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Todd Patnode Foils Hirschman’s Bid In $10,000 Racers Honoring Racers 100

The veteran racer held off a spirited drive by “Big Money Matt” to take home a $10,000 winner’s bounty.

Todd Patnode used a no-pit strategy to capture the checkers in Saturday night's Racers Honoring Racers 100, a $10,000-to-win open-competition Modified feature at Star Speedway. (STS/Jeff Brown)

It’s a challenge to call a veteran driver’s victory an upset win. But when it comes against one of the region’s best big-money racers, on a completely different pit strategy, it almost makes sense.

Todd Patnode’s win Saturday night, then, could be one of those rare veteran upsets.

Todd Patnode stands victorious—and $10,000 richer—after Saturday’s Racers Honoring Racers 100. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The western New Hampshire Modified champion outlasted an all-star field and outraced Matt Hirschman in the closing laps to win the Racers Honoring Racers 100 Tour-type Modified open at Star Speedway.

But did Patnode find himself more focused on the red Modified growing larger in his mirror than the massive check ahead?

“I didn’t really,” Patnode said. “Up off the restart, just to make sure we were clear. Besides that, the mirror just adds pressure. So we just usually flip it up once we start going.”

Hirschman won last year’s running of the Racers Honoring Racers 100, held at Claremont Motorsports Park in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley. A two-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner in 2023 and a seven-time winner in various Modified events at Star, “Big Money Matt” was an easy favorite for Saturday’s main event.

Unsurprisingly, Hirschman edged out Patnode in time trials, and both drivers won their respective heats, but Patnode drew the pole position for the start, with Hirschman starting fourth. Patnode settled into first with Richard Savary second, while Hirschman was content to ride early on.

Matt Swanson was at the front of the field much of the evening, but settled for third after a late battle with Hirschman. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Mark Bakaj’s spin on lap 38 brought out the night’s second caution flag, opening the pit window for tire changes and adjustments. Patnode, Savary, Hirschman and four others remained on track while the rest of the field peeled off for the pits. On the restart, outside polesitter Jake Johnson and Teddy Hodgdon pounced on Richard Savary for second, while Matt Swanson rose to sixth after his pit stop.

Bakaj was caught up in another incident with Kevin Iannarelli to bring out another yellow on lap 52. With just under half the race remaining, Johnson led Hodgdon and Hirschman to the pits, leaving only Patnode, Mike Collins and Tour-type newcomer Jeffrey Battle who had yet to stop. Hirschman emerged from the pits in 19th, while Johnson returned to the paddock to address an apparent leak that prompted a lengthy cleanup.

Patnode continued to show the way under green, while Hirschman and Hodgdon picked their way through traffic. Hodgson kept testing Hirschman in the corners, and on lap 68 he dove under Hirschman in turn three, nudging the pre-race favorite into a spin. Hirschman dodged damage, but his hopes for victory had hit a roadblock.

And with only 32 laps remaining, Patnode’s pit window had closed, leaving the West Swanzey, N.H. racer out front ahead of Swanson on a fresh tire, Collins on old rubber, Joey Jarvis, and Kirk Alexander.

Contact from Teddy Hodgdon sent Hirschman for a spin that would have ended his bid for victory if not for a big wreck only a few laps later. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Patnode outdueled Swanson on the restart, but the race’s complexion changed once again three laps later when Devin O’Connell made contact with Brian Robie racing for seventh. Robie spun in turn four, blocking the track and collecting the field. A lengthy red flag was necessary to shuttle damaged cars to the pits, with Robie, O’Connell, early frontrunner Savary and four others done for the night.

Hirschman, on the other hand, had picked his way through the carnage to line up eighth with 29 laps to go.

The green flag flew and Patnode took off with the lead, but the rejuvenated Hirschman was the show. The Pennsylvanian climbed from eighth to fifth in a few laps, taking third with twenty laps to go. Hirschman reeled in Swanson for second, making the pass for position with ten circuits left. Patnode was well ahead of the pack, but Hirschman carved away his advantage, catching Patnode with five laps to go.

With four laps left on the board, though, Johnson and Tyler Barry got together, spinning in turn three and bringing out a caution that eliminated the last of Patnode’s lead.

Hirschman was bearing down on Patnode for the race lead when a caution tightened up the battle with only four laps to go. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The two veterans lined up wheel-to-wheel for the restart, with Hirschman holding firm in the high line and building momentum off turn two. As the two raced into turn three, Patnode forced Hirschman up the track, slowing Hirschman’s momentum and allowing Swanson to get past for second.

