The Ringer: Matt Hirschman Revels In Experience With SRX Series At Stafford; Disappointed With Finish

Matt Hirschman (left) and Tony Stewart (right) talking following Saturday’s Camping World SRX Series event at Stafford (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – In June of 2021 the Camping World Series SRX Series ran its first event in its history at Stafford Speedway and former track regular and six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby immediately set the bar high for all the local ringers invited to events.

Coby dominated on his way to victory in the first SRX Series. In the seven series events since then coming in Saturday’s event at Stafford, no local driver has been able to match Coby’s feature.

Though many around the series thought the best chance of seeing it happen again since then would be Saturday at Stafford for the division’s return.

By virtue of winning the 50th NAPA Spring Sizzler in April, Matt Hirschman earned a starting spot in Saturday’s SRX Series event. With Stafford being a track known for it’s trickiness in understanding, many thought Hirschman was in a spot to match Coby’s feat.

Unfortunately for Hirschman, luck was not on his side Saturday. The Northampton, Pa. driver ended up eighth in the 12-car SRX Series field.

“The experience was great,” Hirschman said. “I enjoyed everything all day long. The least part I enjoyed was the race just because I didn’t do as well as I would have liked to have done. But the experience was great. The people were great. I’m just disappointed a little bit with the performance.”

Series co-founder Tony Stewart, who finished fourth in Saturday’s event, said he felt lucky just to get the opportunity to race with Hirschman.

“I was real excited when he won the Spring Sizzler and got the opportunity to run this deal,” Stewart said. “He probably thinks it’s cool to run with us and guys like me, I think it’s cool that I got to run with him. You don’t get opportunities like that anymore to get to run with a guy of his caliber.”

Said Hirschman: “He knows what I’m doing and he respects that. Tony was a childhood hero of mine. When I was a kid … the Saturday Night Thunder show, when it came on and it said ‘These guys live for the sound of thunder’ I was glued to the TV. It didn’t matter if it was midnight, 1 am, I was watching Saturday Night Thunder or Thursday Night Thunder. And it was because of that show that Tony got recognized. Tony Stewart was my childhood. Besides my dad obviously … Tony was my hero on TV. That was pretty cool.”

Hirschman hadn’t been behind the wheel of an SRX Series car on a track before Friday.

“It was tough,” Hirschman said. “I don’t know the car so based off just a little bit of practice, I didn’t really tell them to do anything differently. We may have been a step behind right from that point because I could have done better in the first heat race. I ended up a losing a few spots instead of maintaining or gaining, but that was because of the handling. The car was just too tight. Maybe if in practice if I had said that it wasn’t what we needed we might have been a step ahead. But I don’t know the cars. Ten or 12 laps of practice, I was more like ‘They’re all the same, just drive it.’ But there’s a few things that you could do and I think we were a step behind there and I think that hurt.”

Hirschman was able to use a lap 40 restart to go from ninth to sixth in the field. But five laps later eventual race winner Ryan Newman overtook him for sixth place.

On a lap 51 restart fifth place running Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled to go at the green flag and Hirschman ended up driving into the back of him, losing more ground.

“I got to mid-pack and then from that point I had a couple breaks that didn’t go my way. The last restart I think Hunter-Reay missed a shift or something and I got into the back of him. I feel like I could have done better than I did. I’m not saying that I would have ever gotten to the point of contending for the win or the top-three, but I think we could have been better than where we ended up.”


  1. Stuart A Fearn says

    Money did a great job and he can hold his head high that’s for sure. Stepping into a brand new car he has zero familiarity with and being able to run right to the edge enough to beat guys like Newman, Stewart, Andretti…? Too much to ask in my opinion.
    Matt is obviously a great talent, this non-win should not tarnish that in any way but rather shines a light on the preparation and importance of the machine itself. I can assure you Matt knows what a change to every single piece of a modified will do to the handling and also how to make driver adjustments with the wheel and pedals when the car is not perfect in order to get the best performance. In the SRX he did not have that luxury, he was severely handicapped going in so he had an uphill battle.
    Hats off to Matt for qualifying to be the ringer by kicking everyone’s ass at the Sizzler because that is exactly what happened.

