By DINO OBERTO
(LEHIGHTON, Pa. 5-7-16) The Modified Triple 25s at Mahoning Valley Speedway have always proved to be thrilling, flat out racing as drivers are put to the test in the relatively quick runs to the checkers. There is no time for taking one’s time. With the combination of high speed laps around the ¼-mile saucer and coupled with a very equal playing field of drivers, the features are more times than not all out action filled and it certainly was this night.
And while many come to expect some of the usual suspects in these events when the checker flag waves, there is also the unexpected as well and each of the $1000-to-win jaunts produce those results.
Rookie Jack Ely claimed his career first Modified win in race number one while a pair of veterans, Matt Hirschman and Earl Paules, drove to victory in races two and three.
For Ely, it would be safe to say that the 18-year old from Wall Township, NJ furthered his skill level in leaps and bounds. For a driver who was making just his fourth start in a Modified, Ely did a brilliant job of holding off an onslaught of journeymen racers.
He jumped into the lead from his pole starting spot and then proceeded to hold a solid line in defense of his spot. After Nick Baer, another rookie who is soon to make his mark, was passed by John Markovic, Ely was then be put to the task.
Markovic was riding on his outside and making every effort to pull by. Jimmy Zacharias and Paules where then running two-wide behind the leader. Ely, however, remained in concentrated, never once flinching.
As the race was winding down Markovic was beginning to turn up the pressure and just as they were about to complete the five to go signal, he nosed ahead for the lead. Unfortunately it was for naught as the caution also came out at the same time for a spin between Baer and Kyle Strohl.
This was a big break for Ely who was back on top for the restart but even with the few laps remaining there was no time to relax. Markovic once again pulled alongside and would use every bit of horsepower to get past but the young lion would not waver and held on for the memorable victory that was mere .014-second margin of victory.
An invert by way of a pill draw would see the first 11 finishers’ flip-flop the grid for race number two and on the pole would be Hirschman. With that one would think that this would soon be a race for second given all the expectations of the very able first placer starter.
This was not the case at all, however. While Hirschman did take the lead, he was soon joined by Bobby Jones and from there on it was another barnburner.
Jones never let Hirschman pull to any length of a distance, keeping in step with him the entire time. The battle was very intense and although it rarely happens whenever Hirschman is in front, he would momentarily give up the lead to Jones after a lap 18 restart.
In two previous appearances Hirschman had to settle for very close seconds and had no intention of settling there again. With five laps left he surged back on top and held on for a narrow win, his first of the season.
For the third feature the field was again inverted, this time the top 14. The front row would be comprised of Lou Strohl and Gene Bowers and when the action got underway that pair would control the early going while Paules was locked in behind.
Strohl, who was driving a team car for Paules, was running the low line with Bowers tucked in tightly behind him. Paules then began to do his bidding from the outside lane but it would take some time and patience, something that is limited in a 25-lapper.
Paules was able to get a half car by Bowers and at the same time use the other half of his mount to let Strohl know he was there.
After easing by for second he continued to ride the high line and used a burst of momentum to overhaul Strohl at the start of lap nine.
While Paules was now securely in first, Strohl and Bowers kept up their battle which would go to the rookie class driver by lap 12. Bowers would remain there to the finish as he could only watch as Paules had pulled comfortably ahead and took his first win of 2016.
In the closing laps point leader Eric Beers stomped up through the front five and grabbed third at the line over Zacharias.
In Late Model action it was Paul Koehler Jr., picking up his second win of the young season. Koehler needed all of the first 10 laps in order to make a pass on early leader Lorin Arthofer II but once he did it was no contest as he cruised on to a significant margin of victory.
Point leader Mike Sweeney was in a torrid battle with Travis Fisher the entire run and for the fourth time in as many starts had to settle for second at the finish.
Aaron Kromer was on the pole for the Street Stock main and would be there at the end as well, notching his first verdict of the year.
Once the race began there would be no looking back for Kromer. Even though he was under an abundance of stress from Stacey Brown and Jon Tracey, Kromer just refused to back down. And there would be no rest for anyone either as for the second straight week the 30-laps were contested caution free.
The Dirt Mod field was a bit light on this night with just five cars but that did not deter in anyway the competition that saw Billy Lasko drive to his career first victory.
