When the money was on the line, “Big Money” did what he does best Wednesday night at New Smyrna Speedway. Matt Hirschman, the defending Tour-type Modified champion, took the lead from Ryan Preece on a Lap 62 restart and sailed away late to win the John Blewett III Memorial.
The victory was Hirschman’s second consecutive victory in the John Blewett III Memorial and his fifth career World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing victory.
“That’s two years in a row for this race,” Hirschman said on the FansChoice.TV broadcast. “I really like the longer races here. Guys had some strategy there, pitting and different things but it worked out for us.”
Hirschman’s victory came one night after an incident that nearly ended his Florida Speedweeks. After a long night of work, the No. 60 crew had the car back to normal and the fastest it had been all week long.
“After last night, we really had to work hard. Initially, I thought we were done for the week because usually you don’t bring out a welder and grinders at a race track,” Hirschman said. “We came here to race, so luckily it wasn’t too bad and we were able to fix it. These guys worked hard to fix it.
“I know we’re all tired; we’re all going to all go on adrenaline and celebrate this a bit, but we’re definitely worn out. We worked hard the last few days, and hopefully we can finish the week strong and not have to do that all over again.”
After qualifying second, Hirschman started on the pole for the 76-lap race following an invert of two. Fast qualifier Ryan Preece jumped out to the early lead on the opening lap but surrendered it just one lap later to five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby.
Coby, who won Monday’s Tour-type Modified opener, stretched his lead out to over one second and maintained that lead until a caution bunched up the field on Lap 25. Preece used the ensuing restart to take the lead back from Coby – his biggest rival and the realtor for his condo in Connecticut – and held the lead until the Lap 62 restart when Hirschman took over the top spot.
Following another restart with eight laps to go, Preece began to fall back through the field before ultimately finishing ninth.
Chuck Hossfeld found speed in his No. 22 Modified late in the race and charged to a runner-up finish.
“I have a great team,” Hossfeld said. “We didn’t have the car we needed at the beginning of the race, so we kept coming in and adjusting. I knew we’d have a great car if we could break free from some of that traffic. We had a fast car at the end and I think I could’ve had something from Matty if I was closer after that last caution.”
Doug Coby made multiple pit stops for adjustments on his No. 2 and charged to a fourth-place finish at the end of the race. Jimmy Zacharias turned in his most impressive performance thus far by completing the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand coverage of Wednesday’s action by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
The Tour-type Modifieds will return to the race track Thursday night for a 35-lap feature.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Melissa Strahley