Another day, another dollar for Matt Hirschman.
“Big Money Matt” dashed a local fairytale finish by passing Matthew Kimball, then held off charges from Sammy Rameau and Brian Robie, to take the checkered flag in Saturday night’s Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series opener at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.
And keeping true to his moniker, the six-time Tri-Track Series champion pocketed $10,000 for his 15th series win.
“[Chase Dowling] used that strategy last August, so…it worked out today,” Hirschman said of his own gameplan in victory lane. “You can win many different ways here.”
Hirschman’s strategy took shape in the heat races. With every car in the pits guaranteed to start, the Northampton, Penn. veteran saved his tires, rolling off 18th in the 100-lap feature. While Sammy Rameau set a brisk pace out front, Hirschman rode in the back.
Rameau, the defending race winner, built an early advantage over Richard Savary and Chase Dowling, but his lead was erased on lap 37 when Joey Jarvis launched himself over Dylan Izzo’s nose in turn four. The night’s first caution put most teams’ pit strategy into play early, with Rameau and only three other leaders staying on the track. Dowling emerged from the pits in 12th, with Hirschman 13th.
Rameau and Kimball, a weekly NHSTRA Modified contender, looked none the worse for wear on the restart, with Robie and Jake Johnson holding steady in third and fourth. But when another yellow flew just shy of halfway, Rameau and Robie ducked into the pits, leaving Kimball on the point for the restart.
A quick caution for Derek Robbie gave way to another green-flag run, with Kimball putting distance between himself and a lead pack that now included Hirschman and Connecticut star Ronnie Williams. Chris Pasteryak’s lap-60 spin brought Hirschman and Williams back to Kimball, who had yet to pit for a tire.
Kimball, the 2019 North East Mini Stock Tour champion, left Hirschman in the dust on the start, but lapped traffic allowed the veteran to reel in his rival. With fewer than thirty laps left on the scoreboard, Hirschman got to Kimball’s bumper and made his move for the lead, taking the top spot for the first time.
Hirschman was poised to cruise to the win, but Jake Johnson and Richard Savary got together in a shower of sparks in turn one with five laps left, bringing out a caution flag and breathing new life into the hopes of early leader Rameau. Taking advantage of the series’ new “cone rule” for restarts, Rameau vaulted into second on the restart, lining up alongside Hirschman for a shot at the win.
Rameau indeed took his shot, delivering it to Hirschman’s rear bumper after the restart, but the Pennsylvanian kept Rameau at bay until a frontstretch spin for Cory Plummer gave the field one last shot at victory.
This time, Robie gambled on the cone rule, bringing Dowling and Williams along on the high side to jumble the top five. Rameau would line up behind Hirschman with two laps to go. But Hirschman timed his restart perfectly, leaving Robie to battle Rameau as he drove to his first victory at “Mad Dog” since 2015.
“This place has been a bit of an Achille’s heel for me recently,” Hirschman said. “I do have a win here, but it’s so long ago, you didn’t remember it.”
Rameau edged out Robie for second, his best performance in Tri-Track competition since last spring’s Monadnock win.
Robie, last year’s Modified Racing Series champion, grabbed the last podium position. “We unloaded today and really, with the track and everything, I thought we were done for tonight,” he said. “But we took a big swing at it for the race, and it paid off.”
Kimball, the only of the front-runners never to pit, wheeled his crate-engined car to a career-best fourth-place finish. Chase Dowling, last August’s winner at Monadnock, rounded out the top five.
The Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series has been Hirschman’s private playground since its formation in 2014. Already a proven winner closer to home in the Race of Champions Tour, Hirschman won the first Tri-Track race at Lee USA Speedway. He has only missed one green flag since then, skipping an event in 2019, but in his 36 series starts, Hirschman has 15 wins. No other driver has more than five feature victories. Those 15 wins have paved the way to six championships in the series’ eight seasons.
If the Tri-Track Series is Hirschman’s playground, this season so far has been a theme park. Hirschman opened the season with a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in February at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, his second Tour win for PeeDee Motorsports. He followed his Tour win with three straight feature wins to close out New Smyrna’s World Series, narrowly losing the championship to a super-consistent Jimmy Blewett.
Hirschman remained on the road, racing with the Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour and picking up wins in three of the SMART Modified Tour’s first four races of the year.
Hirschman’s biggest win of the year, though, is easily last week’s Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway. Hirschman captured the 50th running of the Connecticut track’s signature showdown, a win worth over $20,000 in the bank and, just as notably, a berth in July’s Superstar Racing Experience event.
Television audiences are already familiar with the Hirschman name through Matt’s brother Tony, a top-level NASCAR spotter, and his father Tony Jr., a multi-time NASCAR Modified Tour champion. In two months’ time, they will become familiar with another Hirschman behind the wheel.
After all, his name is already familiar at the bank teller window.
Unofficial Results, Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series 100 at Monadnock Speedway:
1. (60) Matt Hirschman
2. (06MA) Sammy Rameau
3. (25NH) Brian Robie
4. (11) Matthew Kimball
5. (9CT) Chase Dowling
6. (25) Ronnie Williams
7. (24) Todd Patnode
8. (5CT) Chris Pasteryak
9. (76) Kirk Alexander
10. (06) Les Hinckley
11. (88) Roger Turbush
12. (15MA) Jake Johnson
13. (50) Carl Medeiros, Jr.
14. (21) Richard Savary
15. (89) Matt Swanson
16. (04) Joey Jarvis
17. (20) Max Zachem
18. (1) Cory Plummer
19. (55B) Robert Bloxsom III
20. (81) Dave Salzarulo
21. (13) Dylan Izzo
22. (27MA) Derek Robbie
23. (6) Ben Byrne
DNS (50) Dan Wesson