Saturday night at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway will be a night of firsts. It’ll be the first race for the new Southern Modified Racing Series presented by PASS, but it will also be the first time “Big Money” Matt Hirschman races at “The Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars.”
Hirschman is already a star in his own right. He may not be an Earnhardt, a Jarrett or a Petty, but the Hirschman name is synonymous with Tour-Type Modified racing because of Matt and his father, five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Tony Hirschman.
But Hirschman, a native of Northampton, Pennsylvania, normally just races up in the Northeast. He rarely seems to venture south unless it’s for a big money race like the North-South Shootout, which he’s won five times.
However, there Hirschman will be on Saturday night, on the track at Hickory, in a 125-lap points-paying race.
“It’s somewhere that I’ve wanted to get to for years and just haven’t had the opportunity and haven’t been able to do it,” Hirschman told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We had the chance for an early spring race prior to getting started up north in mind all year. So this is the one that we’re going to do.”
Nine of the 10 races on the new SMRS season will pay out $3,000 to the winner, but with Saturday being the inaugural race, this one will pay out $5,000 to the winner. That $2,000 raise was enough to entice “Big Money” to load up and tow south to the Tar Heel State for a night of racing.
“I think for a long distance race for Tour Mods, I think anything that pays $5,000 or more is a really good paying race,” he said. “It’s not a large purse through the field because typically it would be a $3,000 event. But there’s the added incentive there. But anything from $5,000 up is a good winner’s share for a Modified race.”
But even without the check, visiting victory lane at Hickory is a bucket list item for Hirschman. He wants to add his name to the list of legendary drivers including Dale Earnhardt, Ralph Earnhardt and Ned Jarrett who have won at Hickory.
“It would be just cool to win a race at Hickory if I can do it,” he said. “It’s a place with a lot of history.”
Hirschman said he thinks he’ll have a good chance to win on Saturday night, because the .363-mile oval reminds him of many of the tracks he’s so good at up north.
“From what I’ve seen of it, it reminds me of a lot of tracks that I’ve run on and run very well at,” he said. “It looks like it’ll be a fun place. I’ve said it many times before in different places, but I think a Tour Mod on the short tracks the driver plays a larger role in potential success that you could have. Those tracks seem to bring out the best in me and it’s something I’m excited for. I think that although I haven’t raced at Hickory yet, I think Hickory falls into that category that are some of my favorites.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: MoJo Photos