Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA discounts his experience at Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway ahead of Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener. He cited teams that privately tested or competed in a 50-lap Modified race last month, where he finished third. Hirschman has three consecutive podiums at Myrtle Beach.
“It’s not gonna be totally foreign to them,” Hirschman said. “But it’s a unique place and having raced there now a few times over the last year and a half certainly helps and we have won a race there which is always a boost of confidence.”
The tire wear at the half-mile oval is well known. Last month’s Modified race demonstrated conservation’s role with part of the field dropping back to preserve tires.
“There are abrasive tracks and then there’s Myrtle Beach. It’s hard to explain but it’s definitely the extreme on that end. It’s really unlike any other track I’ve run at.”
Hirschman is looking forward to the strategy in the Performance Plus 150. Teams can change tires during the race but it will not be all 4 in the same pitstop.
“I don’t think anybody is going there thinking they’ve got the winning strategy in mind. I don’t think anybody knows that including myself. I think it’s gonna be quite unique in this event.”
Hirschman is driving a partial NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for PeeDee Motorsports. He believes the car puts him even with the best Modified teams. Hirschman felt he was behind the competition with his car and engine in 2014 when teams were switching to the spec engine program.
“It gives me the opportunity to run a few of these races and I’m really confident that when we do we will be a contender.”
The car debuted at Seekonk (MA) Speedway last September with a fourth place finish. Hirschman has driven the car primarily in the south before the “regular season” begins in April. He raced at Bronson (FL) Speedway, Myrtle Beach, and New Smyrna (FL) Speedway since then last month. He won the Richie Evans 100 at New Smyrna.
Hirschman will be racing his own car the balance of the season. The two-time and defending NorthEast Race Cars Tri-Track Open Modified series champion will be joining the series again. He will also compete part time with the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series and local events at Evergreen and Mahoning Valley Speedways in Pennsylvania.
The NorthEast Race Cars Tri-Track Open Modified series will be holding events at New London-Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Seekonk (MA) Speedway and Star Speedway in Epping, NH. Wayne Darling and Mark Pennink have joined series founders Jim Schaefer and Dick Williams to strengthen the series.
“The Tri-Track Series is the best thing that’s happened to Modified racing in a long time and what really makes this successful in my opinion is keeping it on short tracks where pretty much anyone can come in with any package and they make it work. … You’re racing on tracks where you can’t really use all the horsepower you have available to you, to begin with.
“… There’s just a lot of good people that love Modified racing that have contributed to this series to make it happen and now like I said having Mark (Pennink) and Wayne (Darling) involved only kind of gives the series more stability and security moving forward.”
The Race of Champions works better for Hirschman to travel to New York for events than New England.
“It’s always been a good option for me. … Some of those tracks are some of my favorites in New York state and now this year the series is going back to Jennerstown which is a really beautiful facility in western Pennsylvania.
The prestigious Race of Champions will move from its longtime home at Oswego (NY) Speedway to Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania this year. Hirschman won four of the last five events between Oswego and Chemung (NY) Speedrome.
“I think you’re going to see a much more entertaining Race of Champions 250 at Lake Erie than what we’ve seen in the past and that’s not a knock on Oswego. I just think the Modifieds will put on a better show at Lake Erie than what we have been able to do in the past, so I think that’s a positive. That’s a first class facility as well and like I said the progressive banking and the size of the racetrack I think really lends itself to an entertaining race and I think that’s a real positive to look forward to that at the end of the season.”
Hirschman is supported by BC Brennan, Long Island Mod Maniac, and Sparky Benton. Although he does not have a major sponsor, Hirschman enjoys his supporters involvement in the team’s success.
Hirschman was given the nickname ‘Big Money Matt’ some time ago. He is usually a threat for the win in high-paying events. He swept the Tour-Type and SK Modifieds at Wall (NJ) Stadium Speedway last November. Other major victories include open competition events at Seekonk and the North-South Shootout at Caraway and Concord in North Carolina. Success also came in the Tri-Track events at New London-Waterford, Lee USA, Monadnock, and Star in New Hampshire.
“The races that tend to pay better are also the ones that probably carry the most prestige and a lot of them carry a lot of history with ’em. So if you’re going to put any extra emphasis or focus on any races those would be the races that you just try and definitely get the best out of yourself, and your team, and your equipment. They’re the most rewarding and it also goes a long way in helping to continue on being able to put those funds into your operation.
“Every time out I try to do my best. I try to win and if like I said if you can dig down for a little bit extra, those are probably the races where you’re trying to find that.”
The 34-year-old driver had an excellent teacher in his father. Tony Hirschman, Jr. owns 5 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships and 35 wins.
“A lot of what has shaped me into the racer that I am today is his influence. I grew up attending just about every one of his races so you had someone to watch and learn from him as he won at every level pretty much he raced at.”
Both of Hirschman’s series wins came at Chemung and Spencer after a hiatus from each venue.
Hirschman still wants to add to his achievements to his résumé.
“You always have to have that drive to continue to win and add to those accomplishments. If it gets to a point where the drive isn’t there and the fire’s not in you any more than it’s probably time to move on and maybe do something else.”
Hirschman is familiar with the highs and lows of racing. Momentum can help, but he takes it one race at a time. Some races you are in a trend of being in the right place or the wrong place. It makes the difference in a single digit or double digit win season.
“If you can get on a roll and I’ve had that happen in several different seasons where you get on a roll, on a hot streak and you go to every race thinking you’re the guy to beat and confidence is a big part of it.”
Sources: Nicholas Teto/YankeeRacer.com
Photo by Paul Fohlin