LEHIGHTON, PA — What a day it was Saturday for Matt Hirschman. He was up bright an early and headed to upstate New York with the intention of competing in the U.S. Open at Lancaster Raceway Park, however, when that show, an R.O.C. Asphalt Modified Tour Series race was canceled due to rain, Hirschman did an about-face back to Pennsylvania and proceeded to Mahoning Valley Speedway.
With a 100-lap, $4000 paying Modified feature on tap it was a decision well worth the nearly 600 mile round trip journey. A true master when it comes to extra distance, big money races at Mahoning Valley, Hirschman capped off his arduous trek by taking the checkered flag in a spectacular 20th to first place run.
“I just needed a chance. Mother Nature helped us and we had a lot of miles to come from near Buffalo and back to here. But I was confident the whole time as long as I got in the show I could start last and win. It’s been a long day but I’m glad everyone put the effort in,” said Hirschman, who won his second straight Mahoning 100-lapper and 10th overall.
Hirschman may not have started last but it was close to it. Once he learned that the Lancaster race was canceled, he immediately called down to Mahoning to say he would be heading their way. Hirschman, who lives just 25 miles from the track, had his Mahoning car already loaded and thanks to a few extra hands, the car was hauled to the speedway waiting his arrival.
He made it just as the heats where getting underway and although there was time to run in his qualifier, he opted out and did not get on track until the consi. Starting last, he advanced to fifth and was safely in the show.
For the 100-lap feature he would line up in row 10. Once the race began he carefully strategized his every move. Going against a solid field of contenders, making his way to the front would be no easy task. His first big break came on a lap 20 caution as several cars in front of him went pit-side and Hirschman methodically moved up a few spots. Another yellow on lap 33 and another break as several more cars pitted, allowing advances with the J & J Motorsports No. 59, this time reaching into the top 10.
All the while Hirschman was working his way to the front, Nevin George was turning in a superb performance as the race leader, building a comfortable lead over such challengers as Earl Paules and Zane Zeiner.
On lap 49 George’s commanding lead was wiped out when Don Wagner spun and prompted a caution. At that point Hirschman was running sixth and on the restart he would begin to take action on chasing down the leaders.
One by one he picked off cars, taking Roger Coss, Kyle Strohl and Zeiner in succession and was now third by lap 57 and racing closely behind Paules. Meanwhile George continued to cruise out-front and looked invincible.
Noticeably, though, Hirschman was on a mission. After a 10 lap duel with Paules he secured second spot and set his sights on George who by that time had a half track lead.
Hirschman would get some help from Eric Beers who came to a halt on lap 72 and brought out a caution. When the race got back underway it was a matter of a few laps before he would make his race winning move, taking the lead on the 77th circuit. Once in the lead he effortlessly pulled away and went on to a convincing 3.170-second margin of victory over George. Zeiner, Paules and Strohl completed the top five.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to win some of these 100 lap races but this one will be special just because of the day we had and how it worked out. It’s amazing and I love being close to home. We probably put on about 600 miles today but it’s going to be a nice 10 miles to home tonight,” said Hirschman.
George did a great job holding off a number of heavy hitters and running one of his best races of the season. However, he admitted that his downfall in the end was tire wear which cost him his shot at winning.
“We were really good and we got to the front first soon enough where we had to set the pace and maybe I should have slowed it down a bit. He (Hirschman) clearly had better tires than me in the end. I really think that him being stuck in the back for the first 20 or 30 laps, he was able to capitalize on that with his tires and that was the difference,” said George.
With a sixth place finish, Kris Graver becomes the 2014 track champion and at 21 years of age he is the youngest driver to win a Modified title at Mahoning Valley.
With some late race heroics Mike Sweeney made a daring pass on Paul Koehler Jr. and race leader Earl Paules with two laps to go and went on to win his fourth Late Model feature of the season.
Second wasn’t a total loss for Paules as he sewed up his third consecutive division championship.
