LEHIGHTON, Pa. – Matt Hirschman opened up Mahoning Valley Speedway’s season the same way he ended last year, by parking his No. 60 modified in victory lane.
The talented driver who travels and wins throughout the Eastern Seaboard, came to the track that sits closest to his Northampton home, making the 30-minute trek a profitable $3,000 one after he secured victory in the 100-lap contest.
Hirschman would come from eighth on the 19-car grid, taking the lead from Earl Paules while engaged in heavy lapped traffic. He then had number of close restart battles with eventual runner-up Austin Kochenash but by the later stages it was clear the race was his to lose.
Hirschman crossed the finish line several car lengths ahead of Kochenash for his 17th win at Mahoning, 13 of them coming in 100+ lap events. Kyle Strohl showed good strength late in settling for third while Todd Baer ran consistently steady in securing fourth. Anthony Sesely in his return to Mahoning after a number of years away rounded out the top-five.
“It was a great night. The last several opening nights here I watched from the grandstands and this was a lot more fun for sure although a lot harder work,” said Hirschman, who was fresh off a win a week early at Richmond Raceway and third consecutive.
“I enjoy the traveling thing but it is nice to race close to home. We had a lot of supporters who came out tonight from many different states and we’re having a great start to the season but there’s a long way to go. I look forward to be back here later this year for a few more shows.”
Determined by luck of the draw and leading the field to the green was two-time and defending track champion Brian DeFebo with Kochenash flanked to his outside. DeFefo would jump out front early on while Kochenash, Paules and Hirschman began a tight battle right behind.
By lap 10 Paules was getting a good run on the top side and began reeling in DeFebo. Three laps later the leader had a glitch coming off turn four which allowed Paules to seize the lead. One lap later Hirschman was second and for the next 22 laps it was close action with that pair.
With no cautions during that stretch lapped traffic became a factor and for the strong running Paules it would ultimately be his downfall after what appeared to be a very promising night.
As lap 36 was recorded the leaders came upon a group of cars running two abreast. Paules was holding a line to the outside but just before clearing there was contact made after the car of Nick Baer shot across his path due to a bump that he received. Paules wound up spinning while miraculously Hirschman stayed low enough to just barely avoid the situation.
“My eyes where definitely looking out the right side and it was just one of those things were we caught some lapped cars that were racing ahead of us and they were telling them on the scanner to try and get signal file but it didn’t happen and unfortunately for Earl (Paules) he kind of washed up some and got clipped. I just missed him and I’m glad we did otherwise we would have been wrecked too,” explained Hirschman.