Podium Finishes for Blewett and Hirschman, Colton was all Smiles at Myrtle Beach – PTD Exclusive
By DEAN REYNOLDS
MYRTLE BEACH, SC – For the second consecutive year, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opened it’s campaign at Bobby Lutz’s Myrtle Beach Speedway. What tour regulars would call the toughest half-mile of them all with a surface that throws more curves at you than Greg Maddux.
Just one year prior, the 150 lap your event came down to a ten lap, donnybrook where it looked like a WWE match broke out instead of an auto race. Coming into this past weekend’s event the air was filled with uncertainty.
Timmy Solomito came away the winner/survivor in last years event. But, with the circumstances it really didn’t make him the favorite amongst the 27 entries. True to form if you will, this year’s race turned into what you would normally see at a Whelen Tour Race. Good racing and strategy to see who will get to the checkered flag first.
As you can read elsewhere, Jon McKennedy drove Tommy Baldwins’ mount to victory lane. It was a neat feat as McKennedy never stepped foot in the joint until this past weekend. Behind the Massachusetts native was two different stories, one of Jimmy Blewett and one of Matt Hirschman.
Blewett was making his highly talked about substitution start in Eddie Partridge’s championship winning mount with regular driver Ryan Preece having duties on the West Coast. For Blewett it was an opportunity to take the wheel of a top ride at a track where he also didn’t see until this weekend.
“I have to give credit to the team, they had a strategy coming down here and when we unloaded we didn’t stray off of it, not one bit,” said the Howell, N.J. star. “With the track the way it was and with the rules you have with the pit stops you really need to do your homework. I left it up to them and it really worked out.”
While there was a solid strategy in place, Blewett was seen turning many if not the most laps during practice.
“I tried to give them as many notes as I could, even going out for a few laps at time it all helped in getting more info for them to make the right calls,” the Wall Stadium champ went on. “This track is more like a dirt track the way you slide around so that also played into what we had to do.”
Even though Blewett always gives the perennial 110% to win, he was very happy with his second.
“I really couldn’t ask for any more, between Billy (Colton), Eddie (Partridge) and my crew chief Rob Ormsbee it was like a three-headed team. They all fed off each other,” he went on. “I’ll tell you though, finishing second is really cool. We have one more race at Riverhead is this car but maybe Ryan (Preece) can kick some tail and race some more Xfinity races so I can get more!”
If there was one driver that was thrown around the pit area as a possible favorite it was Matt Hirschman and after he put his South Carolina based Pee Dee Motorsports No. 60 on the pole it just accented it even more.
In the early stages it looked like Hirschman could keep the lead at will. There would be a string of laps where he would pull away only to look like he slowed up allowing the field to close in. However, as mentioned before, this is Myrtle Beach and speed just might not be what the doctor orders.
“We were fast early but when we came in and made our changes we just seemed to miss some speed. We aren’t quite sure where we did lose the speed so we have to look back at what tires we changed at what time,” Hirschman said. “We were a little disappointed that we didn’t have the fastest car at the time we needed.”
While he is a bit mellowed by his third place finish, the Pa. native likes this event.
“I think this event is so much fun, I mean there will be no one driver that will dominate here and that makes it so interesting,” he went on about the tour opener. “The way the track is and how the race plays out it just keeps everything on edge and you just have to get the right break at the right time.”
Still, Hirschman will be doing his own analysis to what made the winner that much faster at the end.
“We will definitely watch the tape of this race and see what he did to put him in the spot for the win,” noted Hirschman, “Here just a few minutes after the race and how it plays out you have no idea what any team did. Again, that’s what makes this event so unique, I really like it that way, it makes you have to use strategy as well as race on the track.”
Maybe the busiest person and when it ended, the happiest person on pit road was Troyer guru Billy Colton. And he had good reason, McKennedy, Blewett and Hirschman all had Troyer built machines and to sweep the podium for the tour opener is no small feat.
“You have to have a game plan here, tires can fall off here in five laps usually it doesn’t happen for 25 or 30 laps. It’s not uncommon to run short stints in warm ups to collect information,” he went on. “The difference here is to make the car have some sort of grip, whether its side bite or forward bite, just something in the late runs.”
Colton continued on the strategy, “The tires fall off so much here so we needed to keep on top of it with every team. It’s what makes this place so unique.”
For Colton, the podium for the 150 and top five in time trials, it was indeed a good day.
“I really couldn’t be happier, all the teams did a great job an it’s a great way to start the season,” he stated with a smile. “We will put some notes down for next year and we just hope we can keep the momentum for the next race at Thompson.”