Story By: DINO OBERTO / MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY – LEHIGHTON, PA – Winning is nothing new to Brain DeFebo, after all he’s done it 110 times in his career but winning in a car other than his own is something that he’s never experienced – that is until Saturday night at Mahoning Valley Speedway.
DeFebo got a call from car owner Tom Wanick III to drive his No. 1W knowing that his signature No. 53 was out of commission due to an engine issue. After a solid fourth place run with the same car in the May 21 Tom Wanick Jr., Memorial, Wanick III reached out to DeFebo to drive it again in the night’s regular 35 lap feature and he would reward the popular owner with his first win in nearly 21 years.
“When Tom Wanick calls and says I want you to drive the car you know you’re hopping into the best and you say yes,” said DeFebo.
DeFebo started third and on the opening lap pulled off a thrilling three-wide pass for the lead over pole sitter Jacob Kerstetter and Bobby Jones.
Jones was quick to move into second and from then on it was a battle of titans as the pair engaged in a virtual nonstop fight to the finish. Time and again Jones was trying every way possible to pass for the lead but keeping his guard up on each lap DeFebo withstood the onslaught.
There would be only one caution too which only added to the intenseness of the perennial champions match-up. With nine laps to go the action was halted when Frank Parastino spun off the front straight. This gave Jones an opportunity to line up alongside DeFebo but as the race resumed so too did the one-two clash.
“It could have went the other way and I just had to get back in my rhythm and do what we had been doing up to then,” DeFebo noted.
DeFebo showed the way and right down to the wire as they stayed glued nose-to-tail. The restart actually helped Nick Baer pull in close with the front pair but at the checkers it would be DeFebo collecting his first win of 2023.
“He (Jones) was putting it to me there and I knew I couldn’t get off the bottom and if I did it would open up that lane and he and the rest would freight train me,” DeFebo deduced.
Baer had a solid third. Lou Strohl was in the hunt and raced in the top five from the get-go and scored fourth while point leader Kyle Strohl rounded out the top five.
For Wanick is marked his first win since September 14, 2002 at Evergreen Raceway with Chris Ammon behind the wheel. At the time it was his father, Tom Jr., who was the team owner.
“It was excellent. I always looked up to (car owner) Butch Balas and he always told me if you ever get the chance to put Brian in your car and I listened to him this year. I was supposed to go to Seekonk for the (NASCAR Modified) Tour race but I had to work so instead I decided to come down to Mahoning and I called Brian to race the car,” explained Wanick.
“I put him in my dad’s race and he did a hell of job and tonight with him and Gary (Slusser crew chief) they did fantastic. We’ve been trying so hard to get a win here at Mahoning and I couldn’t be happier, I love coming here.”
DeFebo added that it was indeed good to have his team along which included Gary Slusser, his mom Sophie Welsh and Genevive Yamelski whom did not attend the Wanick Memorial race.
“When we were here for the 150 it was a good car and we just didn’t have enough time to get it 100% right. Today we were more comfortable with it and I also had my crew chief Gary Slusser, my mom and Gennie with me,” DeFebo affirmed.
“Anytime you can drive a race car its fun and we have a lot more to go, we’re far from done.”
In the Street Stocks Geary Rinehimer Jr., got to experience victory for the first time in 19 years. And it would be in just his seventh start with the class.
Rinehimer raced previously at Mahoning with a Modified but cut back to a Street Stock citing cost. As it turned out he was enjoying himself much more with less work and pressure that goes along with the Mod.
Rinehimer started second but was quick to grab the lead over Logan Boyer and from there on it was no looking back as he cruised out front the entire distance. At the end he was able to stay a car length ahead of fast closing Todd Ahner and point leader Jillian Snyder.
It was Rinehimer’s first time winning since a 2004 win with a Factory Stock at the defunct Shangri-La Speedway.
A week ago Cody Boehm moved into the point lead with the Harry’s U-Pull-It Hobby Stocks. On Saturday night he added to his current tally with his first win of the season.
Boehm snagged the top spot from Jared Frye on a lap four restart and remained in place to the checkers which helped pad his points.
Frye, who has been strong and steady each week, had his best finish to date taking second and likewise with defending champion Corey Edelman who notched third.
Cody Kohler was once again the Pro 4 winner only this time he can say it was well-earned.
Kohler, although he would lead every lap, was pressured lap after lap by Colton Briener who was on his tail the entire time.
In the Futures Adam Steigerwalt finally shook off the bridesmaid moniker. After finishing three times in the first six races as runner-up, Steigerwalt was not to be denied this time out as he led from the start and held it the rest of the way for his first win of the season.
Adam Heckman picked up a career high second over point leader Michael Klotz who was third.
In the Junk Car feature Jake Oswald took the win over Kyle Troch and Brian Kunkle.
Modified feature finish (35 laps): 1. Brian DeFebo, 2. Bobby Jones, 3. Nick Baer, 4. Lou Strohl, 5. Kyle Strohl, 6. Johnny Bennett, 7. Nevin George, 8. Terry Markovic, 9. Jacob Kerstetter, 10. BJ Wambold, 11. Frank Parastino, 12. Rich Cooper, 13. Makayla Kohler
Street Stock feature finish (30 laps): 1. Geary Rinehimer Jr., 2. Todd Ahner, 3. Jillian Snyder. 4. Frankie Althouse, 5. Jon Moser, 6. Jamie Smith, 7. Logan Boyer, 8. Eric Kocher, 9. Cody Geist, 10. Kyle Strohl, 11. Austin Santee, 12. Jacob Boehm, 13. Josh Kuronya, 14. Randy Green
Pro 4 feature finish (20 laps): 1. Cody Kohler, 2. Colton Breiner, 3. Terry Peters, 4. Kadie Pursell, 5. Richie Pursell, 6. Ken Reeder
Hobby Stock feature finish (25 laps): 1. Cody Boehm, 2. Jared Frye, 3. Corey Edelman, 4. Parker Ahner, 5. Jacob Boehm, 6. Michael Wambold, 7. Dave Kerr, 8. Maggie Yeakel, 9. Jake Kibler, 10. Nicholas Kerstetter, 11. Don Bauder, 12. Lyndsay Buss, 13. Travis Solomon, 14. Shayne Geist, 15. James Tout DQ: Tony Hilliard
Futures feature finish (15 laps): 1. Adam Steigerwalt. 2. Adam Heckman, 3. Michael Klotz, 4. Arland Moyer Jr., 5. Rodney Breiner, 6. Al Gildner, 7. Sarabeth Mesko, 8. John Belcher, 9. Russ Breiner
Junk Car feature finish (40 laps): 1. Jake Oswald, 2. Kyle Troch, 3. Brian Kunkle, 4. Peyton Arthofer, 5. Adam Kratzer, 6. Devin Schmidt, 7. Matt Frantz, 8. Zachary Miller, 9. Garth Miller, 10. Carl Schaller, 11. Jason Costenbader, 12. Travis Frantz, 13. Kevin Behler, 14. Eric Whitmore, 15. Jake Schaller, 16. Floyd Lundy, 17. Jaden Brown, 18. AJ Light, 19. Cley Chilson, 20. Grant Heywood