Matt Hirschman kicked off a busy week in Florida by securing a $2,000 check Saturday night at Bronson Speedway. The Tour-type Modified driver from Northampton, Pennsylvania started from the pole and led all 50 laps to win the Kickoff to Speedweeks race.
Due to the unfortunate circumstances involving a lower than expected car count, officials elected to forego qualifying and have the six drivers in attendance draw for their starting position. Hirschman had luck on his side as he drew the No. 1 starting spot, and he never looked back from there.
"It's a good start to the week. We didn't have to work as hard for it, but no matter where you started tonight I don't think It would've been a problem," Hirschman said. "It's a good test. We actually had a little issue earlier in practice, so it's a good way to get the bugs out of the way today. I'm looking forward to a full week of racing at New Smyrna."
Jimmy Blewett improved on his third-place finish from one year ago by starting and finishing second. Blewett gave up the second spot early in the race to a charging Jeremy Gerstner, but he was able to take back the position later in the race.
"I was just trying to ride a little bit there. The car started off the race a little bit too tight, which happens. I got caught riding there a little bit and Jeremy got under me. By the time I got back by him at the end [Hirschman] still had that gap," Blewett said. "It's kind of hard to close a gap like that on a track like this that is wore out. But as you can see, you can race here. There's a lot of room; it's a good place."
Gerstner fended off a late challenge from J.R. Bertuccio to claim the final podium spot, while Adam LaCicero completed the top five. New Hampshire driver Brian Robie suffered an engine failure that will bring his Speedweeks to an unfortunate close.
After having 10 cars attempt last year's race and a high of 14 cars attempt the race at Bronson in 2018, Hirschman and the rest of the drivers in attendance were hopeful that the number will swing back in the right direction for next year's event.
"Obviously, we need more cars to make a better race," Hirschman said. "You know, six is more like a heat race, but you double that on a track this size and you have a pretty good field, and we had that before. Hopefully we can get some more cars back because it is a racy little place. We didn't have to do any passing tonight, but the other times here we did some passing and had some fun racing here at Bronson to start the week. Hopefully we can build back in the other direction."
"It's unfortunate that we didn't get the cars here tonight that we expected to have," Blewett commented. "Coming here last year I said to myself coming into this year, seeing the amount of cars that were on the schedule for New Smyrna, that we're at least going to get 20 or 25 cars. But we're going to keep our heads and come back next year, try to help Ann (Bronson) as much as we can. Her husband was a good man. He bought this track and he had a vision, and we need to keep that vision alive as much as we can. Hopefully next year we can get the car count, help her promote it a little bit better, bring a little bit more money to the table and maybe get the car count back."
For his victory, Hirschman claimed a $2,000 check, four free tries, 10 gallons of racing fuel and a guaranteed fifth-place starting spot in next Friday's Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway. Additionally, Hirschman has the chance to claim a $1,000 bonus as the highest finisher in the Richie Evans Memorial that also competed in the race at Bronson.
The Speed51 Network will have race highlights from the Kickoff to Speedweeks at Bronson, as well as exclusive interviews and video features. Visit www.speed51.com/membership to become a monthly or yearly subscriber today.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51