Defending champ Ricky Yetter got our front early on and was making it seem like a race for second, which was until a restart on lap 16 when point leader Aleia Geisler snookered him for the lead.
Keeping close tabs was Lasko and just a few laps later he was driving underneath Geisler and into the lead. Over the final tours the “Bethlehem Bandit” did what was evident from the start of the season, he held his ground and took a well-earned first ever stock car win.
In the Pro 4 feature it was Josh Scherer going to the head of the pack over Ryan Graver on lap three. Then when point leader Bobby Kibler Jr., showed up next to him it became be a nail-bitter the rest of the way. Scherer would win by .001-second margin.
Rich Mutarelli passed Michael Wambold on a lap six restart and went on to top another full field of Hobby Stocks for his first visit to Victory Lane this season.
Race Recaps May 7th 2016
1st Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Jack Ely, 2. John Markovic, 3. Austin Kochenash, 4. Jimmy Zacharias, 5. Gene Bowers, 6. Terry Markovic, 7. Eric Beers, 8. Kristopher Graver, 9. Bobby Jones, 10. Lou Strohl, 11. Matt Hirschman, 12. Earl Paules, 13. Glenn Slocum, 14. Kyle Strohl, 15. Don Wagner, 16. Calvin Carroll, 17. Nick Bear, 18. Todd Bear, 19. Anthony Sesely, 20. Brian Sones DNQ: Mike Quinn, Mike Bednar
2nd Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Hirschman, 2. Jones, 3. Kochenash, 4. Beers, 5. Ely, 6. Graver 7. Kyle Strohl, 8. John Markovic, 9. Terry Markovic, 10. Todd Baer, 11. Zacharias, 12. Paules, 13. Bowers, 14. Lou Strohl, 15. Slocum, 16. Nick Baer, 17. Sones, 18. Carroll, 19. Sesely, 20. Wagner
3rd Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Paules, 2. Bowers, 3. Beers, 4. Zacharias, 5. John Markovic, 6. Todd Bear, 7. Hirschman, 8. Kochenash, 9. Jones, 10. Graver, 11. Ely, 12. Kyle Strohl, 13. Lou Strohl, 14. Nick Baer, 15. Mike Quinn, 16. Terry Markovic, 17. Mike Bednar, 18. Slocum, 19. Carroll, 20. Sones DNS: Sesely, Wagner
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Paul Kohler Jr, 2. Mike Sweeney, 3. Travis Fisher, 4. Frankie Althouse, 5. Jeremy Miller, 6. Lorin Arthofer, 7. Josh Oswald, 8. Troy Bollinger, 8. Chris Anderson
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Aaron Kromer, 2, Stacey Brown, 3. Jon Tracy, 4. Todd Ahner, 5. Mark Martini, 6. Jason Frey, 7. Justin Mooney, 8. Jared Ahner, 9. Corey Edelman, 10. Zach Graver, 11. Josh Mooney, 12. Chip Wanamaker, 13. Kristy Arthofer, 14. Jon Moser, 15. Jason Kuhn, 16. Randy Ahner Jr, 17. Rick Reichenbach, 18. George Ramos, 19. Greg Long, 20. Logan Boyer DNQ: Jamie Smith, Dan Freundt, Joe Stangle, Jeremy Scheckler,
Dirt Mod Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Billy Lasko, 2. Ricky Yetter, 3. Aleia Geisler, 4. Ray Deemer,Mark Levy
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Josh Scherer, 2. Bobby Kibler Jr., 3. Shawn Hoffman, 4. Tyler Stangle, 5. JD Light, 6. Shawn Kistler, 7. John Bennett, 8. Kailyn Beers, 9. Ryan Graver, 10. Cody Kohler, 11. Latonia Barlow
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Rich Mutarelli, 2. Colton Perry, 3. Travis Solomon, 4. Michael Wambold, 5. Shayne Geist, 6, Seth VanFossen, 7. Avery Arthofer, 8. Waylon Speer, 9. Ken Reeder, 10. Tiffany Wambold, 11. Randy Sicher, 12. Dean Strohl Jr., 13. Nicolas Kerstetter, 14. Ryan Berger, 15. Austin Beers, 16. Brayden Spencer, 17. Cody Geist, 18. Jesse Strohl, 19. Sam Ryan, 20. Devon Schmidt DNQ: Dean Strohl Sr.,
Photos by Walt Smith