In what has become the norm in 100-lap Modified races at Mahoning Valley Speedway, it was another wild and exciting showdown with the outcome being played out right down to the final laps.
With two laps to go Eric Beers was not only eyeing the $3000 first place money but he also was in a position to take home the lion’s share of the poker series tournament, an additional $2500. This event was the holdover finale of the 2009 Modified Poker Series that had been postponed due to inclement weather. As has been the case in most every extra distance Mahoning races, this one was a true barnburner.
From lap 50 to lap 98 Eric Beers and Earl Paules staged a fierce dogfight for the lead but in the end it was 18th place starter Matt Hirschman who parked in Victory Lane. Beers tangled with lapped traffic and Paules had to back down in order to avoid being part of it.
Running a close third at the time was Hirschman who was able to drive around the encounter and score the popular win.
“Not bad for a borrowed ride. The car we normally race here got wrecked a couple of weeks ago. This car is from Connecticut and owned by Bob Horn and he towed it all the way out here by himself just to give me a ride tonight and I appreciate all he’s done for me and I can’t thank him enough,” said Hirschman who won an additional $1000 for placing third in the Poker Series. It was also the second straight 100-lapper that the Northampton star had scored at the paved ¼-mile.
“The guys did a great job. We made a bunch of pit stops just to fine tune on it and we made it right and made it count.”
Time trials locked the top 12 into the grid with Beers setting fast time at 9.756-seconds and New Jersey’s Anthony Sesely second quick at 9.786. An inversion then saw Bobby Jones and Chip Santee on the front row and with the drop of Dick Brown’s race commencing green Jones shot into the lead with Paules in chase.
Paules had his car working very well from the high groove although Jones did a nice job of holding him at bay. Meanwhile John Markovic, Zane Zeiner and defending track champion John Bennett had a very close battle going on behind the front duel. By lap 29 Zeiner had broke free and reeled in the top two. On lap 32 he was able to dip down inside of Jones and take over the lead.
One lap later Paules and Bennett got together and had to restart from the rear. An impressive run by Sesely was being turned in as well as the former D/A Mod champ ran second. Kory Rabenold was also in the top five at this time.
As expected Beers was also making his presence felt as he cracked the top five on lap 34. Driving the DeLange Racing #76, Beers was his usual hard charging self to the front as he disposed of Jones and Rabenold and then did the same to Sesely by lap 39. He was now hunting down Zeiner and as the 44th tour was going into the books, Beers used his rhythm off turn four from the outside to sail into the lead.
By midrace Paules had worked back to second and began his clash with Beers. For the next 48 laps it was nip tuck and side-by-side. All the while there wasn’t much noticed paid to Hirschman who was mired back in 10th spot after several pit stops.
Thanks to some savvy driving Hirschman was able to pick his way through a very stout pack of cars and with ten laps remaining found himself riding behind the leaders.
Traffic was everywhere which played a key role in the conclusion of the race. As the two to go signal was given Beers and Paules where near even and approaching lapped cars. In the path of Beers was Rabenold who was busy negotiating back markers himself.
Racing room was sparse and as Beers and Paules came roaring up on Rabenold contact ensued. Beers got the worst of it as he collided into the back of Rabenold. Paules just slipped by but it was Hirschman who avoided all the action and vaulted into to the lead.
With two laps remaining he was able to fend off Paules and notch his second straight 100-lapper. Don wager had a great race and registered third while Markovic and Rick Reichenbach completed the top five.
“That was some great racing there. Earl (Paules) had a real good car to be able to fight like that on the outside and all I could do is really watch and keep close there in case something happened,” said Hirschman.
“Eric (Beers) is usually dominant here for the most part and normally no one would have that opportunity but he just wasn’t as good. Earl was real good or even a little better and I felt I was just as good. Eric had him (Paules) choked down there just enough to keep us all in there and then even Donny (Wagner) showed up there in the end.
“But that’s Mahoning Valley and I’m just glad that I can now be a part of it instead of always being back in sixth or so watching it.”
Paules was indeed one of the fastest cars all night and despite coming up one spot short, he did get double second place money as he also earned the runner-up hand in the Poker Series worth an additional $1500.
“Well, it all started in the beginning. Bobby (Jones) had a really good car and I was just pacing myself there in second and I was bidding my time. We definitely had the best car out there tonight but you can’t complain about second here at Mahoning Valley,” said Paules.
With his eighth place tally Brian DeFebo won the Poker Series Tournament and $2500. His winning hand was three sevens.
Paul Kohler, Jr., of Northampton made a strong statement with his dominating win in the 20-lap Late Model feature. After running away with his heat he then did the same in the main and was simply untouchable in claiming his 30th career win.
The caution free race was reeled off in a time of 3:37 in which the former two-time champion held a half track margin of victory. Geno Steigerwalt fended off Rick Wallace for third.
Reigning Street Stock titlist Randy Ahner, Jr., passed Devin Gibson on lap eight and then went on to a convincing victory in the 25-lap race. From the pole Gibson jumped out to the early lead with second place starter Ahner, Jr. keeping close tabs on him.
After a few laps running side-by-side, Ahner, Jr., working the high groove, powered into the lead and was home free the rest of the way.
When defending Pro4 Late Model champ Kevin Graver, Jr., tangled with Barry Christman for the lead it allowed Kris Graver the chance to inherit the top spot and keep the family name in the Winners Circle, a common trait over the past few years including 11 for champ in ’09.
From the pole Graver Jr., jumped into the lead and was having a great duel with Christman. On lap 14 Christman attempted to go inside of Graver, Jr., however, contact between the pair sent them crashing.
Seventh starting Kris Graver then held off Jeremy Miller for his second career win. Christman set a new fast lap mark with an 11.337.
In Dirt Mod action Jeff Parker of Hellertown went from third to first on the opening lap, was able to hold off a strong challenge from defending champ Randy Thomas and then went on to notch his career first pavement win.
Modified Feature Finish, 100 Laps: 1.Matt Hirschman 2.Earl Paules 3.Don Wagner 4.John Markovic 5.Rick Reichenbach 6.John Bennett 7.Stacy Brown 8.Brian DeFebo 9.Tony Hanbury 10.Rich Kuiken, Jr. 11.Zane Zeiner 12.Eric Beers 13.Kory Rabenold 14.Bobby Jones 15.Lonnie Behler 16.Chip Santee 17.Matt Higgins 18.Andy Szapacs 19.Anthony Sesely 20.James Pritchard, Jr. 21.Jimmy Zacharias
Did not qualify: Bill Teel, Rob Shultz