RoC opener “Break-The-Ice-75” goes to Eric Beers in a close one over Matt Hirschman at Mahoning Valley Speedway
By DINO OBERTO
(LEHIGHTON, Pa. 4-23-16) The Ferris Mowers Race of Champions (RoC) Asphalt Modified Series Tour Fueled by Sunoco opened its 2016 season on Saturday night at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway with the “Break-The-Ice-75” and there was no question that the race, billed as the stars of RoC vs. the home track standouts, lived up to all it was touted to be as Eric Beers, a two-time track champion and leader in career wins withheld the reigning and multi-time RoC titlist Matt Hirschman in a down-to-the wire win that was a mere half-second margin of victory.
Kris Graver, Don Wagner and Chuck Hossfeld rounded out the top five and ironically that was the same top finishers from a week ago for the Opening Night 35-lap feature.
“This was huge. It’s been a long time since the RoC has been here and to be able to come out on top of the field of cars here from all the tough guys on the RoC Tour to the track regulars, it was a great race and an honor to have won it,” said Beers, who earned $2800 for his 75-lap journey.
“I think it was great for the drivers and the fans that the (promoters) Santee family was able to bring in such a high class group like RoC. I’m sure everyone enjoyed this.”
The race closely mirrored the previous week as well. In that event Beers and Hirschman staged a terrific duel and that battle simply carried over to tonight with the identical scene of hard nose racing by two drivers with a long history of battling each other for wins, many of those coming at Mahoning Valley.
A draw of the top heat winners set the 26 car starting grid with Beers and Calvin Carroll sharing the front row. Prior to the start the fans got a real treat as the field did a never before 4-wide parade lap that was quite impressive.
As the race got underway there was concern about how drivers would handle the above average number of cars within the tight borders of the ¼-mile oval, but that was quickly dismissed as only three cautions waved during the first 50 laps. That meant plenty of flat out racing and with Beers at the helm along with all the hotshots in his mirror, the action was very intense.
Hossfeld was the first to step up and challenge Beers then came Wagner. In the mix as well was Earl Paules while Carroll made a great impression by hanging with the lead pack over the first 40 laps.
After starting eighth, Hirschman entered the top five and was engaged in some tight quarters before he could get to the leader.
“I had to work past those guys to get into a position to contend with Eric (Beers). My car was good and I was able to pass cars,” said Hirschman.
Running most of his race on the outside, Hirschman finally shook free of the Hossfeld, Wagner, Paules and Carroll juggernaut and made his way up to Beers with 30 circuits complete.
The battle was now on between the two titans in much the same fashion from a week earlier. Beers was keeping his car in a tight line close to the bottom leaving no choice but for Hirschman to run outside. That didn’t seem to be a problem either as he was constantly pulling alongside and at other times in tow.
While the pace was torrid there came the issue of lapped traffic. Both drivers knew the outcome of getting by the slower cars could the difference between winning and losing, especially Beers.
“In the middle part of the race when Matt (Hirschman) got to second and we got into lapped traffic, that’s when I got on my horse and showed what I had,” said Beers.
“The thing that concerned me was that when we got to the lapped traffic they were two-wide, three rows deep and I wasn’t sure which lane to go in. I waited about three laps and when I did Matt got to my bumper. I knew that if I picked the wrong lane he would pass me. So I went to the bottom and that started slowing down. After that I just went three wide down the back stretch and split a couple cars on the front stretch and we made it through.”
After the traffic issue was settled the attention once again turned to the pressure of Hirschman going after Beers. At one point it looked as though the end of leading was about to come too when Hirschman got a great run off turn two and was able to look to the inside of the next corner. However, in doing so they touched, slide a little but without missing a beat both drove on.
“I wiggled once off of (turn) two and Matt tried to drive underneath us. We bumped a little bit but luckily he stayed in his lane and I stayed in mine and we kept right on racing,” said Beers.
Added Hirschman, “We touched a little bit and it was enough to break my momentum and he was able to get back in the lead. I don’t know what I could have done differently.”
In last week’s opener Beers also had concerns with late race cautions and the fact that his tires weren’t responding as he wanted after restarts. That was not near the worry as Hirschman was though.
“Actually the car was a little better this week late in the race. We lost some forward bite near the end and I changed my line a little bit which helped,” Beers noted.
That it did, going nose to tail the rest of the way and making it two straight wins to start the season. Beers has now led every feature lap thus far.
“It’s a long season here and a long way to go and I’m going to ride this as long as it goes,” he added.
Hirschman, understandably down, made the best of a tough situation as the Tour heads to Chemung this upcoming Sunday.
“I’m disappointed that two weeks in a row it’s the same outcome for us. I just needed to pass one more car. We’re in a position to contend and luck of the draw was on Eric’s (Beers) side. But he’s good and not just lucky so it’s always tough to get him out of the lead when he’s in control,” said Hirschman.
“We did our best two weeks in a row but unfortunately I’m disappointed that it’s the same results. We’ll go on to the next race and go from there.”
The Break-The-Ice-75 was originally slated to run on April 9 but was postponed due to weather. 32 cars, came out to run with heats going to Beers, Paules, Wagner and Jimmy Zacharias. Austin Kochenash, who set the fast lap of the race at 9.966-seconds, won the consolation.
Modified Feature Finish (75 Laps): 1. Eric Beers, 2. Mat Hirschman, 3. Kris Graver, 4. Don Wagner, 5. Chuck Hossfeld, 6. Earl Paules, 7. Brian DeFebo, 8. Ton Hanbury, 9. Jimmy Zacharias, 10. Bryan Sherwood, 11. Bobby Jones, 12. Patrick Emerling, 13. Roger Coss, 14. Daren Scherer, 15. Tyler Rypkema, 16. Nick Baer, 17. Austin Kochenash, 18. TJ Potrzebowski, 19. Nick Pecko, 20. Terry Markovic, 21. Jack Ely, 22. Kyle Strohl, 23. Calvin Carroll, 24. Todd Baer, 25. Chris Risdale, 26. Lee Sharpsteen DNQ: John Markovic, Lou Strohl, Jack Ely, Glenn Slocum, Levi Arthur