Matt Hirschman added another North-South Shootout trophy to his collection on Saturday evening at Caraway Speedway.
Hirschman held off Patrick Emerling on a late-race restart to collect his ninth win in the 21-year history of the Modified event. Five of those wins have come at Caraway Speedway, with the other four taking place at Concord Speedway.
"Big Money" also took home some extra money, as he took a promoter's challenge to start at the rear of the field after qualifying on the front row for the 125-lap event.
While Hirschman is always a favorite in an event he has dominated and now won in three consecutive years, he had to fight hard to hold off Emerling in the closing laps, including a restart with five laps to go where the two drivers made contact on the frontstretch.
“It sure has been great to me, that’s for sure,” said Hirschman. “I’m a little bit winded. It was a long race and there wasn’t a whole lot left there at the end. The way the race started out, I didn’t expect as many cautions late as we had.
“There’s just not a whole lot left there at the end. I was struggling to get what grip we had left out of the tires. I don’t know how much gap he had back, but it seemed like it was down to the two of us at the end.”
Emerling settled for a second place finish, believing he had the fastest car on the track at race’s end but needed more green flag racing to flex his muscle.
“I’ve got to give it up to the 14 crew,” said Emerling. “We were the fastest car at the end of the race. We were doing everything we could. We had good long run speed. That last caution was kind of inopportune for us.
“I’ve got to look at the video,” said about the final restart. “We bumped wheels, and it knocked the steering wheel out of my hands and actually hurt the toe on the car. We were the fastest car, I thought, at the end, but track position is tough here.
“We had an awesome car. It’s just how the races go. We’ll move on to the next one. We had some fun out there, and it was our last race of the year. We’ll see everyone down in Florida.”
Two-time North-South Shootout winner Andy Seuss has scaled back his racing efforts in recent years, but proved he can still compete with the best on Saturday night with a third-place finish. However, the result came after a ton of effort to improve his car over the course of the weekend.
Furthermore, Seuss had to overcome breaking a wheel early in the race, bouncing back for the podium finish.
“We unloaded not in our old form, for sure. We worked on it and worked it. The wheel breaking was interesting and got me down. Eddie Harvey came over the radio and said ‘Both North/South Shootouts we won, we had some adversity, maybe this is a good sign.’
“Obviously, they’re two of the best in the Modified game. To be out of it for a while and come back here is awesome. I don’t get to do this a lot anymore, so it’s cool to come back out here."
-Photo credit: Connor Sullivan/Racing America