Winning big comes natural in the game of poker.
For Earl Paules, he struck major money during Saturday night’s Hand Two Modified 100 Poker Series race at Mahoning Valley Speedway.
And we’re talking major.
Paules received a nice $3,000 posted by the track for the extra-distance race, but a car sponsor doubled the earnings meaning the Palmerton, Pa., racer collected $6,000. All total it was the biggest payday and driver ever earned at the track.
It was his first win of the season at the track. His only other visit to Mahoning Valley Speedway, which came in the first leg of the Poker Series, produced a second place finish.
Paules has 10 career Modified wins at Mahoning Valley Speedway. He last 100-lap win came in 2007.
“Amazing,” Paules said after his victory. “That race was absolutely amazing.”
Amazing is an understatement. The lead was exchanged nine times over a span of 100 circuits. Don Wagner, the pole-sitter led at the start of the race and maintained the top spot through lap 10 when Jon Bennett took over the lead.
However, Bennett’s top position was short lived as Wagner regained the lead in turn two on lap 11.
The caution flag unfurled on lap 20, which allowed Matt Hirschman to put his car alongside Wagner on the restart.
Hirschman had his car stick on the outside and he was scored the race leader on lap 21, but Wagner stayed steadfast and he regained the spot on the 22nd tour.
Bennett, the points leader, passed Hirschman for the second position on lap 32 and he worked by Wagner for the lead spot on the frontstretch on lap 39.
For all intents and purposes, it appeared as the race was all for Bennett.
However, Eric Beers, who won the first Poker Series race, jumped from third to first on a lap 52 restart and led lap 53, but Beers developed mechanical problems and went to the pit area under a caution on the same tour. The culprit was a broken cam.
Beers’ misfortune fell back into Bennett’s hands, while Paules became a player in the race when he moved into second and challenged the race leader on lap 68.
And the event took another crazy turn on a lap 77 restart as Bennett spun his tires and slid through the turns, which gave Brian DeFebo an opportunity to move from third to first on the backstretch.
Paules was left with confusion as he had to leave off the throttle or risk causing a caution by tagging into Bennett.
“I saw Jon (Bennett) get loose,” Paules said. “He kept getting loose and I couldn’t make the run as I was afraid he was going to spin out.”
DeFebo led until lap 88 when Paules snagged the lead spot and led the remaining 12 laps despite consistent pressure from John Markovic.
Bennett’s night was finished despite the fact that he fell back to fifth at one point in the race.
In fact, Bennett charged back to finish in the runner-up spot at the line, while Kory Rabenold was third, Markovic was fourth and Chip Santee, who was involved in a few scrapes settled for fifth.
Hirschman was sixth, Wagner was seventh, DeFebo was eighth, Tom Flannigan was ninth and Andy Szapacs was 10th.
Rabenold posted the fast lap with a tour of 9.839 seconds. Santee and Flanagan won heats, while Rick Kirkendall won the consolation race.
Modified Feature Finish, 100 Laps: 1. Earl Paules; 2. Jon Bennett; 3. Kory Rabenold; 4. John Markovic; 5. Chip Santee; 6. Matt Hirschman; 7. Don Wagner; 8. Brian DeFebo; 9. Tom Flanagan; 10. Andy Szapacs; 11. Ryan Russo; 12. Mike Quinn; 13. James Pritchard Jr.; 14. Jarred Nace; 15. Rick Kirkendall; 16. Lonnie Behler; 17. Paul Skodacek; 18. Don Holland; 19. Eric Beers; 20. Tom Cattrel; 21. Stacey Brown; 22. Lou Strohl.