The last time Tour-Type Modifieds were in action, Matt Hirschman was winning himself his second World Series of Asphalt championship 1,000 miles away from his Pennsylvania home at New Smyrna Speedway back in February. Four months and one global pandemic later, he returns to action for his first Northeast race of the year, just 20 miles north at Mahoning Valley Speedway for the John “Peepers” Yerger Tribute.
Along with this weekend’s event at Mahoning Valley, racing in Pennsylvania is beginning to get busy over the next few weeks for both asphalt and dirt, including NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and RoC Modified openers at Jennerstown and Lake Erie in the coming weeks. It is something “Big Money” has been embracing in recent months amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s a really positive thing to see after several months now. The next few weeks there’s racing lined up here in Pennsylvania. It’s just good for everyone,” Hirschman told Speed51. “The racetracks need this, the racers need this, all the businesses tied to the industry that rely on racing to take place, this is really important that things are starting to happen and it looks like things are going to continue to happen over the next few weeks and into the next few months of summer.”
While he competes across the Northeast with multiple different touring series throughout any given season, Saturday’s event at Mahoning Valley gives Hirschman the opportunity to compete close to home. He won the most recent event held at the facility back in October, taking his fourth Octoberfast win after passing Austin Kochenash in the final 25 laps.
He considers the 1/5-mile one of his favorite racetracks, both to race and to watch a race at.
“Being as small as it is, yet it’s several grooves wide. When you think of a track of this size as a quarter-mile or maybe even less around the inside, you would think of a bullring, possibly stop-and-go, a lot of banging and contact. It’s actually not at all like that, it’s a momentum racetrack, kind of like a big circle. There’s not a lot of gaps and breaks and it doesn’t produce a lot of contact either.
“Passes aren’t typically made in one corner, there’s times where you may run five, ten laps side-by-side just to try and complete one pass. It’s really good, there’s a lot of side-by-side racing.
“What I like about it is typically all the racing is good there in all the classes. The Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, they get good car counts and the racing’s good,” he added. “I enjoy watching races there as much as I do competing.”
After ending 2019 with a sweep at the Turkey Derby, he started 2020 off just as strong by winning his second World Series of Asphalt title at New Smyrna while also adding the Richie Evans Memorial and another win at Bronson Speedway. After picking up major momentum heading into the season in the Northeast, the World Series title now feels like it took place in a whole different season.
“We left there with a lot of positive momentum and to be honest with you, I thought we left Florida Speedweeks and racing had a lot of positive momentum. The racing was excellent down there, the crowds were really good at both the dirt tracks and asphalt tracks. To be where we’re at today, from then until now with how the world changed, it’s crazy to think where we were then and where we are now.
“I would say the momentum we left there with and racing in general, we lost that. Everything’s reset now and we’re really starting another season, that’s basically what it comes down to. I’m hoping that we’re able to continue racing now through the rest of the season. We’re not going to make up for everything that we’ve lost but hopefully some things can be rescheduled, and we can still get in a lot of racing from now until the weather turns for the worse.”
As he looks for yet another Mahoning Valley win Saturday night, he goes into the event as one of few drivers not making their first starts of 2020. Whether he or another driver ends the 77-lap main event in victory lane, he feels the win will carry extra meaning after the delay to start Tour-Type Modified racing season in the Northeast.
“All wins are good, and it would probably be very exciting or maybe feel even bigger than it would normally be because of the amount of time that it’s been since we’ve raced, and for other people it’s been a lot longer. Not very many that are competing tomorrow night were competing in Florida,” he stated. “For a lot of people, whoever wins, it’s probably going to be a little added excitement and enthusiasm because of the amount of time everybody’s had away from this. It’s going to be an exciting night and it’s great to be back at the racetrack again Saturday night.”
Fans who can’t make it to Mahoning Valley Speedway can see “Big Money” compete in the John “Peepers” Yerger tribute Saturday night via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51. Click here to order your live video ticket today.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo