The Kingpin of 100-lap Mahoning Valley Speedway features, Eric Beers, scored yet another victory in Saturday night’s season opener which was Hand One of the $3000-to-win Modified 100 Poker Series. Beers led wire-to-wire netting his unprecedented fifth such win and 25th overall and while all those Victory Lane visits were filled with jubilation, this was one that was very emotional.
During the offseason Beers lost three very close individuals. His father, Dale Beers, his nephew Dakota Galusha who was one week shy of his 13th birthday and his best friend Keith Kocher.
“We lost three family members. My nephew Dakota. Keith Kocher, I drove for him a few years and we’d been friends for about 18 years and he was like a brother to me and then losing my father on April 1st. I could feel them with me in this race and know up there (heaven) Keith and my dad our drinking a beer and celebrating,” said a teary eyed Beers.
Time trials locked in the top twelve with Matt Hirschman setting quick time at 9.830-seconds. By luck of a redraw Beers picked the Ace card which put him on the pole for the start. Flanked alongside him was Kory Rabenold who was making a return to modified racing while his ARCA efforts are on hold.
When the race commenced Beers quickly took to the lead over Rabenold, Earl Paules, Don Wagner and Hirschman.
Beers set off on a blistering pace as the first 30 laps went caution free. While he led and shuffled in between lapped traffic, the real battle was being waged with Rabenold and Paules who ran most times side-by-side. Reigning champ John Bennett figured into the mix by lap 12 when he zipped past both Hirschman and Wagner. It wasn’t long afterwards that Wagner began fading.
After the first yellow for a Troy Bollinger spin the mods again reeled off a slew of laps this time 35 circuits before the next caution would wave.
During that period Beers was again the class of the field and again the battle for second continued between Paules and Rabenold. Brian DeFebo clawed his way from 14th to fifth after displacing Hirschman on lap 41.
With 65 laps complete the action slowed when John Markovic spun in turn two. On the restart Paules and Rabenold tried as best they could to keep pace with Beers but to no avail as nearly 20 more laps clicked off with no one able to challenge.
After a lap 84 restart Rabenold got shuffled back due to a few back markers. A fourth and final yellow waved ten laps from the finish but it came as no aid to Paules as Beers was not about to slip as he headed to the checkered flag.
“The track was a little slick tonight not having much rubber on it and for everyone to run that clean was amazing. I was glad to see a caution because I had to catch my breath,” said Beers.
Rick Reichenbach emerged to third at the finish while Rabenold and DeFebo completed the top five.
Paules admitted afterwards there was no catching Beers as he clearly had the dominant car.
“I had nothing for Eric (Beers) and I was just biding my time. I could run with him for about five laps but then that was it. It was good racing with Kory (Rabenold) and he ran me clean,” said Paules.
This also marked the first win with Beers’ new car owners Dave and Laura DeLange in just their second outing together.
“I can’t say enough about Dave and Laura DeLange who gave me the equipment to I have under me now and I can’t thank them enough and also Adam Horwith from Horwith Freightliner for sticking with me,” added Beers.
“This is where I started driving modifieds and it will always be home no matter what happens and I just love coming here and I can’t wait to get my next card.”
‘Flyin’ Frankie Althouse slipped underneath Joe Mooney with nine laps to go and then held off defending champ Todd Stehle for his second career Late Model win.
Pole sitter Mooney grabbed the early lead with ’08 Rookie of the Year Travis Fisher running second. On lap three Fisher lost control and spun making way for fifth starting Althouse to assume the spot.
Keeping heavy pressure on Mooney, Althouse made the race winning move by hugging the inside grove. With five laps to go Stehle passed Mooney but would advance to further as the second year driver held on for the popular win.
Mooney held on for third while 13-year old Austin Kochenash and Kristina Kalch rounded out the top five.
Defending Street Stock champ Jon Moser moved into the lead for the second and final time on lap eight and then cruised to a solid win in the 25-lap run. Shawn Sitarchyk, who Moser grabbed the lead from, held on for second with Moser teammate TJ Gursky third and rookie Devin Gibson and Alan Schlenker rounding out the top five.
Bret Ballard ushered in a new era of racing at Mahoning Valley as he became the first divisional winner in the debut of the Dirt Modifieds. Ballard made a sweep of the night by winning his heat and the feature and leading all laps in the process.
In the Pro4 Late Models it looked clear that former champ Kevin Graver, Jr., was about to drive to victory. What wasn’t so clear was his visibility as three laps from the finish his cockpit filled with smoke. Officials then threw the caution and Graver exited the track, yielding the lead over to Mike Stinger who then went on to score the win over Jeremy Miller.
It was a very efficient run program as the night started at 6:00 and was complete by 9:45.
Modifieds (100): 1.Eric Beers 2.Earl Paules 3.Rick Reichenbach 4.Kory Rabenold 5.Brian DeFebo 6.Chip Santee 7.James Pritchard, Jr. 8.Matt Hirschman 9.Tom Flanagan 10.Mike Quinn 11.John Bennett 12.Don Wagner 13.Andy Szapacs 14.Tony Hanbury 15.Mike Hosier 16.Stacey Brown 17.John Markovic 18.Lonnie Behler 19.Lou Strohl 20.Rusty Smith 21.Troy Bollinger DNS: Todd Baer DNQ: Jared Nace, Mike Andrews, Rick Kirkendall, Matt Clemens