Matt Hirschman entered the 14th Annual John Blewett III North South Shootout as a five-time winner. Andy Seuss entered with no wins. At the end of Saturday’s 125-lap showdown, it was Seuss and Hirschman fighting for the win. Hirschman for his sixth, and Seuss for his first.
As Hirschman, a multi-time RoC Asphalt Modified Tour champion, and Seuss, a two-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, battled for the win, lapped traffic played a big factor.
The lead duo caught a group of about seven cars, with all of them running different lines. With two laps to go, Seuss went to the bottom and Hirschman tried to pass him up top. Each driver had a lapped car right in front of him. Whichever lapped car got the better run would decide who won the race.
Fortunately for Seuss, the lower line was the one that moved and he was able to clear Hirschman going into the dogleg. Hirschman tried one more time on the final lap, but it wasn’t enough. Seuss was able to hold on to score his first North South Shootout victory.
“You don’t have to be nervous when Matt Hirschman is in second,” said Seuss in victory lane. “You have to be nervous when Matt Hirschman was in the field. He got into second and I didn’t know how lapped traffic was going to play. It screwed me up. I don’t know if it helped him or hurt him, but the race was 125 laps and we beat him to the checkered flag in 125 laps.”
Hirschman said it wasn’t the lapped traffic that cost him the win, but instead it was his battle for second with Richard Savary.
“I just needed a few more laps,” Hirschman said. “We were heading in the right direction and just came up short. I got into third with plenty of time and took a little too long to get into second. Once we got into second we closed in, but I just ran out of time. I was right there, but I’m not going to do something stupid.”
Seuss’ journey to get to the front was an eventful one. Seuss was making his way towards the front of the field before the first caution. When the leaders all decided to pit, Seuss was one of two cars that stayed out and opted to try a different strategy.
On the next restart, Seuss, on older tires, started to fall back through the field. After pitting on the next caution, Seuss found himself near the rear of the field where the odds of being caught up in someone else’s mess are higher.
That’s exactly what happened. On lap 68, James Civali and Bryan Dauzat crashed in the dogleg and Seuss caught a piece of the wall. While Civali and Dauzat brawled, Seuss and his crew tried to figure out what to do to fix their race car.
With a slightly damaged car, Seuss eventually started to work back through the field, and then he and his team used a different strategy to get back to the front of the pack.
“I don’t know how we got here,” said Seuss. “We went from being in the wall to a different strategy to here. We were just trying to save as many tires as we could and then that wreck on the backstretch changed our strategy for us. I was awful upset about it at the time, but I’m not going to be upset about it now. But the toe was knocked out of it, the wheels were beat off of it. These guys worked their butts off under caution and just gave me a fabulous car.”
Richard Savary, Jon McKennedy and Jeff Fultz completed the top five.