LEHIGHTON, PA.– It takes a veteran driver to make the best of a bad situation and in the case of Bobby Jones that’s just what he did after winning Saturday night’s 35-lap Modified feature at Mahoning Valley Speedway.
Jones was at wits end in trying to get his car to work right. A week ago on Opening Night he led a few laps after starting pole but the car soon faded. Leading up to that time he and the team continued to struggle during pre-season practice getting the handle as well as adapting to the new American Racer tires.
Jones’ frustration was so bad that he was ready to throw in the towel and not even race this week. His determination, however, drove him to make one more try and the result was a much needed confidence booster in the form of victory.
Admittedly he wasn’t the fastest car on track as defending champion Eric Beers was coming on like gangbusters but his experience and more importantly his never-give-up-attitude enabled him to overcome those woes.
“After what I felt was an embarrassing showing I had last week I went home and just parked the car, it was just that bad,” said Jones after notching his 35th career win.
“I really had no intention of racing today and as a matter of fact we didn’t leave the shop until five o’clock. Earlier in the week I got sick and had to go to the hospital and even missed work. But it bothered me that we were so bad on Opening Night and I had to know if we fixed it and here we are (Victory Lane).”
A noticeably improved Joey Jarowicz led the field to the green and would led the opening circuit. Third starting Jones jumped right into second spot and after a lap one restart slipped into the lead.
The race then went into a nonstop rhythm and Jones was showing how his last ditch efforts with adjustments were paying off as he had a respectable lead going.
Meanwhile Lou Strohl held second and was tailing a few car lengths back. By midrace Beers had suddenly come to life. He entered into the top five by lap 18 and was waging a terrific battle with Austin Kochenash and Don Wagner.
Once he shook free he then reeled in Strohl and took that spot eight laps from the finish. At that point Jones had built a safe lead and it seemed as though he would have no worries heading into the final laps. Beers, though, was not done with his charge and was quickly chipping away as the laps clicked on. With four to go he had caught Jones and was making valid attempts from every angle to get by. Despite his heroic efforts, Jones shielded his ground and held on for a close decision.
“We were really good in the beginning but then we lost stagger as the race went on. In the end it wasn’t so easy to drive. I think had it been another few laps we would have been in trouble,” said Jones.
Kyle Strohl, Lou Strohl and Kochenash completed the top five.
Jones was not the only one who was relieved from the pressure of frustration. Beers too was overcoming a number of issues and his showing proved that.
“We made a lot of changes and we definitely got better tonight and we’re going in the right direction. I feel that with a few more adjustments and as the track comes in a little bit more we’ll be putting on some more exciting shows on like you saw tonight,” said Beers.
“Bobby is a great racer and a great guy and I had fun racing with him. I could have done a few other maneuvers and maybe cut underneath him but there wasn’t a whole lot of grip out there tonight. It was like putting an egg under the throttle and just being easy.”
It was also a tough week for the Jones’ car owner Ivan Morgan. His mom Audrey passed away on Thursday.
“This one is for her and for them. Hopefully it will make them heal a little bit during this time,” offered Jones.
Mike Sweeney’s stock continues to rise as the reigning Late Model champion not only won for a second straight week, but dating back to the final two races of 2016, he set a class record for consecutive wins at four in a row.
Sweeney also proved that the American Racer tire is a solid performer as he began the event from seventh spot and then weaved by car after car until reaching then leader Jeremy Miller in just eight laps.
Biding his time, he then set-up his race winning pass with an inside move on lap 14 and from there on cruised to the record setting win. Miller remained second with Frankie Althouse third.
In Street Stock action Zach Graver went from last to first in a week’s time as the 2015 champion parlayed his front row starting spot into victory.
Graver took the lead on lap two and was cruising steadily along until a mid-race caution wiped out a then huge lead. When the race resumed Josh Mooney was making a serious stab at him but within five green flag laps Graver was back to building on his lead and would go on to take his first win of 2017.
Johnny Bennett notched his career first win, taking the score in the Pro 4s. Bennett, who was within a scant few inches of doing the same on Opening Night, took the lead away from Jason Finken just past halfway and then held off Jake Kibler en route to the memory making night.
In the Hobby Stocks it was Austin Beers laying claim to a stirring victory after he and runner-up Michael Wambold battled for the glory. Beers, who went from eighth to first in five laps, did a fine job of holding off Wambold and well-earning his second career win.
Brett Bieber was uncontested in winning the All-Star Slingshot feature.
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Bobby Jones, 2. Eric Beers, 3. Kyle Strohl, 4. Lou Strohl, 5. Austin Kochenash, 6. Don Wagner, 7. Rick Kirkendall, 8. Brian DeFebo, 9. Kris Graver, 10. Joey Jarowicz, 11. Ron Haring Jr., 12. Drew Reinhold, 13. Nick Baer, 14. Tommy Rought DNS: Jack Ely