For Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Penn., the 2009 season has been anything but memorable. He's had some success, but not as much as he's used to with wins at New Smyrna and Orange County Speedway. This past Friday night, Hirschman began to turn things around with a win at one of the tracks where he first found success on the DART Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour, the Wyoming County International Speedway in Perry, N.Y., otherwise known as 'The Bullring'. In front of a packed house, Hirschman raced to victory in is qualifying race and then paced himself, conserved his tires, took the lead from Tony Hanbury with just eight laps remaining and went to a popular victory in an event that was marred by several cautions in the closing laps.
“We had a good car tonight and I was able to conserve enough early to have enough to close things out at the end, but Earl (Paules) gave us a run for the money,” offered Hirschman following the event. “I won here the first time in 2005 by pitting, then there was the year where Earl and I went at it tooth and nail and I passed him twice, but the caution kept coming out, so it was almost as if this place owed me a win. We'll take it tonight, we needed this one.”
Rusty Smith and Pete Brittain led the field to the green, with Hirschman starting fourth and Paules starting ninth respectively. Paules worked his way past Brittain on lap 35 and looked like he would dominate to the checkered flag running a higher groove then any of the competition.
“Our car was so good,” said Paules after the race. “But when the right rear goes here, it just goes.”
Paules ultimately lost the lead to Tony Hanbury, but Hanbury's lead was short lived as Hirschman set his sights on the point.
“I didn't know if I was going to pit and I think my Dad and my crew were a bit frustrated with me, but I honestly didn't know,” recalled Hirschman following the race. “There is a lot going in the racecar in situations like that. I know my Dad realizes that and sometimes it happens so quickly you drive right by the pit opening trying to figure out what to do, but the car still felt good. They definitely wanted me to come in. They even talked about it before the race. If I had known, I think I could have saved them a little running back and forth because I definitely would have told them, but I didn't really know seeing that I've had success at that track by pitting and by not pitting.”
Up until lap 67, things seemed to remain on an even keel, but there were five restarts during those final seven laps, four of which came without a single lap added to the count on the scoreboard. Crashes involved several contenders including Tony Hanbury, Billy Putney, plus a spin by Eric Beers after he and Paules pitted kept the field tight and gave Paules the opportunity to slice past Rusty Smith and Pete Brittain and take one last shot at Hirschman with just a couple of laps remaining.
“It got a little crazy and it gave Earl a chance to get back to us,” reflected Hirschman. “But I really didn't know he got down below me because it happened so fast. I watched what everyone did all night and we made the right call. All of the crashes gave those guys the opportunity to get there. Earl had a great car, but he made a mistake.”
Paules admitted what Hirschman analyzed. “I definitely had the fastest car tonight,” he beamed. “But, I messed up. I got down there too low and spun, but I didn't want to get into Matt because he doesn't run me that way. The cautions fell the right way, the car was great. We just didn't end up in victory lane. It's a tough pill to swallow today, but one that we have to.”
Pete Brittain ended up finishing second, Rusty Smith third, Eric Beers fourth and Daren Scherer fifth. Beers, Brittain and Hirschman won the qualifying races.
WYOMING 'BULLRING' BANTER…
- It's been quite sometime since we've been to Wyoming for a night race and it was a treat. A bit of throwback with a great crowd on a Summer Friday night. The track had to be happy with the turnout of fans as this is the first time in the last three years that the Friday night date was not affected by the weather.
- Billy Putney took a hard driver's side shot in his Troyer mount late in the race. The East Aurora, N.Y., driver was okay after the crash, but just as NASCAR has stepped up, so has the Race of Champions and the competitors in following suite with the safety developments that have been uncovered and presented in the last several years. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for Putney's machine as it needed much work.
- 23 cars towed to the Wyoming County New York oval, which was the perfect car count for the facility and track. It proved to be an exciting race.
- Spencer RoC winner Mike Leaty had a tough night as he pounded the wall off of turn four. The US Army Troyer car was in need of some work. Leaty was still able to smile following the event.
“Yeah, we had some trouble tonight,” stated Leaty. “We'll just go to work and get it fixed and go from there.”
- The double-file restarts coupled with the one tire pit strategy has truly made for some excellent racing in the DART Race of Champions asphalt Tour up to this point. Five different leaders in a 75-lap race on a 1/3-mile with plenty of passing and dicing throughout the field is plenty exciting. If you haven't get out and catch one of the races. This Saturday the DART Asphalt Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour heads to Dunn Tire Raceway Park for a rescheduled event.
RACE REPORT RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR RACE #3
1.) Matt Hirschman
2.) Pete Brittain
3.) Rusty Smith
4.) Eric Beers
5.) Daren Scherer
6.) Earl Paules
7.) Rick Kluth
8.) John Markovic
9.) Mike Leaty
10.) Billy Putney
11.) Eric Kocher
12.) Kyle Ebersole
13.) T. J. Potrzebowski
14.) Brian DeFebo
15.) Tony Hanbury
16.) Chip Santee
17.) Jim Storace
18.) Tom Wiest
19.) Doug Reaume
20.) Mark Tychoniewicz
21.) Jan Leaty
22.) Daryl Lewis, Jr.
23.) Matt Clemens
Lap Leaders; Smith ( 1 ), Brittain ( 2 - 35 ), Paules ( 36 - 63 ), Hanbury ( 64 - 67 ), Hirschman ( 68 - 75 ).
Gater Racing News Driver Bonus Drawing $500; Beers.
Dart Machinery Set of Heads $1,500 value; Putney.
Hoosier Racing Tire Hard Charger Award; Scherer ( 16th to 5th ).
Hoosier Racing Tire Hard Luck Award; J. Leaty ( 5th to 21st ).
Next RoC Tour Event; Dunn Tire Raceway Park - Saturday July 18th - 75 laps - $2,800 to win.