Mahoning Valley Speedway
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Strong Effort Puts John Bennett Back into Mahoning Valley Winner Circle
by Dino Oberto
LEHIGHTON, Pa. -- This has not been the typical John Bennett type of season at Mahoning Valley Speedway. “The King” has had a somewhat up and down year and had been unable to put together his usual string of top finishes. There had even been a point where the three time Modified champ was outside the top ten in points for the first time in the last half dozen years.
On Saturday night, Bennett of Lehighton, was as good as he’s ever had been, making a pass on race long leader Don Wagner after a lap 23 restart and then looking solid for the rest of the way to seize his second 2012 victory aboard the SVS Abetment No. 08.
Wagner had the benefit of starting from the pole and it would have seemed that giving him that advantage it would be a race for second. Never was it the case, however. Matt Wentz, who has been very sharp of late, was clinging to Wagner’s rear bumper.
Bennett, who started fifth, hustled his way to third by lap 15 and after five laps of running near even with Wentz, he replaced him for second and then approached Wagner.
And, it was a very close run battle as Wagner was on the heavy guard to protect his spot. With the help of several cautions, Bennett was able to square off with Wagner and on a lap 24 re-go, he swiped the lead away from the top side of the race track.
Both Wagner and Wentz would have some opportunities to try and unseat Bennett but he remained spot on and drove to the victory, his 59th at the speedway.
“Donny (Wagner) got up there in the front and we raced side-by-side and I have to thank him for running me clean. It was a good battle. The car was pretty good tonight and you can’t ask for much more,” said Bennett, who is now second on the all-time win list in the Modifieds with 28 victories.
“We’ve had some good luck and some bad luck this year. These are some of the best cars we have ever raced against here this year.”
Kevin Rex, Jr., and John Markovic rounded out the top five. Shawn Sitarchyk, Wagner and Bennett picked up heat victories. The consi was annexed by Tommy Flanagan.
“John Bennett is the man here,” said Wagner. “We’ll take second place to him, he is the King here. Our car wasn’t exactly 100% so we’re happy with a second place finish. The faster car won here tonight.”
Mike Sweeney of Nesquehoning backed up his Late Model win from the previous week as he roared to victory once again and he did in a way that had rarely been done this season, passing point leader Earl Paules.
Sweeney started ninth and needed only seven laps to latch onto Paules who had used a lap three restart to take the lead from Geno Steigerwalt.
It was then a great duel between the top two point men. Sweeney had a lock on the inside groove and eventually took that route to advance past Paules. Afterward the two ran nose-to-tail right to the finish with Sweeney giving his Ford a second straight win. Paules and Sweeney also notched heat wins.
Kenny Hein, Paul Koehler Jr., and Frankie Althouse completed the top five.
Give Lehighton’s Kyle Strohl the pole in a Street Stock race and the results seen to always be the same as the now 13-year old won for a third time from that spot and just as he did in his previous wins he led every lap in the process.
It was another hard earned run too as some extremely talent laden veterans tried to get by the rookie sensation. Gene Bowers, Greg Long and finally Randy Ahner, Jr., all kept Strohl on his toes but he fended off each one with his skillful driving.
Ahner settled for second with Joe Steigerwalt coming in third. Strohl’s win is also a division best.
Strohl, Jason Frey and Long won their respective heats while the consi win went to Lonnie Behler.
After starting out his year on dirt, Ricky Yetter of Easton, decided to give asphalt racing a go. He came to Mahoning Valley Speedway back in July and seven races later Yetter has become a winner, taking a hard driven victory in the regular Dirt Modified event.
He started from the pole and was engaged all race long with point leader Kris Graver and then runner-up Randy Thomas. Yetter, who last won a race at Big Diamond Raceway in June 2010, was strong and steady and never let up in racing to the popular verdict.
Heat wins went to Graver and Ricky Yetter.
