Matt Hirschman believes the competitors in the Tri-Track Series race with respect other modified racing series lack. Russ Hersey would likely beg to differ after Saturday’s Haunted Hundred at Seekonk.
Hersey led much of the second half of the race, holding off numerous challenges from Hirschman. The 49-year old appeared to have the race in hand until a caution with 10 laps to go bunched the field back up for a late-race restart.
When the field resumed racing, Hersey, the leader, pushed Hirschman, who restarted to his outside, up the track. Anthony Nocella saw a gap and dove for it off of turn two to make the fight for the lead a three-wide affair.
Whether Hersey came down or Nocella came up is up for debate. What isn’t, however, is the spin Hersey took through the grass on the backstretch, dashing his hopes of dethroning Hirschman. The day ended with a disappointing 18th-place finish for Hersey.
A frustrated Hersey drove up to Nocella under the caution, weaving his No. 88 at Nocella’s No. 92.
“Nocella turned me,” said the Swansea, New Hampshire native. “That’s what I’ll say. Nocella turned me. I mean, that’s fact… Anthony and I have never had a cross word. As a matter of fact, we were hot-dogging around with each other, hugging each other earlier.”
With a $1,500 bounty to be given to any driver who could beat the unflappable Hirschman, Nocella felt the three-wide move he made on the controversial restart was warranted.
“He [Hersey] tried to run Matt all the way up in the third, fourth groove, all the way up in the marbles getting down into the corner,” said Nocella. “They took off up the hill, so, you know what? I’m going to drive it in there three-wide on the bottom.”
“Hersey’s trying to block two of us at once. Somebody’s not going to lift for you at the end for that much money.”
To Hersey, however, no sum of money could truly justify an aggressive move such as Nocella’s, even in the closing laps of the race.
“I’m never going to wreck a person for money,” said Hersey. “I don’t care. I’m not that guy. If it’s ten thousand [dollars] to win, that’s not going to change my life. Like we tell all these guys, at the end of the day, we’re all going back to work Monday.”
“I’m not going to be that guy that took Matt Hirschman out to get fifteen hundred bucks. It doesn’t mean jack.”
Hersey also believed the Tri-Track race control missed the boat on a chance to set a fair officiating tone, as no action was taken to penalize Nocella for the contact.
“I think that would be a classic case of ‘You’ve got the fastest car on the racetrack that you turned around’,’ said Hersey. “They [race control] doesn’t have to give me my spot back and say, ‘Oh, Russ, you got loose.’.. He ruined my day. I would expect him to have a penalty.”
Unfortunately for Hersey, no penalty was brought down against Nocella. The team will look to rebound for the 2018 season.