Monday November 13, 2006

ARCHIVES
By Brian Danko                                  CLICK IN ANY PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Who can blame Matt Hirschman if he wishes the calendar said April instead of November. One week after his big win in the North-South Shoot-out, the young driver from Northampton, PA is ready to keep on racing.

"Right now, I just want to race. I am young and Hungary and I just want to keep racing." An excited Matt said from his shop last week.

For a driver like Matt to win the Shoot-out, it says a lot about how far the son of five-time modified tour champion, Tony has come despite his early career success.

"It was the definitely the biggest win of my career to date." Matt said thinking back to the weekend in Concord, NC. "It was because it's like an all star event. I have won race at the local level and races on the Race of Champions but this is the biggest."

Matt knew, as well as the competitors he competed against that the #60 modified of Matt Hirschman were one of the cars to beat.

"When we unloaded the car we were fast and I was real comfortable with the car. We didn't change a lot on the car and that was smart." Matt said with a laugh in his voice.

"I was also on top of the game the whole weekend. I was mistake free all weekend." The 24-year-old driver quipped, adding, "I was able to stay out of any trouble, at the end of the race, there was an accident and I was able to avoid it."

Matt, who split his time this year running the full NASCAR Whelen modified tour and the Race of Champions circuit as well as a few weekly shows when his time permits. While Matt has top-notch equipment, the car he used down south was his Race of Champions machine.

As the race was winding down to conclusion, Ted Christopher, one of the most feared drivers in the modified division moved into second place and Matt said he was aware of the situation.

"My crew let me know that Teddy got into second and I certainly didn't want him getting any closer to me on the track because I didn't want to give him a shot." But the young driver also knew that his car had more to give if necessary. "I knew that I had some left in the car, in fact, I think I might have been able to pull away a little if I needed to."

When Matt was asked is his racing through in the 2006 season, he said right now he is 50/50 if he will head to South Boston, VA for the Melt-Down modified race or head to the Jersey shore for the Turkey Derby."We should have any answer next week on what we are going to do."

When Matt was asked to describe his 2006 season, he said it was two folds, with some good and some better.

Matt was able to finish 11th on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour and while he felt they should have finished in the top ten, he was okay with the season. "I wanted to finish in the top ten but we had four out of five DNF's at Thompson Speedway and that killed us. I also think that we came away with lower finishes at other races than we shouldn't have but it was a good season for a rookie season."

While Matt was one of the drivers many figured to contend for the Rookie of the Year award, instead the honors went to another young driver, James Civali of Meriden, CT.

"James Civali and the 28 team got off to a better start and that was the key for them. They sort of leveled off later but it was too late then but for the most part they were the better team most of the season."

Matt also said that his Race of Champions team did quite well, especially after the first race.

"We had a real good year there. We didn't finish the first race but them we had 9 top six finishes including 2 wins, three seconds, 2 thirds, a fourth and a sixth." Matt said with pride.

"I missed two races because of a conflict on the tour but I couldn't ask for a better season on the ROC tour. I guess the season kind of averages out for us." While the racing season here is down to just a couple of races left, Matt is already thinking about 2007 and beyond.

"I guess we plan on doing the same thing. The modified tour will be the priority but I just want to race at every chance that I can get." "I just want to thank all of my team owners and crew. They are the ones who gave me a good car each and every weekend and without them, none of this would be possible."

While Matt has a role model in his father, he looks with envy to drivers like Ted Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld, Eric Beers and John Blewett, III, for their ability to race anything and everything on a weekly basis.

"My dad and Mike Stefanik, those guys don't need to do a lot of racing, they already have so much experience but I want to race everything I can and hope to do so next year."

When Matt was told of some new venues the modified tour is rumored be going to, Matt said that is great. "I wish we could run a schedule like when my father first started on the tour running 29 races but that isn't going to happen but I like the newer track, whether they are big tracks or short track, it doesn't matter to me."

Matt Hirschman has proven a lot already winning the Race of Champions points championship but the win in the North-South Shoot-out proves now that he can race and win among the best in the business.

WATERFORD UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
They always say out with the old and in with the new and that is what's in store for the Waterford Speedbowl in 2007 and beyond as a new group will take over the week to week operations of the 57-year-old race track on the Connecticut shoreline.

Jerry Robinson, a Groton, CT entrepreneur and Bill Roth of Taftville, CT have agreed to a multi-year lease to operate the track.

Roth was general manager of the track for the previous two years and is given much credit for improving the racing at the one-third mile oval.

Terry Eames, the owner of the speedway and the land around the track promoted the speedway the last 12 years but will pursue other business opportunities. The track will remain a NASCAR track and is working on the 2007 schedule and once again will showcase the SK modifieds, late models, sportsman and mini-stocks on a weekly basis.

The popular Wild n' Wacky Wednesday night series and the family fun shows will also continue.

They are also in negotiations for races including the International Supermodifieds as well as the True Value modified series.

One of the major concerns at the Speedbowl has been the horrible condition of the rest rooms and the stands and both Robinson and Roth agree that is one of the priorities once all the legal work is signed.

Do not expect the NASCAR Whelen modified tour or the Busch East to be apart of the 2007 schedule but it doesn't mean that one or both tours might be a late addition.

TOUR RUMORS ABOUND
The rumors concerning the 2007 modified tour schedule are all around and while many figure the 2007 schedule will consist of about 17 races, many teams might be putting on a more miles to run the series.

It is almost a set deal for the modified tour and the Busch East series to run twin 100 lappers at the Mansfield Speedway in Ohio.

According to Bobby Dillner, one of the co-promoters of the Melt Down modified race at South Boston, he has talked with NASCAR about making that a tour race. Dillner made those comments on the Speedway Line Report on WATR in Waterbury last Monday night.

The modifieds are also rumored to be apart of the Toyota Showdown series with the NASCAR Busch East and West series.

There are also rumors that Riverhead, one of the staples of the modified tour will not be apart of the 2007 schedule and Jennerstown Speedway is still up in the air whether or not they will operate next season.

Expect Thompson to have their five races and Stafford will have another four, after that, all bets are off.

WHELEN TO SPONSOR THE NASCAR WEEKLY SERIES
Whelen Engineering of Chester, CT, the title sponsor of the NASCAR modified tour and the NASCAR Southern modified tour has agreed to sponsor the NASCAR weekly racing series taking over for Dodge.

The NASCAR weekly series will now renamed the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The weekly series has been offering competitors at weekly NASCAR tracks the opportunity to stay close to home and yet race for national honors.

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT was one of the four NASCAR regional champions and was honored this past weekend in Las Vegas at the annual banquet.

COASTAL 181 HAS THE GIFTS
Hard to believe but that 'happy time of year' is just around the corner and for the hard to get race fan, Coastal 181 has all of the latest books and videos for the racing junkie.

Rave reviews are out on the new book, "Gotta Race", the story of Ken Schrader written with Joyce Standridge and another good read called, "Paved Track, Dirt Track" written by Lew Boyd.

In the spring, another book edited and annotated by good friend, Bones Bourcier, will feature the life and racing history of Eddie Flemke, Sr. The book is called Steady Eddie, memories of Ed Flemke, Modified Racing's Fastest Professor. It will feature memories from friends, rivals, teammates and family members.

On a personal note, growing up in Southington, CT, the home of Eddie Flemke, he was one of my racing heroes' and to get to know him was something that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.

For any other gift ideas, call Coastal 181 at 877-907-8181 or visit them online at www.coastal181.com.

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.  FOR THE MOST IN AUTO RACING NEWS SUBSCRIBE BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.