  2. Hirschman is nothing if not about control. Controlling everything about the preparation of his race car, the setup and the race strategy. Surrendering control on what he drives with limited clues on what changes to make must have been frustrating.
    It’s a pretty terrific article. On a super high after the Sizzler win, the anticipation of this race. Sure the experience of participating was special but I’m inferring from his comments the finish will stick in his craw for a good long while. Clearly very disappointed. What if he had more time to get experience with the car and make adjustments but that’s now how it works.
    Coby’s win was a bit of a shock at the time but it’s pretty clear he had a unique advantage no other driver has had since. It was the first race for everyone in the series with everything new so Coby was on an even footing in that respect. Knowing the track may have given him a leg up on everyone else. Those combined advantages haven’t existed since the first race last year so it’s tough for any local driver competing in a one off.
    Is it an unfettered bias toward the home team or did Stafford and the local fan base execute to perfection last night? From the SK prelim to the SRX race the stands were truly packed something that was not the case in the first two events down south. The track was radiant on the tube and everyone seemed to be in a good mood even Uncle Tony. Willie T unpolished but just fun to see doing the commentary. Newman winning with his history in modifieds was not as good as Coby winning last year or Hirschman winning but a pretty good second best result.
    Seems with the anemic TV ratings the series is likely not to be renewed in 2023. If it is Stafford may get a third bite of the apple they and the fan base executed so well or at least it appeared that way.

  3. Rafter fan says

    When Ryan Newman was winning (and DQ’ing) on the NWMT, wasn’t he driving a car with the number “7ny”? I believe the car was owned by Bono Manion. Did that 7ny have any formal connection to Tommy Baldwin, Jr. (whose 7ny team has been close to dominant on the WNMT this season)?

  4. Some random Thoughts

    -Stafford and the facility looked top notch, easily one of the top 5 best short tracks in the country.

    – Wish Matt had better showing, his lack of experience in a heavier full body car showed. The racing was actually pretty good and if Hirschman was going to place Newman was the next best option.

    – Could not stand to here another blurb about the Andretti family, really had no connection to Stafford or the race. Maybe if CBS was smart they could have interviewed Matt and Marco and highlight two racing families from NE PA.

    -Willie T is a great personality but was a horrible choice to be a commentator for this race.

  5. Rafter Fan,
    Yes, Baldwin was involved with that team.

  6. JOSEPH MARKS says

    Mudd says Could not agree with u more Chris. I was thinking the the EXACT same thing while watching it on my couch at home . I have been Andretti fan my WHOLE life from watching Mario as a kid at Pocono to Micheal to Marco and lucky to watch Matt from his debut at Evergreen Raceway . Yes it would of been a great interview with two local guys live a couple miles apart Nazareth to Northampton getting to race against one another.Nothing better than seeing LOCAL hard working dedicated people bee successful at what they love to do. Then bee lucky to go cheer them on. Good job Matt

  7. Rafter Fan, what does your comment have to do with this article?

    Why didn’t you ask your questions on the threads when Coby and Christopher won the 3 combined tour races for TBR?

  8. Rafter fan says

    Just thought of it while reading this story. Was not sure of the Baldwin connection until confirmed by Shawn.

  9. All in all, I think it was a good outing for Matt. For what very little time he had in the car he put in a good effort. Don’t forget, a majority of those drivers had last season and the races so far this year to get their cars good, Matt had about 30- 40 minutes.

  10. “– Could not stand to here another blurb about the Andretti family, really had no connection to Stafford or the race.”

    What’s kind of funny, and Indycar fans may remember, a visit nearly exactly the same to Marco’s home was aired a year or two ago during an Indycar pre-race. I vividly remember the decor and layout of the house, but there was no BBQ.

    For a few minutes, I was thinking it was a rerun.

  11. I agree that the Andretti Biography pre-race show shouldn’t have been there. I hate to hate here but, seriously everyone knows the Andretti racing family but, who cares for Marco Andretti except the fact that he lost the 2006 Indy 500 in the final 100 yards. Good driver but, hasn’t won much in Indycar (only 2 wins).

    Anyways, It’s a bummer they barely gave Matt any time on tv or show his modified wining the Sizzler to get in yet, Doug Coby had more legit tv time. But, as a Tony Hirschman fan I hope Tony Stewart was able to talk to Tony Hirschman again- it’s been a while since the 2006 New England 100 Tour race when Stewart, Marquis and Hirschman had their post race argument- Shawn I remember your article back then when Bill Weber tried to ruin the moment with his cameo lol, “do you know who I am?!”- I really wanted to hear Tony vs Tony talk racing, (if Tony Hirschman was in attendance at Stafford), since, Stewart said he talked to Matt in the pits (no arguments).

    I wish Thompson would get an SRX date since the track is more unique – long straightaways with tight high-banked corners. I hope Stafford gets in next year as well- it’s a nice money grab for them.

  12. Fast Eddie says

    For next to no time in the car he had a decent run. Give hin a 2nd or 3rd shot and I’d bet he’d be contending. Last time I saw him in a door car was in a late model or pro stock at thompson in 2009 I think. It didn’t go well, he hit the wall in practice.

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