By DINO OBERTO
(LEHIGHTON 9-22-18) Austin Kochenash unwaveringly kept the pressure on Kevin Rex Jr., over the second half of Saturday night’s 35-lap Modified contest at Mahoning Valley Speedway and in the end made a clutch last lap pass out of the final corner to claim the checkers for his first win of the season.
The victory was special for Kochenash too who had recently debuted a newly build homemade car. Nicknamed “Frankenstein,” it making just its second race in competition.
“This is the first real race with the car and I couldn’t be happier with the way it performed here tonight. To be able to build my own car and win in just the second time out and to get back to winning here is special,” said Kochenash.
Zane Zeiner was a close third while Bobby Jones and Josh Scherer completed the top five. With an 11th place tally Brian DeFebo earned his second straight track championship and eighth overall.
Pole sitter Rex took to the lead from the outset and immediately had to guard his spot as Zeiner was all over him. By lap 11 Kochenash ousted Gene Bowers for third and would then run alongside Zeiner, both then making continued stabs at the leader. But despite the ongoing battle from Kochenash and Zeiner, Rex remained fully focused in preserving the lead.
By lap 19 Kochenash would secure second and begin his offensive on Rex that led to a torrid battle during the final 10 laps. Time and again Rex would close the door then when the white flag waved Kochenash laid it all on the line as he swung to the inside lane and was able to squeeze alongside Rex as they went into turn four. With finish line just feet ahead Kochenash kept the throttle stomped and would nip Rex by the slimmest of margins.
“We raced hard and I wasn’t doing anything to move him out of the way. I knew I had a good car to go around the top but then on the last lap I could see that the bottom would be the line and we went for it and here we are,” said Kochenash.
“I can’t thank everyone enough, all my sponsors and crew who help me out and I want to dedicate this win to Greg Hodnett.”
Rex, who was making just his fourth start of the year, knew it was a tough loss but took it in stride none the less.
“The car started out pretty good but towards the end it began losing bite coming off the corners. Austin (Kochenash) ran us good and it was a great battle at the end,” said Rex.
For Mike Sweeney and Frankie Althouse, the final point race of the season with the Late Models was nerve wracking to say the least.
Althouse began the night with a 10 point edge over Sweeney who is the two-time and defending champ which made every finishing spot vital. For Sweeney he could not afford to leave anything on the table and set his sights on the big prize of winning.
And, it didn’t take him long to seize the lead which he did after a lap five restart. However, Althouse advanced his way to second soon after and would then follow Sweeney the rest of the way.
Sweeney would take the checkers for his second win of 2018 but the runner-up tally by Althouse would give the long-time supporter of Mahoning Valley his career first championship by a difference of just three points.
26 years ago Eric Beers battled Earl Paules for his first Modified championship. Fast-forward to Saturday night and Paules was again going for a title against a Beers only this time it would be with the Sportsman Modifieds and with Eric’s 15-year son Austin Beers.
As to be expected the night began with thrilling drama as A. Beers started out just two points better than Paules. When the heat was concluded Paules garnered enough markers to begin the feature two points to the good.
When the race got underway BJ Wambold was holding the lead while Beers and Paules race second and third. Beers knew what his best title option was and going for the win and during the first 14 laps he would make every effort to get past Wambold. Then with a restart on lap 15 Beers took that at his best time to strike, motoring to front from the outside. For the remaining 10 laps he then put enough of a gap on the rest of the pack to secure the victory and earn the inaugural class championship.
Jamie Smith raced out front for all 30 laps of the Street Stock feature, in the process picking up his first win of the season over Stacey Brown and Jason Beers.
In the tightly contested battle for the division crown Mark Deysher’s fifth place finish was enough needed to win his third division championship.
Mike Stofflet was the man to beat throughout the season with the Dirt Mods and proved yet again with his seventh victory. Stofflet passed a very determined Billy Sittler Jr., halfway through the race and went on to score not only the verdict but a second straight championship as well.
Jake Kibler bookended the Pro 4 season with victories and added two in-between, giving the veteran racer his first championship after 27 years of trying.
The race was a thriller as Kibler unremittingly chased behind Cody Kohler starting at lap seven. Then on the final go-around Kibler was glued to the back of Kohler and exiting turn four made a go-for-broke move to the inside and eked out the win that was measured just .002-second.
Cody Boehm and Devin Schmidt put on an amazing duel in the Hobby Stocks as they ran in two-wide formation over the second 10 laps. Going toe-to-toe Boehm, a rookie, was scored in second on the final tour but with girt and determination he squeezed out enough power to nip Schmidt for the popular win.
Michael Wambold’s fifth place gained him the class title and in doing son joins his infamous father, “The Legend” George Wambold and brother, Brian Wambold as a Mahoning champions.
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Austin Kochenash, 2. Kevin Rex, 3. Zane Zeiner, 4. Bobby Jones, 5. Josh Scherer, 6. Lou Strohl, 7. Joey Jarowicz, 8. Kyle Strohl, 9. Earl Paules, 10.Gene Bowers, 11. Brian DeFebo, 12. Don Wagner, 13. Nick Bear, 14.Ron Haring Jr., 15. Terry Markovic, 16. Kristy Arthofer, 17. JJ Pacovich, 18. CJ Wagner, 19.Rick Reichenbach, 20. John Markovic
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Mike Sweeney, 2. Frankie Althouse, 3. Jeremey Miller, 4. Paul Koehler Jr., 5. Dylan Osborn, 6. Kenny Hein, 7. Gary Wentz, 8. Chris Anderson, 9. Lorin Arthofer, 10. Jacob Kerstetter, 11. Geno Steigerwalt, 12. Samantha Osborn, DNS: Nick Kerstetter
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps) 1. Jamie Smith, 2. Stacey Brown, 3. Jason Beers, 4. Jon Moser, 5. Mark Deysher, 6. Todd Ahner, 7. Rick Reichenbach, 8. Randy Schlenker, 9. Corey Edelman, 10.Cody Geist, 11. TJ Gursky, 12. Ken Erney III, 13. Jared Ahner, 14. Jill Long, 15. Matt Schlenker, 16. Jeremy Schlenker, 17. BJ Wambold
Sportsman Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Austin Beers, 2. BJ Wambold, 3. Zane Zeiner, 4. Earl Paules, 5. Blair Culhane, 6. Kassidy Altemose, 7. Avery Arthofer, 8. Devin Schmidt
Dirt Modified Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Mike Stofflet, 2. Billy Lowden Jr., 4 Colton Perry, 5. Dave Chapman, 6. Ricky Yetter, 7. Corey Edelman, 8. Patrick Corrigan, 9. Vince Fegley
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1.Jake Kibler, 2. Cody Kohler, 3. Randy Schaffer, 4. Bobby Kibler Sr., 5.Tyler Stangle, 6. Kevin Hoffman, 7. Josh Kuronya, 8. Jeremy Guerra, 9. Tucker Muffley, 10. Steve McDonough, 11. Bobby Kibler Jr.
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Cody Boehm, 2. Devin Schmidt, 3. Ryan Berger, 4. Al Arthofer, 5. Michael Wambold, 6. Jacob Boehm, 7. Travis Solomon, 8. Lyndsay Buss, 9. BJ Wambold, 10. Todd Geist, 11. Peyton Arthofer, 12. Shawn Kistler, 13. Trisha Connolly, 14. Tad Snyder, 15. Chris DeWalt, 16. Justin Merkel, 17. Philip Sabatine, 18. Lauren Gimbi