If there’s two facts that have been driven deep into the minds of Northeast Modified fans this year, it’s that Matt Hirschman is always a favorite at Star Speedway (NH) and he is always a favorite on the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. Both of those points were proven Wednesday night when Hirschman won the Flamingo Motorsports 100 at the Epping, NH quarter-mile after leading the entire way.
The driver from Northampton, PA also made it three-for-three in Tri-Track competition in 2017 and clinched the 2017 Tri-Track Open Modified Series championship. Hirschman also won the Open Wheel Wednesday 100 at Seekonk Speedway (MA) back in June and the SBM 125 also held at Star in July.
Hirschman has admittedly been lucky as well, particularly when it comes to heat race and feature draws. It has been the case in the last two races, and it was the case Wednesday. It’s also something that “Big Money Matt” freely admits, but that it still comes down to both team and driver to stay at the front.
“Tonight things just kind of fell into my lap, really,” Hirschman told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I didn’t draw my heat position; my mom did that because I had another obligation for a photo out here for Speedway Illustrated, so she drew third. We finished second, put us in the redraw, and that was the last number in the bag, one. What else can you say? It was kind of handed to me to just come out here and not make any mistakes. Make the right decisions with the car, hit the setup. The car was really stuck tonight. I was better from the drop of the green then I was back in July.”
Those who don’t know Hirschman would immediately suspect that Star is his home track, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The simple fact is that Star is a style of track that Hirschman enjoys, and that the two have clicked since day one.
“I came here as a kid when my dad raced, but that was back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, not sure I can attribute any of it to that. Came here to race for the first time in 2007, kind of a last minute, spur of the moment thing; we went to the World Series at Thompson and they were passing out flyers for a $4,000 to win Modified race next week. I talked to my owners from Pennsylvania and they said ‘yeah.’ We came up here for the weekend, won, raced with Ted Christopher, Jon McKennedy, that ended 2007. Just took to the track immediately, won the first time out and won many times since. I’ve got a lot of money at this little bullring.”
Wednesday night also had a little twist brought on by Tri-Track co-promoter Wayne Darling. He offered an extra $1,000 to either of the drivers who drew a front row starting spot, dropped to the back of the field on the pace laps and drove back to win. Both Hirschman and Ryan Preece had the choice. Preece accepted, Hirschman did not. But he had a very good reason not to take the chance.
“It was a generous offer, but a thousand really wasn’t enough to me. It didn’t make sense in my head because it pays $6,000 to win and the championship this year pays really well, it’s $5,000,” Hirschman explained. “I knew a win tonight would lock that, and there is a race drop involved, there’s one more race left. I knew no one else could win three, but somebody else could still win two if someone won tonight and the next one. So the only way I could lock it up was a win and with $6,000 to win and $5,000 for the championship, a thousand wasn’t enough to persuade me to give up the pole.”
While Hirschman enjoyed both the race win and Tri-Track Open Modified Series championship in victory lane, things were not as smooth behind him.
Rowan Pennink ran second most of the night, but had to deal with Tommy Barrett, Jr. who had not pitted with the rest of the field before halfway and elected to pit instead on the next yellow flag with 40 laps to go. By the time the white flag flew, Pennink was holding second from Barrett, when in turn three contact was made, sending Pennink into the grass. After the race Pennink made his displeasure clear by driving into Barrett’s rear bumper. Barrett would be penalized for the last-lap contact, while Pennink was fined for making contact after the race.
Pennink later gave his view on what happened.
“He just drove into me, took us out on the last corner there. I think he just drove it in there as hard as he could and probably hit me as hard as he could,” Pennink stated. “Idiot move cost him a third, me a second, and probably close to seven grand in money between the two of us, just a dumb move. Matt locked up the championship and we would’ve probably locked up second, whatever. But it ends up being a sh—- night and he’ll (Barrett) get his back, I’m not forgetting that one.”
Barrett was not available for comment after the race or Thursday morning.
With Barrett’s penalty, Les Hinckley was credited with finishing second, Jon McKennedy third, Woody Pitkat fourth and Jon Kievman rounding the top five.
The Tri-Track Open Modified Series has one race remaining in 2017, the inaugural Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, October 29.
For an on-demand race recap, visit Trackside Now. (Click here)
A full race replay is also available for all Speed51 premium subscribers. (Click here to watch)
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com