The weekly 35-lap Modified features at Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA) always prove to be a battle worth witnessing. Competitors feel the sense of urgency to get to the front in a short amount of time, while the drivers starting at the front try their hardest to fight them off.
The driver at the front ended up victorious on this particular Saturday night at the quarter-mile bullring, less than an hour from where NASCAR and ARCA were visiting the big track in Pocono. By virtue of heat race results and handicapping in the overall track standings, Chip Santee and Paul Frantz started on the front row.
The two would remain side by side for a good portion of the race, both fighting for their first feature victory in a long time. Santee would clear Frantz with a handful of laps remaining, but would not have a clear path to the win yet. The challenges on the closing laps would come from a versatile racer with multiple championships.
“At the end I was trying to do the best I can to stay out front and I knew I heard Earl (Paules) there,” Santee told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I just saw his nose one time and I’m not going to lie, I moved it up a little just like anybody else would when you are out there trying to protect the lead.”
Santee’s strategy would be successful enough to go on for his first victory in two years, and become the eighth different winner in as many features at Mahoning in 2015. It was a major turnaround for the driver, who is the son of track promoter Floyd Santee. The team had not finished in the top-five up until this point this season, and the horrible luck stemmed from the previous season as well.
“It’s a big relief,” Santee said. “Last year it was everything possible. I would be leading and something would break in the car, get in a wreck, or something stupid like that. Then the last three weeks everything happened. We broke a transmission and got in a wreck in the 100 lapper. Last week I just gave up because the car was that out to lunch.
“Tonight, even in warmups, the car was actually garbage. We adjusted and made it a little bit tighter. I would like to thank my crew. They busted their butts.”
Paules, Austin Kochenash, Frantz, and Don Wagner all maintained or muscled their way on each circuit to round out the top five in that order.
The Lehighton, Pennsylvania track has several major races lined up as the summer months roll on, including triple 25-lap features for the Modifieds the last weekend of June and Twin 50s the next time NASCAR is in town on August 1.
Speed51.com powered by JEGS will feature highlights from Saturday night’s action in the coming days as part of the upcoming launch of the 51 Network.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Chip Santee, 2. Earl Paules, 3. Austin Kochenash, 4. Paul Frantz, 5. Don Wagner, 6. DJ Wagner, 7. Bobby Jones, 8. Eric Beers, 9. Kevin Rex Jr., 10. Brian Romig Jr., 11. John Markovic, 12. Zane Zeiner, 13. Kris Graver, 14. Matt Higgins, 15. Neil Rutt III, 16. Eric Kocher, 17. Kyle Strohl, 18. Paul Hartwig Jr., 19. Terry Markovic