Story By: DINO OBERTO / MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY – LEHIGHTON, PA – The final installment of the 2022 Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series (MVSHoFS) was an amazing finale for the unique five race series that honors past greats inducted into the Dorney Park Speedway/Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame.
It was the Mike Muffley Tribute with the Modifieds running twin features of 40 and 39 laps and a pair of future Hall of Famer’s collecting respective wins as Matt Hirschman of Northampton and Brian DeFebo of Berwick chalked up victories.
In the companion events three first time winners emerged as Matt Kocher of Nazareth, Dave Imler Jr., of Lehighton and Ryan Petro of Tamaqua scored the outcomes in the Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Futures respectively.
In the Modified opener Hirschman drew the pole position and admitted that despite the best starting spot it should not be taken lightly and he was correct. When the race got underway as expected he jumped into the lead but would have Kyle Strohl hot on his heels.
Throughout the contest Hirschman never was able to separate himself by much as Strohl stayed within striking distance lap after lap. A few cautions also afforded Strohl opportunities to advance but each time Hirschman was just a bit quicker on restarts.
Nonetheless they continued to run within a car length of each other as Hirschman held on for his fifth consecutive Mahoning win in as many starts this season.
“I didn’t know just how close he (Strohl) was and I wasn’t happy with my handling on the car so I was just trying to keep it on the bottom and only allow him to go to the outside,” said Hirschman after notching his 33rd Mahoning victory.
“We definitely have to improve on this if we’re going to win again tonight. This was probably the most unhappy I’ve been with his car in years here but this track is tough and to do what we’ve been doing is quite remarkable because this place changes a lot with weather and things like that. We’ll go back and adjust on it and see what we have for the next race.”
For Strohl if would be his seventh runner-up of the season including the past four races.
Hirschman picked an eight pill for the invert of the second feature which put DeFebo on the pole. This race became quite the contrast from the first as all the while there was intense action at the front of the pack.
DeFebo led from the outset but was contending with Bobby Jones over the first dozen circuits which at that juncture Strohl and Hirschman came into play and the four titans then raced under a blanket.
The first of only two cautions waved when Rod Snyder Jr., spun in Turn 2 on lap 23. That put Strohl alongside DeFebo for the restart with Hirschman lined up behind the leader. When the action resumed DeFebo was able to uphold his spot albeit under the same intense hassling from Strohl and Hirschman.
On lap 33 the final caution slowed the pace when Terry Markovic spun in the first corner. As they set up for the restart once again there was high expectations from the front trio as to who could hold off the other.
DeFebo swiftly showed he wasn’t about to give in to the persistence and went into a major defensive role in safeguarding his lead. Behind him Strohl and Hirschman ran side-by-side, each trying every way to get the top spot.
At one point Hirschman, who was running on the inside and attempting to assert his way by DeFebo, was called out for crossing the lower yellow line on the track which is a no passing zone and had to back down.
That would become the saving grace for DeFebo as only two laps remained by then and he held on for very narrow margin of victory, his first of the season.
“The best car doesn’t always win and we were just a little bit off. I just had to keep my line and make them try and go around me and it’s nice to see somebody else win a race down here besides Matt (Hirschman),” admitted DeFebo, who picked up his 108th career win.
“We started out front, played defense and I’m just glad to win a race. I was trying to slow the car down as much as I could and he (Hirschman) knows were yellow line is and I do too and obviously he went down a little bit much.”
Hirschman and Strohl went nip and tuck over the final two laps with the 60 just edging the 44 for the runner-up spot. Hirschman would be named the overall champ of the Muffley race while Strohl took the MVSHoFS title.
“For Kyle and I it felt like the whole race went side-by-side and it was good racing. Each of us where looking for lane to get,” explained Hirschman.
“The one time I got inside (DeFebo) and the last thing I wanted to do was spin him out. I went real low to make sure that didn’t happen and they (officials) let me know it. I’m glad it finished clean between the top three because this was a good race for the fans and that’s what we’re here to do.”
In the Street Stock main Kocher and Josh Mooney shared the front row and no sooner did the race commence so too did a lead swapping battle between them.
