It’s not often that you receive a mulligan as a race car driver, but that’s exactly what Matt Hisrchman needed on Friday night. After nearly seeing victory slip away on a green-white-checkered restart, the driver known as “Big Money” took advantage of a second opportunity to pull away and win his fifth career Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway.
Hirschman’s victory was his third straight in the prestigious race, a feat accomplished by no other driver. The win also helped him clinch his third career Tour-type Modified championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing,
“I started my career over 20 years ago at Evergreen Speedway in Pennsylvania and I never knew if I’d win one race,” Hirschman said on the NBC Trackpass broadcast. “To come down here to Florida and win the biggest race here named after Richie Evans is quite a career. I’m thankful for everyone who has helped get me here, not just here to Florida but throughout my career. Tonight I’ve got to thank my guys, they worked hard all week. We’ve had a lot of success here over the last few years. They’re all memorable, these Evans 100 wins. ”
Hirschman began the week at New Smyrna with three consecutive podium finishes, but none of those finishes saw him on the top step of the podium. He changed that on Thursday night by winning a 35-lap race, and he remained hungry heading into the biggest race of the week on Friday.
“Last night, it was nice to win but it’s hard for me to celebrate it because there was a bigger prize ahead,” Hirschman stated. “Tonight we got it and also won the championship. It’s a team accomplishment. It’s just great to be here with a great crowd here.”
Starting from the pole after an invert of 10, Monday night’s winner Craig Lutz dominated the first 75 laps of Friday night’s race before engine issues sidelined him with 25 laps remaining. Hirschman inherited the lead and began to pull away from Preece before a caution with two laps to go set up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the initial attempt at a restart, Preece had the advantage and cleared Hirschman off of turn two. However, the restart would be for naught as the caution flag waved prior to the completion of a lap. That allowed Hirschman to have another attempt as the leader, and he took full advantage of it by pulling away from Preece over the final two laps.
“Once I had to come from the back and run behind him [on Wednesday], I knew he had a good car.,” Hirschman said of Preece. “He didn’t need to be here last night, he was going to have a good car tonight. He was better at the start than me. We were just able to get ahead of him there. He’s a great talent and I hope he wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday.”
Preece battled Hirschman for the win on the green-white-checkered restart before falling back to finish fourth on the final lap.
“I’d rather not talk about that restart; I’d rather talk about the one before,” Preece said. “The second [restart] he knew what he was going to do at that point. Matt’s been doing this for a long time and he’s a really good race car driver, obviously. He’s super talented. He tried to make it a fast-paced restart and he spun his tires, so I knew he was going to slow it down. He has enough forward drive to get up and launch when we do that, so it just put me in a position where I was bottled up on the bottom and just too tight.
“Could’ve ended up second, could’ve won and ended up fourth. But it was a great day. I’m happy with the race, and it was fun racing Matt there at the end. Man, I wish we didn’t get that caution.”
Jon McKennedy claimed his second consecutive runner-up finish on Friday night. Anthony Nocella, Preece and Eric Goodale completed the top five.
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-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Director of Content – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51 / Will Bellamy
Richie Evans Memorial 100 Unofficial Results
New Smyrna Speedway (FL) – February 12, 2021
|13||14||Bobby Measmer, Jr.||25|
|19||9||Tom Martino, Jr.||28|
|20||17K||Danny Knoll, Jr.||27|
|32||73||Paul Hartwig, Jr.||33|