Poker is a game of risk, chance and luck when it comes to winning. Just ask Chip Santee who, in the blink of an eye, saw his shot at the $3000 Poker Series jackpot in the Hand 2 Seven Card Stud Modified 100 slip through his fingers after the lapped car of Tommy Flanagan got in his path while leading and he was forced to back down to avoid a possible rear end collision with just under 30 laps to go.
Earl Paules was the lucky card holder when all was said and done as the Palmerton hot-shoe was positioned to the outside of Santee and Flanagan and had the clear lane to take the lead and score the popular win over Anthony Sesely, John Markovic, Eric Beers and Matt Hirschman.
Santee had been leading from lap 28 and although Paules was mounting a respectable challenge, it appeared be his race to lose.
On lap 71 a caution was out for Flanagan had spun. He then ducked into the pits and as he was returning to rejoin the race the field was charging out of turn four to get the green. Flanagan came out in front of Santee and Paules.
Santee suddenly found his inside lane blocked and Paules was able to take advantage and move to the front. Santee was never able to regain his spot and even spun at one point while trying.
“Chip (Santee) got a little short end of the deal when the 87 (Flanagan) came out of the pits but what can you do. You have to take advantage with things like that. I felt bad for him but I needed to get the lead right then because our car was tight and Chip was strong,” said Paules who notched his third 100 lap Mahoning win and 11th overall in a Modified.
Time trials locked in the top 12 with Rich Kuilkem, Jr. setting fast time with a 9.880-second lap. For his efforts he received a $100 cash bonus.
The field was inverted for the start with Matt Higgins and CJ Jones on the front row. When the race began Higgins led and was holding off Santee and Paules who were in a dogfight for second.
Higgins was impressive in the way he led as both Santee and Paules tried several times but could not get past. Santee finally got a good run on lap 25 as he was able to dip underneath Higgins and finish off the pass on lap 28. Two laps later Paules was in second and it was then a heated battle with him and Santee.
Lonnie Behler was running a strong fourth over proverbial favorite Beers. Beers got around Behler at lap 57 and then tucked in behind the top two. Sesely joined the front fray on lap 67.
Although Paules was making valid bids to get the lead, Santee was clearly better. He was finally starting to put distance between them until the ill-fated lap 71 caution arrived. It was indeed an unfortunate situation for Santee with the gaffe of Flanagan.
“He was good and I was just trying to save my car,” noted Paules.
After taking the lead Paules had to hold back Beers who tried on several restarts to overtake him and then Sesely who tried repeatedly near the closing laps but came up just short at the finish.
The race took just over 30-minutes to complete.
“I love that. There’s a great bunch of guys here and when these 100 lappers are held its good racing,” said Paules who drew an Ace of Spades as the suit for Hand 2.
Since his first start on June 26 which he won, Sesely continued on his trend of being a front runner with his runner-up finish and has been a crowd pleaser with his ability of coming through traffic.
“I’m just having so much fun here and be able race the way these guys do and run door-handle-to-door handle,” said Sesely.
Markovic stormed from 15th to third and in doing so has the lead poker hand with a pair of Queens heading into the next 100-lap race on August 14. He was also third in Hand 1 on June 12.
“It was a great night. Earl and Anthony did a great job and it’s always fun to come back to Mahoning,” said the former five time champion Markovic. “Doug (Hoffman, track promoter) has got a good thing going here. Everyone races fair, hard and clean.”
Austin Kochenash of Danielsville had an easy go of things in the Late Model main as the 15-year old led from start to finish with relative ease.
In doing so the young lion raced to his fifth win of the season which put him in a tie for the overall top winner in Area Auto Racing News’ Asphalt Late Model category with New Englander Wayne Helliwell.
After several weeks of having a shot to win the Street Stock main only to come up short due to unfortunate luck, Randy Ahner, Jr., of Jim Thorpe was not to be denied this night as he tasted victory for a third time this season.
Ahner passed Paul Effrig on lap six and then held off his half brother Devin Gibson for his ninth career win and 20th overall.
In Dirt Modifieds Randy Thomas of Palmerton took the lead from Joe Stangle on a lap five restart and then powered away to his sixth win of the season. The victory, which is a new single season high with the class, also put him back into the point lead.
Barry Christman, Jr., got redemption of sorts with his win in the Pro4 Late Models. Last week Christman never made the call to the green for the feature due to a blown engine. This week he returned with a vengeance as he led all but the first lap of the main and picked up his third win of the year over point leader Kris Graver.