Matt Hirschman Makes First Appearance at Shangri-La II In ROC'n Concrete Rumble on Sun., May 16, But The ROC Series Champion Is No Rookie


The saying "The acorn doesn't fall very far from the tree" definitely applies to Matt Hirschman, the defending champion of the Race of Champions paved track modified tour that arrives at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 16, for its premier showing on the concrete half-mile oval.

His father, Tony Hirschman, is a five-time champion of NASCAR's open-wheel division, and one of the talents he passed on to his son was the ability to "read" a new race track. That is, the knack of looking at the track, deciding how it is similar and how it differs from well-known tracks, and setting up the race car to go fast the first time it rolls off the truck.

Many of the rivals Hirschman will face in the 75-lap ROC'n Concrete Rumble, which is also the opening race for the series in 2010, have experience on the unique layout. Some, like track champion John Markovic, are weekly regulars at the Concrete Castle and have hundreds of laps under their belt, even though the track just opened last July. Others, including former series title winner Pete Brittain, have made only scattered appearances, but their crew chiefs have the invaluable setup notes on file. Hirschman's closest encounter has been sitting in the stands at Shangri-La II's Concrete Duals season opener on May 1.

While he may not have had a legal pad in his hand or a laptop computer on his knee, Matt Hirschman was taking notes that unseasonably warm afternoon. He was watching, comparing, and planning.

"No two tracks are alike, but it's about the same size as New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, without as much banking, he said, adding "It's different from all the other half-mile tracks in New York where we run. All of them- Spencer, Lancaster, and Oswego which is a 5/8 mile- are flat tracks."

The track shape is only part of the challenge of Shangri-La II, however. There's the concrete surface, previously only seen at the Sprint Cup Series tracks of Dover and Bristol. "It looks like it's very smooth but they say it has a lot of grip in it," Hirschman related. "When the outside comes in it will be a real nice track to race on. I like the idea we are coming back here one more time," he added, referring to the 100-lap RoC Championship Series race scheduled at Shangri-La II on August 1.

Matt Hirschman would have liked to have seen the Concrete Castle from the best seat in the house at the season opener- behind the wheel of his No. 60 Modified- but as a single car operation facing three straight weeks of grueling RoC competition in May, he chose to keep it in his Northampton, Pa. garage. Chances are when the ROC'n Concrete Rumble arrives on May 16, no one will be able to tell the difference.

The ROC'n Concrete Rumble is a one-day event with races for the ASA Late Models, Sportsman Modifieds, and Street Stocks in addition to the Race of Champions Modifieds and the first appearance of the season by the INEX Legends. Pit gates open at 8:30 a.m. and grandstands at 10:30 a.m., with practice at 11:00 a.m. Racing starts at 1:15 p.m. and a special pit party where fans can meet the Race of Champions drivers and the rest of the Shangri-La II racers will be part of the day. There will be no racing on Saturday, May 15, but an open practice day is planned.

Shangri-La II Motor Speedway is located on top of the ridge off Route 17C, one mile east of Tioga Center. It is easily accessed from Route 17, the Southern Tier Expressway, by taking Route 17C East from Exit 62 (Nichols) or Route 17C West from Exit 64 (Owego/Ithaca).