RaceDayCT: Matt Hirschman started the week by scoring a historic victory at a track he had never won at before. He ended the week by returning to a throne he has long held.
Six-time and reigning Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series champion began defense of his 2021 series title by winning the 100-lap 2022 season opener for the series Saturday at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.
Hirschman was carrying the momentum to the Granite State bullring from winning the 50th NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford Speedway on Sunday to start the week.
It was the 15th career Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series victory for Hirschman, of Northampton, Pa. and his first at Monadnock since June 2015.
“You can win many different ways here,” said Hirschman, who started 18th in the field. I’ve seen it done. This place has been a bit of an Achilles heal for me recently. … In recent years we haven’t found victory lane. We’ve been close, but not as good as we are in a lot of places. So it’s good to get a win here tonight.”
Pole-sitter Sam Rameu of Westminster, Mass. was second and Brian Robie of Sunapee, N.H. third.
Hirschman overtook Matt Kimball for the lead on lap 84 and never trailed again.
“Good racing. [Matt Kimball] is a good racer,” Hirschman said. “He just, without pitting, I think it finally caught up to him. [Rameau] runs real good here. He’s won a couple in recent years. And then Brian Robie jumped up there at the end. I didn’t know where he came from.”
Rameau led the first 48 laps before pitting and fighting back from the rear.
“I gave it all I could,” Rameau said. “Coming from the back like that with just a little bit of time left, it’s a really hard task to overcome. [Matt Hirschman] is just about the best there is. So it’s like a win for this team, our first race of the year to come second to him.”
Robie made a charge to the podium through a rash of late cautions.
“We were stuck back there in 10th or 12th or whatever,” Robie said. “I felt the car come to me. It felt pretty good there toward the end.”
Rameau held the lead virtually unchallenged over the first third of the event. On lap 37 a spin by Dylan Izzo brought out the first caution of the race.
With the caution flying the bulk of the leaders went to pit road with Rameau staying on track. The race restarted with Rameau out front and Robie to his outside with Jake Johnson in third and Matt Swanson in fourth. Rameau continued his stranglehold on the top spot.
Kimball moved past Robie for second on lap 47 and a lap later the caution flew once again for the spinning car of Max Zachem.
Under caution Rameau went to the pits, handing the lead to Kimball, with Johnson in second, Ronnie Williams third and Swanson fourth.
Kimball controlled on the lap 48 restart, but on the next lap it was then fourth place running Derek Robbie going off track in turn two to bring the caution out once again.
On the lap 49 restart it was Kimball continuing in control while behind Williams and Hirschman became embroiled in a feisty side-by-side battle for second place for five laps. Hirschman cleared Williams to take control of second place on lap 54.
Caution flew for the fourth time on lap 61 with Kimball leading Hirschman and Williams sitting third. On the ensuing restart it was Kimball in control in the lead with Williams moving past Hirschman to retake second place. Two laps later Hirschman rallied back by Williams to move into second again.
After stalking the bumper of Kimball for five laps, Hirschman got under him through turn two on lap 84 and came off the corner in the lead.
Hirschman quickly checked out from Kimball over the next eight laps with Rameau fighting his way back to third place, but the caution flew on lap 60 after Richard Savary spun during a battle for fifth with Johnson.
Hirschman was able to check out from Rameau on the lap 96 restart but it was a short-lived fury. Cory Plummer spun on the frontstretch to bring out the caution on lap 99.
On the final restart it was Hirschman checking out to leave Rameau and Robie to battle for the runner-up spot.
Kimball, of Bennington, N.H., ended up fourth and Chase Dowling of Roxbury was fifth.
The race was the first in series history to employ the “choose rule” for restarts and featured the introduction of the Call Before You Dig 811 Cone to set the starting order before restarts.