LEHIGHTON, Pa. — Mahoning Valley Speedway is proud to announce they will play host to the Race of Champions (RoC) Tour for their 2016 season opener which is set for Saturday, April 9.
Mahoning promoter Floyd Santee and RoC head Joe Skotnicki have recently come to terms to bring the popular pavement Modified Series to the ¼-mile oval in Lehighton for the first time in 10 years.
“It’s exciting. That term is over utilized but it is. Mahoning is a terrific track that provides great racing,” said Skotnicki.
“I think it’s a great step for asphalt Modified racing as well. We’re building on the legacy that Andrew (Harpell) created and we know what we’ve got to do and that’s expand and look at things in a different light and have races at places like Mahoning. Floyd and all of the Santee’s have done a terrific job promoting there and it’s great that we could bring things together to put an event on that has all of the elements to become a must see.”
The race will be contested over a 75-lap distance.
The last time the RoC raced at Mahoning Valley was October 21, 2006. Eric Beers took the 100 lap victory over Kory Rabenold and Billy Putney. 40 cars filled the pit area with 28 taking the green.
With this being the first race of the season for both Mahoning and the RoC, it is expected that those numbers will be attainable and then some as many teams will be anxious to get back onto the track after a long winter.
Mahoning Valley has a distinct reputation for constant side-by-side racing and with the RoC Tour coming in and mixing with the regulars, it has all the makings of what could be an instant classic.
“It’s multiple grooves with a lot of opportunities for racers to race, but it’s also very fast. 10-second laps, so the 75 laps will go by quickly, but I think fans will be entertained and on the edge of their seat throughout the event and in the end that’s the goal,” said Skotnicki.
“Personally, it’s great, I’ve enjoyed Mahoning since the very first time I stepped foot inside the place. It’s fun, it’s family oriented, it’s just a great place filled with Modified racing history and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
The RoC has strong roots at Mahoning Valley. Beers, Zane Zeiner and Tony and Matt Hirschman have all raced and won here and then went on to score in the crown jewel of pavement Modified racing, the Sunoco Race of Champions 200.
2015 Mahoning track champion Earl Paules and John Markovic are former winners on the RoC Tour. Austin Kochenash, who finished second this season to Paules, is the 2013 RoC Rookie of the Year. Mahoning Octoberfast 2015 winner Roger Coss raced this past season on the RoC Tour but has spent the past few years in Lehighton.
Bringing together the RoC touring stars to face off against the home team, it will be anyone’s guess as to who can win as asphalt Modifieds best of the best will go head-to-head on the circular bullring.
“I guess we really won’t know until the checkered flag falls on April 9, but I know the talent that will be in the field. There is no telling who can put it together and pull off a great run. It could be a veteran or it could be a guy who has never seen the place before and that’s the excitement of hosting a race like this,” said Skotnicki.
“You just don’t know and it’s a great way to start the year out, a true locals versus the touring series guys battle. It kicks off the run for the Race of Champions Series crown and who knows at the end, maybe it’s a Mahoning regular that comes out on top. Right now, we only know where it begins and it gives all of us something to look ahead and think about throughout the winter months.”
For 2015 RoC champion Matt Hirschman, it’s a race he has longed to have. While traveling countless miles over the past few seasons, this will be a homecoming of sorts as the Northampton resident is only 30 miles from the track.
“It’s going to bring in a lot of new people and it’s going to bring in a lot of people back that maybe haven’t been there in a while. It’s just huge for the whole area,” said Hirschman, who has 14 wins at Mahoning Valley including a record tying 11 in extra distance races with Beers.
“The RoC for the past few years has pretty much been a New York state only series. But now with the new management under Joe Skotnicki they are branching back out and it’s nice to see them coming to our area. To have a race close to home like this will be great to perform in front of our hometown fans plus have a touring race where you’re going to see a lot come in that you wouldn’t see the rest of the year,” he continued.
“I think for a long time Mahoning was like a hidden gem. A lot of people knew of it but know over the last few years, especially under Floyd (Santee) paying the higher purses for the bigger races he’s put on, Mahoning Valley is definitely on the map. Even if people haven’t been there, they’re going to be looking forward to coming to that race because they’ve heard a lot about the track. It’s going to be quite a race.”
Additional details will be released in the coming weeks.
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: Duane Canfield