LEHIGHTON, Pa. — As a variety of drivers came out this past Saturday for the first on track activity at Mahoning Valley Speedway as part of three Test and Tune days, one driver in particular was noticed taking on as much input as possible.
Tony Hanbury of Owego NY, one of the many Modified teams at the track, had good reason for coming to the Lehighton paved ¼-mile oval for the first time in six years as he was prepping for the Ferris Mowers Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Fueled by Sunoco “Break-the-Ice 75” season opening event on April 9.
Hanbury is part of the contingent of top notch stars that run on the Race of Champions Asphalt Tour and made the journey to Mahoning with the mindset of knowing that the he will not just have to beat the tour drivers in order to claim the $2800 top prize, but more so deal with the Mahoning regulars.
“It will be interesting and exciting with a lot of cars that are expected to be here,” said Hanbury, who pilots the Dan Kurzejewski owned No. 21 sponsored by Costy’s Energy Service, Manzari’s Bar & Grill. Pine City Tools and Kountry Krullers Bakery.
Hanbury comes into the Mahoning race fresh off a great 2015 season on the RoC tour that saw him take down wins and had a great run at the overall title in the process.
Now with the point title opening up at Mahoning Valley, a venue that has not hosted a Race of Champions event since 2008, it makes for a track that many on the tour have never been to before which adds plenty of significance to the outcome.
“This is probably the best way they could have done it for the RoC. You have a solid field of 20 or more Modifieds each week here (Mahoning Valley) and then you factor in the 20 or so cars from us,” said Hanbury.
“It will be interesting with qualifying with the RoC guys and everyone else who can get in and who can’t. I’ve raced here a few times before with a Modified and a Sport Modified but as far as a RoC event I haven’t done one of those here since 2004. I’ll be honest I’ve struggled here because it’s not one of my normal tracks but being the opener this will be pretty much neutral for everyone.”
Hanbury got plenty of laps in during his day long visit to Mahoning Valley. The Morgantini Race Engines powered mount was smooth and by the end of the day the team was pleased with the results.
“We feel like we have a good car. I can’t say for sure that we’re capable of running away with it but come race day we know we’ll have a good car under us,” noted Hanbury.
“I’m looking forward to it and we came out today to shake the car down. We had a few little minor problems but that’s why we are here.”
Hanbury will run the entire 2016 Race of Champions Tour plus take in some Friday night action at Chemung Speedrome with his Sport Mod and also head further up north to run some shows at Lancaster Speedway and elsewhere.
“As far as the RoC goes they have a pretty good schedule set up for us and we’re looking forward to some new faces and new tracks like here at Mahoning Valley. We’ll be at all the races,” said Hanbury.
The Tour and other tracks from around New York State are where Hanbury has always showed his best. But, now that Mahoning Valley has been added, it brings in a whole new element for him as well as others who have little if any time previously around the demanding circular bullring that puts a driver to the test lap after lap.
“Some of the guys who have raced here may have the advantage on all of us but you’ll have that anywhere you go,” admitted Hanbury.
“I’ve watched guys like Eric Beers race here quite a bit and he’s always fast. You’ll have guys like Zane (Zeiner), Matt (Hirschman), who is fast no matter where he goes and all the home track guys here that will no doubt be tough.”
Hanbury, however, is confident about his trip back to Pennsylvania for the Break-The-Ice-75 and feels that not only can he come out with a possible victory or respectable finish, it will also build on the final return when the Tour closes out the year right back in Lehighton for the season ending Octoberfast 150 on October 22.
“I was cool when I saw the first race here but for that last one it could be something especially if it comes down to points. As far as the top ten guys in (RoC) points plus all these guys here that should be a great way to close out the season,” he added.
Another weekend of Test and Tune will be held this upcoming Saturday and Sunday, April 2-3 from noon to 4:00 pm.
On Opening Day 2016 will see race teams enter the pits starting at 11:00 a.m. followed by Modified inspection at 11:30 a.m. Sign-in takes place from 1:00 – 2:15 p.m. Heat racing will begin at 4:00 p.m. Also on the card will be Late Models, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks.
For additional information please log onto www.mahoning-speedway.com or on Facebook at Mahoning Valley Speedway. Likewise with the Race of Champions at www.rocmodifiedseries.com
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Mahoning Valley Speedway