Matt Hirschman Romps to DART Race of Champions Modified Victory at Thompson by Jim Blacroch
RoC Victory Number Four for Hirschman
Matt Hirschman of Northampton (PA) is on a role right now in DART Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour action. He scored a victory just one week ago at Oswego in a 125-lap drive at a track where he has won the past three events. On Sunday, at Thompson International Speedway (CT), Hirschman started sixth and drove to victory in the Race of Champions portion of Modified Mania. It was also Hirschman’s second consecutive Thompson Race of Champions victory and it was a dominating performance.
“We had a good car today and this is a back-to-back performance at Thompson,” stated Hirschman from victory lane.
At the conclusion of the Race of Champions event Hirschman was looking forward to another strong performance in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but unfortunately for him, the handling was quite the same on his Tour mount.
Kirk Alexander (#43) led the field to green after a random draw for starting positions. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Hirschman’s only close call of the day came on the ensuing restart when Alexander spun to the infield in front of the field. After that Darren Scherer jumped to the lead and five laps later Hirschman took over.
“It looked like there could be some cautions today,” explained Hirschman. “Rather than get caught up in one of those incidents it was just time to use what we had and get out front.”
For Hirschman, that proved to be the move of the race. Jimmy Blewett, who ran four races at Thompson on Sunday (SK, RoC, True Value, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), came from eighth to finish second. Ryan Preece, Christopher and Billy Pauch rounded out the top five with Carl Pasteryak 6th, sweeping five of the top-six spots for guys who haven’t run the Race of Champions Tour on a regular basis. Even Hirschman could be thrown into that group, but he has run all but one of the RoC races this season, missing just the Mahoning event.
The next highest finishing Race of Champions regular was Rick Kluth in 9th.
The next event for the DART Race of Champions is the 58th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions at Oswego Speedway on Saturday, September 20th.
Matt Hirschman Dominates DART Race of Champions Asphalt Tour Event
Matt Hirschman is a hell-of-a-racer. He’s tough to beat when he’s on his game and when it comes to the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour he’s usually above being on his game. The only two sub par runs of the year that Hirschman has really produced was a crash not of his own doing at Chemung and a fourth place at Lancaster where he wasn’t really in position to win. On the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour he captured his first win at Spencer this year and he’s third in the current championship standings.
Matt Hirschman (#60) takes the checkered flag. (Ken Spring Photo)
His dominance at Thompson on Sunday was no accident, but it wasn’t completely his plan either. Jimmy Blewett was scheduled to start directly behind Hirschman in eighth, but was moved to the rear of the field for a pre-race technical issue. In the race it looked as though Hirschman toyed with the field, but in reality it wasn’t quite that way.
“Some of the cars we knew would be in contention didn’t even really get to compete,” explained Hirschman. “That’s why I wanted to get in the lead as quickly as possible because then I could take care of the car a bit and have a little more control of when to run hard and when not too because Jimmy (Blewett), Teddy (Christopher), Eric (Beers) or Ryan (Preece) are strong racers and if any of them got up there to mix it up I knew we would need a little bit in the tank because they are very good.”
None of that really came into play the way things worked out, so we talked about his race team and what makes the car that comes out Hirschman’s garage on Mud Lane so successful.
“We have a very good program,” offered Hirschman. “It really is a carry over of the days when my Dad drove the Kehley’s car. Many of those same elements and people are in place here and many people don’t realize that. One of the main differences is that my Dad isn’t driving and I am, but it’s almost all of the same people.”
With that said, Hirschman recognizes several things about running his own team.
“I wouldn’t trade any of the situations I have right now,” he smiled and continued. “I drive for four different teams and that has its challenges, but each team has performed well and we’ve won ten races this year. That alone should speak for itself and also considering we are leading the Race of Champions points right now and third in the Whelen Tour points, that says volumes about what we are all capable of. With my own team though I wouldn’t want to run it on the tour because it really doesn’t work that way.
