When Matawan, NJ’s Anthony Sesely opted to travel to Mahoning Valley Speedway instead of closer-to-home Wall Stadium where he had won three times this season, it was suppose to be for a fun night, shake the cars down of both him and his sister Amanda who was also in attendance and prepare for the upcoming 100-lapper on July 10.
Well he did that and a whole lot more as the 25-year old Sesely pulled off an amazing victory, his first at the track since September 1, 2001.
Sesely put on quite the drive too, coming from 14th and then executing a daring three-wide pass for the lead over Lonnie Behler and Don Wagner that sealed his win.
“That was amazing. I want to first thank Doug and Gena (Hoffman, track owners). This is a great place to race and I really had a lot of fun tonight. Racing with no mirrors and no radios, that’s the way to do it,” said Sesely.
“That was just so much fun. I haven’t won here since 2001 and this race was absolutely awesome.”
Awesome indeed as fans were talking about this race long after the checkers fell. The drive by Sesely, the close side-by-side action between Wagner and Behler, the faltering of John Bennett and it all took place in just 35 laps.
Pole sitter Andy Szapacs darted out to the early lead and had Behler in close pursuit. On lap two Behler was working underneath him and as they entered turn one Szapacs lost traction and slide into the wall.
With Behler now leading Matt Wentz then Tom Flanagan hounded him. Rick Reichenbach was also part of the mix and by lap 10 point leader Bennett became a factor. Bennett powered his way via the outside lane and moved to second on lap 14.
Behler was very defensive in holding his spot and that was never more evident than on lap 15 when he and Bennett touched wheels and the track’s star player nearly lost it and fell back several spots.
Wagner now picked up the chase and in what was shades of the previous week when both these drivers battled fiercely only to wipeout, this time around it was the same closeness unfolding only more respectful of one another.
The front two weren’t the only ones putting on a show either as Flanagan and Sesely were also wheel-to-wheel behind them.
On lap 25 a caution waved for Chip Santee who spun in turn three. There were several tries to get the action going again as Behler and Sesely continued to bang into each other which stalled the restart.
When the action finally resumed Behler, Wagner and Sesely went three-wide for the lead with Sesely breathtakingly coming out ahead.
“That was the first time I ever had to race against Lonnie Behler and let me tell you something, he is as tough as they come. He worked it hard,” said Sesely.
With five laps remaining Wagner unseated Behler and did all he could to overtake Sesely but it was to no avail.
“We just came here to shake these cars down. These are two barrel Wall Stadium cars and we didn’t know how they would stack up here,” offered Sesely. “I love coming here, I love racing here and I had a long drought here and I’m glad I shook that monkey off my back.”
Wagner’s runner-up it made it a one-two finish for the Garden State and also helped him narrow the point gap on Bennett who finished seventh.
“It was a lot of fun from the driver’s seat. Congratulations to Anthony (Sesely). Those guys tow a long way to get here and we really appreciate them being here. You can always count on him to put on a good race and Lonnie (Behler) is one tough S.O.B.” said Wagner.
Flanagan and Wentz rounded out the top five. Tyler Haydt, Amanda Sesely and Bennett won heat races.
The Late Model feature was light on cars but not on action.
After running side-by-side on the outside for several laps with early leader Rick Wallace, Paul Koehler, Jr., of Northampton, grabbed the lead on lap eight and then held off Shawn Sitarchyk yet again for his fourth Late Model win of the season.
“I’m finally glad we got another one. I feel like the last two weeks we had them stolen from us. This was a little bitter sweet too because I wish there were more cars here,” said Koehler. “It’s been a great season so far and we hope it can only get better.”
Koehler needs just one win to tie the current record of 34 class victories held by Todd Stehle.
There was a season high 27 Street Stocks, all looking to tune-up for the $1000-to-win Star Spangled 100 on July 3.
A very impressive field indeed but none could match the strong performance turned in by Lehighton’s Jason Frey who won for a second time this season.
Frey started third and passed Jamie Smith on lap three. For the remaining 22 circuits he fended off Todd Ahner to become only the second repeat winner on the season.
Ahner tried a last ditch effort coming to the checkered flag as he looked to steal the win away from Frey. They touched and Frey went spinning across the finish line.
Steven Steigerwalt, Steve Hoffman and TJ Gursky completed the top five.
At just 16-years old Kris Graver of Lehighton looks more like a seasoned veteran rather than a driver who is only into his third year of racing stock cars.
For the fifth time in 10 starts Graver was parked in Victory Lane after a Pro4 Late Model feature and it seems each time he makes it look as though he’s been at this game for years. He is cool, calm and collective.
In this winning edition Graver went around Jeremy Miller on lap eight and not only notched his fifth win but it was also his 10th straight finish of third or better.
Palmerton’s Randy Thomas is hitting his stride as the defending Dirt Modified champ cruised to his third win of the year. Thomas, the point leader, passed Tom Cremer on lap four and from there it was no contest. Jeff Parker was second.
Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1.Anthony Sesely 2.Don Wagner 3.Lonnie Behler 4.Tom Flanagan 5.Matt Wentz 6.Brian DeFebo 7.John Bennett 8.Brian Romig 9.Chip Santee 10.Joe Mooney 11.Matt Higgins 12.Lou Strohl 13.Jarred Nace 14.Ed Heim, Jr. 15.Rob Shultz 16.Billy Swartz 17.Rick Reichenbach 18.Tylet Haydt 19.Amanda Sesely 20.Andy Szapacs