By DINO OBERTO
(Lehighton 7-31-21) Matt Hirschman proved yet again his role as one of the premier Northeast pavement Modified stars as he collected his 14th win of the year, this latest one taking place Saturday evening in the fourth installment of the 2021 John Blewett Inc., Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series Lorin Arthofer Sr. Tribute 71 lapper.
Hirschman redrew ninth in the 24 car field. Inside of 11 laps he was in the top five and within eight tours of that was running down the front pair of Cody Kohler and Nick Baer. It only took him another four circuits, a restart on lap 24, in gaining the top spot from Baer and afterwards made it a race for second as he sailed on to his fifth Mahoning win in six starts and 27th at the ¼-mile oval.
“It was a really good race for us starting from ninth and then to advance and go with all good clean passes all the way to the lead and just hold everyone off from there. It’s was a good night and it’s been a good year for us here at Mahoning,” said Hirschman.
“It’s so nice to honor some of these guys with the Hall of Fame Series while there still with us and they’re able to enjoy it and see the recognition they deserve. Those guys were some real wheelmen back in the day.”
Veteran Don Wagner and rookie Kohler shared the front row and at the waving of the race commencing green by honorary starter Lorin Arthofer Sr., Wagner would get the jump and take the early lead but by the second go-around Kohler unseated him.
Kohler, who was leading a Modified feature for the first time, then set out on a steady pace while holding off both Wagner and Baer as they raced side-by-side directly behind him. Making haste as well was Austin Kochenash who joined in the lead trio by lap nine and two laps later Hirschman added his No. 60 to the fight.
By lap 18 Baer was finally able to pull ahead of Wagner and once he did continued on towards Kohler’s outside. Hirschman likewise advanced to third, partly from a restarts and lane choice with the fact of this being a cone race.
As the leaders then completed lap 21 Baer had his nose out front but unfortunately it would be short lived as Hirschman utilized a restart to move to the front two laps later.
Afterwards he would have to contend with numerous challengers such as Kochenash, Brian DeFebo and eventual runner-up Zane Zeiner, the majority of those encounters taking place on restarts but each time he was quick to go and would leave no doubt of his unquestionable prowess.
“Restarts is how I got spun out on the last one (June 26) here so I wanted to make sure I got as best start as I could. I felt I got good ones the last time here but I guess there was a little to much room for a nose to get in there so this time I tried to close that off and just try and get away,” explained Hirschman.
“You never know here with no radios and no mirrors. You can always sense if you have pressure or not and feel if their tight on you. So we just needed to execute a few laps and then I felt like we were safe.”
While Hirschman had control of the lead DeFebo and Zeiner would lock horns in a great battle for second spot as they traded the position back and forth all the way to the finish.
“It was a strong run and I may have used my stuff up a little too much but it was hard racing with Brian (DeFebo). Randall Richard’s gives us a great car and I a big thanks to the Arthofer family for all they did to out this race on,” said Zeiner.
Baer had a solid run all race long and took fourth while Earl Paules came on strong late into the race a garnered a respectable fifth.
In the Street Stock main Cody Geist was finally able to shake off the gremlins and pick up his first win of the season.
Since getting behind the wheel of his brother-owned Shayne’s No. 4, Geist has shown his trademark swiftness but the end results where eluding him. This time, however, with advantage of starting from the pole Geist was not about to let Lady Luck or anyone else for that matter spoil his night.
When the action got underway he wasted no time in darting to the lead. Afterwards it would become a fast paced affair as the race went nonstop through the first 21 laps. All the while Geist was holding his line while close behind the opposition was very tough on him.
Teammates Mark Martini, Randy Ahner Jr., and TJ Gursky all had him in their sites but each lap by there would be no wavering from Geist.
In the closing laps Jillian Snyder was coming on in a hurry and with three laps to go not only was she up to second but began a charge towards Geist. On the final lap she tried to squeeze to the inside of Geist but time ran out as they reached the finish line. Geist held on for a slim and thrilling victory, his first since 2018. Gursky, Todd Ahner and Jon Moser rounded out the top five.
The Hobby Stock feature came down to a race of inches as Corey Edelman eked out a narrow verdict over Justin Merkel.
Merkel had been out front for the first 24 laps while ninth starting Edelman had to meticulously pick his way frontward as the race was going rapidly thanks to no cautions taking place.
That was until three laps to go when the only yellow of the event waved. On that restart Merkel was still ahead with James Tout and Edelman in line. When the action resumed Edelman made an outside power move over Tout and then closed in on Merkel. Then on the final lap slower traffic came into play and as the top two reached that car they split with Merkel went low and Edelman staying on the top.
At the checkers it would be very tight and a closer review deemed Edelman the winner, which was his class leading 19th.
In the Futures/Rookie Hobby Stocks Body George and Greyson Ahner put on a crowd please duel that also came down to the wire.
Ahner had been leading but with the laps running out and making use of a restart with there laps to go George was able to put the pressure on. The talented upstarts then went into the final lap trading paint in an exciting double-wide race to the finish. As they wheeled off turn four George was inside of Ahner and would cross the line by bumper for his ninth Futures win of the season.
Ahner’s runner-up, although tough to absorb, wasn’t a complete loss as he gained his seventh victory for the Rookie class.
Modified feature finish (71-laps) 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Zane Zeiner, 2. Brian DeFebo, 4. Nick Baer, 5. Earl Paules, 6. Terry Markovic, 7. Carl Altemose, 7. Sean Verwys, 9. Kyle Strohl, 10. Tommy Flanagan, 11. Cody Kohler, 12. Wes Gilbert, 13. John Markovic, 14. Lou Strohl, 15. Don Wagner, 16. Rod Snyder Jr, 17. Avery Arthofer, 18. Austin Kochenash, 19. Nevin George, 20. Lorin Arthofer, 21. Peyton Arthofer, 22. Stephanie Moyer, 23. Bobby Jones, 24. Rich Cooper
Street Stock feature finish (30-laps) 1.Cody Geist, 2. Jill Snyder, 3. TJ Gursky, 4. Todd Ahner, 5. Jon Moser, 6. Mark Martini, 7. Mark Deysher, 8. Randy Ahner Jr., 9. Matt VanSyckle, 10. Rick Reichenbach, 11. Tucker Muffley, 12. Brandon Christman, 13. Jeremy Scheckler, 14. Jamie Smith, 15. Lonnie Behler Jr., 16. Toby Behler, 17. Thomas Flanagan, 18. Dennis Buss
Hobby Stock feature finish (25-laps) 1. Corey Edelman, 2. Justin Merkel, 3. James Tout, 4. Ryan Berger, 5. Jake Oswald, 5. BJ Wambold, 7. Trisha Connolly, 8. Travis Solomon, 9. Tad Snyder, 10. Nick Schaeffer, 11. Jacob Boehm, 12. Nicholas Kerstetter, 13. Shayne Geist, 14. Mallory Kutz, 15. Ralph Boger, 16. Terry Peters, 17. Cody Boehm
Futures/Rookie Hobby Stock feature finish (12-laps) 1. Brody George, 2. Greyson Ahner, 3. Reid Levengood, 4. Jared Green, 5. Maggie Yeakel, 6. Adam Steigerwalt, 7. Gabi Steigerwalt, 8. Hallie Muffley, 9. Deegan Underwood, 10. Zoey Moyer, 11. Makayla Kohler, 12. Dave Kerr, 13. Ryan Kresge, 14. Lexus Kutz, 15. Zoe Kuchera