Saturday night’s Triple 25s at Mahoning Valley Speedway featured a little bit of everything for the ground-pounding Modified fans. A variety of faces took their turn at the front, and navigating the way there for many was at a premium with the short distance of the three races.
Climbing out successful in the first 25 lapper was a division rookie, who had never led a lap in the track’s headline division until this night. New Jersey teenager Jack Ely started from the pole in a field set by a mix of heat race results and weekly points handicapping, and never looked back.
The former ‘Dirt’-style Modified standout had to outrace one of the more accomplished drivers on the ¼-mile after a late race caution.
“Picking up the first win in the first 25 lapper was an amazing feeling,” Ely told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I didn’t really have to come through a lot of traffic, but the last restart Johnny (Markovic) was on my outside and he was giving me everything he had. It was tough. I was running him hard and we were able to run each other clean so it was an amazing feeling for me. I hope it’s the first of many.”
The win continued a streak for the DeLange Racing team, set by teammate Eric Beers in the first three events. Ely was appreciative of the new opportunity for 2016 and the support provided to him, including the tutelage from the two-time Modified track champion.
“He’s sharing as much information as he can with me,” Ely noted. “He came out here and won the first three straight so for him to be able to do that it’s an amazing accomplishment, and he’s just been helping us tremendously with this and I can’t thank him enough.”
Ely would go on to finish fifth and 11th, an impressive feat for only his fourth weekend in this style of Modified.
A random invert of 11 put Matt Hirschman on the pole for the second 25-lap feature, a draw that perhaps many dreaded. Although Bobby Jones challenged the Northampton, Pennsylvania talent on restarts, even leading at the line for a couple laps, Hirschman was the victor in the end.
“Luck of the draw plays a part in the outcome of any of these races (at Mahoning),” Hirschman noted. “The first two weeks Eric just drew well and he’s very fast, and that helped him. Tonight was kind of the same thing for us.”
While it’s any competitor’s dream to come out and sweep all three features, with the tight racing that takes place and the format for the night it can be satisfying simply to be holding the checkered flag once.
“The other two races we had a good car and made some progress, but there’s only so much progress you can make when a lot of lanes are blocked and it’s only 25 laps,” Hirschman analyzed. “Being realistic, and a lot of times I try to look at it from that approach, I come here knowing that if we can win one it was a good night. I know it’s already been done where somebody has won two, but I’ve only ever won one and I’m happy that we got one tonight.”
The final race of the night saw a driver that was part of some misfortune earlier on rebound and maneuver his way to the front. Defending track champion Earl Paules worked by his teammate, pole starter Lou Strohl after a 14-car invert, during the first half of the event and cruised to the victory.
Paules explained after the race that Strohl’s car was too tight, and the spring change on his own car may have been the difference maker to win him the race.
While capping off the night with a win to many would have been gratifying, the Palmerton, Pennsylvania driver was not entirely satisfied with the night as a whole. An on-track altercation with New York invader Jimmy Zacharias relegated Paules to a 12th place finish in the first feature and some contact following the conclusion resulted in penalization to start in the back for the second feature.
“To win one of them, it’s a little frustrating,” Paules, who felt that he had the best car overall for the night, stated. “I could have finished up front in the first one and who knows what the second one would have been. It could have been a really good point night tonight and instead it was just mediocre.”
More details about the events that unfolded after the checkered flags fell will be available on Speed51.com this week.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com