By DINO OBERTO
(LEHIGHTON, Pa. 9-19-15) Saturday night’s Modified event at Mahoning Valley Speedway was the tail of two races.
While Eric Beers fended off Austin Kochenash in a thrilling contest, the two also put forth their quest as title hopefuls. Both are part of an amazing showdown of the top five in points heading into the final two weeks of the season and after last night’s race there is just 30 points that separate those championship contenders which include Earl Paules, Kochenash, Don Wagner, Beers and Kris Graver.
At the outset of the 35 lap feature pole sitter Kevin Rex Jr., commanded the early lead with Beers riding in second. Wasting little time, Beers went to the outside of Rex and began his push to the lead and with the completion of the seventh circuit that spot was his.
Afterwards, thanks to a stretch of green flag laps, Beers was able to open a considerable lead on the rest of the pack as Rex, Chip Santee and ninth starting Kochenash hovered several car lengths behind. However, the game changer occurred on lap 22 when the caution waved and put an end to that ample lead.
By that point too, Kochenash had worked his way up to second and for the restart fans could sense where this race was heading. Clearly the two fastest cars of the night where about to face-off for the remaining laps and did they ever. One more additional caution took place on lap 25 but afterwards the battle was on.
Beers felt his best line of defense would be to hug the inside lane. Kochenash, however, was showing that he was just as fast and capable to do his bidding from the outside. With that they proceeded to put on a dazzling display of side-by-side high speed action.
Kochenash would remain right alongside Beers and no more than a fender away from taking the lead. They would continue race in that fashion right to the wire with the win being determined by less than a 10th of a second.
“Austin (Kochenash) is so good on the bottom and I just wanted to keep him on the outside until the end. I knew my car was good enough to beat him on the bottom and I didn’t want him to try and get underneath me,” said Beers, who raced to his 44th Mahoning Modified win.
“It was definitely a good race and we’ll be looking to do this again for the next two weeks. I also want to dedicate this win to Jennifer Kutz Flannigan. I’ve known her and her family for a very long time and our hearts our out to them.”
Graver picked up third spot on the final lap over Rex while Brian DeFebo completed the top five.
Although Kochenash was oh-so-close to winning, he gained substantial ground on point leader Paules and is only four behind.
“I needed more race track to be able to get a run on Eric (Beers). He protected both the bottom and the outside and that’s what you have to do sometimes to win,” stated Kochenash.
“I was up against the wall but that’s racing for the win. It was a good race for the fans I’m sure. We ran hard tonight and we’re going to try and win the next two and whatever happens, happens.”
In what has become somewhat of a common sight this year with the Late Models, Paul Koehler Jr., and Mike Sweeney raced for the win and in another fantastic battle.
After Koehler took the lead from Jacob Kerstetter on lap seven, he soon had Sweeney on his tail and the top two point men would then thrill the fans as they sparred with each other en route to the finish.
Koehler would hold the lead but never by much as Sweeney tried everything in an attempt to pass him. On the final lap it was all or nothing for Sweeney. He drove his way to the inside of Koehler and where running virtually even as the exited turn four. Koehler, though, showed he wanted more and eked out the victory by the blink of an eye.
Bernie Uphold was running perfectly in first place during the Street Stock main but abruptly fell off the pace on lap 20. The lead then went to Corey Edelman and the rookie star was strong the rest of the way as notched his second win of the year.
The Dirt Mods opened the night with their make-up feature from July 18 and soundly scoring the win was point leader Ricky Yetter over Jack Ely. Yetter took the lead on lap nine and cruised in front the rest of the way. The victory was also one for the record books as Yetter became the first driver to win four consecutive Dirt Mod features.
In the regular feature it was Mike Stofflet gracing Victory Lane for a second time this season. Stofflet did not take the lead until five laps to go as he worked his tail off trying to get by Bill Sittler Jr., who was having a sensational night and came as close as ever to his career first win.
In the Pro 4s it was Jake Kibler taking his fourth win of the season. After some great two-wide racing for the lead, Kibler was able to slip underneath Cody Kohler with four laps to go. He then drove on to the win, his 23rd career verdict.
Michael Wambold celebrated his 15th birthday in style by winning his career first feature. The son of the legendary George Wambold, Michael shot into the lead on the opening circuit and then stayed at the front the rest of the way.
Rich Mutarelli gave him an excellent run and nearly pulled off a pass as the checkers where waving but Wambold held his ground and scored the memorable victory.
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Eric Beers, 2. Austin Kochenash, 3. Kris Graver, 4. Kevin Rex Jr., 5. Brian DeFebo, 6. Chip Santee, 7. Don Wagner, 8. Kyle Strohl, 9. Earl Paules, 10. Calvin Carroll, 11. Todd Baer, 12. John Markovic, 13. Bobby Jones, 14. Roger Heffelfinger Jr., 15. Nick Baer, 16. Matt Higgins, 17. Tom Wanick III, 18. Lou Stroh, 19. Eric Kocher, 20. Terry Markovic
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Paul Koehler Jr., 2. Mike Sweeney, 3. Troy Bollinger, 4. Don Wagner, 5. George Ramos, 6. Barry Kutz, 7. Jeremy Miller, 8. Kenny Hein, 9. Jacob Kerstetter, 10. Tony Hilliard, 11. Travis Fisher, 12. Darryl Bruenig, 13. Broc Brown, 14. Dave Imler
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Corey Edelman, 2. Aaron Kromer, 3. Randy Schlenker, 4. Randy Ahner Jr., 5. Jason Kuhn, 6. Jason Frey, 7. Zach Graver, 8. Jillian Long, 9. Joe Mooney, 10. Gene Bowers, 11. TJ Gursky, 12. Jared Ahner, 13. Todd Ahner, 14. George Ramos, 15. Jamie Smith, 16. Kristy Arthofer, 17. Logan Boyer, 18. Stacey Brown, 19. Jonathan Tracey, 20. Bernie Uphold DNQ: Josh Mooney, Joe Stangle, Chris Steigerwalt
Make-up 7/18 Dirt Mod Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Ricky Yetter, 2. Jack Ely, 3. JP Curry, 4. Dave Gorbatuk, 5. Ray Deemer, 6. Lorin Arthofer II, 7. Scott Adams, 8. Aleia Geisler, 9. Mike Stofflet, 10. Bill Sittler Jr., 11.Billy Lasko DNS: Steve Shultz
Regular Dirt Mod Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Stofflet, 2. Adams, 3. Deemer, 4. Sittler, 5. Arthofer II, 6. Gorbatuk, 7. Ely, 8. Yetter, 9. Curry, 10. Lasko, 11. Scott Hyland, 12. Geisler DNS: John Banashefski
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Jake Kibler, 2. Cody Kohler, 3. Josh Scherer, 4. Bobby Kibler Jr., 5. Bobby Kibler Sr., 6. Johnny Bennett, 7. JD Light, 8. Kailyn Beers, 9. TJ Kemmerer, 10. Nick Baer
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (15 Laps): 1. Michael Wambold, 2. Rich Mutarelli, 3. Lyndsay Buss, 4. Cody Geist, 5. Kyle Krempasky, 6. Shayne Geist, 7. Kyle Scisco, 8. Ken Reeder, 9. Ryan Berger, 10. Seth VanFossen, 11. Thomas Hunsicker Jr., 12. Jennifer Adams, 13. Nicole Quinter, 14. Waylon Speer