LEHIGHTON, Pa. – A week ago during the season opener at Mahoning Valley Speedway, John Markovic qualified but missed the feature.
The reason? He was rushed to Lehigh Valley Medical Center in Allentown because of an irregular heartbeat. He spent the rest of the weekend in the hospital and thankfully was released and back at work by Monday.
Returning to race this past Saturday night, Markovic’s clean bill of health was put to the test. Despite having the luxury of starting from the pole, once the race got underway he competed in 35 heart pounding laps and eked out a win over Chip Santee and prior to that went head-to-head with 14-year old rookie Kyle Strohl.
“Last week at this time I was in the hospital with a 250-beat per minute heartbeat and my blood pressure was way high so this is a big turnaround from then to now,” said Markovic.
With Strohl flanked to his outside for the start, the pair quickly went into an outstanding duel for the lead with Markovic maintaining the advantage but just slightly.
Markovic is over 40 years older than the upstart but the young lion, driving a modified for just the second time, was wheeling alongside the master craftsman with precision and accuracy that only comes from years of experience.
“Kyle Strohl is a fantastic driver and one day maybe he can drive for me,” remarked Markovic.
And as they put on their crowd pleasing race for the lead, Santee was closely trailing while clashing with Kris Graver for third.
Under a lap 28 caution any chance of winning suddenly vanished for Strohl when his car lost power and he had to be pushed behind the wall. His demise allowed Santee the runner-up spot for the restart and once the action resumed he was fast enough to surge past Markovic and take the lead.
Markovic was quick to return the favor on the ensuing lap and retook his position. From there to the finish he held off Santee to claim the hard earned victory.
“I was just trying to take it easy. I didn’t want to use up the 44 (Strohl) and I know I did with Chip (Santee). He had a little better start on that last restart,” said Markovic, who garnered his 33rd track win.
Graver, Nevin George and Eric Beers completed the top five.
Earl Paules raced to his second straight late-model win while Josh Mooney captured the street-stock victory with a last-lap pass. Jeff Parker (dirt modifieds), Jake Kibler (pro four) and Corey Edelman (hobby stock) were also winners Saturday.