EHIGHTON, Pa. 10-17-15) Roger Coss has always been known as one of those true good guys of racing. A driver who runs everyone clean, is always capable of motoring to the front and has the knack to bring the car home in one piece. That trademark style is exactly what landed the Lafayette, NJ racer the biggest win of his 20 year career, scoring a rousing victory at Mahoning Valley Speedway’s Octoberfast 2015 worth $6000.
With a dozen laps to go Coss went underneath leader Chip Santee for the top spot. He then held off Zane Zeiner over the remaining distance. Just prior to the winning pass Coss made a thrilling three-wide maneuver to the low side of Don Wagner and Bobby Jones that was nothing short of breathtaking.
Ironically, Coss lost this race the same way in 2012 when he was passed 12 laps from the finish by then winner Matt Hirschman.
“Without a doubt this is the biggest win of my career. We spent so much time this week working on everything and it’s really nice to have it pay off,” said Coss.
“The first year that they had this race I finished second to Matt (Hirschman). He’s always tough to beat and second that day kind of hurt and I really wanted it and now we got it.”
This was the longest distance race ever run for the Modifieds at Mahoning Valley and throughout the entire race there was amazing action taking place.
The majority was an ongoing two-wide duel between Chip Santee and Austin Kochenash. Santee drew the pole and had the early lead over third starting Coss. Kochenash, who has been outstanding on restarts, would use a lap 23 re-go to take over second. Coss would soon fade to the rear and would not be heard from again until it counted.
At the front Santee and Kochenash would go toe-to-toe. Santee was holding his line on the bottom groove as Kochenash stayed alongside. As that battle pursued on, Bobby Jones ran third but was never quite able to strike at the leaders.
The intense lead fight extended past lap 50, then 60 and was still going strong by halfway. And even though there would be a handful of cautions that would slow the action, the race for the lead always stayed fast and furious following the restarts.
Lap 90 and it was still two-by-two. At 100 circuits there no change as Santee and Kochenash kept everyone on the edge with their white-knuckle racing.
And, while they kept their fight going, the action behind them was heating up as well. Don Wagner was giving the Matt Higgins owned No. 88w one heck of a ride as he had taken third at lap 75. At the same time Brian DeFebo had thrust into fourth and was having quite the dogfight with Wagner. DeFebo was able to clear Wagner on lap 91 and kept close watch of the lead pair.
At lap 110 the caution was out. Under the yellow Kochenash made the decision to pit for new rubber. For Santee there was no relaxing despite that as DeFebo was now second and had Wagner and Jones on his rear bumper when the race resumed.
Jones would be the mover at this point, zipping by Wagner and DeFebo then gaining on Santee. It was right back to side-by-side racing for the lead only this time Jones would successfully get around, taking his No. 1J to the front on lap 120. Santee was by far having his best run of the season and not about to give up. He returned the favor on Jones the very next go-around.
As the race reached 25 laps to go, positions began to change rapidly. Wagner moved back ahead of Jones for second. Coss, who at one point was running in last spot after a pit stop on lap 74, was fourth while DeFebo slipped back to fifth.
As for Santee, he was barely clinging to his lead as everyone was coming on strong. Wagner was giving an out effort for the lead and at the same time fending off Jones. Zeiner had come out of virtually nowhere and into the top five at the same time.
Santee was under immense pressure as behind him there was incredible competition and one of the most dramatic portions of the race would occur when Coss pulled off his thrilling heroics.
On lap 136 as Wagner was running underneath Jones, Coss saw a bit of an opening and seized the opportunity. It was suddenly a hold-your-breath three wide run into turn two. Coss incredibly would leap into second. He would then keep the momentum going and went after Santee, who was losing traction from worn tires. At the start of lap139 Coss went to the front and would not relinquish it from there to the finish, despite a fast approaching Zeiner.
“In the beginning I was just riding behind Chip (Santee) and without radios it’s hard to know just how fast you’re going. I felt we were going to fast of a pace so on the one restart we just dropped to the back. I saw Matt (Hirschman) and Zane (Zeiner) back there and I figured that was a comfortable zone. I thought if they’re waiting then I’m going to wait to and it all paid off,” explained Coss.
“Everybody ran clean and I didn’t want to get passed once I got back behind those guys in the front so as soon as I saw a hole and the opening was there I knew I had to make my move.”
Zeiner, a winner of Octoberfast in 2013 and second last year, did not have the time to make a run at Coss.
“Congrats to Roger (Coss) he had a good car tonight. Believe or not we were fighting power steering issues all night and it was tough to just hold on,” said Zeiner, who had made several pit stops but then blasted through the pact in the waning laps.
“We made a lot of adjustments and just came up a little short. We’ll take second place after all that.”
For the fourth straight time Eric Beers finished third. 2015 track champion Earl Paules and Jones rounded out the top five.
15 of the 22 starters completed the 150 lap distance. Heat wins went to Earl Paules, Lou Strohl and Kochenash.
Modified Feature Finish (150 Laps): 1. Roger Coss, 2. Zane Zeiner, 3. Eric Beers, 4. Earl Paules, 5. Bobby Jones, 6. Don Wagner, 7. Glenn Slocum, 8. John Markovic, 9. Eric Kocher, 10. Todd Baer, 11. Brian DeFebo, 12. Ron Frees, 13. Chip Santee, 14. Terry Markovic, 15. Mike Quinn, 16. Calvin Carroll, 17. Austin Kochenash, 18. Matt Hirschman, 19. Lou Strohl, 20. Jimmy Zacharias, 21. Nick Baer, 22. Kevin Rex Jr. DNQ: Anthony Sesely