After a decade off the top of the series, Matt Hirschman finally reached Victory Lane again on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Hirschman dominated the early laps of Saturday’s Toyota Mod Classic 150 presented by McDonald’s at Oswego Speedway and used a late charge through the field following a pit stop to score his first victory since 2008.
Even though the gap between victories was 10 calendar years, Hirschman is quick to point out that his starts include just 24 races in the last six years. His last season of running a full schedule was 2011, and since then, Hirschman has been selecting certain events he wanted to conquer.
Saturday, as part of the 62nd annual Bud Classic Weekend at Oswego, he accomplished his goal of returning to Victory Lane — but he also was able to seal the deal at Oswego — a place where his family has plenty of history. Hirschman is also a former winner at Oswego in the modified ranks, just not with the Whelen Modified Tour.
“No better place for it to come than right here at Oswego,” Hirschman said. “My dad won the big races here when I was a kid.”
For PeeDee Motorsports, the victory marks their first as a team on the Whelen Modified Tour. The team was assembled at the start of the 2017 season and made three starts with Hirschman, scoring a best finish of second last year at Oswego. He led 117 laps in the 2017 event, but was passed late by race-winner Ryan Preece.
Saturday, he was the driver doing the passing in the final laps.
Bonsignore Pads His Points Lead
Justin Bonsignore might not have had the fastest car on Saturday night, but his No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet was in the right position to score another podium run in the final laps. Bonsignore started from the fourth spot and ran just outside for the top five for much of the early stages. Following a pit stop for tires, Bonsignore was at the front after his pit crew put together a quick stop and he restarted third.
He took the lead on the outside of Woody Pitkat on lap 11, but couldn’t hold off Hirschman in the final laps. More importantly, his top championship contender — Chase Dowling — was involved in multiple incidents, and finished 12th. The Holtsville, New York, driver extended his points lead to 75 points with just four races remaining.
Is it time to start thinking big picture yet?
“If I got to his bumper, I might have given him a shot, but I wasn’t going to wreck him,” Bonsignore said of his race with Hirschman in the final laps. “I just messed up when he got by me on the restart. I spun the tires and I missed a shift, so I kinda gave that to him easily. I would have liked to make him work for it. It’s still a good finish. We’ll take a second place.”
Coby Has To Make A Charge Late
Doug Coby seemed to have a car that could have contended with Matt Hirschman for the win on Saturday, but he just couldn’t get in the right position to show the speed in the No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet. Coby ran just inside the top five for the first 94 laps, but when he pitted with the rest of the leaders for tires, his pit crew stumbled just a tick, and Coby lost a lot of positions.
He exited pit lane just outside the top-10 and had to charge back through the field in the midst of chaos in the final 30 laps, which included a few red flags.
“Every restart was the same, the two up front were playing some games,” Coby said. “It was a good race. All of the restarts shook out the same in the top four, but I really needed the outside lane. If I was in Justin’s spot, I think Matt would have had a handful with me. We came out of the pits 11th and had to pass a lot of good cars, and not to say that I used the car up, but we got knocked around. Sometimes you just have to catch your breath and be happy with a good top three finish.”
With the way the season has gone for the five-time and defending series champion, a podium effort is just about all he can ask for leaving Oswego. His hopes of winning a sixth championship this season have been all but erased, but he will look to climb from fourth, 110 points back in the final four weeks.
Toyota Mod Classic 150 Race Notebook:
- Pitkat, who used pit strategy to get himself to the front, led 13 laps and finished fourth driving for Danny Watts. The finish marked the second top five of the season for the Stafford, Connecticut, driver.
- After Rowan Pennink announced his retirement earlier in the week, Matt Swanson got the call to drive for Boehler Racing and put together a solid sixth-place finish.
- Two of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders — Blake Barney and Tommy Catalano — placed themselves just inside the top-10 in the final laps.
- Ryan Preece, who crashed in practice and qualified 17th, didn’t lead any laps, but made sure everyone knew he was there in the final circuits. Unfortunately for Preece, a crash down the frontstretch ended his night early, forcing him to a 19th place finish.
Time To Move On
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes a trip across New York to Riverhead Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 8. The trip to the quarter-mile bullring will mark the second stop at the oval this season.