Hirschman Steals Win From Silk in Closing Laps
Matt Hirschman did not lead many laps at Orange County Speedway’s Josh Jenkins Memorial 125 at the Inaugural Frost Bite Winternationals. But the “Orange Crush” #59 J&J Motorsports ride led the lap that counted the most at the ASA Southern Modified Tour opener.
For most of the race, Ronnie Silk, in the Hillbilly Motorsports #79 Silver-Bullet machine, was walking away with it. But late in the running, a caution tightened up the field. Hirschman found a line that enabled him to get around Silk and steal the trophy away with just six-laps-to-go.
“That’s how I got Ronnie at the end,” said Hirschman of the multiple grooves. “I took a line that I hadn’t used all weekend. It found grip at the bottom there and I was almost surprised by it when I went down there to make the pass. It’s a worn out old’ short track and it really suits my style.
“I was being patient,” added Hirschman. “On new tires, the #79 is strong. Here and at New Smyrna I can’t run with him when his tires are fresh. I was patient and didn’t abuse the car. I got a break with that caution because the #28 (George Brunnhoelzl) got taken out and I was able to gain back the track position that I lost. I don’t know if I would have won the race without that caution.”
With a fading car, Silk knew he was in trouble in the closing stages.
“The thing just got too loose,” said Silk. “Maybe he (Hirschman) was saving something there until the end? The right rear was a little hard and getting in it was free. As it went on it was getting free coming off. I could put my foot down but it wasn’t driving straight. It was scrubbing a lot of speed off coming off."
Coming off a successful Speedweeks, Silk wanted a Frost Bite Winternationals win badly. Coming oh-so-close and not bringing home the checkers hurt the young Connecticut driver.
“We had a good weekend,” added a subdued Silk. “We got the pole, led most of the race and finished second. It’s disheartening though to have that good of a weekend and finish second. We’ll have get a little better and get ‘em next week.”
Flag Appears and Chance to Win Disappears for Myers
Burt Myers was running strong at Orange County but saw his chance for the win evaporate when the field came down pit road on lap 60. In a surprising move, the Dirty South #1 quickly darted back onto the track electing to stay out. From that point on Myers was a sitting duck with old tires on his racecar. 26 laps later, Ronnie Silk and the field put Myers a lap down, cementing the Walnut Cove driver’s fate.
“The caution comes out and as all the leaders ducked down, I ducked down and the red flag was out,” explained Myers. “The pit road was closed so I stayed out. I figured I would come in on the next lap and all of those guys would go to the end of the longest line and we’ll be in front of them, right? By the time I got here (to the start-finish line) my spotter came on the radio and said they didn’t relay the message. The guy with the flag didn’t get the message. The pits were supposed to be open. At that point I had to stay out and gamble and it didn’t work out.
“I’m not knocking anybody, but [that is what happens] when you bring outside officials in to try and call a race by rules that they are not familiar with, I don’t care what the message was to the guy, the red flag was out. If the guy throws the caution flag from the flagstand without being told to, the field is going to slow down. We go by the flags and it bit us.”
Lapped Car Tangle Spoils Brunnhoelzl Charge
George Brunnhoelzl III may not have been the man holding the hardware at the end of the Inaugural Frost Bite Nationals, but he was holding his head up high. The third generation driver put on a show for the fans. Brunnhoelzl stormed to the front as soon as the green flag came out. It only took 40 laps for Brunnhoelzl to start filling in mirror of leader Ronnie Silk. After the pit stops, everyone had their eyes on Brunnhoelzl. But on lap 89, lapped traffic in front of the leaders bunched the field up and collected Tony Hanbury and Brunnhoelzl in turn one.
“I hate to place blame on anybody but between the lapped cars not abiding by the move-over flag and "Silky" making a move that he felt he had to and getting into them, it caused a big pileup and I got collected in it,” said Brunnhoelzl. “It’s just a combination of the two, but the lapped cars shouldn’t have been there to begin with anyway.”
“The lapped car must have lost it on the bottom and everyone slowed down,” said Charlie Pasteryak. “I just couldn’t slow down enough and plunked Georgie in the rear end and sent him in there. I felt really bad about that. As you get a little older you feel bad about that stuff. There was nothing I could really do.”
Silk told Speed51.com that he felt bad for Brunnhoelzl’s misfortunes and blamed the incident on the lapped traffic not yielding to the move-over flag.
