It took nearly two months since twice being rescheduled but the curtain finally came down on the 2011 season at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway and judging but the filled grandstands and pit area it was well worth the wait.
Bobby Jones of Palmerton picked up the win in the star-studded 100-lap Modified feature along with $3000 while newly crowned track champion Tyler Haydt from Kunkletown annexed a second title by winning the Modified Poker Series.
Jones, the 2011 Mountain Speedway champion, started twelfth in a field of 27 and needed until lap 79 before taking the lead from John Markovic. He then had to fend off the relentless pursuit of Don Wagner in picking up the popular verdict.
“I can’t believe this. I didn’t think we were close enough to being as fast as some of these guys today,” said Jones who was making only his second Mahoning start of the year.
“Not being here with this car all year I really felt I was in trouble. We qualified tenth and I thought that was great for us. We decided to make an adjustment before the feature and it was the right choice, we got lucky.”
A season high 32 Modifieds came out to do battle with Wagner setting fast time in time trials with a best lap of 9.851at 91.361 mph. A redraw of the top-12 saw prerace favorite Matt Hirschman snag the pole with Kevin Rex, Jr., alongside.
At the outset Hirschman took quick control of the race while a bevy of two-wide action unfolded behind him. Tommy Flanagan held down second with Markovic third.
Markovic looked very strong as he seized second by lap 13 and then zeroed in on Hirschman. He was all over the leader, finally moving to the helm at lap 29. Leading for the first time this season, the multi-time Mahoning champ was sailing ahead with the look of confidence as he kept all on comers at bay.
By the halfway mark it was still in the hands of Markovic while second spot was hotly waged between the likes of Hirschman, Jones, Wagner, Haydt and Earl Paules.
Over the next 25 caution free laps Markovic ran a blistering pace. Jones took sole control of the runner-up spot and stuck closely to the leader’s rear bumper.
A lap 78 caution put the front pair side-by-side for the restart, however, Markovic wasn’t able to ignite the same fire as he used up his tires from the previous stretch run. Jones was still in good shape and overpowered him to become the new race leader.
“He (Markovic) was tough and tried hard and I knew he wanted it bad but I also knew I was just as good as he was. I had to get a run on him on that restart or else the outcome may have been a bit different,” said Jones.
Markovic held on for another ten laps but then gave way to Wagner.
“There is no better person to lose to then Bobby Jones. He’s a great competitor. We had fun and it just wasn’t my night. I was too good to early. I needed just a little bit more race track,” said Markovic.
Over the final 10 circuits Wagner did all he could to pass Jones but to no avail.
“Bobby Jones is a good runner here and congratulations to him and his team. It was good clean racing and that’s the way it is here. It was a good cap to a good season,” said Wagner.
“I did feel someone behind me toward the end I knew I just couldn’t relax. I knew early on that he (Wagner) was quick on the outside because he had gone past me earlier and made it look easy,” added Jones.
“Winning the championship at Mountain this year and then to just come down here and enjoy ourselves and be around all these people that I missed all year and race with these guys who are all a bunch of good guys who always race hard and then to do as well as I did tonight and win it’s just awesome.”
This was the 13th career Modified win at Mahoning for Jones, his last two coming in 100-lappers.
Haydt was third and put together the winning poker hand over the special five race series with three Kings. He collected the $2500 top prize over Hirschman who had three Queens and Paules who ended with pair of Aces and Kings. Mike Carroll, Jr., earned the $1000 bonus for having to worst poker hand.
He started off the year with a win and concluded it the same way. 2011 Late Model champ Austin Kochenash of Danielsville capped off his great season scoring his sixth feature.
Kochenash became the benefactor of Rick Wallace’s untimely demise who had been cruising at the front unchallenged until lap 14 when suddenly his engine failed with internal woes.
Kochenash was second at the time, thus inheriting the lead. He then held off Rookie of the Year Paul Skodacek in making winning bookends of his memorable season.
Steven Steigerwalt of Palmerton led all 25 laps of the Street Stock main and in doing so picked up his first win this season.
Steigerwalt was just too strong for the rest of the pack as no one made any serious enough assault on him, becoming the 13th different winner this season. Jason Kuhn held off Steve Hoffman for second.
In the Dirt Mod race Steve Folk of Collegeville, making only his first start of the year, paryled his pole starting spot into an impressive winning effort.
After winning four times in 2009 and contending for the title, Folk ran just one race last year so to watch him pull off the feat was quite inspiring. Dave Thomas beat Tom Creamer for second.
Northampton’s Barry Christman, Jr., added yet another win to his record setting season in the Pro4 Late Models as the champ notched his 13th win and for the second time this season reeled off five straight.
Jeremy Miller was the first across the finish line but unfortunately failed the post-race inspection, handing the win over to Christman.
Modified Feature Finish, 100 Laps: 1. Bobby Jones , 2. Don Wagner, 3. Tyler Haydt, 4. John Markovic, 5. Chip Santee, 6. Eric Beers, 7. Lonnie Behler, 8. Brian Romig, 9. Matt Hirschman, 10. Billy Weichert, 11. Earl Paules, 12. Kevin Rex, Jr., 13. Mike Carroll, 14. Andy Szapacs, 15. Matt Higgins, 16. Tom Flanagan, 17. Chip Wanamaker, 18. Todd Baer, 19. John Bennett, 20. Terry Markovic, 21. Matt Wentz, 22. Roger Hefflefinger, Jr., 23. Joe Mooney, 24. Frankie Althouse, 25. Brian DeFebo, 26. Rick Reichenbach, 27. Brandon Ultra Did not qualify: Keith Mullineaux, Shawn Sitarchyk, Nick Shaw, Rick Kirkendall, John Udes
Late Model Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Austin Kochenash, 2. Paul Skodacek, 3. Dave Wallace, 4. Mike VanFossen, 5. Rick Wallace, 6. Kenny Hein, 7. Beau Drobot, 8. Paul Effrig, 9. Billy Swartz, 10. Casey Creyer, 11. Ed Bauer, 12. Geno Steigerwalt
Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Steve Steigerwalt, 2. Jason Kuhn, 3. Steve Hoffman, 4. Jason Frey, 5. Gene Bowers, 6. TJ Gursky, 7. Kevin Smith, 8. Austin Santee, 9. Josh Mooney, 10. Greg Long, 11. Mike Garris, 12. Trevor Hosier, 13. Chris Parry, 14. Todd Ahner, 15. Dale Santee, 16. Nick Baer, 17. Alan Schlenker, 18. BJ Wambold, 19. Joe Roberts, 20. Randy Ahner, Jr.,
Did not qualify: Adam Santee, Scott Adams, Scott Kotran
Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Steve Folk, 2. Dave Thomas, 3. Tom Creamer, 4. Bruce Gsels, 5. DJ Wagner, 6. Mike Stofflet, 7. Joe Stangle, 8. Randy Thomas, 9. Kevin Graver, Jr., 10. Ed Altomose, 11. Bill Sitler, 12. Ronnie Krex, Did not start: Mark Levy
Pro4 Late Model Feature Finish, 16 Laps: 1. Barry Christman, Jr., 2. Bill Rooney, 3. Roy Geisler, 4. Aleia Geisler, 5. Lou Strohl, 6. Keith Frankinfield, 7. JR Moyer, 8. Noah Fossman, 9. Cody Roth, 10. Taya Wentz, 11. Jake Kibler DQ: Jeremy Miller