Brian DeFebo wins hotly contested Modified battle over Kris Graver…takes point lead with one race to go
By DINO OBERTO
LEHIGHTON, PA – Mahoning Valley Speedway is known for close racing and thrilling outcomes and Saturday night’s Modified feature entailed all of that and more.
In a race that had huge point championship implications on the line between Kris Graver and Brian DeFebo, the top two heading into the evening, the outcome was one that will be remembered for a long time as the pair dueled in a gun-slinging showdown on the final lap.
When it was all said and done DeFebo would emerge the victor and new point leader with one race remaining. Graver disappointedly finished 10th after spinning from contention while battling to keep the lead.
The high drama stakes played out with virtually each lap and it would come to a boiling point on the final time around.
With Graver leading and DeFebo running second over the final seven laps, it looked straightforward enough that a one-two finish in that order was apparent and the points would add up to a very close amount heading into the upcoming week’s finale.
However, DeFebo was putting on the pressure although Graver stood firm in his tracks. Then on lap 32 a caution flew that would allow the possibility of last chance shot by DeFebo to shoot by. It did not happen but as luck would have it there came one more opportunity when the yellow waved once again.
Now with a green-white-checker restart it was game on for the win.
Graver had DeFebo glued to his rear bumper. As they entered turn two DeFebo looked low and got Graver unsettled slightly which then opened up the bottom lane. They would then race side-by-side as the white flag was displayed.
Entering the back straight Graver got loose. DeFebo was making his way ahead by then and charged on to the complete the pass and go on to the win.
Afterwards Graver tried to straighten out and as he did there was incidental contact with third running James Pritchard Jr., which caused him to spin in turn three and come home 10th in the rundown.
“At the beginning of the race we were running our own deal. I was on the outside and there are some teammates in the race. The 29 (Kevin Graver Jr.) didn’t give me the room I needed and that allowed Kris (Graver) to get back on the inside,’ explained DeFebo, who now has four wins and a 17 point edge in the standings.
“You just can’t give up and you have to play it out the whole way. I was able to get back up into second. With two races to go the old saying comes into play, ‘The gloves are off.’ We come here to win and I’m here to win races for me and my team.”
DeFebo started out the night 11 points behind Graver and knew that he had to keep the No. 01 in his sights the entire time. They paired up in the same heat race which saw DeFebo gain slightly and then during the feature it was a game of nip and tuck the whole while.
He gave his account of the final laps from his seat.
“He (Graver) was overdriving into the turns and moving up the track. I didn’t move up because I knew my only shot was going to be the inside. When we got the one to go signal he got a little sideways going into (turn) three. When we got to turn four that’s when I put my nose under him because it was open game at that point,” said DeFebo.
“Then he tried hooking me and turning me in the wall but that didn’t work well for him and we ended up winning,” he continued.
“I’ve said for years it’s a chess match when you race here. I never said I could play chess but I’m learning the game down here. You have to try and get yourself in the right spot and it worked out tonight. We have one more to go and the big picture is next week and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Pritchard, who led 24 laps, took a season best second. John Markovic was in the path of the front pair’s clash and snuck past the spinning Graver to secure third. Joey Jarowicz and Nick Baer completed the top five.
Clearly dejected and frustrated, Graver was able to compose himself in giving his assessment of the situation.
“On the last restart he (DeFebo) gave me the bump and run. He did what he had to do and I was fine with that,” said Graver.
“He then got underneath me and we came to the white flag and he got under my left rear going into (turn) one. Basically that entire lap I was turning more right then left just trying to save my car because going in there he got into me and got me loose and he just stayed in the side of me.
“I was doing my best to try and save it and not wreck us both. He just stayed hammered down flat to the floor. I did everything I could to possibly save my car but I ended up over correcting. I went up the track and back down because I had put so much left wheel into it and it wound up coming down and across the 7 (Pritchard) and almost ended up in the wall.”
Lorin Arthofer II showed power and straight in claiming his second Late Model win of the season.
Arthofer went by George Ramos at the start of lap six and would then maintain a well-balanced effort the rest of the way. 14-year old Broc Brown was in pursuit but there was no denying that the smooth and steady laps being turned by Arthofer as he raced to the solid verdict.
The Street Stocks contested in a 75-lap feature and with Eric Kocher netting the $900 first place prize.
Kocher will be shown as the leader of each lap but that is only on paper. He was in a battle that imaged each circuit as though it where the final one. Kocher was engaged in an ongoing fight with Corey Edelman and Todd Ahner with no room at all to spare.
But despite the onslaught he kept his No. 20 Camaro planted firmly to the bottom and had a mere half-car length margin of victory over Josh Mooney, who on the final lap blasted to second.
In the Dirt Mods Jeff Parker was back in action again and back winning as well. In just his fourth start Parker again bested division kingpin Mike Stofflet for a third time.
Jake Kibler picked up his fifth Pro 4 win with a solid run that saw him hold the lead the entire race. Jason Finken held off point leader Kevin Stein for second.
Rich Mutarelli was undisputedly the car to beat this night in the Hobby Stocks. From the start of the night and right on through to the final checker he dominated.
Mutarelli led every lap of his heat and likewise in the feature in garnering his first win of the season.
Modified Feature Finish (35 Laps): 1. Brian DeFebo, 2. James Pritchard Jr., 3. John Markovic, 4. Joey Jarowicz, 5. Nick Baer, 6. Lou Strohl, 7. Kevin Graver Jr., 8. Bobby Jones, 9. Kyle Strohl, 10. Kris Graver, 11. Gene Bowers, 12, Ron Haring Jr.
Late Model Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Lorin Arthofer II, 2. Broc Brown, 3. Jacob Kerstetter, 4. Frankie Althouse, 5. Austin Santee, 6. George Ramos, 7. Kenny Hein, 8. Mike Sweeney, 9. Jeremy Miller, 10. Dylan Osborn, 11. Barry Kutz
Street Stock Feature Finish (30 Laps): 1. Eric Kocher, 2. Josh Mooney, 3. Todd Ahner, 4. Zach Graver, 5. Stacey Brown, 6. Corey Edelman, 7. Rick Reichenbach, 8. Jared Ahner, 9. Jillian Long, 10. Mark Deysher, 11. Alan Schlenker, 12. BJ Wambold, 13. Randy Ahner Jr., 14. Shayne Geist, 15. Ken Erney III, 16. Cody Geist, 17. Josh Huber, 18. Kevin Weierbach DNS: Jamie Smith
Dirt Mod Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Jeff Parker, 2. Mike Stofflet, 3. Billy Lowden Jr., 4. Vince Fegley Jr., 5. Patrick Corrigan, 6. Denise Devine
Pro 4 Feature Finish (20 Laps): 1. Jake Kibler, 2. Jason Finken, 3. Kevin Stein, 4. Ken Reeder, 5. Bobby Kibler Jr., 6. Kailyn Beers, 7. Tucker Muffley, 8. Johnny Bennett, 9. Randy Schaffer
Hobby Stock Feature Finish (25 Laps): 1. Rich Mutarelli, 2. Avert Arthofer, 3. Travis Solomon, 4. Trisha Connolly, 5. Devin Schmidt, 6. Beau Drobot, 7. Austin Beers, 8. Paul Effrig, 9, Justin Merkel, 11. Michael Wambold, 12. Samantha Osborn, 13. Al Arthofer, 14. Lyndsay Buss, 15. Cody Boehm, 16. Peyton Arthofer, 17. Shawn Kistler, 18. Keith Boehm DNS: Nicholas Kerstetter