Matt Hirschman in victory lane. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
"We just want to run our own team on a limited schedule and it works that way," he continued. "My Dad doesn’t go to all of the races with me anymore because he’s just taking a break. Frankie has family commitments and it takes a significant amount of money to run as we do and we’re not looking to increase that, but what we have works and I’ll keep doing it until I have to change it.
"We’ve been on top of our game with this car for a couple of seasons or better right now and I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it’s been working and it’s not really worth changing from where I sit, so we’re just going to keep going until we’re forced to make a change. There are no big secrets over here. We’ve got a Troyer Car with good Bruneau Motors and I’ve worked with all of this stuff before I started driving, so I’ve built a great understanding of it over the years and learned from so many others on how to make it all work and that’s where the success comes from. Like I said before, the only real difference is that I’m driving and not my Dad.”
On Friday his life will change. For the better hopefully, but the reality of it could be worse, however he will strap into a Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Camping World East car and make his debut in the full-fendered series on Friday afternoon. It’s a chance of a lifetime for Hirschman, who has stated in the past that it would be fine if he spent his career driving a Modified. Some folks have chimed in with their feelings on the opportunity for Hirschman as well as a couple of NASCAR.com stories, but now it’s time to hear it from Hirschman.
“As I’ve said in the past I wanted to drive in the Modifieds and I love doing that,” he said, then stopped for a second and continued. “I look at it like this. If I go out and do my very best in the Camping World car and I move on to do other things, that is just incredible and it’s something I will do, but if I don’t move on and it doesn’t work out, then I can look in the mirror knowing I gave it my very best and get back in the modified and go from there. It’s a great opportunity and I have to take my shot. That’s the way I see it, but in the end there is no problem being in the modifieds. It’s a great a place to be and I’m only 25 right now, so I think I could be competitive and somebody to watch for years to come no matter which direction my career takes me.”
It is an opportunity his Father, Tony, had but it didn’t work out exactly as planned for him. Hirschman ran a few seasons in the Busch North Series with Tony Vecchio’s team, but never made it to the promised land in the South, where if he did have the opportunity, chances are he would have excelled on any level.
“There are a lot of unknowns out there so we’ll just have to see what happens and that starts on Thursday,” stated Hirschman. “I’ve been getting a lot of media attention lately and that’s been very good. We’re just going to put our best foot forward this weekend and keep working. It’d be great to have a huge weekend at New Hampshire. We’ll more then likely miss the next couple of RoC shows, but we’ll be back with our car at the North South Shootout at Concord in a few weeks and we’re very proud to have won the last couple of shows there. That’s a huge race and we’re going to get ready and go back to try and win another win. It’s definitely been an exciting and gratifying season for us.”
No doubt about it. Matt Hirschman is a hell-of-a-racer.
Eric Beers (#9) was in the middle of a first lap wreck at Thompson (Jamie Williams Photo)
Kirk Alexander drew the pole and led the field to the green, but before one lap could be completed New England modified racer Butch Perry lost control in the middle of the field and Ted Christopher drove into the back of him just before the start-finish line. Eric Beers looked to have it missed but was pile driven into the crash from behind by several other competitors. Beers and Billy Putney, who towed to Thompson on Saturday during Hurricane Hanna, suffered the most damage. Beers returned for a short spell while Putney was done for the day.
“It sucks,” stated Putney following the event. “You tow all this way and can’t even get a good start.”
“I know I’ve got another chance today,” offered Beers ,referring to his NASCAR Whelen Modified fielded by Bobby Katon, Jr. “But sometimes we need to think these things out. I know Matt starting on the pole wouldn’t have made anyone happy, but every other series here started by points with the exception of the Race of Champions. We had a guy on
the pole who is a good racer, but never runs the series or the tires and guys who have never raced with us before in the middle of the pack. I just think the next time we do something like this we need to think it through. Let’s take care of the guys who run the majority of the races. It was pretty disgusting to get wrecked before you get to the starting line.”