It would take until lap nine before Kocher would take control for good but still had plenty to deal with not only from Mooney but Cody Geist as well. Holding steady on the inside lane Kocher was able to keep his pursuers at bay the rest of the distance and in doing so collected his career first victory.
Mooney held on for a hard fought second with Rick Reichenbach closely in third.
TJ Gursky won the MVSHoFS Street Stock points setting a track record with his unparalleled eighth career Mahoning championship.
The Hobby Stocks got off to a rough start as it took several tries to get the race underway but once it did there would be no stopping Imler Jr., who blasted out ahead of the pack and proceeded to author a stirring performance as no one was able to challenge him during the nonstop run.
Imler was far and away the class of the field on this memorable evening as he put the family name in Victory Lane for the first time. His father, Dave Imler Sr., a long time Mahoning supporter, had come close over the years. The younger, however, eased that frustration with his flawless effort and not only was it his first win but the first time garnering a top five finish.
Not to be unnoticed as was the return of 2018 champion Michael Wambold who was back racing after a long hiatus and impressively drove to a solid runner-up over Ryan Berger. The MVSHoFS crown went to Cody Boehm.
In keeping with the first time winners, Petro added his name to the list with a flag to flag run in the Futures.
Starting from the pole he wasted little time in taking control but by mid-race hot-handed Maggie Yeakel had zeroed in on him and was making several attempts as unseating him.
With two laps to go she almost did too but while trying to make the pass her car got unbalanced and that allowed Petro the breathing room he needed to go on and secure memory lasting night.
The East Coast TQ Midgets race a pair of features with Jasper Zeigafuse and Tyler Wagner collecting top honors.
1st Modified feature finish (40 laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Kyle Strohl, 3. Lou Strohl, 4. Don Wagner, 5. Austin Kochenash, 6. Bobby Jones, 7. Jaden Brown, 8. Brian DeFebo, 9. Nick Baer, 10. Cody Kohler, 11. Geary Rinehimer Jr., 12. Rod Snyder Jr., 13. Terry Markovic, 14. Brody George
2nd Modified feature finish (39 laps): 1. DeFebo, 2. Hirschman, 3. K. Strohl, 4. Kochenash, 5. Wagner, 6. Jones, 7. L. Strohl, 8. Snyder Jr., 9. Brown, 10. George, 11. Markovic, 12. Kohler, 13. Baer, 14. Rinehimer Jr.
Street Stock feature finish (30 laps): 1. Matt Kocher, 2. Josh Mooney, 3. Rick Reichenbach, 4. Tommy Flanagan, 5. Mark Deysher, 6. Jillian Snyder, 7. Cody Geist, 8. Jacob Christman, 9. TJ Gursky, 10. Matt Schlenker, 11. Todd Ahner, 12. Jon Moser, 13. Tucker Muffley, 14. Randy Ahner Jr., 15. Johnny Bennett, 16. Mark Martini, 17. Thomas Flanagan, 18. Randy Green, 19. Logan Boyer, 20. Stacy Brown
Hobby Stock feature finish (25 laps): 1. Dave Imler Jr., 2. Michael Wambold, 3. Ryan Berger, 4. Shayne Geist, 5. Corey Edelman, 6. Cody Boehm, 7. Nick Schaeffer, 8. Don Bauder, 9. Travis Solomon, 10. James Tout, 11. Ralph Borger Jr., 12. Mike Horn, 13. Lyndsay Buss, 14. Jared Frye, 15. Mallory Kutz, 16. Jake Kibler, 17. Nicholas Kerstetter DNS: Sam Ryan
Futures feature finish (15 laps): 1. Ryan Petro, 2. Maggie Yeakel, 3. Parker Ahner, 4. Adam Steigerwalt, 5. Michael Klotz, 6. Makayla Kohler, 7. Mayson Moyer, 8. Lexus Kutz, 9. Hallie Muffley, 10. Al Gildner, 11. Alex Rogers, 12. Zoe Kuchera DNS: Gabrielle Steigerwalt