By DINO OBERTO
(NORTHAMPTON, Pa. 11-5-15) Mahoning Valley Speedway division champions, drivers, teams, fans and staff gathered on Saturday evening to celebrate the 2015 season which was held at the Northampton Community Center in Northampton.
While the focus was centered on the six class titleholders, drivers from the top 10 in each class also got their just rewards in terms of point fund money and trophies. There were also numerous special awards presented to deserving individuals.
Modified and Late Model titlists Earl Paules and Paul Koehler Jr., can certainly be considered the benchmark of champions. Between them they have nine Mahoning Valley championships and combined for nearly 150 feature wins.
Journeyman Dirt Modified driver Ricky Yetter vowed that with this being his final season of racing he was going all out as a champion. A tall order indeed but Yetter was a man of his word.
Zach Graver – Street Stocks, Cody Kohler – Pro 4 and Cody Geist – Hobby Stock, are the future of racing at Mahoning Valley. Each notched what could easily be the first of many more championships for this very talented group.
Paules’ title came on the heels of one of the closest point battles in years as five drivers went into the final race with hopes of securing the number one ranking. Runner-up Austin Kochenash was the one driver with the best shot of unseating Paules and he came oh-so-close, winning the final event but when Paules finished in fourth, which was his class leading 16th top-5, it was all he needed to claim his second Mahoning Modified title and fifth overall in the past four years.
The Late Model division was to a tale of two drivers. Koehler and Mike Sweeney. They would rack up 17 feature wins, seven going to Koehler. The real difference was eight runner-ups to Koehler as compared to three for Sweeney that helped cinch his fourth career title. Koehler also added to his all-time Late Model win list, taking the mark up to 47.
Since coming to race on Mahoning’s pavement in 2012 Yetter has been one of the stars of the Lehighton ¼-mile oval. He has also been in some of the close point bouts as well. This year he made it known that win, loose of draw, 2015 would be his final season of racing.
Everyone, including Yetter, knew that settling for anything less than number one would be an unfulfilling ending to a great career.
Yetter would start out the year winning his heat race and take the point lead with it. From that point on there was no looking back. He stayed atop the points for 20 consecutive weeks and in the process won a class leading seven times including a record four in a row. He capped off the year by winning the Octoberfast 50 lapper for a second straight time.
Mahoning Valley’s Street Stock division is arguably one of the best support classes in short track racing. Full fields every week and 19 different winners in 2015 can attest to that.
However, for the second time in as many years the point champion was not among the victors. None the less Graver put up a whale of a dogfight with runner-up Randy Schlenker, who was also win-less. Despite that they brought there title fight right down to the last lap of the last race. Graver would beat Schlenker by one spot in the final feature and it was just enough to garner his career first championship, a well-earned and deserving one at that.
Kohler won the Pro 4 title on the strength of three wins and 18 top-5s in 21 starts. He edged veteran Bobby Kibler Sr., by less than 20 points. He finished ever race in the top-10.
There is no doubt that 17-year old Kohler has made his mark as one of the rising stars of Mahoning Valley Speedway. In a short period of time he has matured into a well-polished stock car driver and can look forward to more wins and titles.
The Hobby Stocks finished out there third year of existence and by far the most competitive as a record nine different drivers visited Victory Lane and five different drivers led the standings.
Champion Cody Geist was one of them and although his older brother, Shayne Geist, led the way with five wins, it was the consistency by C. Geist that enabled him the bring another championship into the Guest household and follow in the footsteps of his famous dad, “Hollywood” Todd Geist.
- Geist had an unprecedented 18 top-5 and 20 top-10s in 21 starts. By reeling off finishes of fifth or better over the final half dozen events, it was the key to beating out his brother and everyone else in a most commendable effort.
Two special series events where held this past season. The Central States Modified Gamblers Series and the American Rental Street Stock Gamblers Series. Run under a poker card format, select races where held in which drivers earned cards and then tallied the best hand.
Eric Kocher reaped in $2000 for the Modifieds while veteran Street Stock campaigner Todd Ahner collected $800 for his winning hand.
Rookie of the Year honors where bestowed upon Paul Frantz, Broc Brown, Cory Edelman, Lorin Arthofer II, Johnny Bennett and Kyle Krempasky in the Modifieds, Late Models, Street Stocks, Dirt Mods, Pro 4s and Hobby Stocks respectively.
Most Improved Driver awards went to Jacob Kerstetter – Late Model, Gene Bowers – Street Stock, Ray Deemer – Dirt Mod, Cody Kohler – Pro 4 and Shayne Geist – Hobby Stock.
S & D Bodyline sponsored the Best Appearing Car Award. In the Modifieds it was the No. 01 of Kris Graver. The No. 98 of Jeremy Miller in Late Models. TJ Gursky’s No. 19 in Street Stock. The No. 615 Dirt Mod of Dave Gorbatuk. Nick Baer, Pro 4 No. 41 and the No. 19 Hobby Stock of Kyle Krempasky.
Checkered Flag Fan Club Vice President and Mahoning’s Chief Starter Bobby Stull presented race director Tim Santee with the club’s Service Appreciation Award.
Mahoning Valley Speedway has set Saturday, April 9, 2016 as its season opener which will feature a Race of Champions Tour event as the lid-lifter.