Zeiner and Beers Win at Mahoning Valley by Jim Blacroch
RoC Asphalt and Super Seven Races Are Held
It was a night for celebration, but something just didn’t feel right at Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA). There were two popular victors, two entertaining races and a champion crowned, but seemingly everyone’s mind wandered back to Northeastern Connecticut and what happened on the Thursday night, when John Blewett, III lost his life just two days prior. Nobody could help it and who could blame them? Albeit, the show did go on and when the final checkered flag flew on Saturday night some folks were smiling and making the best of the night.
Eric Beers left victory lane open to honor John Blewett, III. (Dave Kerper Photo)
The ¼-mile ribbon of asphalt may have provided some good medicine for those in need. The weather was good and folks focused on what they came to Mahoning to do and/or enjoy. In the end it pretty much worked out for everyone.
When the checkered flag waved on the DART Race of Champions Modified Tour 75-lapper, Zane Zeiner of Bath, Pa., found himself standing in victory lane following a late race restart shuffle.
Eric Beers of Northampton, Penn., took the lead just before the halfway mark of the race and set sail, seemingly on his way to certain victory – which would have rewarded Beers with a sweep of the night’s activities and a sweep of the DART RoC events at Mahoning this season – unfortunately for Beers it was not meant to be.
The caution flag waved on lap 70 of the 76-lap event. One lap was added to the event to honor fallen asphalt modified star, John Blewett, III.
When the field raced to the restart, Zeiner tapped the back bumper of the Beers mount, which forced the Beers machine to jump out of gear and let second place runner Rod Snyder, Jr., slip into the lead momentarily. The caution quickly flew again for a spin. Snyder led the field to the green flanked by Beers this time. Beers gave it all he had on the outside, but Zeiner nearly made it three wide as Snyder’s concern was Beers.
Beers backed off which gave Zeiner room on the bottom to shoot past Snyder into the lead with just two circuits remaining. Beers fought his way back to second and chased Zeiner to the line while Snyder held on for third.
“Those last few laps were exciting and a break finally went our way,” explained Zeiner following the event. “I told the crew after the race that John was looking down on us tonight. We shared the same number for a long-time (76) and we always got a long very well. He always raced us clean and we did learn a lot from him down at Flemington.”
Zeiner lost his Grandfather earlier this year on opening day at Mountain Speedway this
Zane Zeiner in victory lane. (Mahoning Valley Speedway Photo)
“I felt like he was in the car with me that day at Mountain,” offered Zeiner. “It’s a strange feeling and I felt the same way today with John.”
Zeiner then recalled his Mahoning victory.
“We were tight to start, but not too bad,” offered Zeiner. “But once they got to racing up front I thought if they moved up a little I could get a run on the bottom at Rod (Snyder). I tried earlier in the race, but I couldn’t get the job done, he kept holding me down. With two to go were just beating and banging, really hard racing and he gave me just enough room to get under him. I thought Eric (Beers) might try and go three wide but he used his head. It was just a good race.”
Zeiner utilized the same car he raced in the rained-out Mahoning Valley Speedway
Super Seven race which ran earlier in the evening. Unfortunately for Zeiner, that event didn’t work out as well as the RoC race.
“We broke a spindle and bent a tie rod, but we didn’t switch to our backup car,” related Zeiner. “The guys wanted me to go out for a quick round of hot laps before time trials, but we chose to stay here in the pits and get the front end straight and square. We knew what we had to do and we did it. We timed second and had a good redraw (2nd) and all we had to do was tweak the car a little bit. I owe my crew a lot tonight, along with Jayco my sponsor, Joe and Kay Martinelli, Morgantini Race Engines. Without all of them I wouldn’t be in victory lane tonight.”
Zeiner looked ahead to some of the Fall specials and hoped that the team would gain some momentum with their Mahoning victory.
“Without a doubt this will help our momentum,” stated Zeiner. “It’s been a long time since I won a RoC race. We had a good car the last couple of races, but we could never seal the deal and tonight we made it to victory lane. We’ve been running strong locally and all that just builds confidence and momentum.”
Kory Rabenold and Brian DeFebo rounded out the top five. Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa., locked up the Central Region DART Race of Champions title by merely showing up for the event and finished 7th in the event.
HIRSCHMAN CROWNED CENTRAL REGION CHAMP
Matt Hirschman takes after his Father, there’s no question about it. Each time he gets behind the wheel of the several Modifieds he drives, he’s a threat to win and even more so, he’s going to finish well. On Saturday night, he recorded a 7th place finish, but had the Central Region DART Race of Champions locked up before he entered the event.
The 2005 overall RoC Champion kicked off the Central Region season with at Oswego back in May and never looked back as he went on to capture the title.
“Anytime you can put your name in front of the word champion, it means a lot,” smiled Hirschman. “It really doesn’t matter if it’s Little League or anything in racing. It’s always an honor to be a champion. We’ll take this and see where we stack in the final three combination races and see if we can contend for the overall championship.”
Hirschman’s win at Oswego and his consistency propelled him to the championship, but most folks know that championships are won in the garage.
“Basically, it’s just me and Frank, we do the majority of the work on the car,” offered Hirschman. “Of course my Dad is there and he’s around helping and overseeing things as well. I also have all of the other guys who show up to help at the race track and believe me, that help cannot go overlooked.”
Hirschman is in the thick of the championship hunt on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well and he has a strong understanding of championship runs after helping his Father race toward the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crown as well.
“Good finishes reward you with points and it shows in the standings,” related Hirschman. “With this championship we had it wrapped up before we raced tonight because of our strong finishes. This car (the 60) has been really good and it is a fast car that finishes races.
