This past February, one of the hottest topics entering the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing was the return of Matt Hirschman to the State of Florida and how he and the fledgling Pee Dee Motorsports No. 60 team would perform. Despite an unfortunate start after a collision with Ryan Preece at Bronson Speedway, Hirschman collected a win six days later at New Smyrna Speedway in the Richie Evans Memorial 100 and finished second in the World Series Tour-type Modified standings.
What followed was a season for the ages in 2017, with ‘Big Money Matt’ living up to his moniker once again.
Now with 2018 fast approaching, Hirschman is set to begin the year in Florida again. This time around, he’s hoping to get off to an even better start.
“Last year was probably the best overall Speedweeks that I’ve ever had, and not that I’ve done a lot of them, but that was definitely the most consistent and best performing Speedweeks we’ve ever had,” Hirschman told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We’re looking forward to trying to build on that. I think Ryan Preece and I were the top two there last year. We both got wins and we were one-two several nights, so hopefully we can improve on last year.”
Hirschman’s Speedweeks campaign is expected to include the ‘Kickoff to Speedweeks’ at Bronson Speedway on Saturday, February 10 and the five nights of Modified racing from February 12 – 16 at New Smyrna Speedway during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
Once again, Hirschman will race for the still fresh Pee Dee Motorsports team, which made its first Speedweeks appearance in 2017. The team will move forward in 2018 with much of the same equipment and personnel.
“We made our debut in late 2016 and we don’t race a lot, so our equipment is in good shape. It’s just a matter of building together as a team, learning more about the car and the crew getting acclimated to the different things we are doing,” Hirschman stated. “Not all the same stuff we do with RoC and Tri-Track is the same; we’ve mixed it up. We’ve done some Whelen Modified shows and some open shows near the end of the year. We’ve been doing a little of everything and it just takes some getting used to.”
While Pee Dee Motorsports will run the southern big shows and select NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, Hirschman’s family team is set to run a menagerie of races in the Northeast once again.
“It will probably be similar to last year. We had such a good year that I really don’t plan to change up too much,” he stated. “We’re definitely looking forward to seeing more Tri-Track races, and we’ll mix in RoC races, local stuff in Pennsylvania, a few Whelen Modified races, and the typical later season open shows that we traditionally do. It’s still a little early, not everything is finalized yet, so it’s hard to put together a schedule now.”
Following a season-opening run in February and March, Hirschman took a breather for the month of April, only to break out starting in May and set the Northeast racing scene on fire. It is a plan that Hirschman is looking to again in 2018.
“Doing the winter races in February and then if we do races in March, is like its own season. Then the regular season gets going May, June and then right through into the fall. It’s a long season and you really extended it by starting in February,” Hirschman began. “Realistically, we will be starting in the beginning of February this year and race the Thanksgiving weekend. That only really leaves December and January as off months. So, that’s a ten-month season and there is a lot more bigger races later in the year. So, if we are going to skip some races or have a lighter schedule, we would take a break in the spring when there isn’t a lot of big races. That was the case this year, we raced in February and March and we needed to regroup and really prepare for the season, which gets busier as the year goes on. So it worked out, you’ll probably see something similar this year.”
Hirschman’s 2017 season will be remembered as a legendary one, winning half of his 34 starts. He knows that the one thing more difficult will be duplicating or eclipsing that string of success in 2018.
“When you are on a roll and momentum is on your side you really hate to see the season end. Because next year when we start is a brand-new year, you start with zero for wins. Every year is different and it’s kind of a roller coaster ride really,” he said. “Just two years ago I won three races all year; this past year we won 17 and had streaks of seven and six wins. It’s not easy but like I said, if you get momentum rolling in your program and everybody on your team is performing at a high level you can achieve some great things, and that’s the kind of season we had this year. Hopefully we can stay focused and build on that on to start the season off and we can pick up where we left off.”
Hirschman will kick off his season during the 52nd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The Tour-type Modifieds will race five straight nights beginning on February 12 and culminating with the Richie Evans Memorial 100 on Friday, February 16.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com