting the third year, we're either a first or second place car here every time,” he offered. “Some times it might not work out and you don't get to finish first or second, but we're really a first or second place car here. I really run strong here. I just got it figured out and I really like coming here.”
After racing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on Friday night at Stafford, Hirschman was impressed with the quality of field on hand to compete at Oswego.
“There were an impressive field of cars here today, bottom line,” Hirschman grinned. “There were a lot of fast, well prepared, and pretty race cars here today and all of us should be proud of that. There were a few incidents but no one got torn up that bad. That makes for good competition and good competition will bring the best out in you.”
After it was all over, Hirschman reflected on winning Memorial Day weekend at a track that is rich in history and steep in tradition.
“This win rates pretty high on my list,” stated Hirschman following the race. “I think it's great that the track honors Richie Evans and Jim Shampine on Memorial Day weekend each year that makes this race that much more special. I have no memory of either of them racing, but I have read their books and have a lot of respect for both them though. The respect that both of those men have in this sport and have a memorial race named after them and to win that memorial race, it really does mean a lot to me. Richie Evans is known as the greatest Modified drive of all time and Jim Shampine is probably known as the greatest driver in the history of Oswego
Early in the feature it didn't get much better for the veteran as he was involved in a lap 14 incident in turn four.
“We were involved in that wreck in the feature and the car was never quite right after that,” Leaty continued to explain. “The guys in the pits did their best to get it back to where it was and we didn't want to pit again. The car was just a little too free and if you're going to run with Matt Hirschman for the win you need to be right on the money and we weren't at the end of the race. Considering everything that happened, it was a good night.”
Farrell's Fresh Hoosier Helps Him Out
Neptune, N.J.'s, Tommy Farell, probably turned in the most impressive run of the night.
Farell wound up third after an impressive run that saw him pit late in the going and grind his way back to third passing cars inside and out in the final segments of the event. After pitting for a right rear tire Farrell blasted his way back through the field dealing with a snarled pack of traffic for most of his drive. Had he been able to get through the pack quicker, the outcome may have been different.
“I just burned the tires up real bad during the first 50 laps,” stated Farrell, who is also dating Tara Evans, Richie's daughter. “I figured if I could get to the lead I would be all right, but we were just a little bit too free. Once we pitted and put the new right rear on it really woke the car up and away we went.”
Farrell has stepped into the Jamie Wolf pink SPAFCO machine that has been driven by Steve Whitt and others recently.
“I'm very happy with a third,” smiled Farrell. “We established some good notes to use when we come back next time to give the guys who race all the time a run for their money. It was a special night for me because I'm dating Tara Evans and her Father was Modified racing, so this is just a great night for all of us.”
Former Oswego winners, Sege Fidanza and Pete Brittain rounded out the top-five. Hirschman, Farrell, Storace and Fidanza won the qualifying races, while Ronnie Silk won the B-Main.
Race of Champions DART Asphalt Tour Notes:
One of the pre-race favorites, Eric Beers only made it fourlaps in practice. “We suffered some terminal engine problems,” offered Beers as his team maneuvered his Troyer mount to its trailer outside the track. “They dropped the filter and the oil looked like metallic paint.”
Wilbur Hebing in the Kenny Troyer, Route 66 DMR machine struggled at Oswego after winning the Spencer Speedway opener. Hebing, who won a race at Oswego last Summer was involved in the same crash as Leaty, but suffered significant front end damage and was not able to continue.
“I don't know,” stated Hebing. “I saw everyone crashing and I did have much of a choice but to slide into it. It's a shame, we've gotten off to a good start this year by winning the opener at Spencer. This wasn't what we wanted tonight.”
'Super' Sege Fidanza of Middleport, N.Y., looked to be back in form, even offering fellow car owner, Kenny Troyer a little 'peck' on the cheek after the race.
“We were better tonight,” stated Fidanza. “Not good enough to beat Matt (Hirschman) but decent. The question to pit or not to pit was tough, but we chose not to and got a fourth. Everything is in one piece and we'll be better the next time. We've learned some things with the help of some others and it's encouraging.”
Despite the chilly temperatures and stiff breeze, the racing late in the event for position was outstanding as a group of over 12 cars battled side-by-side for each inch on the speedway. If you were watching more then just the lead, there were times when the field was two-by-two a minimum of four rows deep following the different pit strategies that were executed by teams. The fans that braved the elements definitely got their money's worth. Some question whether or not the outside is gone at Oswego, but Jan Leaty and several others differed.
“Sure, it's bumpy,” offered Leaty. “But, this is the best track we run on around here and there is definitely an outside. You just have to work it up there. I've got a knack for doing it and I really enjoy passing cars out there and tonight you saw that as cars raced their way through the field.”
The Race of Champions Dart Asphalt Modified Tour is sponsored by; Dart Machinery, Hoosier Racing Tires, Sunoco Race Fuels, PBM Performance Products, Total Seal Piston Rings, Dura - Bond, Competition Engineering by Moroso, Dynatech, Xceldyne, Afco, CV Products, and LA Sleeve.
RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR RACE ONE
RICHIE EVANS MEMORIAL OSWEGO SPEEDWAY FINISH
1.) Matt Hirschman
2.) Jan Leaty
3.) Tommy Farrell III
4.) Sege Fidanza
5.) Pete Brittain
6.) Dave Wollaber
7.) Daren Scherer
8.) Ronnie Silk
9.) Ryan Preece
10.) John Markovic
11.) Rusty Smith
12.) Tommy Kinsella
13.) Billy Putney
14.) Dean Rypkema
15.) Rowan Pennink
16.) Steven Reed
17.) Rick Kluth
18.) Mike Leaty
19.) Jimmy Zacharias
20.) Todd Smith
21.) TJ Potrzebowski
22.) Lee Sherwood
23.) Vern LaFave
24.) Doug Reaume
25.) Wilbur Hebing.
DNS; Jim Storace
DNQ'S; JR Swansbrough, Bobby Jones, Todd Baer, Chris Risdale, Ken Canestrari, Matt Clemens, Mark Tychoniewicz, Eric Beers, Dick Kluth.
LAP LEADERS; Hirschman ( 1 - 100 ).
GATER RACING NEWS DRIVER BONUS DRAW $500; Hirschman.
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD CHARGER AWARD; J. Leaty (18th to 2nd).
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD LUCK AWARD; Sherwood (4th to 22nd).
NEXT RACE; Mahoning Valley Speedway Saturday June 7th 75 laps $3,000 to win.
Sege Fidanza in the 77 and Jan Leaty isnthe 6 go wheel to wheel.
Matt Hirschman in victory lane.
Speedway. I think it's great that the track honors them and on Memorial Day weekend, that's fantastic.”
The Adventures of Jan Leaty
If you were Jan Leaty you may have quit Saturday night at Oswego, but for the veteran racer from Williamson, N.Y., that wasn't even an option. It was however, an eventful night to say the least.
After being black flagged in his heat for leaking fuel and an incident that he had little to do with, he qualified for the feature when his son, Mike, failed to pass inspection following the heat race. Then in the feature, Leaty had to work his way to the front following being involved in a multi-car crash early in the going exiting turn four. Leaty also earned the hard-charger award after advancing from 18th to 2nd.
“I'm satisfied with the finish and coming here I was hoping for a top five run because a lot of guys run good here“ stated Leaty, the defending Sunoco Race of Champions victor. “We wanted to get off on the right foot today because we plan on running the entire tour, but the hill seemed awful high to climb today.
“It was very simple, no names need to be mentioned, and it was just a simple and honest mistake in the heat race. Both cars were fueled up at the same time and both caps were left off, so that put both Mike and I behind the eight ball.
Leaty continued, “In the heat I got black flagged for the three car for running into the inside wall and that wasn't real cool. I then went into the mode of running the consi, because, then I could get two tires during the feature, but Mike (Leaty) was disqualified from the heat race for being too light from the fuel he lost and I made the feature that way, so that idea didn't work either. We won a race here a couple years back that way.”