Prior to the green flag in the Mahoning Valley Speedway $3,500-to-win Modified special it was clear that the eighth row might be the portion of the field to watch from the beginning of the 100 lap feature. Northampton, Pennsylvania neighbors Matt Hirschman and Eric Beers were unable to advance positions in a heat race loaded with talent Saturday and as a results the pari had to start toward the back of the pack.
Both drivers had trouble during the feature as well. Neither moved up much during the caution free first third of the race. Then Hirschman began to make his move.
When Hirschman’s number-59 moved into second, he found himself more than a straightaway behind leader Roger Coss. That’s why a caution nearing ten laps to go that would be the game changer. Nevin George spun and collected track point leader Kris Graver, which potentially was triggered by an issue that led to the leader’s demise.
“Right before the caution I lost the power steering hose,” said Coss. “I couldn’t hold onto the wheel. I tried to hold them off, but you can’t be fast when you can’t navigate the corner.”
Hirschman was able to get around Coss with ease on the ensuing restart and went on for his first victory of the season at the facility in his home state.
“The pack was tight there for a while,” said Hirschman. “At the beginning, Eric (Beers) and I were right together and we weren’t making much progress. It was some tight racing, and when I broke through I didn’t even know what position I was in. 15th to first; I think I surprised myself a little bit there.”
Hirschman admitted he was at a disadvantage after not competing at Mahoning since early in the season.
“This place is real tough because if you’re not here to keep up with the track it’s difficult, and we haven’t been here since April. I just took a guess and it came in pretty good for me.”
For Coss, it was another bad break for a driver who was just short of a major victory at the track.
“Wrecked the car about a month ago and it’s been good since then,” said Coss. “We’ve just had some bad luck. That’s the second time we had that same hose break.”
Steadily making his way to second was veteran driver John Markovic, and after Coss’ issue, he thought that he could have been the victor… if it wasn’t for one detail.
“My car was very good the whole night,” said Markovic. “I was ahead of those guys on the track, and one bad restart I lost about four spots. Matty’s very strong and I do not think I would’ve had enough, but if I would’ve been ahead of him, I think he wouldn’t have been able to get around me.”
For the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania driver, it was a nice turnaround from the last 100 lap race back in April when he was forced to withdraw prior to the green flag due to a medical emergency.
“I have A-fib so my heart goes into a rapid beat, so I had to sideline that week,” explained Markovic.
In addition, Markovic has no qualms about running behind Matt Hirschman.
“For two years he drove for me,” said Markovic. “When he was 16 he would come to our house and I’ve been friends with Tony. Matty is elite. Matty is the Richie Evans (Nine-time NASCAR National Modified champion) of this era; I really do feel that. He’s capable and talented enough to win anywhere, so to finish second behind a gentleman like that I have no problem.”
Earl Paules, Lou Strohl and Kyle Strohl rounded out the top five. April 100 lap winner Eric Beers came home in ninth while Roger Coss backslid to 10th in the final finishing order.
In the weekly points race, the gap tightened even more with Kris Graver leading Earl Paules and Nevin George by only eight markers. Graver had climbed into the top five before battling with George, his closest points contender heading into the race.
“I don’t know why Nevin spun out. I went to go around him and he stayed in the gas, hit my left front, and it just sent me into the wall,” said Graver.
For the young driver who was on quite the streak this summer, the points are not what are most important to him.
“We’re more focused on the money and the wallet,” replied Graver. “It took the whole right front suspension again, took the radiator, and a broken left front suspension; it’s going to be roughly two grand if not more.”
The Mahoning Valley Speedway Modified aces will continue their weekly journey all the way through the season finale, another 100 lapper on the first Saturday in October.
By Aaron Creed – Speed51.com contributor – Twitter: @aaron_creed – Photo Credit: Speed51.com