HIRSCHMAN GETS EMOTIONAL WIN AT THOMPSON by Mike Twist
Lia The Man... But Accident Takes Him Out At The End
Nobody really wanted to be at the Thompson Speedway (CT) on Sunday to finish up the 140 laps that remained after Tom Baldwin’s fatal crash last week during the first attempt at running the track’s NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series event, but as the racing addage goes... the show must go on.
Warm temperatures contributed to a high level of tire wear and teams were allowed to change up to three tires during the race. So when a caution came out for a wreck between Tom Bolles and Nevin George on lap 79, it was no surprise that every car on the lead lap pitted.
Lia led the field into the pits, but had trouble on his stop. He came out of the pits in 13th and that put him directly behind a turn two tangle between several cars on the restart. Lia almost snuck by the trouble on the apron of the track, but got clipped by the spinning car of Jeff Malave. The contact ripped the right rear tire off Lia’s car and caused heavy suspension damage. He was eliminated on the spot.
So at the end of the day, it was appropriate that one of the series veterans, and the current point leader, represented the drivers in victory lane. Tony Hirschman won the race and was moved by the circumstances of his victory.
“I hate to win a race like this,” said Hirschman of the 10- day race delay. “But it is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Early on, Hirschman did not jump out as being one of the strongest threats in the race, but a great pit stop by his team and a car that was quick after three new tires, made the #48 the car the beat in the race’s second half.
Ted Christopher led from the lap 10 resumption of the race, but very quickly had a charging Donny Lia filling up his mirrors. It only took one lap for Lia to pull alongside TC, but passing him was considerably more difficult. The two diced through traffic side-by-side and nose-to-tail before Lia finally wrestled the top position away on lap 41.
On the other hand, Hirschman made it out of the pits first after coming in as the fifth-place car. He had a good enough machine to stay there and hold back charges by Doug Coby and Eddie Flemke. Those three cars were the class of the field for the race’s second half.
Coby made a few attempts at getting by Hirschman, but it didn’t work.
“Tony’s the master here,” said Coby after the race. “I running a little hot and I would duck out of line to cool the car a few times. I got next to him a few times and was kind of testing him. I wanted to see if he would let the young guy go and burn up his tires. He didn’t. I knew that I had to ride behind him and try to get him with a few laps to go. He started to walk away from me a little bit and once Eddie got behind me, I needed to start worrying about him and trying to get our first top five finish.”
Once he took the lead, there was no stopping Lia. It wasn’t long before he had a 20-car length lead on the field. By halfway, that margin was most the length of one of the long Thompson straightaways.
Tony Hirschman dominated the second half of the Thompson race on Sunday. (Howie Hodge Photos)
Once Donny Lia (#18) got around TC, he pulled away from the field.
That top five would have to wait though. Coby was battling for Flemke with five laps to go when his car suddenly died coming out of turn four. He stopped on the track and had to be pushed to the pits with electrical problems and dropped out of the event. Coby didn’t think that he would win, but he did have a sure top-five finish slip away.
“The guy that won the race had the best car,” said Coby. “I wasn’t going to run him down. Even if Eddie wasn’t behind me and we didn‘t have our problem, I wasn’t going to run him
down. He still would have beat us by a couple of car lengths.”
The stalled car of Coby brought out a late race caution. This set up a green-white-checkered finish with Hirschman leading Flemke, Jimmy Kuhn and Christopher. No positions in the top five changed once the race was restarted and Hirschman added slightly to his point lead over Flemke by beating him to the finish line.
The strategy of Hirschman and his team was to only change two tires and this move paid off.
“We did two tires and it made us look good getting out first,” said Hirschman. “I knew that it would be tough passing here today. Once we got our tires changed, our car was a little on the snug side. It took 15-20 laps for the car to free itself up. I was saving a little bit for awhile and I got a little nervous at the end because our tires were getting really greasy.”
“It worked for us,” said Hirschman. “I’m not sure that it would work every week like that, but we did what we thought we had to do and we beat our competition.”
The damage to Lia's car was unrepairable.
Hirschman acknowledged that the race between he and Coby was a close one early in their tire run.
“He gave me a good run there,” said Hirschman. “It was a
good hard racing there. I was a little tight after we took tires and he was faster. I knew if I could hold him over for a few laps, the car would starting coming in and it did. We checked out there for awhile.”
Flemke finished second with Kuhn collecting his career best finish in third. Christopher and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five.
The Modified Series will return to action on Saturday night, September 4th, at the Waterford Speed bowl (CT).
Doug Coby (#28) put up a good fight for the lead with Hirschman, but failed to make the pass.