When discussing the most dominant tour-type modified drivers of the last 10 years, Matt Hirschman is one who should most certainly be mentioned.
The 34-year-old native of Northampton, Pa., has won races and claimed championships all along the East Coast and has earned a reputation for always being the man to beat when he shows up at a race track.
For the unaware, Hirschman grew up in a racing family. His father, Tony Hirschman Jr., won five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships. So it should be no surprise that Matt decided to follow in the footsteps of his successful father.
“Obviously, being a second-generation driver I grew up at the race track,” said the son of longtime modified standout Tony Hirschman Jr.. “When I was very young my dad was still racing locally and then once he started traveling to farther tracks we always traveled in the camper and the motor home as a family. It was pretty much every weekend, we loaded up the camper and we left to wherever the race was. In return all week long I’d always look forward to the next weekend to go racing again.
“I didn’t do quarter midgets and karts and everything like that because every weekend was dedicated to my dad’s racing,” he noted. “I always went to the races and I always looked forward to racing. I always said one day I wanted to race myself.”
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With that goal in mind, Matt Hirschman set out to learn. He started as a spotter and once he was old enough he began working on the cars in the pits. He even served as crew chief on his father’s car during his final two NASCAR championships in 2004 and ’05.
“I learned a lot about tires and started to learn more about the race car. Once I started racing, the race car I was running was kept at my family shop. It was a time where my father transitioned from racing for other people, when he would just show up with his bag and race, into maintaining the Kehley No. 48 team car,” Hirschman explained. “I would always do the setup on it. So between my own racing and his racing, from probably the early to mid-2000s I learned an incredible amount by setting up my own race car and also setting up his race car.”
When Hirschman got behind the wheel of a race car, his goal was to model his driving style after that of his father and another modified racing legend, Mike Stefanik.[caption id="attachment_227090" align="alignleft" width="300"] Matt Hirschman in his own red and black No. 60 tour-type modified. (Jay Fish Photo)[/caption]
“They could run fast and win poles. They could win races and a lot of the big races, but they were also great big-picture racers and they could deliver championships,” said Hirschman, who noted that combined his father and Stefanik won 12 NASCAR titles between 1989 and 2006. “There are very few drivers that I’ve ever watched that could do all three of those things. Those two I think did it besti n modified racing, at least in my time.
“I always tried to pay attention to those two guys and then try and emulate their style. I think I’ve done that by being fast when you need to be fast, winning races and especially trying to win the big races and also trying to win championships.”
Hirschman has certainly done a good job in terms of replicating the kind of success enjoyed by his father and Stefanik. He has won the North-South Shootout five times, the Race of Champions four out of the last five years, the Turkey Derby three times and a pair of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events. He also owns seven Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour championships and a pair of Tri-Track Open Modified Series crowns.
Most race car drivers won’t win that many marquee races and championships in an entire career, but Hirschman has done that since he started racing at age 17.