Over the years, Matt Hirschman has earned the nickname "Big Money" thanks in large part to his unprecedented success in some of Modified racing's most prestigious and profitable races. He has won on all of the Northeastern-based Modified series and high-paying open shows throughout the region.
But the one event that started it all back in 2006 for the Northampton, Pennsylvania driver was the North-South Shootout. Since his first win in the all-star Modified race that brings in Modified teams from all around the Eastern seaboard, Hirschman has gone on to four more Shootout victories, giving him a total of five in the 11-year history of the event.
Hirschman hasn't forgotten where it all started all those years ago and will be back to go for win number-six when the John Blewett III North-South Shootout takes the green flag at North Carolina's Caraway Speedway on Saturday, November 1.
"This race in particular has probably been the biggest race to my career in terms of the success it brought me over the years," said Hirschman. "As big a win and as upset or surprise win it was when I won the first one and then to follow it up with four more at two different venues has made it the biggest race in my career."
Hirschman will return to Caraway for this year's North-South Shootout with his family-owned No. 60 car with support from DMC Auto Exchange in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Long Island Mod Maniac and B.C. Brennenstuhl. The red-and-black No. 60 has won half of the North-South Shootouts it has competed in - five out of its 10 starts in the event with Hirschman behind the wheel. Hirschman won his first three Shootouts at Concord Speedway (NC) before the event was moved to Caraway in 2011, which he also won. He followed it up with a win at Caraway in 2011 and again last season, making him the driver to beat once again in 2014.
But if Hirschman is going to start counting his Shootout wins on a second hand, he's going to have to best the top drivers from all points of the Modified racing map.
"Those have always been my favorite events - events where it brings a variety of competition and where you race different people that you don't get to race with normally. It just has more of a special-event feel. Those races I've always said bring out the best in me. I think my track record has proven that."
Despite being a centrally-located and frequent stop for many of the Southern-based Modified teams, The North-South Shootout has been dominated by the Northern stars. Since moving to Caraway in 2011, Hirschman and Connecticut driver Ryan Preece have been the only ones to go to victory lane.
But with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour rule change at mid-season in 2014 allowing for a one-tire pit stop, Hirschman now believes the Southern drivers will have an even better shot to reclaim the event for their home region.
"What made this event a little different than the traditional Southern Tour races is the two-tire change," said Hirschman. "Now the Southern races here recently have gone to a one-tire change, it may make it a little more difficult for me because they are getting experience with doing pit stops. Having to do a pit stop was what separated the North-South Shootout from the other Tour races at Caraway. I think that was key to winning this race with the strategy and the pit stop.
"Now I think the advantage goes to the Southern Tour guys based on the recent change in the Tour races. It just gets more and more difficult to win these races and you've got to be prepared and on your A-game. I've never won a North-South Shootout not on my A-game and that's what it's going to take again this year."
The 12th Annual North-South Shootout event will feature the Modifieds as well as the PASS South Super Late Models, Southeast Limited Late Model Series, USAC Midgets, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Legends Cars. Shootout weekend kicks off on Thursday, October 30 with practice for all divisions at Caraway Speedway. Racing action gets underway on Friday, October 31 with qualifying and several feature events. The John Blewett III North-South Shootout feature will take center stage on Saturday, November 1 along with PASS and more.
Caraway Speedway is located in Sophia, North Carolina near Asheboro and just minutes from Interstates 85 and 74.
For ticket information and more on the 12th Annual North-South Shootout, visit www.carawayspeedway.com and www.northsouthshootout.com.
- 51 Sports/North-South Shootout press release. Photo credits: Brenda Meserve/Speed51.com