The "Fightin' Lehighton" Rick Kirkendall raced to an exciting victory in the first of twin 50 features Saturday night at Mahoning Valley Speedway for round three of the Mahoning Modified Madness Series.
Race number two was postponed due to rain and will be rescheduled at a later date.
The popular Lehighton driver had been away from the racing scene the past few years and returned two weeks ago in Shawn Sitarchyk's SVS Abatement No. 80 car.
"It was very exciting from where I was sitting. I may have been a little rusty but it's just like riding a bike," said Kirkendall.
After redrawing the outside front row for the start, Kirkendall went into a torrid duel with leader Nevin George once the race got underway. George was showing himself as the car to beat as he steadily maintained his lead while fending off Kirkendall in the process.
But on lap 32 George encountered a cut left front tire which caused him to lose control and smack hard into the front straight wall.
Kirkendall elevated into the top spot and over the final 18 circuits was forced into a heavy defensive mode as Kris Graver, Roger Coss and Matt Hirschman all targeted him.
The real thrill of the race came on what would have been the white flag lap. With two laps to go Graver and Hirschman attacked Kirkendall from both sides. Graver was on the inside while Hirschman went high.
Coming out of turn four for the one-to-go signal from starter Bobby Stull, they were three abreast. In an effort to protect his spot, Kirkendall was using up as much race track as possible. Hirschman was looking to take the lead coming into the final two turns and as he was making his move he made slight contact with Kirkendall's right side rub-rail which caused his J & J No. 59 to veer out of the racing line and slide against the wall. Kirkendall kept focused and carried on as he still had to deal with Graver.
Cars began to scatter due to Hirschman slowing and in a wise move to avoid any unforeseen chaos the yellow was thrown.
With a single file restart Kirkendall was able to stay solid and take his first win since 2008. Graver held on for second while Eric Beers, Zane Zeiner and John Markovic completed the top five.
"I was the meat in the sandwich with those two (Graver, Hirschman) guys around me. It was just so exciting and this was something I missed for a long time and what a heck of a way to come back," said Kirkendall.
In Dirt Mod action Mike Stofflet of Mertztown rebounded from the last race that was almost his. In that event Stofflet crossed the finish line first but was relegated back two spots for passing in an off limits zone on the bottom of the race track.
This time he made his way around Ray Deemer from the outside with five laps complete and then held back point leader Jeff Parker en route to his fourth win of the season.
The Teen Titan's where at it again in the Pro 4s as 13-year old Kyle Strohl of Palmerton edged 15-year old Nick Baer for the second week in a row.
Before taking the lead with seven laps to go, Strohl went door-to-door with another teen wonder, 13-year old Bobby Kibler Jr.. Over the final five laps Baer was glued to the rear bumper of Strohl but a pass was not in the cards as the point leader gained his sixth win of 2013.
Northampton's Corey Edelman blasted by Gunner Yost on the second lap of the Hobby Stock feature and pulled away for his third consecutive win and sixth of the season. In doing so he leaped into the point lead for the first time since Opening Night.
Two laps after the Late Model feature began so too did the rain which ended the remainder of the program. That feature is tentatively slated to resume this coming Saturday, Aug. 3.
Modified Feature Finish (50 Laps): 1. Rick Kirkendall, 2. Kris Graver, 3. Eric Beers, 4. Zane Zeiner, 5. John Markovic, 6. Earl Paules, 7. Mat Wentz, 8. Eric Kocher, 9. Don Wagner, 10. Todd Baer, 11. Chip Santee, 12. Matt Hirschman, 13. Lou Strohl, 14. Terry Markovic, 15. Kevin Rex, Jr., 16. Rick Reichenbach, 17. Roger Coss, 18. Nevin George, 19. Bobby Jones, 20. Mike Quinn, 21. DJ Wagner, 22. Tom Flanagan
Dirt Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Mike Stofflet, 2. Jeff Parker, 3. Ray Deemer, 4. Aleia Geisler, 5. Mark Martini, 6. Dave Thomas, 7. Dave Gorbatuk, 8. JP Curry, 9. Ricky Yetter, 10. Frank Parastino, 11. Billy Lowden, Jr., 12. Bill Sittler, Jr.
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Kyle Strohl, 2. Nick Baer, 3. Jake Kibler, 4. Dave Chapman, 5. Danielle Paules, 6. Bobby Kibler, Jr., 7. Cody Kohler, 8. Tyler Stangle, 9. Robert Miller 10. Tanner Laybourn
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (15 Laps): 1. Corey Edelman, 2. Bill Verwys, 3. Cody Geist, 4. Gunner Yost, 5. Elyse Bollinger, 6. Jeff Biegley, 7. Chad Miller, 8. Steve McDonough.