Story By: DINO OBERTO / MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY – LEHIGHTON, PA – Mahoning Valley Speedway officially put the 2021 season into the record books following the speedway’s awards ceremony held Saturday evening, February 5 at the Mahoning Valley Fire Hall in Lehighton.
Champion drivers in the Modifieds, Late Models, Street Stocks, Sportsman Modifieds, Pro 4s, Hobby Stocks, Futures and Rookie Hobby Stocks where commended for their season long efforts.
Titlists in the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fames Series (MVSHoFS) also collected championship honors.
Bobby Jones took the top spot in the Modified division for a second time in the past three seasons. He claimed five feature wins, boosting his overall career wins total to 45. Jones defeated Kyle Strohl and Brian DeFebo in gaining this fourth championship which includes a Modified crown at Evergreen Raceway and a Mahoning Pro 4 title.
Late Model racer Nick Ross made his first season racing at the paved ¼-mile oval a memorable one as he won six times in eight starts including a record-tying five in a row and earned first place honors in the process.
Not only did Ross pick up the Mahoning championship but did the same at Evergreen where he won four out of five races and finished out the season as the Northeast’s leading asphalt Late Model winner.
When Jaden Brown left the Hobby Stocks to drive a Sportsman Modified he made an immediate impression. The grandson of track legend Earl Paules was quick from the get-go and his keen ability saw him win a class-leading three features and go on to take his first driving championship.
It was a down-to-the-wire title fight too as Brown held off point’s runner-up Avery Arthofer and Paulie Hartwig III.
The Street Stock class now has its second four-time champion as TJ Gursky joins Jon Moser as the only drivers to be hold that elite distinction.
Gursky led the way with four feature wins and eight heat wins while picking up 12 top-5s in 19 starts. He actually edged out Moser for the title. This marks his seventh track championship that includes three with the Factory Stocks and putting him into a three way tie with John Bennett and Paules for the most Mahoning crowns.
By winning his third Pro 4 title Cody Kohler is merited with becoming the first driver in the 34-year history of the division to collect that many first place point finishes. He upped his class wins total to 35 thanks to five visits to Victory Lane. Kohler also competed in the Modified division and finished a solid fifth in points, his first year with the headline class.
Hard fought and right down the final lap of the final race was once again the tone for Hobby Stock class in figuring out the championship outcome and the distinction fell to a deserving Trisha Connolly.
And, after coming oh-so-close time and again, Connolly was not to be denied in 2021 thanks in part to her consistent ability to finish strong. Although only winning once she was the class leader in top-5s (12) and top-10s (17) and edged out Taylor Schmidt by a mere five points.
Brody George was far and away the class of the Futures division racing to an unprecedented 10 victories en route to solidifying his title and a driver with a bright prospect. Like Brown, George is also a grandson of Paules. His dad, Nevin George, is a two-time Mahoning D/A Mod champ.
Third generation racer Greyson Ahner stepped out from Quarter Midget ranks and into stock cars this past season as a member of the Rookie Hobby Stocks and finished out the year as a champion.
The young talent showed his flair early and often too, winning nine main events and taking 11 top-5s, both tops in class.
For the second time in as many seasons Matt Hirschman won the Modified portion of the popular MVSHoFS, winning four of five events. Randy Ahner Jr., was the Series’ Street Stock titlist while Justin Merkel was best among the Hobby Stock contingent.
Special award recipients included Kohler, Ross, Tobie Behler, Terry Peters and BJ Wambold in the Modifieds, Late Models, Street Stocks, Pro 4s and Hobby Stocks respectively.
Most Improved Driver awards went to Seth VanFossen in the Late Models, Jillian Snyder in Street Stocks, Josh Kuronya in Pro 4s and Merkel in the Hobby Stocks.
Guests enjoyed a deliciously prepared buffet meal prepared by none other than track owner/promoter Jack Carlino.
Track management is now working on tweaks of the 2022 schedule. The first on track activity will begin with Test and Tune days on March 19 & 26 and April 2 & 3. Opening Night is slated for Saturday, April 9 at 5:00 pm with race number one of the MVSHoFS.