Story By: DINO OBERTO / MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY – LEHIGHTON, PA – Blake Barney of Jackson, NJ can finally check off his bucket list trying to win a Modified race at Mahoning Valley Speedway, something he’s been going after for the past six years.
And, it was a race for the ages too as Barney and Kyle Strohl battled neck-and-neck to the finish with the outcome decided by mere .007-second margin of victory.
“I’ve been running this track since I was 16 years old and we’ve come close a lot of times and tonight it feels really good to be standing here in Victory Lane,” said 22-year old Barney after winning the 50-lap Dave Schlenker Tribute which was the first race of the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series.
Barney actually came to Mahoning by chance. Earlier in the day Wall Stadium Speedway had cancelled due to weather issues and the Dick Barney owned team made the decision to head to Pennsylvania and take in the Schlenker race. Two weeks earlier Barney had finished a strong second here to Matt Hirschman in the Tom Wanick Jr., Memorial.
“This was a little bit unexpected and I didn’t even think I’d be here tonight but so happy to get the monkey off my back at this track,” said Barney.
“Woke up ready to race Wall and ended up winning Mahoning. Thank you to all my crew & sponsors for their support, this one feels good.”
Barney, who also won his heat, redrew seventh for to the feature and within eight laps was running third behind leader Brian DeFebo and Strohl. Subsequently it soon became a torrid battle for the lead as Strohl relentlessly kept up the pressure on DeFebo. Barney hovered closely and at times was able to pull even with Strohl. For the most part the front trio would run in that fashion.
With 15 laps to go DeFebo’s car started to loosen on him and in the course of that he began to open the bottom lane. That’s when Barney would make his move. Two laps after a lap 31 restart he worked by Strohl and seeing how DeFebo was opening up the bottom Barney seized the occasion and went underneath him on the back straight.
Another Strohl who was running fast, Lou, suddenly came into the picture as he powered from fourth to second near the same time. But with 10 laps remaining K. Strohl re-claimed the spot and from there to the finish it was game on for the win.
Barney raced on the inside of K. Strohl in a very thrilling side-by-side formation. There would even be a late race caution with four laps to go that prompted a single file restart and possibly giving Barney a little breathing room but it was to no avail as over the final two circuits they again locked horns and sprinted to the checkers with Barney inching his way to victory.
“I just did everything I could to keep him behind me. Kyle (Strohl) is really good here and credit to him. I knew he was good on the outside and my car was tight so when I was on the bottom he definitely could roll that thing and I kind of kept him honest out there and if you didn’t like that finish then you just don’t like short track racing,” offered Barney.
“I just had a finish like that a couple weeks ago at Wall with Andrew Krause and won. One of these weeks I’ll be on the bad end of these close ones.”
It was only the second time that Barney won in Pennsylvania. He collected a Sportsman Modified win in 2016 at Evergreen Raceway and for the Barney team it only the second victory at Mahoning Valley with Big Red No. 14. During an open comp event in August 1990 Tony Siscone won here.
“It feels awesome. I finished second here and at Evergreen so many times and we’re always just one spot short it seems,” said Barney.
“It feels so good and I have so many people that work hard on this team. I’m just the driver, the lucky person who gets to run this fast racecar so I guess the best I could do is perform in it.”
L. Strohl, DeFebo and Bobby Jones completed the top five. K. Strohl and Austin Kochenash also notched heat verdicts.
“Congrats to Blake. I don’t blame him one bit and I would have done the same thing when it comes down to the last few laps you just simply have to do what you have to do,” said K. Strohl.
“He had that little bit more on me. I used my car up just a little too much trying to get around Brian (DeFebo) and kind of regret it but overall it was a good night for us and we learned a lot.”
As part of Dave Schlenker Tribute the Street Stocks ran twin 38-lap features. That numeral was carried as the signature car number by Schlenker’s sons Alan and Randy and also his grandson, Matt.
And in what couldn’t have been played out any better as if a Hollywood scripted, the nightcap was won by Matt in a close finish over TJ Gursky. The victory produced an emotionally charged Victory Lane celebration as the entire Schlenker family, led by patriarch Dave, greeted the happy winner.
