Mahoning Valley Speedway’s Modified division stands as one of the best weekly classes in short track racing for the powerful pavement pounders. Last year alone some of the region’s most celebrated stars took wins including track champion Eric Beers along with Matt Hirschman, Zane Zeiner, Nevin George, Earl Paules and Chip Santee to name a few.
They along with all the other top names will return for another season starting on Saturday, April 12 when the Lehighton quarter mile swings in action with a $4000-to-win 100 lap feature.
While the familiar drivers will be looking to capture the big Opening Night victory, another will be looking to embark on the next step in his career.
14-year old Kyle Strohl of Palmerton is making the move into a Modified. He is certainly no stranger to the fans at Mahoning Valley Speedway as the past two seasons he marveled when it came to winning.
In 2012 he raced in two classes, Pro 4 and Street Stock and at 12 years of age became the youngest driver at the time to win a feature event at Mahoning Valley. He won eight times with the Pro 4 and four with Street Stock, which was best in class and earned Rookie of the Year in both divisions. He was also named 2012 Rookie of the Year by Checkered Flag Fan Club.
In 2013 he again ran two cars and although he was shutout of victory with the Street Stock, he was on mission when it came to the Pro 4, winning an unprecedented 11 features including three in a row on two occasions which led to the ultimate prize, a track title. In just two seasons of stock car racing Strohl became the youngest driver to reach the 20-win mark at Mahoning. His current tally stands at 23.
Prior to Mahoning Valley, Strohl raced in quarter midgets, starting at age 4. He racked up countless wins including 66 features during his last year with those cars. He also contested with a Stage 1 Modified at Borger’s Speedway in 2011 and not surprising won there too. Now the young talent is ready to pursue his biggest task yet with the Modified.
“I’m really excited and nervous at the same time. We’re switching to a lot of horsepower as compared to the Street Stock and Pro 4,” said Strohl. “I realize the challenge and know there are a lot of great competitors in the Modified class. I just have to hang with them as much as I can and stay focused. I know I have to earn their trust and respect.
“I really looked up to guys like Eric Beers, Chip Santee, Nevin George and Earl Paules who are all great racers as is everyone who runs in the class as Mahoning. Getting this opportunity to now race against them is going to be amazing.”
Strohl will have a former Jimmy and TJ Zacharias run Troyer car which will carry his signature No. 44 along with his returning sponsors Paul’s Garage, Shear-N-Vee Salon, Al Newhard, Trucking, Rex Equipment, Woodring Plumbing & Heating and Don Laine Campground.
He is anxiously awaiting the upcoming Test and Tune days on March 22, 29 and April 5, 6 for the much needed practice. A proven quick learner, Strohl should adapt well thanks to his natural ability behind the wheel of a race car.
“These past two seasons have been a great learning experience for me. I could feel the track more on where I can and can’t put the car. Mahoning is such a tough track and believe me it’s all true when they say if you can race there you can race anywhere else,” he explained.
“I have to learn to be a little easier on the gas. There is so much power and we’ve been learning so much since we got the car. It’s all going to come down to track time. My main goal will be to bring it home each night in one piece. Of course I will try my best to win this year. I have a 10 year win streak going from the time I started with quarter midgets and would love nothing better than to keep it rolling. We know that if a win comes it will be awesome.”
Racing a Modified can indeed be a tall order, especially for a 14-year old. But Strohl, who is always a fan favorite, will look to resume his rise to stardom as one of the weekly picks at Mahoning Valley and with the help of his father and crew chief, Tim Strohl and former racing grandfather Paul Strohl, there is little doubt this up and coming talent will have a smooth transition.