Matt Hirschman has been one of the most dominant Modified drivers in the country during the last few years, winning with the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series, Tri-Track Open Modified Series, and other open shows across the Northeast. He has also amassed a number of top-five finishes racing with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour while running on a part-time basis. But one thing “Big Money” hadn’t been able to do in recent years is park his No. 60 in victory lane against the stars from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Saturday night, at a track that he has had so much success at, his nine-year winless drought finally came to an end.
Oswego Speedway played home to the Modified Classic 150 presented by McDonald’s for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. For the third straight year, the tour has been added to the prestigious International Classic Weekend held at the “Steel Palace”.
Hirschman qualified on the pole for the second straight year and lined up next to Chase Dowling for the green flag.
When the green flag dropped on the field of 25 cars, Hirschman jumped right to the lead with Dowling on his heels. The race flowed smoothly during the first 92 circuits, as only a couple of caution flags re-stacked the field.
The lap 92 caution flag provided the leaders with an opportunity to visit pit road, and they took it. Live pit stops saw the likes of Dowling and Justin Bonsignore get off of pit road ahead of Hirschman as he got boxed in during his stop.
On the restart, Dave Sapienza lined up next to Woody Pitkat, who would get the lead around the outside of Sapienza. As the No. 36 of Sapienza slid back, Pitkat led with Bonsignore and Hirschman making their way around the top. Behind them, Ryan Preece found his way to the front after starting deep in the field.
On lap 120, Hirschman made the move on Pitkat’s orange No. 82 and began to step away from the field. Bonsignore followed suit, as well as Preece. As the leaders got into the closing laps, havoc broke loose.
With three laps remaining, Preece’s car veered straight into the wall off of turn four and flew through the air, landing on all fours and spinning like a top down the front straightaway. Other cars would spin trying to avoid Preece’s car as the red flag was displayed.
By the conclusion of the event, it took three chances at a green-white-checkered finish to complete the race. In the end, it was Hirschman holding off Bonsignore to the checkered flag.
“It hasn’t been that long, but it feels like a long time coming here because we’ve had so many good finishes in a row,” Hirschman told Speed51.com. “Second here last year when we were so close and then three thirds with the Whelen Tour this year with Pee Dee Motorsports. That part is just great to get a win for Pee Dee. We’ve won up here on Classic weekend, won a bunch of races up here on Classic Weekend before, but this is the biggest.”
Justin Bonsignore had a solid night, coming home with a second-place finish and adding to his points lead total.
“We qualified well, just a little off for the start of the race on the hard tire. Our guys did a great job on pit road, got us the track position to get us out ahead of everyone else that pitted,” Bonsignore said. “Our car was a little too tight but unfortunately missed a shift on the one start where Matt got out ahead of me and just made it a little too easy on him.
“All in all, a really good night, I’m happy with that. Next week we are going home to our home track at Riverhead. We won there in the spring so we’re going to try to go for two there and see what we can do, but we’ll just keep digging and the points will take care of themselves.”
Doug Coby, Woody Pitkat and Eric Goodale completed the top five Saturday night.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will visit Riverhead Raceway for their next event on September 8.
-Story by Evan Canfield, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos