(LEHIGHTON, PA 9-27-14) When Roger Heffelfinger Jr., won the Bob “Heavy” Scherer Memorial race Saturday night at Mahoning Valley Speedway, there was so much meaning that went with it.
First of all it had been over 27 years since Heffelfinger won a feature at Mahoning Valley. If that wasn’t emotional enough there was the fact of winning the 50 lap event named in honor of Scherer.
He was a former racer who drove for the late Dale Beers Sr., his father-in-law. At the start of the 1990s Scherer turned his attention to wrenching for his brother-in-law, Eric Beers, which led to countless wins and track championships. In May of this year Scherer passed away after a brief bout with cancer.
There is also the close family connection between the Beers’ and Heffelfinger’s. Roger Heffelfinger Sr., had at
one time drove for the elder Beers and even won a memorial race at Dorney Park Speedway in his car, which was the Dale Beers Jr. Memorial. Now some four decades later and Heffelfinger Jr., was gracing Victory Lane in a race that was again affiliated with the Beers clan.
“First of all I’m glad the Beers and Scherer family got together along with Floyd Santee and Dave and Laura DeLange to run this race. You never heard a bad word about Heavy Scherer. Everyone liked him, they respected him and he was a true class act,” said Heffelfinger,” who won $2000 in the process.
At the outset it was Joe Mooney, driving Geary Rhinehimer’s No. 39m, who led the opening circuits. He was closely followed by Lou Strohl. Strohl was actually running alongside Mooney and that would set the tone for some intense action.
After a lap six restart Strohl moved into the lead but just slightly. Keeping pace from the inside groove Mooney was able to grab back the top spot within two laps. Close at hand was Chip Santee while several other top contenders where prowling about near the leaders. Don Wagner, Nevin George, Eric Beers and Kyle Strohl started to come into play.
As Mooney continued to fend off L. Strohl, Santee was showing his strength as well as he went even for second spot. Santee’s fight came to a halt when he spun while trying to maintain third over George.
On the ensuing restart Mooney still held his ground but for L. Strohl he had a handful to deal with. George, K. Strohl, Beers and Heffelfinger all ran under a blanket with him.
Running in such tight quarters, Heffelfinger’s defining moment would come on lap 32. George and L. Strohl touched in turn two sending both of them spinning. K Strohl and Beers would also be collected in the melee sending all four to the tail of the field.
Heffelfinger managed to squeeze by and when the action got back underway he was lined up next to Mooney.
“Actually what I saw was Kyle Strohl had moved up. When he did Nevin (George) and Lou (Strohl) got sucked in and they tangled,” said Heffelfinger. “When he (K. Strohl) moved up I went to go underneath him. Had he not moved up I probably would have been a half a lane higher and I would have been involved in the accident.”
For the next several laps Heffelfinger gave Mooney everything he had. With his car working perfectly from the outside he finally made the race winning pass with 10 laps remaining.
“I give Joe Mooney a lot of credit. We ran side-by-side for so many laps. He gave me a lane to race and he didn’t get into me or rub me. He showed that he’s a racer to me,” said Heffelfinger.
That wasn’t the end of his drive, however. In the final four laps Mooney began to back pedal and coming on strong were Bobby Jones and Zane Zeiner. Being away from victory for so long, Heffelfinger wasn’t about to give in as he drove his Performance Driveline No. 31 across the stripe ahead of all others in what was one of the most gratifying wins to ever take place at the paved quarter mile oval.
“You can say this was the monkey off our back but to tell the truth 10 gorillas doesn’t equal what’s been on my back. It was a long time coming to say the least,” said Heffelfinger, who last won a race in 1997 at Evergreen Raceway.
“Honestly this meant a lot to me. This is the biggest race I ever won just because of what it stood for. I won my share at Evergreen but this was the ONE in my book.”
In the Late Models, Paul Koehler Jr., emerged as the winner for a third time this season. Taking the lead from the outset, Koehler was unchallenged from there on and cruised to an unprecedented 40th career division win. It also marked the 60th time the many time champion has scored a victory.
Taking second at the line was Mike Sweeney over Frankie Althouse. Heading into next Saturday’s season point finale, Earl Paules, who was fourth, holds a six point edge over Althouse.
Jack Ely was back in the Winner’s Circle for a fifth this season with the Dirt Mods. Ely put on a crowd pleasing duel with early leader Ray Deemer but once he got the lead after a lap 14 restart it was no contest as he pulled away to a dominating win over newly crowned champion Kevin Graver Jr.
In the Street Stock feature Steven Steigerwalt notched his second win of the year. Steigerwalt is credited with leading every lap but as for the race it was very close on each passing lap. Within inches of Steigerwalt was a host of competitors breathing all over his rear bumper. Despite the proximity, Steigerwalt held on over Troy Bollinger and Dave Chapman.
Jake Kibler took the lead from JD Light on lap 12 and from there he was no match for the rest of the pack, scoring his sixth Pro 4 win of the season. Even though he won it wasn’t enough to keep pace in the points with Nick Baer who’s fourth place tally earned him the division title.
When Rich Mutarelli crossed the finish line in the Hobby Stock main, has raced his way into the Mahoning Valley record books, becoming the first driver to win six consecutive victories.
Mutarelli did not take the lead until the final two laps, passing Cody Geist for his entry into track history.
Bob Snyder closed out the evening with a victory in the Small Car Enduro. Snyder led all but two laps.
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com.