It was time for drivers to lay their cards on the table and show what they got in Hand 5 of the 7 Card Stud Poker Series at Mahoning Valley Speedway and once again it was Matt Hirschman who was holding an Ace as he was victorious in the $3000-to-win 100-lap contest, his third straight, fourth of the year and fifth in his last seven starts.
Although Hirschman would wind up with three Aces in the tournament, it wasn’t enough to be part of the top three poker hands.
John Markovic took the lion’s share of the $5000 pot as his full house, Queens over 10’s, was good enough for the $2500 first place take. Brian DeFebo and Earl Paules, also full house holders, took second and third and pocketed $1500 and $1000 respectively.
Saturday night’s races marked the season finale for 2010 and John Bennett emerged as the Modified point champion for the third straight year.
Hirschman, who drives the Bob Horn owned #50, has been nothing short of dominant throughout the year in the century run races at Mahoning. In his previous wins there were few who could keep pace with him but no so this time around.
With a season high field of 30 Modifieds Hirschman would have his work cut out for him and indeed that was just the case.
An inversion of the top 12 in time trails, with Anthony Sesely setting fast time at 9.923-seconds, would see Hirschman line up sixth for the start.
Brian DeFebo led the first few laps before Rick Kirkendall took control and was being hounded by Bennett. By lap 20 Hirschman entered into the mix.
Bennett was in a tight point fight with Don Wagner, coming into the night with a five point edge so he was looking for nothing less than a win in order to secure the crown and by lap 32 he, as well as Hirschman, finally worked past the very impressive running Kirkendall.
Bennett and Hirschman then began a torrid dogfight with Mahoning’s Kingpin doing everything possible to fend off the track’s new 100-lapper Kingpin.
A strong run was also being turned in by James Pritcard who was back at the track for the first time in three months. He was hanging right with the leaders.
Hirschman was able to take advantage of a lap 60 restart to overtake Bennett and Pritchard as well tagged along into second.
At most times by this juncture into a 100 lap Mahoning grind Hirschman was making huge gains on the pack. This time it wasn’t happening. Pritcard continued to make numerous attempts as he was pulling alongside the leader’s outside.
While those two dueled a hard fought shuffle with others moving into the top five was developing. Bennett and Kirkendall where still going at.
All eyes were also on the drive being turned in by Paules. After several pits stops he hit on the right setup and was on a mission, passing cars at random. Over the final 15 laps he was up to third and working feverously to get past Pritchard.
It wasn’t until two laps to go that he managed that and he wasn’t done yet. He zeroed in on Hirschman and was making every effort to go for the win. The last lap was a fan pleasing dogfight with Hirschman just narrowly holding on for the verdict.
“What a season we had here. It was a year ago this weekend that we won our first race here. It took five or six years and several cars and car owners but it’s rolling now. This car has been awesome here all year,” said Hirschman who drives for Connecticut’s Bob Horn.
In a year’s time he won five 100 lap features and over $16,000.
“They’re getting tougher and tougher. This is three in a row and each has gotten harder. We weren’t that good in the end. I knew a car was coming on the outside off the last corner, I could hear it, and I had a good feeling it was Earl (Paules).
“He had a chance to pit during the race to make his car better. We really good have used a pit stop because we needed a little bit of an adjustment.”
Many felt had the race gone one more lap Paules could have very well changed the outcome.
“The stagger just closed up on near the end and we may have tightened up too much but we did alright,” said Paules. “He (Hirschman) was a little off tonight and I saw him get a little bit tight. But he’s a good guy and we raced together all year long and I’m happy that he won.”
Pritcard took a very respectable third with Tyler Haydt and Markovic completed the top five. Bennett’s sixth place was good enough to earn him the track championship.
Rick Wallace picked up his second Late Model win of the year. After an opening lap restart Wallace moved to the lead spot with Austin Kochenash alongside.
Once the race commenced Wallace led the entire span but it was hard fought throughout as Kochenash tried relentlessly to get around.
With his fifth place tally Paul Koehler, Jr., locked up his third career class title which came in a season long duel over Shawn Sitarchyk.
The Street Stock feature was filled with a high level of intensity as seven drivers all had a shot at the title including race winner Steve Steigerwalt who came into the night fourth in the standings.
Steigerwalt inherited the lead with two laps to go after front runners Kevin Smith and Jillian long got together in turn two. He then held off Jon Moser for his second win of the season and was almost the spoiler as he came within 8 points of winning the title. That honor went to Randy Ahner, Jr., who in actuality finished tied in points with Kristy Morone Arthofer.
By virtual of a tiebreaker, which was feature wins, Ahner was awarded his second consecutive championship.
For the second straight race Tom Cremer was a winner in the Dirt Modifieds. Starting fifth he passed early leader Scott Hulmes on lap eight and then drove off to the win over Joe Stangle.
Randy Thomas claimed the class crown for the second time in as many years after a dominating season that saw him win 10 times and finish all but one race in the top five.
It was the year of the Graver’s in the Pro4 Late Model division as Kevin Graver, Jr., notched his seventh Pro4 Late Model victory of the year and his 16-year old nephew, Kris Graver, became the class champion.
It was an amazing year for the champ as he as well as his family. He won a record tying 11 times and only once finished lower than third and non out of the top five. Between him and his uncle they scored 18 of 22 feature wins and the younger Graver becomes the first third generation driver to win a Mahoning title.
Modified Feature Finish, 100 Laps: 1.Matt Hirschman 2.Earl Paules 3.James Pritchard 4.Tyler Haydt 5.John Markovic 6.John Bennett 7.Rick Kirkendall 8.Joe Mooney 9.Chris Hamilton 10.Rich Kuiken Jr. 11.Lou Strohl 12.Don Wagner 13.Shaun Carrig 14.Ed Brunnhoelzl 15.Terry Markovic 16.CJ Jones 17.Matt Higgins 18.Brian DeFebo 19.Jarred Nace 20.Lonnie Behler 21.Troy Bollinger 22.Rick Reichenbach 23.Chip Santee 24.Rob Schultz 25.Anthony Sesely
Did not qualify: Ed Heim, Andy Szapacs, Keith Mullineaux, Billy Weichert, Eric Beers
Late Model Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Rick Wallace 2.Austin Kochenash 3.Mike Sweeney 4.Dave Wallace 5.Paul Koehler, Jr. 6.Shawn Sitarchyk 7.Todd Stehle 8.Rob Ormsbee 9.Cole Lenhart 10.Rick Smith
Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1.Steve Steigerwalt 2.Jon Moser 3.TJ Gursky 4.Kristy Morone Arthofer 5.Adam Santee 6.Todd Ahner 7.Randy Ahner, Jr. 8.Brian Labar 9.Gene Bowers 10.Justin Mooney 11.Jason Frey 12.Josh Mooney 13.Austin Santee 14.Jamie Smith 15.Devin Gibson 16.Chris May 17.Jilllian Long 18.Nick Shaw 19.Kevin Smith 20.Chris Smith 21.Matt May
Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Tom Cremer 2.Joe Stangle 3.Ryan Grimm 4.Randy Thomas 5.Dave Thomas 6.Bill Briggs 7.Scott Hulmes 8.Bill Sitler
Pro4 Late Model Feature, 20 Laps: 1.Kevin Graver, Jr. 2.Kris Graver 3.Barry Christman, Jr. 4.Jake Kibler 5.Jeremy Miller 6.Aleia Geisler 7.Chad Keiser 8.Arland Moyer, Jr. 9.Jay Garris Did not start: Kevin Stein