MIDLAND, N.C. – One year removed from sitting out at the John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout presented in memory of Charles Kepley, Andy Seuss returned to Concord Speedway with a vengeance and used that drive to bank a $10,000 payday on Saturday afternoon.
Seuss used a gutsy strategy to stay out under a caution flag with 36 laps to go in the 14th annual running of the tour-type modified crown jewel event, powering past then-race leader Steve Masse on a subsequent restart three laps later and never looking back.
Ultimately, the two-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion held off five-time North-South Shootout winner Matt Hirschman’s late-race charge towards the front, keeping the fresher tires of the PeeDee Motorsports No. 60 at bay over the final five trips around the triangular half-mile en route to victory.
“We actually stayed out when everybody else pitted so we had a few more laps on our tires. (The car) had just enough,” Seuss said. “When we stayed out and didn’t take tires I thought the race was over. I can’t say (anything bad) about this car. Sometimes you can say that you didn’t have the best car and you lucked into a win. (Today) we had the best car, we had bad luck and then some good luck.
“Matt Hirschman is the best in the business. I don’t know that we would have been better than him on equal tires, but it was enough.”
Hirschman started from the pole and led the first 51 laps of the race before ceding the point to Jon McKennedy in heavy traffic, getting pinned behind the slower car of Johnny Sutton and falling back to second as a result.
The first of two lengthy cautions flew on lap 56 after James Civali spun the Hillbilly Racing No. 79 right in front of the leaders, leading to a 40-lap run under the yellow flag while race officials sorted out a timing and scoring issue.
Under that caution, Seuss stayed out to assume the lead for the first time, while Hirschman dropped to 13th after a very slow four-tire pit stop.
Two laps after the restart, Seuss was overhauled by Jimmy Blewett before multi-time Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series titlist Chuck Hossfeld took his turn at the front of the field, powering to the lead on the 65th circuit.
Hossfeld led until the second caution of the race, which came out on lap 67 for a hard crash in the dogleg between Bryan Dauzat and Civali. The pair engaged in a physical altercation under the slowdown, which was broken up by security on the backstretch before Dauzat’s wrecked race car was towed back to the pit area.
At that point, Seuss made his mandatory pit stop, while Hossfeld pitted from the lead and handed command of the race over to McKennedy’s No. 29 for the second time. The four-time Valenti Modified Racing Series champion was the class of the field as the race wound into its final stages, maintaining a consistent half-second lead over the field.
McKennedy held the lead until lap 87, when late model ace Jeff Fultz ran his way to the front of the field in the Brady Bunch No. 00 just before the race’s penultimate caution came out two laps later.
As the field dipped to pit road following George Brunnhoelzl III’s spin in turn two, Steve Masse, Kyle Bonsignore and Seuss led a six-pack of cars that gambled on track position by staying out; while Fultz and Hirschman restarted seventh and eighth, respectively, after pit stops.
Masse came away with the lead on the restart with 36 to go, but Jimmy Blewett’s No. 76 sputtered to a stop in turn four to set up the afternoon’s final restart three laps later.
It was there that the die was cast, as Seuss stormed up Masse’s inside to grab the lead for good, but Hirschman’s charge through the field was not done over the final laps.
At 25 to go, he was clear of Flutz for fourth and with 22 laps left, he was in third after Masse’s car faded drastically through the field.
But Hirschman struggled trying to work around Richard Savary for the runner-up position, spending nearly 20 laps trying to diamond the corner in turns one and two before finally working inside of Savary’s No. 99 machine with five circuits remaining.
That was the difference, Hirschman said after the race. Had he been able to work around Savary sooner, the Pennsylvania veteran felt he would have had a better shot at notching his sixth North-South Shootout victory.
“I got to him, but we just ran out of time,” Hirschman said. “I think with more time, we would have had a really good chance (at winning) and he (Seuss) knows that. He beat me fair. It’s nothing compared to last year … we can stomach losing one like this as a team.”
“That today was just a good race and we ended up second. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. We got stuck behind the 99 (Savary) and just ran out of time. We’ll get ours.”
Savary held on to finish third, followed by McKennedy and Fultz.
Brunnhoelzl rallied from his spin to finish sixth, with Blewett, Jason Myers, Hossfeld and rookie Tyler Truex completing the top 10.