When Lonnie Behler stepped up to a Modified three years ago at Mahoning Valley Speedway, he did so after compiling 40 career wins with most coming in the Street Stocks. That number ranks him second overall at the paved quarter mile.
During the past three seasons, however, Behler has had numerous flashes of keeping his winning ways intact but for variety of reasons, most of it luck, he just couldn’t match the same success that was a common trait with him. He had has had more runner-ups with the Mods in that span than most others yet the elusive top spot always slipped by him.
That was until this past Saturday night as the veteran racer from Palmerton was the class of the field in capturing his career first victory in a Modified stock car. Starting sixth, Behler used a lap two restart to surpass Tom Flanagan for the lead and from there on he was not going to be denied his just reward.
“It feels really good and it’s been a long road for me,” said Behler, a former champion in the Street Stocks. “The first (win) one is the hardest. The rest from here on out should come a little easier.”
Behler showed that he would be tough to beat once he got the lead. After each of the four caution periods that dotted the race following his gaining the front spot, Behler was quick to get the jump each time.
“They (cautions) played into my hands because the car was just a tad tight and I was able to get a better hold of it on the restarts,” admitted Behler.
He was also aided by the fact that second spot was being hotly contested between John Bennett and Rob Shultz who had a dogfight right up to the final lap.
“You always have to have concern when you have John (Bennett) alongside you too. His record speaks for itself but he’s a clean driver and that’s the way he and I have always raced together,” added Behler who is second only to Bennett in career wins.
Bennett edged Shultz by .003-seconds. Chip Santee and point leader Tyler Haydt completed the top five.
“Our car was a little tight tonight and I had nothing for Lonnie. We’ve been racing together a long time so congratulations to him for getting the W,” said Bennett. “It was good cleaning racing between me and Rob and I’m sure the fans saw a good race with us two.”
Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1. Lonnie Behler, 2. John Bennett, 3. Rob Shultz, 4. Chip Santee, 5. Tyler Haydt, 6. Don Wagner, 7. Brian DeFebo, 8. Rick Reichenbach, 9. John Markovic, 10. Terry Markovic, 11. Frankie Althouse, 12. Keith Mullineaux, 13. Matt Higgins, 14. Doug Bell, 15. Tom Flanagan, 16. Matt Wentz, 17. Roger Heffelfinger, Jr., 18. Andy Szapacs, 19. Ron Missmer, 20. Kevin Rex, Jr.