“It started on the backstretch with the #42 of (Tony) Hanbury. He was going to go a lap down and I saw them waving the blue flag at him. I get right up on his back bumper going into one and two and he just comes right out to the wall on the backstretch. He should have given me a little room. If he wants to race me to stay on the lead lap I totally understand but he has to give the leader at least a lane. I crossed him over and got under Hanbury. Then we come down the front-stretch and we come up on the #15 (Darrell Krentz) and he lets off at the flagstand. I ran into the back of him and spun him out. I hate it for Georgie because he had a great car and was an innocent guy who got collected.”
Several drivers were critical of the lapped cars and how hard it was to get around them after the race.
“They have to move over a little,” added Silk. “The 15 got lapped ten-times during the race. I know that maybe he’s trying to learn and maybe I was in those shoes once too. The #15 was down where he was supposed to be, but the #42 was racing awful hard to stay on the lead lap. Maybe he was going to have something on the pit stop that would make him win the race so he wanted to stay on the lead lap.”
Despite the damage, Brunnhoelzl fought his way back up through the field and wrestled fourth-place away from JR Bertuccio in the final turn.
“Both front wheels were destroyed and the toe was knocked out,” said Brunnhoelzl. “Even after that if we had more time we still would have been right there contending for the win.”
“It’s a shame because we definitely had a car to win today. We came from the back to the front. At the start of the race we started seventh and came right up to second. We had an even better car after we pitted.”
Without a Tour Ride, Hirschman Continues to Show His Talents
Matt Hirschman is coming off of a career year in the Modified ranks. In 2009, he has already won two races… and it’s only March. While "Hirschy" is set to run the ROC Modified Tour in his own #60 car as well as selected events in the J&J Motorsports #59 car (that he drove during Speedweeks and at Orange County), the rising young star is ride-less on the Modified Tour.
“Right now I don’t have a ride,” said Hirschman after victory lane was over. “I am available. We’ll see where I land. Right now no matter where I race or whose car I run, it has to be a situation that I can continue to showcase my talent. I’m going to keep going out there and do what I can do. It’s on to the next chapter. Right now, that chapter is not complete because I don’t have the ride I want or need to run all the NASCAR Whelen Tour races. I don’t know when that is going to come and I hope in a matter of time it does.
“We’re coming off a season where I won championships, 12 races and finished second in the NASCAR Whelen points. Here I am months later and I feel like I am out there trying to prove myself again. Wherever I go I am going to go out there and try to win. I’m one ride short of where I want to be and that is in a Modified. Last year, I got the opportunity to run with Gillette Evernham and it looked like there was a good shot that I’d be stock car racing this year. Things didn’t work out with the economy and with the organization. For now that’s on hold, so Modifieds are my deal. I’m one ride short of where I want to be. I’ve got two cars though that I can race and we’ve got two wins already.”
In victory lane, David Hill, whose car Hirschman beat, approached Hirschman with some complimentary words that touched the Pennsylvania driver.
“After the race, David Hill said ‘man, somebody needs to put you in a car.’ That was as big of a compliment as somebody is going to give you. I really appreciate him saying that.”
Ol' Charlie Was Having a Blast
After the race, we heard veteran Mod driver Charlie Pasteryak tell someone “Not bad for an old-fart huh?”
The driver known for his smile was showing a big grin after a third place finish at Orange County.
“It was fun. I had a good time,” said Pasteryak. “I don’t have too many days like this anymore. So when I have a good day I really, really appreciate it. I had a great Troyer racecar. Man, if I had a car like that 20-years ago who knows where I would be right now.”
Charlies brother Carl was on the entry list for the Josh Jenkins Memorial race, but decided to make the trip without the car and help his brother.
Orange County Success Raises Eyebrows to Concord's Shootout Future
The Frost Bite Nationals at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC didn’t draw as many fans or as big of a car count as promoter Charles Kepley and head of the ASA Modified Tour Randy Myers wanted. However, it was a highly competitive race that had everyone talking.
“It’s a good short track,” said race winner Matt Hirschman. “It’s not about how much motor you have. It’s wide and a lot of room to race. You go to a lot of tracks this size and it is beat and bang and everyone trying for the same piece of real estate. Here there is plenty of room. The word will get out that this is a real good place for the Modifieds. They can do some more races here and the future and hope they do.”
With the great race and happy drivers, some were speculating that the Frost Bite was a good litmus test to gauge a possible move of the North vs. South Shootout away from Concord Speedway (NC). It was nearly impossible to avoid the talk throughout the pit area about Orange County possibly being a better fit for the big fall open competition event.
