Story By: DINO OBERTO / MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY – LEHIGHTON, PA – Mahoning Valley Speedway celebrated the Freddy Hamm Tribute – which was race #2 of the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series – with a pair of 45-lap Modified features and collecting both was Northampton’s Matt Hirschman.
“Freddy was a class act, a real gentleman and respectful racer and that’s important to have that quality. It’s always great to win but to do it in the fashion that he did it was just a little bit better than most when you had the quality that he had,” offered Hirschman.
“Our families have always been friends but you would think you were best friends for life the way he treated and talked to you and I appreciate winning tonight just a little bit more.”
In the first race Hirschman passed Lou Strohl after six laps and then began to cruise until late in the going when Zane Zeiner was closing fast but time ran out just as things began getting interesting.
In the nightcap Hirschman had to work a bit harder before going to the front, needing 20 laps to get by leader Earl Paules but once he did he went into cruise control and sailed off to the win.
By luck of the draw Strohl had the pole for the first race with Carl Altemose alongside on the front row. As the race began Strohl dashed to the early lead while Hirschman was quick to move into second.
On lap four the first and what would be the only caution waved when Don Wagner slowed and then stopped to close to the racing line.
When the field realigned for the restart Strohl again got out front but now had Hirschman, who was using the outside lane, stick beside him and within two laps the lead would change hands.
The pace from then on was energetic as the race went nonstop to the end. Early on during that span Hirschman was looking unstoppable as he was making haste over the pack.
However, behind him the action was very heated as Strohl had to fend off Austin Kochenash with Zeiner riding closely in fourth. That trio stayed tight for a number of laps until reaching mid-race. It was then that Zeiner began a thrust as he made quick work of Kochenash and then a few laps later did the same to Strohl.
By then Hirschman was showing a two-and-a-half second lead but Zeiner was continuing to cut that deficit with each passing lap. There was also the factor of traffic which Hirschman was having to negotiate and for Zeiner that helped in his efforts to keep zeroing in.
“It was a big pack of cars and you weren’t going to pass just one and have clear sailing so I was cautious when I was catching the up on them,” said Hirschman.
By the time the race was in the final laps Zeiner was a mere car length back but time ran out on his valiant effort and Hirschman held on for his second straight Mahoning win.
“I was able to get the lead from the outside of Lou (Strohl) and I kind of assumed he was still in second but I see it was Zane (Zeiner). We had it kind of easy with the draw and we’ll just see how the second race plays out,” Hirschman said.
After Zeiner it was Strohl, Kochenash and Kyle Strohl rounding out the top five.
“I was really hoping for a caution and when I got to Lou (Strohl) he kind of used me up and I just couldn’t get by him quick enough and I felt that had I been able to I could have maybe made Matt make a decision and put a little pressure on him,” expressed Zeiner.
For the second feature the top eight were inverted which gave the pole to Cody Kohler and Paules. After a false start Paules got the jump and led the early going over Kohler and K. Strohl. Six laps into the race K. Strohl had gained second spot. A few restarts afterwards and Paules and K. Strohl played cat and mouse when trying to resume, leading race director Randy Schlenker to issue warnings.
They did heed his directive and both made a clean start with Paules showing the way. Kochenash was sitting third at the time and just as he did in the first race was showing a lot of strength. Behind him though was Hirschman who after a few side-by-side laps was able to get by. He then proceeded to do the same to K. Strohl but his quest was paused when a caution halted the action on lap 17.
On that restart K. Strohl got out of shape and spun while cars from behind all scattered to get by. Once the field was regrouped Paules had to now deal with Hirschman and it didn’t take but two laps before the No. 60 was once again leading.
Unlike the first feature this time there would be no cars closing in on him as he was all perfection, driving away to a good-sized distance over Paules. In third was a very impressive Carl Altemose who notched his best ever Modified finish. Kochenash and DeFebo, who both had to drive through the pack after making pit stops on lap 22 from a pile up on the front straight, rounded out the top five.
“Once we got out front I figured we were safe and I knew some of the competition was knocked out (from lap 22 wreck). It was a good clean night for us and it’s been a good season and we hope to keep it going,” explained Hirschman.
In the 30-lap Street Stock main Palmerton’s TJ Gursky continued his strong runs, winning the race which was his second of the year and fifth top five in as many starts.
