After 68 years, a new man stands alone at the top of the win column in Modified racing’s granddaddy of them all, the Race of Champions. Saturday night at Lake Erie Speedway (PA), Matt Hirschman broke the record he had tied a year ago with Dutch Hoag, winning the Race of Champions for the sixth time in his career.
Also known as one of the humblest drivers on the Modified circuit, even “Big Money Matt” appreciated his place in the history books. At the same time, he also knew to savor it, because he knows that even his high mark, even if made higher, is never safe.
“It’s incredible, that feeling never changes when you win this race whether it’s the first time or the sixth time. We’re definitely part of history. I’ve had a few get away from me in the earlier years, and we’re certainly catching up on some of those that got away,” Hirschman said in victory lane.
After starting on the front row alongside polesitter Chuck Hossfeld, Hirschman traded the lead throughout the first 175 of 250 laps with the usual cycles of pitstops throughout the race. Hirschman played things conservatively, making his final stop for tires on Lap 178, and eventually taking the lead when Jeremy Scherer and Eric Beers were busy battling amongst themselves on Lap 202.
Hirschman was able to go with what he had, and held on for the win.
“I ended up with more laps on my tires at the end than I probably had envisioned, but the way it had worked out the caution came out a little quicker after the fuel stop than I had wanted, but it was time to do something in case we didn’t have as much time later. There were plenty of cautions, but you just don’t know that.”
It seemed as though that Hirschman’s biggest hurdle would be that of Andy Jankowiak, but like so many other times, Andy J’s luck ran out, in this case an engine failure ending things for the 12 team on Lap 194.
“The 12 before the last restart, my dad said, you’re racing the 12 for the win, and we go down into one and he goes up in smoke. After that it certainly made it a little easier. Last year we passed a lot more cars and had a little more fun. But you can’t complain once you’re at the front,” Hirschman added.
The sixth RoC 250 win ends a tremendous 30-day stretch for Hirschman, which saw the 60 team get a RoC Series win at Spencer Speedway (NY), Hirschman’s first win with Pee Dee Motorsports on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Oswego Speedway (NY), and another win in the U.S. Open at Lancaster National Speedway (NY).
“I’ve got to thank my team. There’s a lot of work that goes into these, and we’re on a nice streak here. Won two back on Labor Day weekend, won the U.S. Open for the fifth time and this for the sixth time. I don’t know, sometimes when I get on these rolls you definitely feel that you can’t be beat, and it’s a nice feeling to have. Sometimes, like earlier this year, the wins don’t come as easy or I wasn’t on my game as I am now, but hopefully we can stay on it the rest of the year.”
Chuck Hossfeld recovered from a mid-race spin to finish second, and clinch the 2018 RoC Asphalt Modified Series title. Austin Kochenash, Jimmy Zacharias, and Jack Ely rounded the top five at Lake Erie Speedway.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos