By DINO OBERTO PHOTO WALTER SMITH
(Lehighton 4-10-21) Matt Hirschman took advantage of a rare weekend off from his usual traveling the region to more high profile events, instead returning to his home base of Mahoning Valley Speedway and in doing so was able to claim a second straight win in the process.
Hirschman, who was fresh off of a thrilling Opening Day photo finish victory over Austin Beers in the Bill Teel Tribute, once again bested his fellow Northampton opponent only this time he would be the one in control rather than the week prior when he had to chase down leader.
Hirschman drew the pole for the 35-lap contest and would stay out-front the entire distance for his seventh win in 11 starts this season.
“We really only had the option of racing closer to home. It’s been a busy early season and the plan was to not race at all this weekend and prep for the upcoming races but we made a last minute decision and I’m glad we did,” said Hirschman, who picked up his 24th career win at Mahoning Valley and sixth in as many starts.
“I think the longer the race went on we needed to improve a little on the handling. On a shorter run like today we were okay but I think if the race continued I feel we were going to struggle a little.”
At the outset Hirschman jumped to the early lead over Nick Baer and Earl Paules. Paules then took second spot on lap six and was able to stay very close to the leader. Bobby Jones, who had raced up to third on lap seven, was also running strong and remaining nearby the front pair.
The race was slowed for the first time on lap 13 when Kyle Strohl spun in Turn 3. Under that caution Paules was pulled to the side by officials to check for leaking and it was confirmed positive which then sent him pit-side.
On the restart Jones took aim at Hirschman but the No. 60 again had the upper hand. By lap 21 Beers propelled into second spot and it was yet again a familiar scene playing out between the two Mud Lane racers – running one-two while battling for the win.
Unlike the last week though when Beers led until the finish line and was overtaken by Hirschman, there would be no denying the Harry’s U-Pull-It No. 60 as he drove to a car length margin of victory.
“We’re not use to racing here in daytime conditions and last week during the opener I don’t think was a true reading on the track and out next show for us planned is the (April 24) RoC here in two weeks and it’s again a day show,” said Hirschman.
“I prefer the night shows and I think we have it dialed in but that’s why we’re here today to see if we can get a little bit better because I feel we need to for the 75-lap RoC race.”
Jones took third with Brian DeFebo and Baer rounding out the top five.
The Sportsman Modifieds ran their first race of the season with a mix of seasoned veterans and fresh talent and to put that into a better prospective 53-year old journeyman Don Wagner, who was making his first start with the class, held off 10-year old Paulie Hartwig III and 17-year old Kassidy Altemose in gaining his 40th overall career win.
Another analogy to consider is Wagner’s first win came in 1989, 32 years ago, which is more than the combined age of Hartwig and Altemose.
Wagner had the pole for the outset of the 25-lap affair and took charge immediately. Behind him was a bevy a close action with Jared Ahner, Hartwig and Peyton Arthofer all making Wagner stay sharp.
Then with three laps to go the pressure was turned up on Wagner which began when Ahner and Arthofer tangled and brought out the caution. On the restart Hartwig was second with Altemose third.
Over the remaining laps Wagner kept his car on the bottom in defense while the younger pair went into a torrid side-by-side battle. As the checkers waved for veteran it took time to determine second spot which went to Hartwig by a mere .001-second margin.
“The young guys are our future and I’m so happy we got some young talent and that’s also why we built this car to support this division and I think it’s going to continue to get better and better and grow into an awesome division,” said Wagner.
“Those young kids kept me busy for sure and it was really nice to park it in Victory Lane today. Myself and the team still try hard to put a lot of effort into all this and we’ll run this car and the Modified throughout the season.”
TJ Gursky took the lead in the Street Stock feature at the drop of the race commencing green and from there on never looked back.
The strong running Gursky was picture perfect with each passing lap and while he was commanding the field Brandon Christman was holding onto second, however, on lap 13 Gursky’s teammate Mark Martini made the pass to run behind the leader and one lap latter came Opening Day winner Randy Ahner Jr., who is the third team member with the front two who all race for owners Rip and Vicki Ripkey.
When Gursky crossed the finish line it would mark his first victory since 2015 and the first time a three-car team took the top three spots in a feature at Mahoning Valley.
The Hobby Stock feature was a barnburner affair from start to finish and even though Al Arthofer won for the second week in a row it took him nearly all of the 25 laps to do so.
The race was filled with two and at times three-wide action beginning with Taylor Schmidt and Jacob Boehm for the better part of the race.
Then over the final eight laps Arthofer, who had just nipped Travis Solomon for third, made it a three car battle for the lead – three-wide as a matter of fact.
Arthofer ran the outside lane and with three laps to go powered into the lead which he would hold to the end. Schmidt held on for second over Boehm.
In the Futures/Rookie Hobby Stocks Greyson Ahner, a Rookie, led flag to flag for his first ever stock car win,
Closing in at a rapid pace was Brody George who notched the win in the Futures, his second straight.
Modified Feature Finish (35-laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Austin Beers, 3. Bobby Jones, 4. Brian DeFebo, 5. Nick Baer, 6. Cody Kohler, 7. Terry Markovic, 8. Jesse Strohl, 9. Kyle Strohl, 10. Earl Paules
Sportsman Modified Feature Finish (25-laps) 1. Don Wagner, 2. Paul Hartwig III, 3. Kassidy Altemose, 4. Randy Ahner Jr., 5. Carl Altemose, 6. Avery Arthofer, 7. Kevin Kromer, 8. Mia Guy, 9. Troy Bollinger, 10. Payton Arthofer, 11. Jarred Ahner, 12. Danielle Paules
Street Stock Feature Finish (30-laps): 1. TJ Gursky, 2. Mark Martini, 3. Randy Ahner Jr., 4. Earl Paules, 5. Brandon Christman, 6. Jill Snyder, 7. Thomas Flanagan, 8. Mark Deysher, 9. Jon Moser, 10. Tucker Muffley, 11. Jacob Christman, 12. Jeremy Scheckler, 13. Todd Ahner, 14. Randy Green, 15. Cody Geist, 16. Jaime Smith, 17. Toby Behler, 18. Logan Boyer, 19. John Bennett
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (25-laps): 1. Al Arthofer, 2. Taylor Schmidt, 3. Jacob Boehm, 4. Travis Solomon, 5. Devin Schmidt, 6. Nick Schaeffer, 7. Corey Edelman, 8. Cody Boehm, 9. Trisha Connolly, 10. Justin Merkel, 11. James Tout, 12. Lyndsay Buss, 13. Dave Imler Jr., 14. Jaden Brown, 15. Ed Herman, 16. Jake Oswald, 17. Ralph Borger Jr., 18. Mallory Kutz, 19. Kevin Behler, 20. Nicholas Kerstetter DNQ: Herman Neff, Kip George, Slade Darragh
Futures/Rookie Hobby Stock Feature Finish (12-laps): 1. Greyson Ahner, 2. Brody George, 3. Adam Steigerwalt, 4. Deegan Underwood, 5. Makayla Kohler, 6. Maggie Yeakel, 7. Josh Dise, 8. Gary Lerch, 9. Lexus Kutz, 10. Reid Levengood, 11. Gabrielle Steigerwalt, 12. Arland Moyer Jr. DNS: Zoe Kuchera