(Palmerton, PA 12-1-15) Earl Paules knows a thing or two about winning championships, especially at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway. The 50 year old veteran racer from Palmerton notched his second Modified title and fifth overall in the past four years at the paved ¼-mile oval.
And, although he knows all about what it takes to win championships, Paules admits that this one was hard-earned from start to finish.
In what was considered one of the closest battles ever for the coveted Modified crown, five drivers, Paules, Austin Kochenash, Eric Beers, Kris Graver and Don Wagner all went toe-to-toe into the last point race as legitimate contenders.
“It was pretty cool, especially for how close it was between the first five guys. It was probably the toughest five-way battle ever at Mahoning Valley that I can remember. In other years they would be wrapping up Modified titles with two weeks to go. But man-o-man it was back and forth,” said Paules, who also has three consecutive Late Model championships (2012-14).
“I was worried about the 22 car (Wagner) then he fell off. Then I was worried about the 45 car (Beers) but he had some bad nights near the end and all of a sudden out of nowhere came Austin (Kochenash) and then (Kris) Graver was real strong in those final weeks,” he continued.
“Donny Wagner is a great guy to be around both on and off the race track. With Eric Beers you’re not going to get a better guy to race alongside of. He’s raced from New Hampshire and all the way down to Florida. It’s fun to race with him. Kris Graver is another guy that no doubt you can race with side-by-side all day long.
“I really like Austin, he’s a good kid and the future of the sport. He’s a young pistol and is always on the gas from lap one to how ever many laps there is. The kid can drive a race car.”
Looking back, the year actually began awful for the driver known as “The Hurricane”. When the checkered flag fell on the 2015 season opener on April 11, Wagner won the 125-lap feature and would go on to lead the points for the next three months. Paules was nowhere in sight that first night, taking a dismal 22nd place finish, thanks to a dead battery.
As a point racer Paules knows when you’re going after a title a bad race or two is evident. But, if you’re going to have one of those nights, the earlier in the season the better. One week later he was not only back in the limelight, winning the feature, it also began his march to the top of the standings.
“I think about what I need to do in March and we try to stick to that all summer long,” said Paules.
“I told my guys we have to get more wins but if we get six wins and don’t get the championship, our year in my opinion is a flop.”
Paules had two wins, which was fewer than Kochenash, Beers and Graver, but by racing wisely to consistent top-5 and top-10 finishes it enabled him to bring home the big prize.
“It’s so hard to win out there, especially when you’re coming from deep to mid-pack each week. There is just so many good drivers who can win at Mahoning Valley. We had 11 different winners this season and that says it right there,” noted Paules.
“Sure we want to win more but at the same time you have to stay focused on the big picture.”
Paules has always relied on the horsepower that comes from respected engine builder Bob Bruneau of Bristol, Conn. However, after winning his first Modified title in 2012, he then purchased a brand new 2013 Race Works Chassis but never was able to get the car to handle to his liking. He had only one win in the previous two seasons with the car. Frustrated, he then brought out a tried and true machine, a 1990 version of the Race Works and was back in top form.
“There was two wasted years there that we changed and tried different things. We actually parked that car just past halfway in 2014 and when we brought out the old car we made it all the way up to second in final points,” said Paules.
“The 1990 car was always my favorite car. It was Dick Barney’s car and you always had the best drivers in there. Tony Siscone, John Blewett III and Billy Pauch. It had over 70 wins on it before I bought it. Race Works are amazing cars.”
The championships and wins have put Paules in rare company among those who compete on the pavement tracks of eastern Pennsylvania. He has near 80 career feature wins on blacktop which ranks him second only to Brian DeFebo.
“We won five championship in four years at the same race track and we’re proud of that. But you never think that you’re that good because after the banquet is over and done with we now have to try harder then what we did last year to do it again and that’s where I’m at,” explained Paules.
“I’m working harder at it. We already have one car done for next year and we’ve started on the second car and we hope to have that one done by Christmas. So we’re working that much harder to be that much better or at least stay equal to where we are now. I’m 50 years old now and I don’t want these young kids or anyone to beat me.”
Additional details surrounding the 2016 season will be announced in the near future.
Founded in 1959, Lancaster National Speedway is a multi-use facility located on 77 acres just outside of metropolitan Buffalo, N.Y. The facility features a 1/8-mile drag strip, a 1/2-mile oval track and hosts several non-motorsports events such as car shows and concerts. For the latest information on Lancaster National Speedway & Dragway check out our website www.