It seemed for a while that Northampton’s Matt Hirschman could never come up with a win at Mahoning Valley Speedway, a track that is just a 30-minite drive from his home. Despite being always fast, victory continually eluded him for a variety of reasons.
But after picking up his career first Mahoning win at the end of 2009 it now seems that he can’t lose as for the fourth time in his last six starts Hirschman drove to a 100-lap, $3000 win.
In Saturday night’s Hand 4 of the 7 Card Stud Poker Series, Hirschman, once again behind the wheel of the Bob Horn owned #50, was unstoppable in much the same manner as he was in last month’s Poker Series race.
Starting ninth, he powered his way to the front on lap 36 and in a repeat performance of his August 14 win he was virtually unchallenged after gaining the lead.
“This car has been hooked up and we really have it figured out here. I have to thank Bob Horn for bringing it. We haven’t really discussed it much but we had a plan and that was to come back just the way we were last time and just basically beat ourselves rather than someone else beat us because we had something that worked and we stuck with it,” said Hirschman.
All of his Mahoning wins have come in 100 lap races.
The field was set by time trials with point leader Don Wagner (9.773) and John Bennett (9.774) laying down the top two times.
An inversion of the top 12 put Joe Mooney and CJ Jones on the front row. At the outset both showed the way over a quality pack of cars with Mooney setting the pace. Both he and Jones looked good too as they remained in control over the first quarter of the race.
All the while Hirschman was storming through the field and by lap 23 he had motored into second. From there he made Mooney aware of his presence as he trailed him closely until lap 36 when he made his move into the lead.
For the rest of the race it became evident that no one was able to hang with Hirschman especially under extended green flag runs when he pulled far enough ahead of any on comers.
“We got one more shot to do it again in October and I think the way things are going we can win again,” added Hirschman.
Tyler Haydt turned in a solid effort with his second place finish but admitted there was no catching the leader.
“He (Hirschman) was on top of it tonight and he’s the guy to beat right now in these 100-lappers. He was head and shoulders above the rest of us,” said Haydt has been a runner-up in his last two starts.
John Markovic, Lonnie Behler and Bennett completed the top five.
For Markovic it was his third time taking that spot in a Poker Series race giving him three queens heading into the final 100 lapper on October 2. However, Brian DeFebo and Earl Paules have the top hands with a full house after their respective finishes of eighth and ninth.
With Bennett’s fifth place coupled with Wagner’s 11th, there is just one point between the pair with two races remaining.
Late Model point leader Paul Koehler, Jr., of Northampton raced to his fifth win of the season and in doing do tied the record for most class wins with Todd Stehle at 34.
Koehler’s march to the front came after a spirited duel with his title contending counterpart Shawn Sitarchyk. The two were running side-by-side until lap seven when they touched and Sitarchyk went spinning from the lead.
“There was contact and he (Sitarchyk) was running up into me and I knew he was going to spin himself out because I’ve done it myself before trying to block for the lead,” explained Koehler.
“I was far enough ahead of him where he bumped me and it just took his front end out. We all try to protect the lead, we all want to win, we’re all racers and sometimes you just come out on the short end of the stick.”
It was far from over for Koehler as the rest of the way he was faced with holding back current hot shoe Austin Kochenash who was attempting to win four straight. At the finish Koehler held on for the slim win, his fifth of the year and first since June 26.
“We have been struggling over the past two months as opposed to how we started when the car was on rails. We got to the front fast, it got tight as hell and we just held them off,” said Koehler who is seeking his third career title.
“I don’t care about that record. I want to win a championship, that’s what we’re here for.”
In the Street Stocks it was a perfect night for Lehighton’s Gene Bowers who swept his night of racing by winning both his heat and feature.
Bowers started second in the main and was running alongside leader Jon Moser. On lap six he looked to the inside and completed the race winning pass at the outset of the ensuing circuit. The rest of the way there was no stopping him as he pulled away to an almost 2-second margin of victory over Austin Santee.
It was the second win of the season for the rookie. The race was run caution free with Bowers finishing the 25-lap distance in a time of 5:02. It was also a season best finish for Santee, he to a rookie.
Kris Graver of Lehighton once again was triumphant in the Pro4 Late Models as he won for an incredible 10th time. This week’s winning edition came by way of a pass on Jeremy Miller with four laps completed. Afterwards it was another case of holding off Kevin Graver.
Likewise with Randy Thomas of Palmerton in the Dirt Mods who also took a 10th feature win on the season. It was one of the more hard fought wins too, as he needed nearly the entire race to get by Joe Stangle for the win. It wasn’t until two laps to go that he slipped into the lead.
Wes Gilbert made a sweep of the 4c Super Modified season at Mahoning as the point leader from Preston MD won in a thrilling last lap, last corner pass on Ron Merlino.