Former Mahoning Valley Speedway track champion Eric Beers kept the $2,800-winning check in-house by leading flag-to-flag in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series kickoff race of the 2016 season Saturday afternoon.
“To come out on top against a talented field like that is really cool,” Beers, a former RoC regular, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I do want to thank Dave and Laura (DeLange) for letting me drive their car because they are the best owners I’ve ever had. We’re having a lot of fun right now.”
Beers, the previous week’s local Modified feature winner at the ¼-mile facility, had to contend with defending RoC champion and Northampton, Pennsylvania neighbor Matt Hirschman at multiple moments during the 75-lap distance.
“I want to thank Matt for running me clean,” Beers continued. “He got a wheel up underneath for one lap with 15 to go. We banged and he straightened it out and we kept on going.”
The most pivotal moment came approaching halfway when during a lengthy green flag run the leaders caught a heavy pack of slower cars.
“Pulling up on six cars that were running two wide and I glanced in the mirror and (Hirschman) was right there,” Beers recalled. “If I pick the wrong lane he’s going to pass me and he’s going to win the race.
“The outside had wiggled up and they were coming backwards so I went three wide on the backstretch and through a couple of them and then the bottom to the top on the frontstretch. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win the race. Sure made it more exciting.”
Hirschman, who would have to settle for second on this night, saw it from his point of view as a missed opportunity.
“By the end of the race we were both pretty used up so not a lot left for either of us there,” Hirschman, also a second place finisher to Beers in weekly competition the previous Saturday, said. “I had better position and needed to make that stick and didn’t get the job done.”
Behind the two dominant cars of the race, 2014 track champion Kris Graver outdueled former Mahoning RoC winner Don Wagner, and multi-time RoC champion Chuck Hossfeld to round out the top five.
It was Graver who appeared to be the fastest Modified near the end, but ran out of laps to catch the front two after getting shuffled back earlier on.
“If it would have been 20 laps earlier I might have been able to get up to there and see what I had for them,” a somewhat aggravated Graver indicated. “I would have been able to hang with them for sure, but passing them would have been a different story. As soon as Eric drew the pole in the redraw I knew it was going to be tough for anybody to get by him.”
Despite a rather tumultuous off-season and a delayed start to 2016 after weather hindered the originally intended date for the Mahoning opener two weeks prior, Saturday night saw a promising turnout as well as a schedule of events that moved along very smoothly. It was a positive start in the next chapter of RoC competition now under the direction of Joe Skotnicki.
Looking ahead to the next series race at Chemung Speedrome (NY) next Sunday, the 3/8-mile venue is where drivers such as Hirschman will begin their search for the RoC title. Due to the local racers being right in the mix with the series regulars at the Lehighton, Pennsylvania bullring on Saturday night it did not provide much focus for the long term.
“It isn’t sinking in to be RoC because we are so used to being here with this car and racing with Eric and these guys that race here weekly,” Hirschman, who was not even in his noticeable red No. 60 that he normally campaigns on the RoC Tour, said. “We’ll see how we feel next week at Chemung.”
For Beers, although he will continue to call Mahoning Valley Speedway home every Saturday, the consideration that there could be additional appearances in the Race of Champions pit area elsewhere this year is not completely ruled out.
“We raced the RoC for some years there and it’s good to see all those guys again. I do like racing at Chemung. Last time I raced there I won, so we’ll see.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
RoC Modified Break the Ice 75 Results
1 1 45 Eric Beers 75
2 8 59 Matt Hirschman 75
3 7 01 Kris Graver 75
4 5 22nj Don Wagner 75
5 3 22 Chuck Hossfeld 75
6 6 8p Earl Paules 75
7 12 53 Brian Defebo 75
8 17 21 Tony Hanbury 75
9 11 71 Jimmy Zacharias 75
10 23 95 Bryan Sherwood 75
11 14 1J Bobby Jones 75
12 19 07 Patrick Emerling 75
13 10 17 Roger Coss 75
14 22 3 Daren Scherer 75
15 9 32 Tyler Rypkema 75
16 4 41x Nick Baer 75
17 21 66 Austin Kochenash 75
18 20 51 T.J. Potrzebowski 75
19 25 42 Nick Pecko 75
20 16 92 Terry Markovic 73
21 24 54 Jack Ely 66
22 18 44 Kyle Strohl 56
23 2 39 Calvin Carroll 46
24 13 41b Todd Baer 46
25 26 1 Chris Ridsdale 38
26 15 8 Lee Sharpsteen 36