LEHIGHTON, Pa. – Defending Mahoning Valley Speedway track champion Kris Graver of Lehighton picked up his first feature win of the season, holding off several drivers en route to victory and in doing so continued a trend of no repeat winners over the first seven weeks of the season.
Graver, who started fourth, needed just six laps before taking the lead. Once in front he would have to fend off several aggressors with the likes of John Markovic, Kyle Strohl and then Eric Beers, who made the race to the checkers quite exciting in the waning laps.
Last year it seemed nothing went wrong for the 22-year Graver. He won numerous times and in several classes. However, his reign as Modified track champion has been an admittedly a tough road. Prior to tonight’s verdict he had just two top fives, both being fifth place finishes, as his best results and other than that he has not been seen on the radar that much.
“The car was a little free at the end but I’ll take it any way I could, especially the way the season has been going for us,” said Graver.
“It just seems that no matter what we did we couldn’t find any luck. This season up to now was like a two step forward, ten step back process. But it finally all clicked together tonight and hopefully the luck stays on our side and we can get a couple more decent finishes and maybe a win or two more.”
At the race commencing green pole sitter Paul Frantz took to the opening lap lead. One lap later Markovic assumed command and was being hounded by Graver who was on his outside. Hungry to lead his first laps of the season, Graver needed only two circuits before taking the top spot.
One of the traits of Graver is that rarely does he relinquish the lead once he has it, evident by his now 39 career wins. There would indeed be several attempts by the others to do so but each time he would turn them away. Restarts made things interesting, particularly when Strohl was alongside him.
“He (Strohl) was trying to go a little bit before me, having his nose ahead but I was able to clear him. That was probably the hardest part, keeping him at bay. Other than that I felt pretty comfortable until the end when I started to get a little loose,” said Graver.
While Graver was holding back Strohl, Beers had raced his way into third and was hovering closely behind them. Beers then used a lap 26 restart to go by Strohl. For the final nine tours he would try all he could to get by but Graver was not about to let his first win slip away.
“At one point I heard over the radio that Eric (Beers) was fourth so I knew he was going to be there at the end somewhere. I didn’t worry about that though. I just concentrated on knowing I had a couple more laps and I have to hold this lead,” explained Graver.
“We have been short on money from not having the greatest finishes this year so far. Some of the special races we had was a strain on our account so this win tonight really gives us a boost. I have to thank my crew and sponsors for all they do.”
Strohl maintained third at the finish. “The Silver Fox” Don Wagner, who made an amazing charge through the pack after a spin put him in the back of the field on lap 15 and Eric Kocher rounded out the top five. Graver, Markovic and Chip Santee won heats.
The seven different winners to start the year is the most since 2005.
“It’s always been tough and it seems like every year since (promoter) Floyd (Santee) took over the track it continues that way. You have to come here with all your ducks in a row. Up until tonight I hadn’t been any better than fifth and we’ve had seven races already so when you win a race here you know you’ve earned it,” said Graver.
In the Late Models it was Jeremy Miller of Danielsville finally busting through for his career first win with the class.
Miller, a former Pro 4 champion and now in his sophomore season of Late Model racing, had taken the lead away from Jacob Kerstetter on lap three. However, he had a very determined Frankie Althouse right next to him and en exciting side-by-side matchup soon ensued.
For the next 20 laps there was constant two-wide action between them which included numerous lead swapping. If that wasn’t thrilling enough, last week’s winner Mike Sweeney had also joined the fray.
With five laps to go Miller held the slightest of leads while Althouse and Sweeney pressured him from either side. Then, as the trio where coming by to receive the white flag, Althouse was made a darting move from the outside, however, his car broke loose and he spun, ending any shot at victory.
When the race resumed Miller was still in the hot seat. Sweeney would make a last ditch effort to pass but the determined Miller would not give up and went on to claim his first win after numerous close tries.
Potatcong, NJs Joe Stangle parlayed his pole starting spot into his first ever career Street Stock win. Despite never ending pressure from that of Josh Mooney, Todd Ahner and finally a very fast approaching Gene Bowers, Stangle stayed solid throughout the 30-lap distance for the memorable night’s effort.
Unfortunately the remaining feature events where postponed due to rain and will be made up in the upcoming weeks.
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Kris Graver, 2. Eric Beers, 3. Kyle Strohl, 4. Don Wagner, 5. Eric Kocher, 6. John Markovic, 7. Lou Strohl, 8. Austin Kochenash, 9. Paul Frantz, 10. Terry Markovic, 11. Rick Reichenbach, 12. Wayne Szerencsits, 13. Earl Paules, 14. Paul Hartwig Jr., 15. Kevin Rex Jr., 16. Neil Rutt III, 17. Brian Romig Jr., 18. Chip Santee, 19. Scott Adams
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Jeremy Miller, 2. Mike Sweeney, 3. Paul Koehler Jr., 4. Pat Hargan, 5. Kenny Hein, 6. Jacob Kerstetter, 7. Jacob Nemeth, 8. Frankie Althouse, 9. Francis Gross III DNS: Tony Hilliard, Joe Beretta
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Joe Stangle, 2. Gene Bowers, 3. Todd Ahner, 4. Josh Mooney, 5. Justin Mooney, 6. Kristy Arthofer, 7. Randy Schlenker, 8. Randy Ahner Jr., 9. Jared Ahner, 10. Lonnie Behler Sr., 11. TJ Gursky, 12. Jonathan Tracey 13. Corey Edelman, 14. Aaron Kromer, 15. Zach Graver, 16. Jason Kuhn, 17. Dave Chapman, 18. Jason Frey, 19. Stacey Brown, 20. Jillian Long, 21. Brian Labar DNS: Steven Steigerwalt DNQ: Jamie Smith, Paul Morgan Jr. George Ramos