John Bennett of Lehighton picked up his second straight Modified win Saturday night at Mahoning Valley Speedway but no doubt of the 22 triumphs he has with the class this may have been one of the most pressure packed.
Bennett started eighth and grabbed the lead on a lap eight restart. Although he would remain in front the rest of the way, Tyler Haydt made sure he earned this trip to Victory Lane. Haydt was making his first Modified start since 2005 and gave Bennett a run for his money in a crowd pleasing event.
Racing in substitution for Bill Teel, who is on the mend, Haydt put on a drive to the front on two occasions only to fall short each time.
Starting 12th, he was able to storm in on the leaders within a few laps. When Lonnie Behler took the top spot from early pace setter Andy Szapacs on lap eight, Haydt was hanging right with him. As the pair headed into turn two they collided.
Haydt had to be towed to the pits and it seemed his night was through. However, thanks to two addition cautions on the same lap, he was able to make it back out without a loss of laps.
It was that same circuit restart in which Bennett surpassed Szapacs for the lead. It looked like textbook Bennett at that point as he was putting distance between himself and second running Brian DeFebo.
With a run of green flag laps Haydt was coming through the pack in fast fashion. With 10 laps to go he motored into second and began reeling in Bennett.
With time running out Haydt was in need of some help in the form of a caution and he got it thanks to a spin on the part of Szapacs with three to go.
The crowd was frenzied over the drive of Haydt and the anticipation of a two lap shootout. When the action resumed, Haydt making his move on Bennett but misfortune struck again when his right front tire went flat and he came to a halt. Bennett then held off DeFebo and James Pritchard, Jr.
"I'll tell you what, those guys were really on fire out there tonight and Tyler (Haydt) was really the hard charger of the bunch," said Bennett. "Our car was pretty on tonight."
In the Late Model main Lorin Arthofer II of Bath passed Rick Wallace on a lap five restart and then went on to win for the first time since 2007.
Arthofer gave Wallace plenty of pressure right from the get go. When he did take the lead he had point leader Paul Koehler and Shawn Sitarchyk bearing down him but he never flinched.
"You never get tired of winning and it seems that each one is more special than the last. It felt extra special to win tonight especially having my dad here and the whole family. It was awesome." said Arthofer. "Rick (Wallace) was tough to get around. We worked hard for this."
A field of 23 started the Street Stock feature but none could match the strong run by Jason Frey of Lehighton who won for the first time with the division.
Frey, who started eighth, was on the move. He was up to second by lap nine and then worked the inside of Todd Ahner until lap 12 when he slipped past for the lead. He was unstoppable the rest of the way en route to the popular verdict.
Lehighton's Kevin Graver Jr. raced into the history books with his 26th career Pro4 Late Model win which came in the make-up feature from the previous week.
On lap 14 leader Barry Christman bobbled in turn two and Graver was able to power his way into the lead from the high groove. He then cruised his way into the record books.
Randy Thomas of Palmerton aced the evening in Dirt Modifieds as he won his heat and feature.
Thomas started second and grabbed the lead at the initial green and once underway he was able to run away from the pack en route to his second win of the season.
Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1.John Bennett 2.Brian DeFebo 3.James Pritchard 4.Chip Santee 5.Lonnie Behler 6.Bill Swartz 7.Andy Szapacs 8.Tyler Haydt 9.Matt Wentz 10.Keith Mullineaux 11.Rick Reichenbach 12.Don Wagner 13.Rob Schultz 14.Matt Higgins 15.Stacey Brown 16.Tom Flanagan 17.Jarred Nace
Late Model Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Lorin Arthofer II 2.Jason Zatsko 3.Rick Wallace 4.Austin Kochenash 5.Cole Lenhart 6.Shawn Sitarchyk 7.Paul Koehler, Jr. 8.Geno Steigerwalt
Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1.Jason Frey 2.Brian Labar 3.Todd Ahner 4.Jon Moser 5.Adam Santee 6.Randy Ahner Jr. 7.Gene Bowers 8.Kristy Morone 9.TJ Gursky 10.Joe Mooney 11.Jamie Smith 12. Eric Danyluk 13.Devin Gibson 14.Chip Santee 15.Jillian Long 16.Bernie Uphold 17.Ethan Rutherford 18.Steve Hoffman 19.Josh Mooney 20.Matt May 21.Chris May 22.Paul Effrig 23.Dale Santee DNQ: Justin Miller, Stephen Steigerwalt
Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Randy Thomas 2.Dave Thomas 3.Bill Briggs 4.Joe Stangle 5.Jeff Parker 6.Bill Sitler
Pro4 Late Model Make-up Feature (), 20 Laps: 1.Kevin Graver, Jr. 2.Kris Graver 3.Barry Christman, Jr. 4.Jeremy Miller 5.Chris Kuronya 6.Jack Hill 7.Mike Stofflet 8.Jake Kibler Did not start Bill Rooney
Pro4 Late Model Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Kris Graver 2.Christman, Jr. 3.Kuronya 4.Miller 5.Hill 6.Kevin Graver, Jr. Did not start: Stofflet, Kibler