By DINO OBERTO
(LEHIGHTON, PA. 10-14-17) Veteran crew chief Gary Slusser is known for his setups that have put numerous drivers in Victory Lane over the years. Many of them have also gone on to win championships including this year’s Mahoning Valley Speedway Modified kingpin Brian DeFebo.
Prior to the night’s 35-lap season point finale Slusser indicated to DeFebo that every one of his driver’s ended their championship year with a win. DeFebo in return delivered, capping off his season with a second straight victory and fifth on the year.
After working the outside of Joey Jarowicz for several laps while also dueling alongside Gene Bowers, DeFebo, who started ninth, picked up the lead with 11 laps remaining and then cruised steadily the rest of the way.
“Getting to the front was the tough part. Joey (Jarowicz) was running a smart line. He was taking away the outside and the inside and it was what he had to do,” explained DeFebo.
“I had no opportunity to get to the inside so I had to stay persistent. Once I was able to get up alongside of him I was able to then take a little bit of the line away. After getting in the lead I just ran my own pace and I knew if I kept the car straight we wouldn’t get passed.”
Jarowicz, Bowers and DeFebo provided much of the action. Jarowicz led from the onset and had Bowers giving him a great run. DeFebo joined them by lap seven and the trio then began a blanketed battle.
Jarowicz stepped out to the middle lane and in doing so kept his opponents in check through a stretch of 19 nonstop laps. Bowers was on the low side and looked to make a squeeze play several times but Jarowicz remained very protective. It was much the same for DeFebo in his attempts until finally getting the opportunity to pull alongside and eventually pass for the lead and win.
Bobby Jones used a restart with 10 laps to go and took over second spot but could not keep up with DeFebo. Bowers notched third with Lou Strohl and Jarowicz completing the top 5.
This was the first time that DeFebo ran a complete season at Mahoning Valley. He is a six time Evergreen champion which includes four titles in the Modifieds.
“It’s exciting to come here and win this championship. We never concentrated on a (full) season here,” said DeFebo.
“You don’t want to be cocky, you want to be confident and I knew that if we concentrated on running the whole year we could do well. It always worked that way when we ran for points at Evergreen and we were successful with that mindset,” he continued.
“These guys who race here are tough as nails. We’ve run the RoC, we’ve run other tracks but here at Mahoning Valley it is as good as it gets. Lap for lap you have to be thinking and planning and always on your game.”
In a dramatic last lap pass Broc Brown snuck by race long leader Dylan Osborn for top honors in the Late Model feature.
Looking to win for the first time with a full-bodied stock car, 13-year old Osborn was turning perfect laps from the get-go. Brown was settled into second and gradually making headway as the race was coming to a close but Osborn showed enough poise that he could pull off a victory.
However, when Jacob Kerstetter spun with two laps to go it set up the exciting showdown. As the action got back underway Osborn was feeling the pressure by Brown, himself just 14-years old.
When the pair crossed under the white flag Brown stayed glued to Osborn’s rear until entering turn two which at that point he power moved his way underneath. Moments later Brown was leading and winning while Osborn had to settle for an unfortunate but well-run second place.
“It was all I could do to win. In the beginning of the year I had the same move done to me and that taught me something,” said Brown afterwards on his race winning move.
“I learned so much this year racing here, how to pass people clean and if you give them respect they’ll give it back.”
With his fifth place tally Mike Sweeney retained his title as Late Model champion.
Shayne Geist capped off his rookie season with the Street Stocks by winning for a second time. He started pole and although able to lead all 30 laps, it was hard-fought as Mark Deysher and Corey Edelman made him work hard on each passing lap. In the end Geist was not to be denied as he drove a solid and defensive race in garnering the verdict.
Stacey Brown was crowned the Street Stock champion, the first title ever for the respected veteran.
In the dirt Mods Billy Lowden Jr., made a quick dash to the lead at the drop of the green and then proceeded to lead the distance for his first win in three years. Jeff Parker was closing on Lowden but time ran out before any serious challenge could be mounted.
Jake Kibler won for the second straight week and sixth time this season but it wasn’t enough to land him the Pro 4 championship as Kevin Stein’s runner-up finish earned him the 2017 class title.
The Hobby Stock feature was gripping in several ways. In the race Trisha Connolly was able to win for a third time but it came after a tough battle with strong-willed Samantha Osborn whom she passed with eight laps to go.
Heading into the race the championship battle was just one point between first and second. With a third place finish Austin Beers bested Devin Schmidt for the crown.
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Brian DeFebo, 2. Bobby Jones, 3. Gene Bowers, 4. Lou Strohl, 5. Joey Jarowicz, 6. John Markovic, 7. Scott Miller, 8. Kyle Strohl, 9. Nick Baer, 10. James Haring Jr. 11. Ron Haring Jr., 12. Todd Baer
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1.Broc Brown, 2. Dylan Osborn, 3. Frankie Althouse, 4. Jeremy Miller, 5. Mike Sweeney, 6. Lorin Arthofer, 7.George Ramos, 8. Kenny Hein, 9. Jacob Kerstetter
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Shayne Geist, 2. Corey Edelman, 3. Mark Deysher, 4. Jamie Smith, 5. Todd Ahner, 6. Stacey Brown, 7. Jillian Long, 8. Eric Kocher, 9. Alan Schlenker, 10. Jared Ahner, 11. Joe Stangle, 12. Rick Reichenbach, 13. Cody Geist, 14. BJ Wambold
Dirt Mod Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Billy Lowden Jr., 2. Jeff Parker, 3. Ricky Ross, 4. Bill Sittler, 5. Mike Stofflet, 6. Vincent Fegley
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Jake Kibler, 2. Kevin Stein, 3. John Bennett, 4. Tucker Muffley, 5. Austin Beers, 6. Jason Finken, 7. Ken Reeder, 8. Jeremy Guerra, 9. Matt Clark
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Trisha Connolly, 2. Paul Effrig, 3. Austin Beers, 4. Rich Mutarelli, 5. Devin Schmidt, 6. Samantha Osborn, 7. Shawn Kistler, 8. Al Arthofer, 9. Avery Arthofer, 10. Beau Drobot, 11. Cody Boehm, 12. Zach Weidner, 13. Mark Schwalm, 14. Travis Solomon, 15. Colton Breiner, 16. Lyndsay Buss, 17. Ryan Berger, 18. Michael Wambold, 19. Carl Altemose