Short track racing typically runs in the family, with the next generation showing their hand often after guidance and expertise from their elders. Indications show that sight will be one of the more prevalent topics heading into Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA) 2015 Opening Night.
2013 Modified champion and 2014 season opener winner Eric Beers will be regularly competing in another full season for the DeLange Racing Team, but will be splitting some of his time to get his kids acclimated to the tight quarter-mile facility.
Eric’s son Austin, perhaps best known in the Modified community for his multiple Pedal Car wins at the North South Shootout a few years ago, is ready to grow up into the Hobby Stock division and make his debut in the month of June. His daughter Kailyn enters her second season in a Pro Four Cylinder where she continues to steadily improve.
Eric Beers looks forward to the year ahead for himself as well; especially the Central States Modified Gamblers Series that will offer some impressive paydays for those that are successful.
“We’re really excited running that poker series,” Beers told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I really think it should be a lot of fun with the longer races; 125 (laps on Opening Night) and 150 at the end of the year. Should be some real good clean racing here hopefully, and looking forward to seeing everybody and getting out there.”
The series, which will be in addition to the season long track championship, will run a unique poker game format in which cards will be awarded to the top 13 finishers in each of the six scheduled races. After the final race at Octoberfast 2015, the five drivers with the best five-card poker hands will be awarded cash prizes. The winner of the Opening Night feature will also receive a $5,000 payout.
New Jersey veteran Don Wagner has been another mainstay at Mahoning, and will be handing over the reins of his successful trademark red and white No. 22 car to his son DJ.
“We won three races with it last year so it’s a good car for him to step into,” said Don Wagner. “He’s had a lot of laps in Modifieds here, but never had a really good car with good tires. We’re going to give him that this year. He’ll run mainly just the big races. He’s still a college kid and has an internship this summer so he’s going to be a busy boy.”
The past track champion will not be stepping away from the driver’s seat anytime soon, as the team purchased a brand new Raceworks chassis for 2015. After its performance in the preseason test and tune, turning laps under 10 seconds on old tires, he could very well enter the season as one of the favorites.
“We’re going to run every week and we’re going to try to win the championship with the new car,” assured Wagner. “We are here for the long haul.”
With additional experienced drivers such as Earl Paules, Nevin George, John Markovic, Chip Santee and Roger Coss all expected to be back weekly there will be little room for error for anyone throughout the scheduled 25 race season.
Kris Graver will defend his 2014 title with a freshened motor with a new rolling cam. Throw in heavy hitters like Matt Hirschman, Zane Zeiner, Austin Kochenash, Anthony Sesely, and Eric Mauriello who often visit the track for bigger events when their schedule allows, and there may not be many open spots up for grabs in the field from week to week.
As a result, the goal for some of the newer talent is to familiarize themselves with the equipment and simply make the show. 14-year-old Calvin Carroll has previous starts in a Micro Stock at Mahoning and has raced USAC Midgets across the east coast with success, but will enter the Modified ranks starting opening night for the first time for longtime area car owner and racer Geary Rinehimer.
“It’s a big change; a lot more stuff to remember to do and a lot more power,” said Carroll. “Right now my goal is to first make the feature and to gain the respect from the veteran drivers.”
Another story that can be seen in grassroots short track racing is the progression of drivers up to the headlining division through hard work and determination. After a long tenure in karting, JP Curry decided to give weekly racing at Mahoning a try in 2013. After success in the Dirt Modified division, Curry moves up to the Tour-type Modified this year with similar realizations and goals to Carroll.
“It’s so different; the way the front end feels, the way the car rolls through the corner, the horsepower when you apply it,” explained Curry. “I’m really looking forward to it. I think that with our experience and the people that I have helping me, I think that we will be okay right off the bat. My goal Opening Night for the big race is just to make the race. That would be an accomplishment in itself and then we’re going to run every week as long as the money holds out for the rest of the year.”
One thing is for sure as long as the full size field’s worth of competition practicing preceding Opening Night is any indication; Mahoning Valley Speedway’s 2015 season is set for quite the kickoff.
“(Promoter) Floyd (Santee) is doing the right thing putting some money into the Modified division,” praised Don Wagner. “That’s the future of this speedway is a good healthy Modified field, and it’s nice to see some young guys getting in the Modifieds.”
Speed51.com will have live Trackside Now coverage of all six divisions competing as part of Opening Night, and will continue to cover the track periodically for some of the biggest shows of the season at the Lehighton, Pennsylvania facility.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Correspondent – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com