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North Wilkesboro Speedway hosts first Whelen Modified Tour event

Cars+get+lined+up+for+the+start+of+the+race+at+North+Wilkesboro+Speedway.+Sept.+30%2C+2023.+
Emily Simpson
Cars get lined up for the start of the race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Sept. 30, 2023.

In a field featuring NASCAR Cup Series stars, Bowman-Gray Stadium champions and more than 30 other challengers, Matt Hirschman emerged victorious in the Brushy Mountain Powersports 150 Saturday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

It was announced Thursday the track would be repaved prior to the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race on May 19, making the Whelen Modified Tour event the final race on the 42-year-old asphalt.

Pennsylvania native Austin Beers started up front after a 19.158-second lap in qualifying. He remained at the head of the field through the early stages of the race until lap 65, when Hirschman made the pass for the lead. He would not have the opportunity to pull away though, as a spin from Doug Coby a lap later erased his advantage. 

Hirschman got the jump on the restart and remained in control of the race until lap 101, when former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman caught and passed Hirschman. Much like Hirschman however, Newman did not have a chance to build a gap, as the race slowed once more for a blown engine in Ken Heagy’s car a lap after Newman took the lead.

Most of the field used the caution as an opportunity to come down pit road, and a slow stop by Newman’s crew saw him restart third behind Hirschman and Coby.

Hirschman capitalized on Newman’s misfortune on the restart, and commanded the race until a crash involving 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte reset the field once more with 41 laps to go.

The latter portion of the race saw a rash of yellows, including a flat right front tire on the car of Anthony Nocella, and an accident in turn two involving longtime Whelen Modified Tour competitor Andy Seuss. Hirschman’s car was exceptionally strong on short runs, and he retained the lead through all the carnage.

The final caution brought out by Seuss sent the race past the scheduled 150-lap distance and into overtime. Once again Hirschman would not be denied on the two-lap dash to the finish, as he crossed under the checkered flag to claim his eighth-career Whelen Modified Tour win. 

Further back in the pack, a major accident ensued on the final straightaway involving Coby, Tyler Rypkema and several others. All drivers emerged from their cars uninjured.

The win was especially important to Hirschman, who was making his first Whelen Modified Tour start since suffering a broken arm from a crash in August. 

The Carolina Crate Modified Series served as the opening act of the night in a 75-lap affair. While the cars are nearly identical to those of the Whelen Modified Tour, CCMS cars run a smaller crate engine purchased directly from a manufacturer, such as General Motors. While they produce less horsepower, they come at a lower cost than from a third-party engine builder in an effort to make racing more affordable for local racers without large sponsorships.

Slate Myers, the 15-year-old son of Bowman-Gray legend Burt Myers, won the pole and ran well until a spin on lap 23 ended his chances at a victory.

Archdale native Josh Lowder led the way through the middle portions of the race until a string of late yellows brought 12-year-old Paulie Hartwig III into the fight for the win. Hartwig led briefly, but Lowder regained the lead after the final restart with five laps to go and drove away for the win.

Following Saturday’s event, just two events remain in the 2023 Whelen Modified Tour season; Oct. 8 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut and Oct. 26 at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway. Both races can be streamed live on FloSports. 

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About the Contributors
Spence Smithback
Spence Smithback, Reporter
Spence Smithback (he/him) is a senior journalism major, geography minor, from Jamestown, NC. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Sam Fleming
Sam Fleming, Photographer
Sam Fleming (he/him) is a freshman Computer Science Major, from Greensboro, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
Emily Simpson
Emily Simpson, Associate Photo Editor
Emily Simpson (she/her) is a junior Commercial Photography major. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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