By DINO OBERTO
Noah Watts Photo
(LEHIGHTON 10-13-18) To fans of eastern Pennsylvania short track asphalt racing the names of Hirschman and Beers are synonymous when it comes to the ranks of Modified competition. For years the two iconic racing families, who both hail from Mud Lane in Northampton, have shared countless headlines, many of those coming in one-two finishes between Mahoning Valley, Dorney Park and Evergreen Speedway’s.
Tony Hirschman had gone up against numerous cars owned by the late Dale Beers. Eric Beers and Matt Hirschman took the battle to new heights over the past two decades and on Saturday night at Mahoning Valley during the annual Octoberfast the torch was passed on the next generation as 15-year old Austin Beers showed that he is ready to carry on the duel.
In the 150-lap contest M. Hirschman made his racing winning move with four laps to go over A. Beers and claimed the $5000 first place prize. It would be Hirschman’s sixth consecutive victory, 14th of 2018 and 16th at Mahoning, three of them coming in the Octoberfast.
But make no mistake all eyes were on the younger Beers who clearly was in route to a monumental victory had it not been for the late caution that dramatically changed the outcome.
While most everyone pitted at some point Beers was one of only three others, (Josh Scherer/DJ Wagner), who stayed out the entire race gambling with the same set of tires and it almost paid off. However, when Joey Jarowicz spun four laps from the end Hirschman would use that restart to make his race winning pass with an inside pass off turn two.
“That last caution won me the race otherwise Austin Beers was going to win this thing. It was an incredible run that he had. When he was leading and I was second and the race was going on I knew I was settling for runner-up – I wasn’t going to pass him,” bottom-lined Hirschman.
“I kept thinking back to my first big win I had at Evergreen (Raceway) at the King of the Green and his dad finished second to me. It was at that moment I thought that how awesome this is and how this kid is going to win this big race just like myself and his dad did in 2001.”
Hirschman has been a dominant force everywhere he has run this year and when he brought that winning momentum to Mahoning Valley, his first time at the track in two seasons, the thought was on everyone’s mind as to would his streak go on or could one of the always tough-to-beat Mahoning regulars put it to a halt.
For quite some time it seemed as though that would be the case. Pole sitter Austin Kochenash led the early going with Lou Strohl keeping in a close second. Hirschman, who started fifth, joined the front pair by lap eight and thus began a torrid three car battle.
After 20 laps Hirschman barely shook off Strohl for second and would then latch on to the back end of Kochenash while Gene Bowers moved to third.
Still under tight conditions, Hirschman attempted an inside move for the lead on lap 30 but fell short and made contact with the leader, sending him spinning and several other scattering. He had felt the move was merited at that time as Bowers was looking to get by from the outside. In hindsight, though, he comprehended that it may have been too soon for the endeavor.
“I didn’t need to but there was a car that came up alongside me on the outside and it looked like he was going to go by us both. The 66 (Kochenash) was holding me up some and I thought ‘Well it might be time to get ahead of him with other faster cars breathing down my neck,” said Hirschman.
“I made an inside move down the front straight and I thought I was in but we don’t race with radios here and that’s kind of how it goes. It was probably not the right move at that time and what the end result was but had I just passed him I might have stayed out the whole race like Austin (Beers) did.”
Afterwards Kochenash and Hirschman both pitted while Bowers took control of the race. Scherer and Beers would swap back and forth for second. Kyle Strohl entered into the fray with 50 laps complete.
Bowers, who lost in this same race last year by a whisker to Bobby Jones, was looking for redemption and had it going nicely despite that Beers and Strohl where fixated on his rear tail.
After numerous two-wide laps with Beers second place fell to Strohl and he began an all-out run at the Bowers, successfully taking over the front spot on lap 94. On the same tour Beers followed and was runner-up. 10 laps later a caution would wave and on that re-go Beers would overtake Strohl for the lead.
Through a series of pit stops and hard charging Kochenash had worked his way back to third with 50 laps to go. Likewise Hirschman had motored back into the front five by lap 118.
At the helm Beers was showing that he was going to make it tough for anyone to try and pass him. He was very confident in his car’s handling and even disregarded a pre-race team strategy to pit around lap 100.
With the laps wearing on Beers was looking closer to becoming an upset winner as Strohl and Kochenash could only watch from second and third. Then on lap 132 the action slowed the action for a minor incident and again three laps later for a spinning car.
By then Kochenash had advanced to second and Hirschman made some fancy moves to take third. The pair would then engage a in a dogfight for second and few laps back under green and Hirschman was there.
Heading into the waning circuits it was looking more and more as though Beers was on his way to victory until that ill-fated caution waved four laps from the end.
“I was definably going to be satisfied with second, no complaints. My experience probably paid off and all I can say is what a future that kid has. Things didn’t quite work out the way I had anticipated early but you never give up,” said Hirschman.
“It’s always exciting to be here at Mahoning and it’s never over until the last lap and its fun. I’ll be back that’s for sure.”
Strohl was very fast at the end and settled for third with an impressive Scherer taking fourth over Kochenash who rounded out the top five.
“My dad wanted me to come in at lap 100 but I was second then and just decided to stay out. The car was great tonight. To be leading one of these event was very humbling against such a stout field,” noted Beers afterwards.
“I just ran my own race and if I got beat then so be it. Finishing second to a gut like Matt Hirschman – we’ll take that.”
There were 22 cars on hand with Hirschman, Beers and Kevin rex Jr., annexing heat wins.
Modified Feature Finish (150 Laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Austin Beers, 3. Kyle Strohl. 4. Josh Scherer, 5. Austin Kochenash, 6. Lou Strohl, 7. Gene Bowers, 8. DJ Wagner, 9. Ron Haring Jr., 10. John Markovic, 11. Todd Baer, 12. Don Wagner, 13. Joey Jarowicz, 14. Terry Markovic, 15. Kristy Arthofer, 16. Cody Geist, 17. Jesse