LEHIGHTON, Pa. — When the 2013 season began at Mahoning Valley Speedway no one would have guessed that three-fourths of the way in defending modified champion Earl Paules would have to wait to garner his first win. However, the perennial champion of the demanding paved quarter-mile Lehighton oval has played a game of patience throughout the year and after months of bidding his time he finally tasted the sweet laurels of victory.
It’s not that Paules has been shut out completely. He’s reeled off nine wins to date with the Late Models, took a first with a TQ Midget and even won earlier in the week in a 4-Cylinder Stock at the West End Fair. Yet when it came to the Modified, the driver best known as the “Hurricane” could not connect.
That finally ended Saturday as he fended off point leader and top class winner Eric Beers in a closely fought battle for the coveted checkers.
“When I got out of the car the monkey ran between the trailers and it was a pretty big monkey that was on my back,” said Paules, who last one a Modified race a year ago on the same weekend.
“We made some major changes to the car this week and I put it exactly back where it was last year and finally its close.”
Close, yes. Not quite perfect though. Paules, who started second, grabbed the early lead over pole sitter Eric Kocher. Kocher was running him very tight and an impressionable drive was being turned in by rookie Kris Graver who made this a torrid three car battle.
The trio raced under a blanket for a number of laps until Graver worked to second at the 16th circuit of 35. Running the inside and outside lines perfectly, Graver was not only past Kocher but set his sights on Paules in short order. Three laps after advancing to Paules’ rear bumper he thrust ahead and assumed control.
The next five laps Graver was looking good but then a rookie mistake befell him. By racing on the high lane he was leaving a wide opening for Paules to seize and that he did as he shot back to the front with 12 laps to go. And not only was Paules retaking the lead but the miscue also cost Graver who was too far off the racing groove and due to that spun, ending any chance of a win.
For Paules his night was far from over as Beers was now alongside and started a two-wide duel to the finish. These two titans raced intensely hard while inches apart. Paules then got a saving grace when four laps from the end a caution waved for Roger Heffelfinger Jr., who stopped. That meant a single file restart which allowed Paules enough breathing room to drive to victory.
“Under the caution it helped cool my tires down and I knew we would be good for the last four laps. You need that kind of luck here at Mahoning Valley. The caution fell at the right time,” said Paules.
“I know this took a while to win with the Modified but I never got frustrated. People who get frustrated are still sitting at home and they don’t come to the race track. I never quit and I’ll always be back digging hard. I support what I love to do which is racing.”
Matt Hirschman, who in less than 24 hours prior had won a RoC 100 lapper at Oswego Speedway, was third with Nevin George and Lou Strohl rounding out the top five.
In the Late Model main Kevin Graver Jr., ended weeks of near misses and won for a second time. Graver used a lap six restart to outdo George Ramos for the lead and held steady the rest of the way over point leader Paules.
31 Street Stocks checked in for the Mike Krempasky Memorial Triple 19s and three different winners shared in the spotlight while numerous drivers reaped cash and contingency prizes.
The top 12 in time trials held a revenge draw for the starting grid of the first 19 lap feature and quick timer TJ Gursky picked number one. He then handed it off to Stacey Brown.
With that Brown proceeded to go wire-to-wire in the caution free race and notched his first win of the season. In doing so he helped set a new track record as the 16th different winner in a single season. Brown, who has won in Modifieds and Late Models, earned his first victory with the Streeters.
Keeping with the trend of different winners, Lonnie Behler had the pole for the second race and would not be unseated over the distance as the veteran scored his first class victory since 2008 and upped the new season win mark to 17.
Josh Mooney won race number three in a close match with Kristy Arthofer. It was Mooney’s second of the season. As for Arthofer her consistent finishes of three top five’s earned her the overall title of the event.
For Dave Thomas, the third time was the charm in winning with the Dirt Mods. The past two races he led the early laps but would be passed. This time there was no doing as he started on the pole and would never be headed. Thomas actually turned in one of the most dominate runs of the season with the division as he was way out in front by the end of the race and beat runner-up Ricky Yetter by nearly three seconds.
Kyle Strohl did not let his disqualification from a week ago get him down. As matter of fact he came back with a vengeance as the 13-year old rising star raced to victory for an unequalled eighth time this season with the Pro 4s. Strohl took the lead on a lap two restart and then held off Jake Kibler for the gratifying victory.
Jeff Biegley and Corey Edelman waged a barn burner bumper-to-bumper race in the Hobby Stocks. For all 15 laps they ran a close one-two with Biegley getting the nod and a season high eighth win.