Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, Pennsylvania is known to have some of the top Modified competitors in the Northeast battling for the win every week. Throw into the mix a 14-year-old, who in only his eighth career start in a ground pounder, took home his second trophy Saturday night.
Kyle Strohl started from the second row, but had approached leader and pole starter Lou Strohl early on in the 35-lap feature. After searching for a way to get by, Kyle finally did on lap 12 and never looked back.
“I was fast early and was trying to figure the 88 (Lou Strohl) car out,” Kyle Strohl told Speed51.com after the race. “I didn’t think I was going to get him on the outside, but thank god on that last restart I luckily got him and as soon as I passed him I hugged the bottom.”
It wasn’t easy for the teenager in the closing laps. He had multi-time Modified champion in the region Earl Paules on his tail for the remainder of the feature.
“That was nerve-wracking,” said Kyle Strohl. “I knew that he was there. He was trying to get me to move up a little bit and I just held my line.”
Paules finished second in the 25-lap Late Model feature as well to track veteran Paul Koehler, Jr., but the highlight of the night for him and many was the impressive crowd and participation on what was Fan Appreciation Night at the quarter-mile bullring. During the intermission, all 103 cars among seven divisions were pushed out onto the track and fans were welcomed to meet the drivers and see the cars up close. All of it wouldn’t have been possible without the coordination from track promoter Floyd Santee and the rest of the MVS staff.
“Short track is where it’s at, in my opinion,” said Paules. “Compliment the Santee’s for putting on the show. Eight bucks to get in tonight, where are you going to get entertainment like that? We ran second, but we’re in one piece and that’s all that matters.”
A multitude of events resulted in point leader Eric Beers’ worst finish of the season, but he echoed Paules’ sentiments at the end of the evening.
“The fan appreciation deal is a really cool deal here,” said Beers whose teenage daughter Kailyn has begun competing in the Pro 4 division this year. “We get to see all the fans, because a lot of times the races might get over later or we run early and people leave after the Modifieds and you don’t get to see them, but during intermission when everybody’s out there for that pit party it’s a good deal.”
Third place finisher Don Wagner has been coming to the track for the last several seasons and the atmosphere reminds him of a historic former track in his home state of New Jersey where he competed for many years.
“The fan participation is like no other track,” said Wagner. “It’s like Flemington was back in its heyday. The fans are involved, they’re making noise, they’re cheering, they’re booing. It’s what drives us, and then a crowd like this tonight to pack the place. Hopefully we put on a good show. I wanted to win it in front of a big crowd like this, but we come up a little short. We’ll get them next time.”
Additional winners for the evening were Todd Ahner in Street Stocks, Billy Lowden Jr. in Dirt Modifieds, Nick Baer in Pro 4s, Cory Edelman in Hobby Stocks, and Alex Greenzweig in Micro Stocks.
One main reason the fan appreciation festivities take place is to instill future generations with interest, so it was fitting that a teenager won the feature in the headlining division on this night.
Mahoning Valley Speedway has a couple additional major events slated for the month of June, including Modified Twin 50s on Saturday, June 21. On Sunday, June 29, the track will be hosting their first Mid-Summer Thunder event which will feature SpeedSTRs, Slingshots, and Champ Karts in action. Dirt track specialists Kenny Brightbill, Jeff Strunk, Rick Eckert, Billy Pauch Sr., and Billy Pauch Jr. all plan to try their hand at asphalt racing on the summer afternoon.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @arron_creed