Gursky was in the right place at the right time when he grabbed the lead on a lap five restart. At the time Stacey Brown and Randy Ahner Jr., where battling side-by-side and coming off Turn 2 they banged hard which nearly caused them to wreck as they went completely out to the racing line.
With the bottom wide open Gursky quickly seized the opportunity and hastened into the lead. From then on he was spot on and took a two car length win over Jon Moser. Teammate Ahner Jr., rebounded to finish third with Todd Ahner fourth and Tommy Flanagan fifth.
Corey Edelman of Northampton continues to enjoy his best season in years as he won for a second straight time and fourth in the past seven races.
A very improved Dave Imler Jr., got out front early on and looked solid in leading for the first time ever. On lap six, however, he was passed by BJ Wambold who then had to contend with a tight group that included Nick Schaeffer, Trisha Connolly and Edelman.
At the halfway mark Edelman hustled his way to second and from there began a torrid assault on Wambold. Racing two-by-two Edelman finally eked ahead with seven circuits to go and then stayed solid en route to victory #4.
For Terry Peters of Lehighton, the night of June 25, 2022 will be remembered for years to come as he won his career first feature, coming in the 20-lap Pro 4 event.
And he did so in a solid fashion as he led the entire way while holding off a tight pack of on-comers. At the line he had Jake Kibler on his rear bumper with point leader Cody Kohler third.
In the Futures feature the four race win streak of Parker Ahner came to end after Makayla Kohler of Schnecksville won for the first time this season.
Kohler dueled with Adam Steigerwalt for the first few laps but then after taking the lead she was no match for the rest of the way.
The race for second was very close, however, as Michael Klotz and Ryan Petro went head to head right down to the wire.
1st Modified feature finish (45 laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Zane Zeiner, 3. Lou Strohl, 4. Austin Kochenash, 5. Kyle Strohl, 6. Brian DeFebo, 7. Earl Paules, 8. Cody Kohler, 9. Jaden Brown, 10. Bobby Jones, 11. Josh Scherer, 12. Carl Altemose, 13. Sean Verwys, 14. Geary Rinehimer Jr., 15. Jacob Kerstetter, 16. Rod Snyder Jr., 17. Nick Bear, 18. Terry Markovic, 19. Don Wagner DNS: Wes Gilbert
2nd Modified feature (45-laps): 1. Hirschman, 2. Paules, 3. Altemose, 4. Kochenash, 5. DeFebo, 6. Baer, 7. K. Strohl, 8. Kohler, 9. Scherer, 10. L. Strohl, 11. Rinehimer Jr., 12. Kerstetter, 13. Verwys, 14. Jones, 15. Markovic, 16. Wagner, 17. Snyder, 18. Zeiner, 19. Brown DNS: Gilbert
Street Stock feature finish (30 laps): 1. TJ Gursky, 2. Jon Moser, 3. Randy Ahner Jr, 4. Todd Ahner, 5. Tommy Flanagan, 6. Matt Schlenker, 7. Josh Mooney, 8. Thomas Flanagan, 9. Jill Snyder, 10. Mark Deysher, 11. John Bennett, 12. Mark Martini, 13. Cody Geist, 14. Stacey Brown, 15, Beau Drobot, 16. Jacob Boehm, 17. Tucker Muffley. DNS: Jeremy Scheckler
Hobby Stock feature finish (25 laps): 1. Corey Edelman, 2. BJ Wambold, 3. Nick Schaffer, 4. Trisha Connolly, 5. Shayne Geist, 6. Justin Merkel, 7.Jacob Boehm, 8.Cody Boehm, 9. Lyndsay Buss, 10. Travis Solomon, 11. Kenzie Adams, 12. Micah Adams, 13. James Tout, 14. Dave Imler, 15. Ralph Boger Jr, 16. Don Bauder, 17. Mallory Kutz, 18. Nick Kerstetter, 19. Dave Kerr, 20. Jared Frye DNS: Ryan Berger
Pro 4 feature finish (20 laps): 1. Terry Peters, 2. Jake Kibler, 3. Cody Kohler, 4. Tyler Stangle, 5. Colton Breiner, 6. Kadie Pursell, 7. Ken Reeder DNS: Richie Pursell
Futures feature finish (15 laps): 1. Makayla Kohler, 2. Michael Klotz, 3. Ryan Petro, 4. Adam Steigerwalt, 5. Parker Ahner, 6. Maggie Yeakel, 7. Arland Moyer Jr., 8. Lexus Kutz, 9. Zoe Kuchera