“They don’t know what they missed,” said Charlie Pasteryak of the drivers who didn’t show up at Orange County. “This is a great place for a race and is way, way better than Concord. I think it (The North vs. South Shootout) is getting a little stale at Concord. I think that is a race that they should think about moving every three or four years to a different facility. It keeps it fresh and lets you see another part of the country instead of Concord all of the time. I love it (Orange County). It’s a racier racetrack and the SK’s would have a better shot at putting on a race here. There ain’t a bad seat in the house either!”
Everyone Speed51.com talked to said they do enjoy racing at Concord though, including Ronnie Silk, who wants the race to stay at the super-fast ½ mile.
“It’s turned into a tradition to go to Concord for the North vs. South Shootout,’ said Silk. “There is a lot of stuff there to do that weekend outside of racing. People get to go and have a good time.”
For 2009, the successful independent show will remain at Concord Speedway. In 2010, that remains to be seen.
Bertuccio Wrestles Bear to Top-Five Run
The last time we saw JR Bertuccio at the track, he was throwing punches at Bobby Grigas during New Smyrna Speedweeks in Florida. At Orange County, fans saw a kinder gentler Bertuccio. JR was also in a different car, driving Billy “Bear” Callichio‘s #14 ride for the first time this season.
Bertuccio fought hard all day with several competitors. In the closing laps, he and a fellow Long Islander George Brunnhoelzl put on a show for the Rougemont, NC fans with a wheel banging battle. George Brunnhoelzl III just edged JR for fourth coming off the final turn.
“Georgie was better up off. It was fun. I was tight from the center off. He was tight on entry because he had the wheels knocked off early in the race. He got under me once and I chopped him. I figured I would drive it in and he stuck it in there. I said if he sticks it in there again, I guess I gotta to let him go. I had a lot of fun and I got out of the car with a smile on my face. We’re good friends.”
“We are pretty happy with fifth. We just put this car together this week. I beat up the right front coming from the back five times. It is what it is. We had fun and the cars in one piece, everyone is safe and we are happy.”
Girlfriend Guides Winner to Victory Lane
When asked about his new spotter at the Orange County race, a surprised Matt Hirschman cracked a shy smile about the young lady who was his second set of eyes on Saturday.
“We needed all of the guys we had today in the pit so I had Jill (his girlfriend) spot for me,” said Matt.
“It’s the first time that I had her spot for me. It’s different just having a female voice on the radio. It was hard to hear. I told her you have to speak up and talk louder because I can’t hear you. The last couple of laps I had her talking from up top and my guys down here throwing a couple of things in because I couldn’t hear everything she was saying. She did pretty well for the first time though. I don’t know how regular of a position it’s going to be though.”
Kepley Rewards Frost Bite Supporters
The car counts were not what Charles Kepley and the C & C staff were hoping for at Orange County. Some in the pits blamed a somewhat mediocre purse. Others blamed the economy for keeping racers home. Regardless, the one’s that did show up enjoyed the experience.
“A lot of people that stayed home missed a great experience to race at a track like this (Orange County),” said Ronnie Silk. “It is a shame that more people didn’t come out and support Charles. I’d come back here as many times as they could put it on the schedule.”
For those who did support the show, Kepley showed his appreciation. In the drivers meeting he noted that he was disappointed in the turnout but wanted to reward those who supported the show.
“Anybody that came to support this event gets a couple of pit passes for the North South Shootout,” said an appreciative Charlie Pasteryak. “The winner here gets a guaranteed starting spot. The winner also gets a couple of free hotel rooms. That is why he gets the support. Anybody that came here this weekend to support it is going to get rewarded. That guy should be called the new “Mr. Modified” has far as fans go and promoters.”
Run Forrest Run!
When George Brunnhoelzl III was involved in a wreck in turn one, he got out and surveyed the damage. Instead of riding in the car on the tow truck, he decided to run down to the pit and help prepare his crew for the repairs they needed to make. The run was one of the more entertaining moments of the Frost Bite Nationals.
Georgie and his father, former Modified driver George Jr, ran from turn-one to the team’s pit area mid-way down pit road. The run was a cinch for young Georgie, but most impressive was his father’s sprint. George showed a father’s love, digging down deep despite a bad limp due to knee problems, to get to the pit area. The run brought a smile to his son’s face.
“The old man with the gimp was running,” laughed George about his father’s run.