The second generation driver continued. “When the initial schedules came out, I knew I could make all of the Central Region races as long as the weather cooperated. So that was our original goal, to run all of the RoC races and it ended up that we really didn’t have any conflicts in the Central Region. We’ve had a pretty good car all season and have been able to score good points in both regions this year.”
BIG NIGHT FOR BEERS AND FITTING TRIBUTE TO JBIII
Hirschman’s Mud Lane neighbor, Eric Beers came into RoC event with winning on his mind. After time trialing sixth and redrawing third, Beers was looking good. In the rained out 100-lap Super Seven Series race that was run prior to the RoC event, Beers held off a charging Chip Santee for the victory, which gave him three wins in Super Seven competition. It’s as good a track record has anyone does at any track, more on that later.
In the RoC race, Beers took the lead after a torrid battle with Rod Snyder, Jr.; on lap 33 and looked to be headed to his second victory of the night, but a late race caution cost him his chance.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” started Beers. “We definitely had the best car in that race. We were a little off in the first one, but in tonight’s race the car was super.”
After chasing Snyder during the early portions of the race Beers pulled ahead of Snyder after a side-by-side duel that lasted for nearly 20 laps.
“Rod ran me high and didn’t give me much room, but you have to have some patience to run the outside here,” Beers offered. “You can only take a little bit at a time; we were knocking the dust off the right side tires. I just get kept looking for an inch each lap and we finally got by him. The disappointing part of the whole thing is that you try to race guys as clean as possible and I guess they get sick of you winning and they run you a little bit different after that. It’s always harder to get that next win.”
Beers reflected on the race changing lap 70 restart and his final opportunity to maneuver past Snyder.
“Rod just got going better then we did, it just didn’t fire the way I thought it would,” explained Beers. “He got down far enough that I couldn’t pick up the throttle and then he just kept running into us on the right front to keep us down and I couldn’t pick up the throttle. That’s a key here. I got into him a little bit and Zane got into the back of us and knocked me out of gear. So when I did get it back into gear we had already slipped back to second, then it was time to try and figure out how to get the lead back.”
“We had another restart and I was outside,” continued Beers. “He ran me pretty high but I stayed out there until my spotter told me Zane was trying to get through on the bottom, so I backed off because being three wide just wasn’t going to work. I got down to the bottom and went underneath to get back to second. If I had a couple more laps I think I would have had something for Zane, but we’ll never know, but I know my car was that good.”
Beers did have his moment that night when he won the Super Seven Series 100 race to claim his 23rd career Mahoning victory.
“It was a tough night emotionally, but this was a good place for us to come,” related Beers. “I wanted to win both races for John and I dedicate both of my finishes in his memory. I usually don’t get carried away with celebrations or anything, but that first race it got to me. I blew a couple of donuts and made a polish victory lap with the checkered flag. It was all for John. I’ve known him and his family for a long time and it’s tough to even think about.”
Beers related a couple of closing thoughts.
“All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Blewett family, but for me especially John’s Brother Jimmy. Jimmy is such a good kid, if he needs anything, I’m there for him.”
In the victory lane celebration that took place after the night’s activities had ended Beers placed the checkered flag on the roof of his blue number 9 machine as it sat silently, with nobody around it in victory lane. The flag draped down to nearly touch a JB III decal that was placed on the side of the car. Beers walked away from the photo stating, “This one is for John.”
28 Modifieds showed up for the event with C.J. Jones posting the quick time. Matt Hirschman crashed in the Super Seven race and utilized his own red, white and black 60 for the RoC event. The Mahoning Valley Speedway staff should receive a great deal of credit for the efficiency of the night. They ran off the entire program including the additional 100-lap Modified feature which started promptly at 6:00pm without much of a flaw and the final checkered flag flew well before 11:00pm Saturday night.
The DART Race of Champions heads to the Oswego Speedway (www.oswegospeedway.com) on Saturday, September 1st for a $5,000-to-win 125-lap feature, which is the final North Region race of the season.
RACE REPORT RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR CENTRAL REGION RACE # 2
MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY
1.) Zane Zeiner
2.) Eric Beers
3.) Rod Synder, Jr.
4.) Kory Rabenold
5.) Brian DeFebo
6.) Lee Sherwood
7.) Matt Hirschman
8.) Earl Paules
9.) Pete Brittain
10.) John Markovic
11.) Kevin Brown
12.) Bobby Jones
13.) Dave Wallace
14.) Daren Scherer
15.) Todd Baer
16.) Rodney Gruber
17.) CJ Jones
18.) Scott Lesher
19.) Phil Slater
20.) Andy Szapacs
21.) Don Wagner
21.) Chip Santee
22.) Troy Bollinger
23.) Thomas Wanick, III,
24.) Rusty Smith
25.) Matt Clemens.
DNS; John Bennett, Mike Quinn.
LAP LEADERS; Synder ( 1 – 32 ), Beers ( 33 – 70 ), Synder ( 71 – 73 ), Zeiner ( 74 – 76 )
DART MACHINERY AWARD $1,200 SET OF HEADS; Slater
GATER RACING NEWS DRIVER BONUS DRAW $500; Synder
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD CHARGER AWARD; Sherwood ( 20th to 6th )
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD LUCK AWARD; Santee ( 5th to 22nd )
NEXT RoC DART EVENT; Saturday September 1st – Oswego Speedway – Final North Region Race – 125 lap feature $5,000 to win.
FINAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR CENTRAL REGION POINT STANDINGS ( TOP 12 )
Matt Hirschman (Ken and Bev Dippel Photo)
Matt Hirschman celebrates his championship. (Paul Cooper Photo Courtesy of GATER Racing News)