Matt Hirschman Capture His Fourth North South Shootout At Caraway Speedway
Jeff Fultz Wins the CRA Super Late Models, Woody Pitkat SK Mods Winner, Kenny Bost drove off to win the Sportsman race, Brian Nester won the USA modified event, Dennis Lambert drove away In the Legends
Staff Writer Tony Bolick
SOPHIA - Matt Hirschman came to Caraway Speedway a little in the dark as the ninth annual John Blewett III North/South Shootout in memory of Charles Kepley shifted to the Sophia short track after being held at Concord Speedway since its inception in 2003.
But the only three-time Shootout winner found something in practice and, after getting a huge break during the mandatory pit stops to keep his track position near the front of the field, Hirschman held off three-time Caraway winner Andy Seuss to add to his record - a fourth Shootout crown.
"I know it's not easy. To beat these guys that run here, they've got their act together," Hirschman said in victory lane. "It's a relief to be able to come here and defeat the odds to come here without much experience at all."
Hirschman, who started fourth, hovered around the top five in the early going while Seuss and George Brunnhoelzl III drove to the head of the pack. But when the caution flew on lap 54, the door opened for mandatory pit stops.
Most teams changed at least one right-side tire, but it was on the cramped exit from the pits that caught Seuss and Brunnhoelzl in the jam-up, dropping them out of the top five as the race restarted.
Once back to racing, Hirschman didn't take long to assume the lead, getting it on lap 58, holding it to the finish.
"Guys did an excellent job in the pits. It's a tight situation the way it's set up," Hirschman said. "Sometimes you come out on th wrong end ... guys never before have they been that quick in the pits."
Behind him, Suess eventually clawed his way from coming out of the pits eighth after entering in the lead. But despite getting a few bumps late in the race on the eventual winner, Seuss could only chase him to the stripe with Brunnhoelzl in tow.
The two southern tour drivers were just as good as Hirschman on the track, but the difference was the congestion on pit road.
"Absolutely. when you go in with the lead and come out (8th), you've got to burn (tires) up coming up through," Seuss said. "It was just so close. I could reel him in a little bit and then the lapped traffic also screwed me up. Just a frustrating night. We showed them we were here and led some laps so that was good."
"That definitely hurt us," said Brunnhoelzl, the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. "The three of our cars were pretty evenly matched, whoever was in front of the other was probably going to stay there. We had a really good race car ... it was a good race."
Pole winner Burt Myers recovered from dropping out of the top 10 early to finish fourth with Zane Zeiner rounding out the top five.
In the CRA North/South Shootout 100 the fireworks left a lot of sheet metal bent and the race cut to 50 laps as Jeff Fultz dodged all the carnage to take the checkered flag.
Fastest qualifier Ryan Blaney, son of Sprint Cup regular Dave Blaney, got a nudge from Ross Kenseth in turn one battling for the lead on lap 36, both drivers wrestling to keep their cars under control. But that opened the bottom of the track for Fultz, who darted through and into the lead, holding it to the finish.
Kenseth took over second, but Blaney rallied back to regain the runnerup spot to the finish two laps later.
Austin Kochenash and Randy Gentry rounded out the top five finishers.
Zane Zeiner started from the pole and took the lead at the outset, but contact from Nate Caruth sent Zeiner spinning off turn four into the pit barrells for the first of five cautions. Caruth was sent the rear of the field, putting Chase Elliott in the lead with Kenseth, Fultz, and Blaney on the first two rows for the restart.
The carnage got serious at what became the midway point of the race when Bubba Pollard collected CRA National Series champion Chase Elliott entering turn three racing for third. The two slammed the outside wall, Elliott's car climbing onto its side briefly before the two came to rest together on lap 24. Then on the ensuing restart, Jimmy Wells got crossed up coming to the line, spawning a five-car pileup on the frontstretch, bringing out the red flag whic also swept up David Russell, Grant Davidson, Scott Hensley and Caruth.
Officials then decided to cut the 100-lap event back to 50 laps with just seven cars remaining in the race and the sun setting after the lengthy cleanup.
The first crash wasn't enough to hurt Elliot's points position, winning the CRA's inaugural Late Model National Championship, while it did take out the top two in the CRA Super Series Southern Tour to open the door for Blaney to jump from third to win the crown.
Woody Pitkat pulled clear of Shootout winner Matt Hirschman, pulling double duty, on the second lap and drove away in the 50-lap SK modified division race. Ryan Preece came home second with Keith Rocco, Matt Hirschman and Earl Paules rounding out the top five.
Kenny Bost drove off to win the Sportsman race, Brian Nester won the USA modified event, and in the day's opening race, Dennis Lambert drove away to take the checkered flag, leading the entire 30 laps in the win.
FULL RUNDOWN / PHOTOS