|Date: 4/29/2014 10:00:20 PM|
By DINO OBERTO …. “Keeping Track”
(4-29-14) Youth was served in the Modified ranks at Mahoning Valley Speedway last Saturday night when 14-year old Kyle Strohl of Palmerton became the youngest driver to win a feature race in the division, capturing the checkers in the 35-lap main. And he beat none other than the mentor who guided him through the first few weeks, reigning class champion Eric Beers.
“This really is so amazing. I have to thank Eric Beers for helping us these past few weeks getting started,” said Strohl, who was making just his third start in a Modified stock car.
“I knew he was coming too but I was just trying my best to run my line and hope no one passed me. This feels great and it’s a dream come true.”
For a kid who is still two years away from getting his driver’s license, Strohl wheeled that car like he’d been at it for quite a while, something that’s no easy task at track as demanding as Mahoning Valley. Truth is this was the first feature he completed which makes the win even more astonishing. In his first start on April 12 he ran only one lap and finished last.
The following week he really showed his mettle when he won his heat then went toe-to-toe with seasoned veteran John Markovic, only to fall short after his car lost power late in the event. Markovic went on to win while Strohl was 17th. After that race people took notice of him in a hurry.
“Kyle Strohl is a fantastic driver and one day maybe he can drive for me,” remarked Markovic.
He got a second chance to prove that run was no fluke. Once again he won his heat then after starting from the pole Strohl jumped out front over Kris Graver and held the point with precise accuracy over each lap turned. Despite Graver giving him some stiff competition, Strohl never flinched.
In third was Nevin George, however, under a lap 17 caution he gave up the spot after having to pit. Beers was the benefactor and when the action resumed he began a great duel with Graver. As they ran two-wide Strohl was able to extend his lead.
For a dozen laps Graver and Beers battled and it wasn’t until six to go that the champ broke free to lay claim to the position. With time of the essence he then charged towards Strohl but the fast-rising star wasn’t about to let Beers or anyone else steal his thunder and earned his place in the history books.
“I never thought I’d get here this quick. I want to thank my dad (Tim Strohl), my crew and all my sponsors, I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Strohl.
As mentioned Beers attempted but could not catch Strohl and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Despite running the fastest laps of the race, time ran out on his effort.
“He (Strohl) ran a great race. He had one get away from the week before with him and Johnny (Markovic), but hats off to my guys too. We got boxed in at the beginning and went all the way to the rear. We worked our way by a bunch of cars and made a show there at the end,” said Beers. “Kyle is a heck of a race car driver and you can tell that he’ll be winning a lot more of these. He’s got a lot of talent.”
Think about this – in the past two weeks this 14-year old had a faceoff against two of the area’s premier Modified talents that have a combined nine track championships and over 100 wins between Mahoning Valley and Evergreen Raceway not to mention they’ve raced with winning success on both the NASCAR and RoC Modified Tours, yet here is this apprentice with only three races under him with a Modified and he’s contending with them for wins.
Part of the deal is that Strohl may be a Modified rookie but by no means is he a stranger to the fans at Mahoning Valley Speedway as the past two seasons he marveled when it came to winning.
As a true rookie stock driver 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. 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 each division. He was also named 2012 Rookie of the Year by Checkered Flag Fan Club.
“I was really excited and nervous at the same time when we went to the Modified,” explained Strohl. “We were switching to a lot of horsepower as compared to the Street Stock and Pro 4.
“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 look 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 at Mahoning. Getting this opportunity to now race against them is incredible.”
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 24 victories in 85 starts which is an above average mark in wins ratio.
Prior to Mahoning Valley, he 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 giving him a ten year winning streak.
“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 here you can race anywhere else,” said Strohl.
“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.”
a Modified is indeed a tall order for a 14-year old but not all are on the same
skill level as Strohl. Always a fan favorite, his rise to stardom as one of the
weekly picks at Mahoning Valley has been solidified with last week’s victory
and with the help of his father and crew chief plus his grandfather, former
Late Model ace Paul Strohl, there is little doubt this up and comer’s time has
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