Earl Paules picked up another Ace card Saturday night at Mahoning Valley Speedway and now heads into next week's Hand 3 of the 7 Card Stud Modified 100 Poker Series as the top hand holder with a pair of Aces. Saturday's race was one of two additional 35-lappers that have been added to this year's Poker Series.
For Paules, who hails from Palmerton, it marked his second straight Mahoning win in as many starts as he most recently won a 100 lapper on July 24. He drove from the 15th starting spot into the lead with three laps remaining, fighting past Lonnie Behler for the win.
Joe Mooney led the 20-car starting field to the green and jumped into the early lead. Second starting Behler then moved to the front on lap three and by lap eight was being confronted by Don Wagner. At times Behler looked to be the car to beat as he pulled ahead with a decent gap over Wagner.
But after a restart on lap 19, Wagner got busy. He passed Behler on lap 20, however the favor was returned two laps later. Behler was only ahead by inches as the pair ran two-wide with third running Tyler Haydt right on their heels.
With eight laps to go the caution was out for Lou Strohl. The restart took several tries. On one of the call backs Wagner had caught Behler sleeping and another saw Haydt power down to the inside for a brief peek at the lead.
When the race finally did resume Behler was on his toes as he kept his car at the front. Wagner got caught in a mesh of on-comers and slipped back a few spots. Haydt was now second and Paules had weaved his way to third.
With five to go Paules got past Haydt and then turned up the pressure on Behler. He made his race-winning pass by going to the inside off turn four.
Just as the lap was being completed a nasty front stretch crash unfolded. Collected in the melee were Haydt and point leader John Bennett. Both had to be towed from the scene.
Over the final three tours Paules stayed steady.
"That was really rough out there tonight. No one was giving anyone anything. We had to work for everything we got tonight," said Paules who now has a dozen Mahoning wins. "There was a lot of hard racing out there but it was all clean.
Behler, second on Mahoning's all-time win list with 40 victories, is still looking for that elusive first win with a Modified. In the last two seasons has come close with five runner-ups and four thirds.
In Late Model action it was a Wallace winning for the second week in a row. This time around Dave Wallace of Lehighton was the victor. Last week his brother Rick was first to the checkers.
Starting second, Dave took over the lead from Ed Bauer on lap three and then held off a relentless effort by Todd Stehle en route to his 11th career class win and first since 2003.
The Street Stock class remains highly competitive as TJ Gursky of Palmerton added his name to the list of different winners this season, which brings the total to 12.
Gursky, who is the only driver to campaign with a Monte Carlo body in a predominant field of Camaro's, was never really challenged after grabbing the lead early. His win was the third in a Street Stock and 16th overall.
Kevin Graver Jr. of Lehighton was the Pro4 Late Model winner for the fourth time this season.
Graver took the lead from Jake Kibler on lap two and then had to fend off his nephew and point leader Kris Graver.
His win, the 29th with the division, marked the 34th overall and now puts him fourth on the all-time winners list.
Randy Thomas of Palmerton has been on a mission of late. The current Dirt Mod point leader posted his third straight and unprecedented eighth feature win of the season.
On a lap 13 restart he took the lead from his brother Dave.
In the 4c Super Mod race, Wes Gilbert of Preston, MD continued his season long dominance with his fourth Mahoning win.
Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1.Earl Paules 2.Lonnie Behler 3.Bobby Jones 4.Don Wagner 5.Eric Beers 6.Rob Shultz 7.Brian Romig 8.Brian DeFebo 9.Tom Flanagan 10.Jarred Nace 11.Rick Reichenbach 12.John Bennett 13.Tyler Haydt 14.Matt Higgins 15.Troy Bollinger 16.Stacey Brown 17.Lou Strohl 18.Joe Mooney 19.Anthony Sesely 20.Chip Santee DNQ: Andy Szapacs
Late Model Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Dave Wallace 2.Todd Stehle 3.Ed Bauer 4.Shawn Sitarchyk 5.Paul Koehler, Jr. 6.Rick Wallace
Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1.TJ Gursky 2.Jason Frey 3.Steve Hoffman 4.Gene Bowers 5.Todd Ahner 6.Eric Danyluk 7.Adam Santee 8.Jim Yamelski 9.Steve Steigerwalt 10.Kristy Morone Arthofer 11.Randy Ahner, Jr. 12.Chris May 13.Justin Mooney 14.Jamie Smith 15.Paul Effrig 16.Greg Long 17.Josh Mooney 18.Devin Gibson
Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Randy Thomas 2.Dave Thomas 3.Bill Briggs 4.Joe Strangle 5.Jeff Parker
Pro4 Late Model Feature, 20 Laps: 1.Kevin Graver, Jr. 2.Kris Graver 3.Jeremy Miller 4.Kevin Stein 5.Jake Kibler 6.Aleia Geisler 7.Chad Keiser DQ: Mike Stofflet
4C Super Modified Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1.Wes Gilbert 2.Steve Renn 3.Bob Renn 4.Mike Crispo DNS: Mike Renn