Stacey Brown survived a caution plague Street Stock race and scored his second win of the year. Brown had an early tussle with Zach Graver as they swapped the lead several times. After a lap 10 caution Brown was out-front for good and held on for the victory.
On the final lap TJ Gursky passed Jason Kuhn and earned his third class and fifth career track driving crown.
The Dirt Modified feature was well in the hands of Billy Lowden Jr., who was holding his own over second Ricky Yetter and JP Curry. However, with just under 10 laps to go, Lowden encountered motors issues and slowed, allowing Yetter to take the lead and go on for the win, his third feature of 2014. Curry was second and ’14 champ Kevin Graver Jr., third.
Earlier in the night Yetter set a new track record at 10.039-seconds during his heat.
For Nick Baer it was a fitting ending to a great year. After claiming the Pro 4 title a week earlier, Bear put the punctuation mark on his awesome season by leading every lap and going on to a division high seven wins.
In what has become one of the most remarkable headlines of the year, Rich Mutarelli took drove to his seventh straight Hobby Stock win. Making a knack for late race passes, Mutarelli slipped by race long leader Tim Oswald on the final tour en route to continuing his incredible streak.
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Modified Feature Finish (100 Laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Nevin George, 3. Zane Zeiner, 4. Earl Paules, 5. Kyle Strohl, 6. Kris Graver, 7. Don Wagner, 8. John Markovic, 9. Todd Baer, 10. Chip Santee, 11. Eric Beers, 12. Mike Quinn, 13. Bobby Jones, 14. Brain Romig, 15. Rick Reichenbach, 16. Paul Hartwig Jr., 17. Rusty Smith, 18. Brian DeFebo 19. Joe Mooney, 20. Roger Coss, 21. John Bennett, 22. Francis Gross III DNQ: Anthony Sesely, Pat Verwys, Alan Creveling, Terry Markovic, Matt Higgins
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Mike Sweeney, 2. Earl Paules, 3. Paul Koehler Jr., 4. Jacob Kerstetter, 5. Frankie Althouse, 6. Jeremy Miller, 7. George Ramos, 8. Jacob Nemeth, 9. Kenny Hein, 10. Mark Tyson, 11. Danielle Paules, 12. Gene Steigerwalt
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Stacey Brown, 2. TJ Gursky, 3. Jason Kuhn, 4. Aaron Kromer, 5. Steven Steigerwalt, 6. Todd Ahner, 7, Justin Mooney, 8. Josh Mooney, 9. Scott Lesher, 10. Jared Ahner, 11. Jamie Smith, 12. Jillian Long, 13. Zach Graver, 14. Cody Roth, 15. Jonathan Tracey, 16. Paul Morgan Jr., 17. Lonnie Behler Sr., 18. Troy Bollinger, 19. Tiffany Wambold, 20. Chip Wanamaker, 21. Gene Bowers DNQ: Bernie Uphold, Dennis Buss, Jon Smith, Dave Chapman, Logan Boyer, Jeff Larrison Jr.
Dirt Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Ricky Yetter, 2. JP Curry, 3. Kevin Graver Jr., 4. Ricky Ross Jr., 5. Dave Gorbatuk, 6. Tim Manieri, 7. Aleia Geisler, 8. Billy Lasko, 9. Ray Deemer, 10. Mike Stofflet 11. Billy Lowden Jr., 12. Dave Thomas, 13. Jack Ely
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Nick Baer, 2. Jake Kibler, 3. Dave Chapman, 4. Cody Kohler, 5. Jesse Snyder, 6. Bill Rooney, 7. Jason Muffley, 8. Gary Shock, 9.kailyn Beers DQ: Tyler Stangle
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Rich Mutarelli, 2. Tim Oswald, 3. Harry O’Neill, 4. Cody Geist, 5. Corey Edelman, 6. Ron Heeter, 7. Tony Hilliard, 8. Jeff Ackerman, 9. Alton Snyder Jr., 10. Gunner Yost