By Dino Oberto

(LEHIGHTON, PA 5-28-11) For the first three weeks of the 2011 season at Mahoning Valley Speedway, Kunkletown’s Tyler Haydt was within reach of the checkered flag as in each of those Modified features, finishing a close second.
Haydt is an exceptionally talented driver with an always fast car under him and those factors all came together perfectly as the 26-year shunned the bridesmaid role and wheeled his Bill Teel owned #16 to victory. In doing so he assumed the division point lead over Earl Paules, who ironically he had been runner-up to twice thus far.
Starting 9th, Haydt took the lead from Brian DeFebo with ten laps remaining and then held off Paules and John Bennett for his sixth career Modified win and 28th at the track.
“We’re here to win and finishing second is not what we come here for. This really feels good,” said Haydt.
Pole sitter Troy Bollinger jumped out to the early lead with DeFebo hot on his heels. By lap three DeFebo went to the inside lane and two laps later accelerated into the lead. Joe Mooney also surpassed Bollinger by lap eight and was tagged on closely with DeFebo.
DeFebo was then setting a torrid pace as the race’s first 20 laps went caution free. By lap 15 Haydt had advanced to third.
On lap 20 the fast action was slowed when Bollinger and Stacey Brown came together on the front straight. When the race resumed Haydt was quick to overhaul Mooney likewise so did Paules and previous week winner Don Wagner.
Now honing in on DeFebo, Haydt kept looking underneath as the leader who was beginning to fight with his mount due to tightening.
By lap 24 the door came open for Haydt coming off turn two when DeFebo could not keep low enough to protect his line. Paules, as well as John Bennett and Wagner, also took advantage and lined up behind the new leader.
“It’s not often when you can run 20 laps straight through like that and don’t get a caution and sometimes it works out for you and sometimes not but everything went good tonight,” said Haydt.
“Brian (DeFebo) was fast but he was getting a little bit tight the longer we ran and I just was trying to wait it out until I could get a clean opening.”
For the remaining laps Haydt led what was Mahoning’s version of a Race of Champions as the top five runners represented a combined 18 championships and nearly 200 feature wins.
“This team is only getting better. It’s awesome to drive for Billy (Teel). Whatever we need he’ll get it and it’s cool to have this opportunity and it’s cool to run this good,” said Haydt.
When Eugene ‘Gene’ Bowers had an untimely passing on September 24, 2010, he left a huge void a Mahoning Valley as he was very popular figurehead as a driver and then car owner.
In his honor the track proudly hosted the Gene Bowers Memorial Street Stock 100 and it was an unqualified success as so many pulled together in support of Bowers and his family.
The race, won handily by Lehighton’s Kevin Smith, paid $1000 but thanks to lap sponsorship, Smith claimed the biggest payday in class history with a first place take of $2278.
By way of a redraw by fast timer Todd Ahner, Gene Bowers, son of the late Bowers, was on the pole and even more fitting was having his dad’s classic Dodge Challenger pace the field. It was a moment that brought the crowd to their feet during the parade laps.
When the race got underway Smith, a former winning dirt Sportsman racer, darted into the lead and while a bevy place swapping went on throughout the race, no one could contend with the leader who was perfect from start to finish.
It was only his fourth time, as well as his newly built car’s run on asphalt. His evening’s accomplishment would have never shown that.
“I can’t even describe this. I have to thank the Mooney’s, my family for all their help and support and the Bower family and track for putting this race together. It’s an honor to be able to win this race. Best win of my career. The car was awesome tonight,” said Smith.
In the Late Models Dave Wallace of Lehighton jumped out to the early lead and from there never looked back as he proceeded to turn in a great perfect performance.
After Raven Schrantz elected to forgo her pole starting spot, Wallace was then the new benefactor and once the race got underway it became clear that this would be no contest as the respected veteran stayed in front for all 25 circuits.
Point leader Austin Kochenash passed last week’s winner Paul Koehler, Jr., for second on lap three but could not muster anything for Wallace.
Kris Graver of Lehighton took the lead from Mike Stofflet on lap four and then cruised to his second straight Dirt Mod win of the year.
In the Pro4 Late Models it was point leader Barry Christman, Jr., of Northampton getting back to the Winner’s Circle for the third time in four ’11 starts. Christman moved to the lead on lap 10 after Chad Keiser lost control of the top spot.

Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1.Tyler Haydt 2.Earl Paules 3.John Bennett 4.Don Wagner 5.Brian DeFebo 6.Rob Shultz 7.John Markovic 8.Chip Santee 9.Terry Markovic 10.Joe Mooney 11.Matt Higgins 12.Lonnie Behler 13.Franke Althouse 14.Brian Sones 15.Troy Bollinger 16.Stacey Brown 17.Andy Szapacs 18.Doug Bell 19.Ken Sones

Late Model Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1.Dave Wallace 2.Austin Kochenash 3.Geno Steigerwalt 4.Ed Bauer 5.Paul Koehler, Jr. 6.Mike VanFossen 7. Did not start: Paul Skodacek

Street Stock Feature Finish, 100 Laps: 1.Kevin Smith 2.Steve Steigerwalt 3.Jason Frey 4.Jeremy Miller 5.TJ Gursky 6.Kristy Morone Arthofer 7.Justin Mooney 8.Josh Mooney 9.Gene Bowers 10.Steve Hoffman 11.Eric Danyluk 12.Jillian Long 13.Todd Ahner 14.Jamie Smith 15.Paul Effrig 16.Chip Wanamaker 17.Austin Santee 18.Randy Ahner, Jr. 19.Jon Moser 20.Shawn Sitarchyk 21.Adam Santee 22.Chris Smith
Did not qualify: Corey Swartz, JR Moser

Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1.Kris Graver 2.Mike Stofflet 3.Scott Hulmes 4.Joe Stangle 5.Bill Sitler 6.Dave Thomas

Pro4 Late Model Feature, 20 Laps: 1.Barry Christman, Jr. 2.Jason Bair 3.Chad Keiser 4.Jake Kibler 5.Corey Hill 6.Cody Roth 7.Aleia Geisler 8.Bryan Ahner 9.Dustin Bair