Patnode forced Hirschman high and out of the groove with only a few laps to go, sealing the deal for his big win. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Hirschman regrouped, driving under Swanson for second once again. But by then, the white flag was in the air, and Patnode was home free.

A winner at Star in the 2018 edition of the track’s SBM 125 for Tour-type Modifieds, Patnode crossed the line first to take the $10,000 top prize.

“When [Hirschman] was closing, I was thinking that maybe it was a mistake not to come in for the tire,” Patnode said. “But it paid off. We had just enough, so that’s all that matters.”

Hirschman was taciturn after his runner-up finish, but he admitted that it could have been worse. “We got a big gift with that wreck,” he said. “That certainly gave us life, and we had a lot of good position there. But it didn’t work out.”

Swanson, who won Wednesday’s Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series feature at Seekonk Speedway, came up two positions short of delivering car owner Gary Casella a second win in a four-day stretch. Hodgdon rebounded to fourth, with Ryan Doucette on his heels in fifth.

Cars stack up in turn four after a spin near the front of the field, with Hirschman sneaking by on the apron to emerge in eighth. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Jarvis, one of few Vermont-based Modified contenders, was sixth, with multiple-time Modified Racing Series champ Alexander seventh. Kevin Iannarelli was eighth in the final rundown. Star Speedway 350 Supermodified champion and Tour-type rookie Jeffrey Battle finished ninth for car owner Bobby Webber, and Derek Robbie rounded out the top ten.

Twenty-five cars took the green, representing winners and contenders from NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour, the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series, the Milton CAT Modified Racing Series and weekly tracks around New England. Super Late Model racer Gabe Brown took advantage of a cancellation to attempt his Modified debut, but while Brown acquitted himself well in his heat, engine problems kept his Weir Motorsports ride on the sidelines for the start.

Saturday’s open-competition Modified showdown was a joint effort between MDP Motorsports Promotions’ Mike Parks and “The Racing Guys,” a team of Modified-centric supporters from southern New England including veteran promoter Dick Williams. Parks, a former driver and co-founder of the Granite State Pro Stock Series, staged last year’s inaugural event at Claremont Motorsports Park, a track he was leasing at the time.

When Claremont’s ownership abruptly ended Parks’ lease agreement last fall, Parks moved the event to Star, the track whose SBM 125 Modified open awakened interest in high-stakes open-competition Modified racing over a decade ago.

A winner of Star’s annual SBM 125 in 2018, Patnode earned his second win at the Epping, N.H. quarter-mile. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The Racers Honoring Racers events have been organized to commemorate the careers of New England racing legends, with this year’s race honoring Supermodified hero Bentley Warren, Modified racer Butch Perry, noted car builder Art Barry, and late Star Speedway owner Bob Webber, Sr.

Star has been integral to Parks’ 2023 plans, hosting three of the eight GSPSS races on the schedule as well as two events for Parks’ MDP Motorsports Promotions venture. The second is November’s “Thanksgiving Classic,” modeled after a similar year-ending event at Claremont that was well-received.

Whether the main event is a Modified feature or a four-cylinder Enduro, Parks’ events are geared toward rewarding the racers who turn out to support them.

And Saturday night, Todd Patnode reaped thousands of those rewards.

Unofficial Results
MDP Motorsports Promotions/The Racing Guys Racers Honoring Racers 100
Star Speedway

1. (24) Todd Patnode
2. (60) Matt Hirschman
3. (25) Matt Swanson
4. (55CT) Teddy Hodgdon
5. (55) Ryan Doucette
6. (04) Joey Jarvis
7. (76) Kirk Alexander
8. (27I) Kevin Iannarelli
9. (19) Jeffrey Battle
10. (27MA) Derek Robbie
11. (02) Mike Collins
12. (21) Tyler Barry
13. (3MA) Jake Johnson
14. (18) Andrew Martell
15. (25NH) Brian Robie
16. (43) Devin O’Connell
17. (50) Matthew Kimball
18. (47) Jacob Perry
19. (17) Donnie Lashua
20. (99) Richard Savary
21. (52) Mark Bakaj
22. (85) Anthony Bello
23. (55X) Robert Bloxsom III
24. (23) Brad Zahensky
25. (20) Max Zachem
DNS (66) Gabe Brown

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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