By DINO OBERTO WALTER SMITH PHOTO
(LEHIGHTON, PA. 10-12-19) Octoberfast 2019 at Mahoning Valley Speedway showcased a talent laden field of Modified drivers that saw a number of top contenders in position for the $5000 win but when the checkers fell on the 150 contest it was yet another victory going to perennial favorite Matt Hirschman as he scored an unprecedented fourth Octoberfast in the eight year history of the event.
Hirschman took the lead from Austin Kochenash 25 laps from the finish and then stayed solid the rest of the way to earn his 14th overall win of 2019 and 18th at Mahoning Valley.
Kochenash made a great run back towards the front after a spin and pit stop with 13 laps to go for an impressive runner-up. Austin Beers showed lots of potential and was third, Earl Paules, who was a factor throughout notched fourth while Don Wagner completed the top five.
“Everything just worked out well for us tonight, being in the right spots at the right times. What a way to bookend the season here, winning the 100 lap opener and now back-to-back in the Octoberfast,” said Hirschman.
“This a good paying race and we really appreciate Mahoning Valley Speedway putting on the event. It’s a nice crowd that’s here, a nice day and very glad to be here.”
A redraw after qualifying heats saw BJ Wambold and Paules on the front row and when chief starter Bob Stull, who was flagging his final race at Mahoning, waved the race commencing green, it was Paules who hurried to the early lead.
Wambold settled into second with 2019 division champion Bobby Jones, Tyler Haydt and Brian DeFebo closely in tow.
As Paules was running a rapid pace he was also getting plenty of pressure from Wambold. Likewise Jones had his nose stuck in with the front pair which produced some very exciting action.
On lap 17 Wambold aimed to the inside of Paules and was able to grab the lead, but it would be short lived as Jones made his way to the front three laps later.
Unfortunately for the newly crowned champ his hopes for a second Octoberfast where dashed when he got caught up in a wreck on the back straight from cars from the tail end of the field.
At the resumption Paules was back in front and again had Wambold on his tail.
By lap 44 Kochenash and Hirschman had motored into second and third respectively, however, Paules pressed on as the leader despite the heavy company.
After a great 41 lap stint at the head of the pack, Paules gave way to Kochenash who drove to his inside on lap 72. Paules would not waver from second and stayed close with Kochenash while holding off the advances from Hirschman.
On lap 95 a caution waved for a spinning John Markovic and it would be at that period that most of the front runners opted to make a pit stop for new tires. Kochenash though remained on track.
“When I saw all of those cars pit I knew I was in trouble at that point because they didn’t have to use their cars as hard with the new tires on. But my tires where still good so we elected to stay out,” said Kochenash.
Indeed Kochenash was correct about those with fresh American Racer rubber. Paules was back to second 12 laps in and soon after Hirschman ran third and before long that trio was battling for the lead.
Hirschman and Paules where running side-by-side in the direct path of Kochenash. By lap 124 Hirschman, who was on the low lane, nipped Paules and on the ensuing circuit was able to complete the race winning pass on Kochenash.
There was no looking back from there on as the No. 60 showed the prowess that has become the trademark in win after win when it comes to high stake races.
“It was a good racing all night and guys raced clean and when you do that here you can always go side-by-side and run two grooves-plus and after we came back through I was able to make passes and do them clean and get to the lead and keep it to the finish,” said Hirschman.
Following a lap 134 restart Kochenash while fighting for second with Paules spun under tight conditions on the front straight. He then dove to the pits, changed tires and made an incredible charge back before time ran out and had to settle for runner-up.
“Right before that restart my tires began going away and I was running for second and then the spin happened and it was just racing hard at that point. We came back through though,” offered Kochenash who recorded his sixth second place tally of the year.
“We were here for the $5000 but still second is decent. We lost a real good friend this week, Mitch Green, and I really wanted to win this for him but second was the best we could do tonight.”
16-year old Beers had come from the back several times and was hoping to make up for the Octoberfast that got away from him last year when Hirschman passed him with six laps to go. He was as high as second with five laps remaining before Kochenash passed him for the spot.
“We just had a half inch too much stagger at the end and the car was really loose. It was a tough race coming from the back because of (pit) stops. I thought it would be pretty cool if I could have passed Matt for the win like he did to me last year but his car was really good and I had nothing for him,” said Beers.
DeFebo, Todd Baer, Wambold, Gene Bowers and Haydt rounded out the top ten. Annexing heat wins where Haydt, Kochenash and Jones.
Modified Feature Finish (150-laps): 1. Matt Hirschman, 2. Austin Kochenash, 3. Austin Beers, 4. Earl Paules, 5. Don Wagner, 6. Brian DeFebo, 7. Todd Bear, 8. BJ Wambold, 9. Gene Bowers, 10. Tyler Haydt, 11. John Markovic, 12. Lorin Arthofer, 13. Jake Kibler, 14. Kevin Graver, 15. Kyle Strohl, 16. Terry Markovic, 17. Eric Kocher, 18. Mike Sweeney, 19. Bobby Jones, 20. Ron Haring Jr.