With the countdown to the 67th Race of Champions drawing down, the pre-race favorite for many in the Modified community is the same as it has been for most of the year: Matt Hirschman. The Northampton, PA championship driver looks to be the first driver to win the Race of Champions 250 in his home state since it was last run on Pocono Raceway’s old 3/4-mile track back in 1991. The 3/8-mile Lake Erie Speedway in Western PA is regarded as a jewel in Northeast short track racing, with Hirschman being one of its biggest fans.
“I really like the track, we had a really good run there last year and just didn’t close it. Winning the race in the Spring, I’m definitely looking forward to it because it’s a really awesome facility and it will produce some really good racing,” Hirschman told Speed51.com powered by JEGs. “It won’t be single file, follow the leader; there will be two grooves. You can set up passes there very well. It’s going to be a quality race in my opinion.”
He also believes that it will be an exciting 250 laps from start to finish with tire conservation not playing a huge role.
“I think you’ll see a lot of moving throughout the entire race based on what the pit strategies are going to be and the way the track lends itself to passing,” Hirschman stated. “It’s going to be good racing throughout with strategy; guys are going to have an advantage with tires over others depending on when they decide to take them.”
Going into Race of Champions weekend “Big Money Matt” has had a big season in the Modified ranks, with 11 wins overall, seven of them coming in a row. While Hirschman admits that it has been a career year so far, he feels that he is entering the weekend on a dry spell.
“The seven-race win streak definitely tops in my career in terms of that. At the same time, it has been over a month since we won a race,” Hirschman explained. “We had some second-place runs, including Sunday (at Lancaster, NY). We had some good runs but haven’t found victory lane. I think I’m on a little of a dry spell here considering we haven’t had a losing streak this long all season.
“It’s hard to say until the season is over, we’ll probably have seasons with more wins over what we will have this year. We have won big races so far, but the end of the season is full of big races, so it depends on how these next two months go to really say how this will all rank when it’s all said and done at the end.”
This weekend could become another historic moment for Hirschman as he looks to become the first driver to win three Race of Champions 250s in a row, which would also tie Dutch Hoag’s record of five wins and tie the legendary Richie Evans with wins on three different tracks that have hosted the Race of Champions.
“It would be neat. The race is full of history which is significant to Modified racing. When you look at the names that have won this race over the years, I like to look over the list and read through it just to see those names and remind yourself of the great drivers that won this race.”
While he admits that accomplishing the feat this year would be incredible, he finds it hard to put his accomplishments against other Modified legends who have won in the event’s first 66 years.
“Comparing my wins recently to others who have won going back to the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the history of it ties it all together. But it’s not fair to make comparisons and I’m just grateful for the success we’ve had in the race,” Hirschman said. “And we’re going to try our best to make history by trying to win it three times in a row, which has never been done. At the same time, I’m just proud to have my name already a part of that list regardless if it’s once, multiple times, or possibly a record tying fifth time. It’s just such an honor to be a part of.”
This year marks another first for the Race of Champions as it will be broadcast live for the very first time, and you can see it right here on Speed51.com. Click here to order today.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos