FUTURE STAR: HIRSCHMAN READY FOR
POSSIBILITIES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE EVENT
If things go well in New Hampshire this weekend, Matt Hirschman
could get something his father, a five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified
Tour champion, never got: a break.
The 25-year-old Hirschman, son of Tony Hirschman, doesn't want to
spend the rest of his racing career stuck in modified cars with no
sign of hope for the big leagues as his father did.
His father is a celebrated modified racer, but Hirschman's dreams
are to become a notable NASCAR driver.
Hirschman's break could come this weekend as the Northampton, Pa.,
native will make his full-body stock-car debut in the No. 9
Gillette-Evernham Motorsports Dodge Friday night in the Heluva Good!
It's an opportunity that was presented to the driver in August when
GEM officials asked Hirschman to test one of the team's Camping
World Series cars as part of a development program searching for
young talent. The test proved successful as Hirschman posted
competitive speeds after turning a couple dozen laps around New
Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"A few weeks later they asked me to run [Camping World Series East]
races in New Hampshire and likely Dover," said Hirschman, who is
pulling his own version of double duty this weekend by running in
NASCAR's Whelen Modified Tour Saturday following his Camping World
debut Friday. "My job is to race the best race I can and hope
everything goes well. I'm very optimistic we'll do well and
accomplish what the team is looking for."
Hirschman, who sits third in the Whelen Modified standings with six
top-10s and two wins so far this season, said sharing the stage with
Sprint Cup stars in New Hampshire and Dover could give him added
exposure and the break his father never had.
"Those are two big events and big places to get an opportunity to
run," he said. "Dover will be a new experience for me, and the New
Hampshire race is the largest crowd we race in front of all year. A
lot of people are paying attention to what is going on."
Making his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut in 2005, Hirschman's
aspirations to reach NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series got a late start.
Hirschman has spent most of his teens and early 20s helping his
father, Tony, win multiple championships in modified cars. When time
allowed, Hirschman raced random modified events on the local level
at 17 but not much beyond that.
"I always went to races with my father," said Hirschman, who in
2004 and 2004 was his father's crew chief for back-to-back Whelen
Modified Tour championships. "I never had the time or found anyone
to spend the time racing me in quarter midgets like most young
teenagers do. And once I got started racing modifieds on the local
level, I still was working with my dad."
When he was too young to enter the NASCAR pits, Hirschman spotted
for his father until he was old enough to work on the crew.
In 2006, Hirschman was asked to run full time for Ed Bennett and
Wayne Darling, forcing him to walk away from his father's team.
Eventually, Tony retired and now goes to most of his son's races.
The roles have reversed, and Hirschman is happy to have his father
in his corner.
"I think he enjoys coming to my races as much as he enjoyed racing
himself, especially when I do well," the younger Hirschman said.
"Growing up we always had a close relationship. We were always at
the track together."
Today, the father-and-son team also manages the family business,
Hirschman's Speed, which sells racecars and parts specialized for
Modified racing is where it all started for both men, and it's
something Hirschman truly enjoys and might even be happy to settle
But until then, he is trying to make the most of a potential big