In the first 38 Josh Mooney came out of hiatus and drove the Rip and Vickie Ripkey’s owned No. 56 to his first win since 2015.
Gursky produced the best overall finish of the two races and was named the champion.
In the Hobby Stocks Nick Schaeffer can finally rest easy in trying for the past few years to score a win.
Schaeffer was able to jump into he lead from his pole starting spot and then stayed the course the rest of the way. Late into the going he had defending champion Trisha Connolly making a run at him but the determined Schaeffer worked too hard for too long and never wavered in his quest to park in Victory Lane.
The Pro 4 feature was a final lap shootout between top rivals Jake Kibler and Cody Kohler.
Kibler had been leading handily for most of the race but in the closing laps Kohler was coming on like gangbusters. Heading into Turn 3 on the final lap Kohler tried to squeeze inside of Kibler and as he did he made slight contact and spun from contention. Kibler then drove on to his first win of the year and 48th of his career.
For the third time in as many races Parker Ahner proved best among the Futures. Ahner raced to the lead over Maggie Yeakel on lap five of 15 and once in front was on cruise control. Second spot went to Makayla Kohler.
Modified feature finish (50 laps): 1. Blake Barney, 2. Kyle Strohl, 3. Lou Strohl, 4. Brian DeFebo, 5. Earl Paules, 6. Bobby Jones, 7. Carl Altemose, 8. Jaden Brown, 9. Austin Kochenash, 10. Geary Rinehimer Jr., 11. Rod Snyder Jr., 12. Nick Bear, 13. Eric Kocher, 14. Brody George, 15. Cody Kohler, 16. Josh Scherer, 17. Jacob Kerstetter, 18. Terry Markovic DNS: Tom Wanick III
1st Street Stock feature finish (38 laps): 1. Josh Mooney, 2. Matt Kocher, 3. Johnny Bennett, 4. TJ Gursky, 5. Mark Deysher, 6. Bob Kibler Sr., 7. Jon Moser, 8. Todd Ahner, 9. Jacob Boehm, 10. Matt Schlenker, 11. Mark Martini, 12. Jill Snyder, 13. Corey Edelman, 14. Logan Boyer, 15. Tommy Flanagan, 16. Frank DelNero Jr., 17. Bobby Kibler Jr., 18. Jeremy Scheckler, 19. Stacey Brown, 20. Brandon Christman, 21. Thomas Flanagan DNQ: Tucker Muffley, Randy Green, Jeremy Guerra, Randy Ahner Jr., Al Arthofer, Jamie Smith
2nd Street Stock feature finish (38 laps): 1. Schlenker, 2. Gursky, 3. Boehm, 4. Kocher, 5. T. Ahner, 6. Snyder, 7. Moser, 8. Deysher, 9. Martini, 10. T. Flanagan, 11. Edelman, 12. Bennett, 13. Christman, 14. Tm. Flanagan, 15. Brown, 16. Mooney, 17. Boyer, 18. Scheckler, 19. B. Kibler Sr., 20. B. Kibler Jr., 21. DelNero
Hobby Stock feature finish (25 laps): 1. Nick Schaeffer, 2. Trisha Connolly, 3. Cody Boehm, 4. Jacob Boehm, 5. Ryan Berger, 6. Lyndsay Buss, 7. Tad Snyder, 8. Tyler Schmeltzle, 9. Ralph Boger Jr., 10. Mallory Kutz, 11. Don Bauder, 12. Travis Solomon, 13. Shayne Geist, 14. James Tout, 15. David Imler Jr., 16. Corey Edelman
Pro 4 feature finish (20 laps): 1. Jake Kibler, 2. Terry Peters, 3. Tyler Stangle, 4. Colton Breiner, 5. Ken Reeder, 6. Cody Kohler, 7. Kadie Pursell
Futures feature finish (15 laps): 1. Parker Ahner, 2. Makayla Kohler, 3. Michael Klotz, 4. Maggie Yeakel, 5. Mayson Moyer, 6. Steven Schlenker, 7. Gabi Steigerwalt, 8. Zoe Kuchera, 9. Adam Steigerwalt, 10. Lexus Kutz