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.
The times may be changing at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway. Last Saturday's season opener, the Concrete Duals, saw three of the four feature winners visiting victory lane at the Concrete Castle for the first time. Had the apparent winner in the ASA Late Models not been disqualified at post-race inspection, it would have been four-for-four. All of last year's track champions were in competition, but only Modified title winner John Markovic, who led 46 of 50 laps before surrendering the top spot to Brian Defebo, had the look of a main event winner.
The same four classes take to the track this Saturday afternoon for the Mothers' Day Delight program at the ASA Member Track, a chance for the Shangri-La II community to pay tribute to our mothers on the eve of their special day, with carnations to be presented to the first 100 moms through the gate. Pits open at 10:00 a.m. and grandstands follow at 11:30. Practice time is 12:00 noon and the first heat goes on the track at 2:15 p.m.
Making their way to victory lane for the first time, along with Defebo, were Sportsman Modified winner Tony Hanbury, who knocked on the door several times after he began running regularly at Shangri-La II late in the 2009 season, and Street Stock victor Cricket Clonch, who ran infrequently last year. Both have the support they need for the long haul in 2010.