By; Ashley McCubbin
If you tuned in just past halfway and were watching Matt Hirschman fall back through the field, you probably counted him out for the battle for the victory. But there’s a reason why he’s called Big Money Matt, and he backed it up on Saturday at New Smyrna Speedway.
Utilizing strategy to his advantage in when to take fuel and tires, he was able to make his way to the top spot when it mattered with 50 laps to go ahead of Ron Silk. From there, he had enough car to keep Eric Goodale and the field at bay for the win.
It is the reason why you can never count him out in the long distance events. Ensuring he has a solid handling car when it matters, combined with knowing the right cards to play is why he’s one of the most established drivers in the country.
He wasn’t the only one who played this strategy, as Ryan Preece tried the same thing after battling for the top spot with Hirschman. Unfortunately, aggressiveness trying to make up ground bit him in the end. Instead of a podium performance, he was relegated to 10th following a spin after contact. Another reason to love Hirschman – professionalism.
Overall, though, the field of modifieds was fair game to everybody with few incidents bringing out the yellow flag. It’s a sharp contrast from the demolition derbies seen last year in the second half of events, and something everybody hopes continues moving forward. After all, why tear up equipment for no reason?
The racing was also strong, as evident by battles around the speedway all night with several faces showing strength, ranging from Jon McKennedy and Craig Lutz to rookie Michael Christopher Jr.
The great competition will mark the championship battle fun to watch. Goodale wasn’t the only series regular with a strong run, as Tyler Rypkema flirted with the top-five all night en route to fifth. Ron Silk also turned a poor qualifying effort into being up front leading with strategy, placing seventh. It’s only his first race with Phil Moran so he should get stronger moving forward, as it was this man who led Doug Coby to his success.
The biggest nugget of the title battle? Justin Bonsignore starts the year at the bottom of the standings after mechanical issues ended his race early. Known for consistency weekly as that’s what handed him the championship in 2021, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can climb back up through.