By: Ashley McCubbin
Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face – especially when they’re mad, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.
Throughout the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, there were quite a few of these moments. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.
What keeps Matt Hirschman motivated behind the wheel?
Just being driven to win races. The competition is something that drives me to keep doing this. I feel like I’m as dedicated to this as I’ve ever been and trying to win races. There was never a goal of a certain amount of wins, or anything like that. every race we go to, it doesn’t matter if it is local here in Pennsylvania, or we’re going against the Whelen Modified Tour, TriTrack, Race of Champions, the SMART Tour, wherever we go, the goal is the same and that’s to win.
That’s the objective to me – to win, and we go there and try our best to accomplish that goal and we don’t always win, but we’ve been very fortunate that a lot of times we do. That’s just hard work and dedication, and a passion to try and succeed.
Kyle Bonsignore breaks down the secrets to New Hampshire……
So the toughest part at New Hampshire is getting a good starting spot. Even though you’re able to draft In the race, usually the first five or six cars break away from the pack really early and then you really need to work to get back into the lead group. So you have to have a good starting spot, (and) having a car that doesn’t fade throughout the race. Unlike a lot of these shorter tracks where it’s really easy to use up your right rear tire, and you can pace yourself at those smaller tracks to be there at the end. At New Hampshire, because you have to keep a certain amount of speed to stay with the draft, you have to have a car that will maintain speed the whole run. So working on your balance in practice, which believe or not, changes whether you’re in the lead or not in the lead with how the air affects your car.
All those things come into play and that is a really hard thing to figure out, but once you get it right, it’s a really fun race track to race on – especially if you’re around the right cars that you can pass, give you room, bump draft on the straightaways right. So that’s probably the hardest part – keeping your car happy the entire length of the run, because we do get pit stops there so you are allowed to make some adjustments to improve it and usually you have to take fuel because it’s the biggest track that we run on so you don’t want to run out of fuel.
But just keeping the balance, keeping your car happy throughout the race, and staying up front is a big, big ever-changing math equation that you have to hope to guess right. The biggest challenge is definitely keeping your car balanced throughout the entire course of the race. You burn a lot of fuel that changes the weight distribution and your tires get worn, so that changes the way the car handles. So if you can keep it as neutral as possible throughout the 50-60 lap run before you get to your pit stop, that’s the toughest part of New Hampshire.
Ron Silk shared the secret to his start in racing
I got started – well, Randy LaJoie who’s a two-time Busch Series (now NASCAR Xfinity Series) Champion is actually my godfather. His family is from the same town that I am from and really close family friends with the LaJoies. So when I was seven, my father bought me a go-kart and I started racing those. I just kept moving up over the years.
Gaining 200 wins was a big accomplishment for Matt Hirschman, but which of those means the most?
There’s so many. It terms of an actual race, the Race of Champions has always had a huge significance to modified race and my family because my father won it previously at different locations – Pocono, Oswego. It was a race that I was very close to winning several times, and it took me a lot longer in my career than I would have liked to earn my first win in that. Now years later, I have the record for the most wins in the event. So that event was always number one for me and I had a lot of success in the North South Shootout, which came in the years before I won the Race of Champions, and those events really put my name on the map and again, we’ve had continued success in that event.
There’s other wins that were significant for other reasons. It may have been something that opened an opportunity or opened a door to continue to progress your career, or gain another opportunity. There’s so many going back to the beginning, and then just recently going to Florida and what it means to be a part of Speedweeks and win a big event like that, the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified race there, and the attention that brought and part of Speedweeks winning the Richie Evans race. This year was our sixth win in that race, which is more than any other driver has. So there’s so many – that’s just some of them, but those are some that have always been important and something that a lot of them are races that come once in a year.
So if you don’t win, or come up short, you have to wait a whole other year to have a chance again. So those kind of races with that type of history and held annually tend to mean the most to win.