Matt Hirschman had never raced at Oxford Plains Speedway before Saturday evening. But the fans packing the stands on the night before the Oxford 250 would never have known the difference.
“Big Money Matt” started up front and led all 100 laps in a dominant performance, taking his second win of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series season in the all-star series’ first visit to the venerable Maine oval.
The Oxford 100 was the final event of a long day of feature racing, and when the green flag dropped just past eleven o’clock, the race pace suggested that the drivers were racing against a curfew. Hirschman, starting from the pole after the redraw, jumped out to an early lead over Anthony Nocella. Woody Pitkat, then Brad Babb, supplanted Nocella in the runner-up spot, but neither could close on Hirschman.
Nocella fought back to second place as the race reached halfway, still under the green flag, but Ronnie Williams took over second on lap 55, bringing Andy Shaw along with him. Williams closed in on Hirschman, but with Shaw making his own bid for second, Williams was forced to play offense and defense.
A spin by NASCAR Modified driver Calvin Carroll brought out the yellow flag at last with 71 laps complete, and brought the leaders to the pit area, with only Russ Hersey and Andy Jankowiak remaining on the track. Hersey and Jankowiak took the green flag, but contact in turn one collected the two leaders and Hirschman, who narrowly avoided any serious damage.
With Hersey and Jankowiak forced to the pits for repairs, and the restart effectively an unscored lap, Hirschman was never credited with losing the race lead. On the restart, Hirschman dispatched Williams, the two leaders leaving the field to battle for third place.
Jankowiak had charged from the back of the pack up to fourth when he and Matt Swanson made contact racing for third in turn three. Jankowiak’s spin brought out the fourth caution of the night, scrambling the running order within the top ten. Up front, Hirschman and Williams brought the field to green for a ten-lap shootout.
But while Ronnie Williams could keep within sight of Hirschman, catching and passing him was another story. Hirschman stretched his advantage in the closing laps to take his first career victory in the state of Maine and the first TTOMS event held at Oxford Plains Speedway. Hirschman added that the victory was his first of the year in the familiar red #60, having run his NASCAR Tour car in his win at Claremont (N.H.) Motorsports Park in May.
Williams, of Ellington, Conn., finished an uncontested second. Andy Jankowiak surged to third in the final ten laps with the left-rear corner of his car caved in. Even the Tonawanda, N.Y. driver was was stunned; he confessed that he thought he was racing for tenth until he saw Williams’ car ahead at the checkered flag. Jankowiak’s run in the #573x was his first podium finish in Tri-Track action.
A scramble behind the top three left Woody Pitkat spinning out of a top-five run, with Andy Shaw and Brian Robie rounding out the top five finishers. Les Hinckley, Brad Babb, Calvin Carroll, a backwards Pitkat and consi winner Kirk Alexander completed the top ten.
Star Speedway SBM 125 winner Ron Silk raced near the front of the pack early on, but dropped off the pace with eighteen laps remaining and was scored 24th.
Thirty-two cars attempted to qualify for the feature, with 27 starting the race. Considering Oxford is far removed from the accepted geography of “Modified Country,” the turnout and participation for a race well off the beaten path and a track unfamiliar to many Mod regulars was quite impressive.
Hirschman’s first win in the Pine Tree State could not have come at a more appropriate track. Hirschman’s father Tony, a five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, first entered the family name in the track’s record books in 1992. The elder Hirschman, who raced briefly on NASCAR’s Busch North Series (now K&N Pro Series East), scored his only career Busch North win at Oxford when Matt was ten years old.
The battle for the sixth Tri-Track Open Modified Series crown looks to be a two-way battle between Hirschman and Ronnie Williams with two events remaining. Hirschman, whose nickname points to his tendency of chasing purses rather than championships, has won the last four Tri-Track championships, and could be well on his way to a fifth straight title.
The next event for the Tri-Track Open Modified Series is on September 14, when the series visits western New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway for 100 laps on the familiar high-banked quarter-mile.
1. Matt Hirschman
2. Ronnie Williams
3. Andy Jankowiak
4. Andy Shaw
5. Brian Robie
6. Les Hinckley
7. Brad Babb
8. Calvin Carroll
9. Woody Pitkat
10. Kirk Alexander
11. Anthony Nocella
12. Jacob Dore
13. Matt Galko
14. Matt Swanson
15. Joey Jarvis
16. Jon Kievman
17. Larry Barnett
18 .Geoff Rollins
19. Colbey Fournier
20. Kurt Vigeant
21. Russ Hersey
22. Tommy Barrett
23. Anthony Sesely
24. Ron Silk
25. Carl Medeiros
26. Richard Savary
27. Kris Watson
DNQ: Andrew Charron, Steven Dickey, Derek Robie, Bill Dixon, George Sherman
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