LEHIGHTON, Pa. – Matt Hirschman earned a pair of 45-lap modified feature victories at Mahoning Valley Speedway on Saturday night.
Mahoning Valley Speedway celebrated the Freddy Hamm Tribute, which was race No. 2 of the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series.
“Freddy was a class act, a real gentleman and respectful racer and that’s important to have that quality,” Hirschman said. “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.
“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. 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 too 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),” Hirschman said. “We had it kind of easy with the draw and we’ll just see how the second race plays out.”
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 T.J. Gursky continued his strong runs, winning the race which was his second of the year and fifth top five in as many starts.
Corey Edelman continues to enjoy his best season in years as he won for a second straight time and fourth in the past seven races.
For Terry Peters, 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.
In the Futures feature the four-race win streak of Parker Ahner came to end after Makayla Kohler won for the first time this season.