SEEKONK, Mass. — By Kyle Souza — Matt Hirschman rolled into Saturday’s Tri Track Open Modified Series race at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway with one goal in mind: to complete a clean sweep of the 2017 series schedule.
He entered Seekonk having won all three races on the series this year and when the 100 lap feature was over on Saturday, Hirschman was celebrating once again. He completed that clean sweep of 2017 by collecting more than $6,000 in Victory Lane.
HIrschman took the lead with 10 laps to go and held off a hard-charging Anthony Nocella in the final circuits to end up the winner. Tri Track officials had put up a bounty of $1,500 for anyone who could stop Hirschman from completing the sweep, but with his win, Hirschman adds that money to his winning purse, extending his total just over $7,000.
“What a show for the fans, you guys really got your money’s worth today,” Hirschman said while celebrating. “You kind of had that feeling coming into this with the bounty and the money that was up for grabs that when it came down to the end it was going to get a little rough. And it did (get rough).”
His victory was hard-fought and definitely was the most difficult of the four he won on the series this season. He rolled off outside the top five and had to slowly work his way to the front while trying to save his equipment in the process. Meanwhile, up front, it was Russ Hersey who put himself in the lead on lap 29. In what was a surprise to some, Hersey stayed in the lead until Hirschman got to his bumper and then the race was on to the finish. The two drivers battled hard, giving it everything they had, while Hersey made a few aggressive blocks trying to hold the lead in the final 30 laps.
On a restart with 10 laps to go, after Hersey and Hirschman had played mind games on restarts prior — Hirschman was the driver that got the edge into turn one. When Hersey went to fire back, the rear end of his car stepped out and Nocella made contact with his left-rear bumper. It was Hersey who went spinning, while Hirschman took the lead and Nocella settled in second, about to give one more shot at glory.
Once the field went back green, Nocella gave Hirschman everything he could handle. In fact, a shot to the back bumper sent Hirschman up the track with just four laps to go and Nocella found himself in the lead. But it didn’t last long.
Hirschman drove right back down into turn three and made contact with Nocella, shooting him up the track while both drivers barely were hanging on. In the end, it was Hirschman taking down the win with Nocella sliding across the line second.
To the surprise of many, Nocella wasn’t that frustrated with the way Hirschman raced him after the checkered flag flew. He quickly mentioned that both of them had used each other up, but no one spun out.
“I knew it was going to be tough down there at the end,” Nocella said. “My right-rear tire was kinda going away, we got turned around early in the race and had to go way back up there and we raced pretty hard all the way through. I had to use up my tires. He (Matt) got the luxury of somewhat staying up towards the front the whole race. We were running the same lap times as him and I said if I could get a good restart I was going to give him a shot. He left the bottom open and I sailed it in. He got sideways and I moved him up the track.”
Hirschman and Nocella talked immediately after the checkered flag flew and both shook hands, agreeing that the battle to the finish was hard-fought and exciting for the fans. Obviously Nocella would have loved to come out on top, but it was Hirschman celebrating instead.
“I’m just fortunate the way it swapped out and we were able to come back and take the lead back there at the end,” Hirschman said of the late race battle. “But, it was pretty crazy. It was a pretty wild finish.”
After a wild finish, it was Rowan Pennink who came home third, while Richard Savary and Les Hinckley finished the top five. Positions six through 10 went to Steve Masse, Andrew Krause, Keith Rocco, Ron Frees and Chris Pasteryak.
RESULTS: Matt Hirschman, Anthony Nocella, Rowan Pennink, Richard Savary, Les Hinckley, Steve Masse, Andrew Krause, Keith Rocco, Ron Frees, Chris Pasteryak, Colbey Fournier, Max Zachem, Derek Ramstrom, Woody Pitkat, Jon Kievman, Matt Galko, Ron Silk, Russ Hersey, Tommy Barrett, Kirk Alexander, Ryan Preece, Blake Barney, Vinnie Annarummo, Bobby Santos, Kirk Vigeant