John Bennett has been dubbed the “King” of Mahoning Valley Speedway and for good reason. His mastery of the paved quarter mile has placed him in a status that is second to none and once again he proved his worth with yet another solid performance in claiming his first win of the 2010 season.
The two-time and defending Modified champion was engaged in a fierce three car battle with Don Wagner and Andy Szapacs through lap 22 of the 35-lap feature. However, after a restart he was able to seize the lead from Wagner and then drove off to his track leading 52nd career win.
“In the beginning of the race I didn’t think I was going to have enough to perform. The car was a little tight but the caution helped and the tires cooled and she was on the money there at the end,” said Lehighton’s Bennett.
Wagner and Szapacs started from the front row and no sooner than the race started they went into a lap-after-lap two wide battle and swapping the lead several times in the process. Bennett joined the fray by lap 12 and kept tabs within inches of the front pair.
For Szapacs it was his finest run in some time as he was giving Wagner all he could handle. Moments after edging his way into the lead for a second time on lap 22, he lost traction while heading into turn one and saw his outstanding night come to a spinning demise.
That also brought with it the caution and on the restart Bennett lined up alongside Wagner. At the resumption of the race Bennett used his outside line prowess to fly into the lead and once there he pulled away to the substantial win.
“They (Wagner/Szapacs) were battling pretty tough and I was a little concerned something like that would happen when Andy spun. I was just in the right place and was able to sneak by,” added Bennett.
In the late laps Lonnie Behler was charging and made a last lap pass on Wagner for second place money. It was his third runner-up over the past year as he continues to achieve his first Modified win.
“I was just a little tight near the end. I’m running on old tires and that sometimes gets hard to do on old rubber. It’s (first win) going to happen,” said Behler.
Matt Higgins had a career best fourth while last week’s winner Chip Santee rounded out the top five.
After a second place and near miss win the previous week, Bennett holds the point leader after three weeks of racing.
“No doubt we want to have that point lead but our main goal right now is to win races and we’ll see how the points come at the end,” said Bennett.
For the second time in three weeks Paul Kohler, Jr., of Northampton raced to a dominating Late Model win as he easily led every lap en-route to victory.
Kohler, who continues to make a strong statement for a third track title, also cruised to first place in his heat.
“It’s always great getting a win here at Mahoning Valley and we lucked out by starting from the pole. We’ll see what next week does when we start further back,” said Kohler.
“The car was perfect tonight. It was a bit tight during the heat and we made a few adjustments and for the feature it ran superb.”
Shawn Sitarchyk edged last week’s winner Austin Kochenash for second.
In Street Stock action Randy Ahner, Jr., of Jim Thorpe picked up his second win of the season. Ahner came from 13th on the grid and made his race winning pass over Jon Moser on lap 18 and then pulled away to another convincing victory.
Moser, who had taken the lead on lap two from Josh Mooney, held on for second while impressive running rookie Gene Bowers tallied a strong third.
Lehighton’s Barry Christman, Jr., won his first race of the season in a hotly contested Pro4 Late Model main that saw him duel with point leader Kris Graver over the first 18 laps of the race.
Both drivers took turns at leading back and forth. Graver had just edged his way into the lead at the two to go signal, however, when he entered turn one his mount got broke loose and he spun from contention.
For the final two circuits Christman then had to hold off Kevin Graver, Jr. Winless in 2009, his seventh career triumph was by a slim .345-second margin of victory.
Dave Thomas of Palmerton not only scored his career first Mahoning Dirt Modified win but it was his first feature win of any kind since he started competing in 1987.
It was a flawless performance too. Thomas started fourth and powered into the lead on lap one and then drove perfectly the rest of the way in beating his brother and Randy Thomas.