Thomas of Palmerton raced to his second straight and third Dirt Mod win of the season in the make-up race from July 7. He started in the front from the get-go and stayed the course the rest of the distance. His brother, Dave Thomas, took second.
In the regular 4-Cylinder Stock main it was a race of survival. Battle scorn but well gotten, Doug Knauss of Breiningsville emerged victorious. After several opening lap restarts and then a few more afterwards, Knauss went on to his first win of the year.
He took the lead on the third try to get the race going. He was then under heavy pressure from Barry Christman, Jr., and on lap 11 Christman eked into the lead. Moments after he spun and he felt it was due to Knauss running him rugged. The incident was deemed otherwise by officials.
While under the caution Christman showed his displeasure and drove into Knauss which then landed him an automatic disqualification for the night.
Knauss then went on to lead the remaining laps over top front wheel drive finisher Dave Freundt and Nick Baer. Christman and Baer scored heat wins.
Bobby Kibler, Jr., of Lehighton, at just 13 years old, scored his career first win in the make-up 4-Cylinder Stock feature from May 26. And although he started from the pole and led every lap, it was by no means an easy task as he was under constant tension by runner-up Knauss.
Kibler had been steady for most of the year and it was evident his time for a win was due. Although he admitted that his car was a bit tight, he still drove a solid race to garner the well-deserved triumph.
Modified Feature Finish, 35 Laps: 1. John Bennett, 2. Don Wagner, 3. Matt Wentz, 4. Kevin Rex, Jr., 5. John Markovic, 6. Earl Paules, 7. Todd Baer, 8. Ed Brunnhoezl, 9. Scott Meckes, 10. Lou Strohl, 11. Nevin George, 12. DJ Wagner, 13. Tommy Flanagan, 14. Matt Higgins, 15. James Pritchard, Jr., 16. Chip Santee, 17. Shawn Sitarchyk, 18. Keith Mullineaux, 19. Rob Shultz Did not start: Terry Markovic
Did not qualify: Jared Nace, Scott Adams
Late Model Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Mike Sweeney, 2. Earl Paules, 3. Kenny Hein, 4. Paul Koehler, Jr., 5. Frankie Althouse, 6. Paul Effrig, 7. Mark Simon, 8. George Ramos, 9. Jennifer Kutz, 10. Geno Steigerwalt
Street Stock Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Kyle Strohl, 2. Randy Ahner, Jr., 3. Joe Steigerwalt, 4. Gene Bowers, 5. Jason Beers, 6. Greg Long, 7. Todd Ahner, 8. Josh Mooney, 9. Chip Wanamaker, 10. Jason Frey, 11. Matt May, 12. TJ Gursky, 13. Jason Kuhn, 14. Lonnie Behler, 15. Doug Bell, 16. Willie Knappenberger, 17. Zach Graver, 18. Austin Santee, 19. Chris May, 20. Joe Mooney
Did not qualify: Guy Ackerman
Dirt Modified Make-up Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Randy Thomas, 2. Dave Thomas, 3. Mike Stofflet, 4. Mark Levy, 5. Kris Graver, 6. Ricky Yetter, 7. Aleia Geisler, 8. Joe Stangle Did not start: Dave Gorbatuk
Dirt Modified Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Yetter, 2. Randy Thomas, 3. Graver, 4. Stofflet, 5. Dave Thomas, 6. Geisler, 7. Levy, 8. Stangle, 9. Sittler, 10. Billy Swartz
4-Cylinder Stock Make-up Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Bobby Kibler, Jr., 2. Doug Knauss, 3. Tyler Stangle, 4. Jake Kibler, 5. Kyle Strohl, 6. Jeremy Miller, 7. Nick Baer, 8. Dan Freundt, 9. Taya Wentz, 10. Robert Miller Did not start: Justin Martison, Dillon Kibler, Cody Geist
4-Cylinder Stock Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Knauss, 2. Freundt, 3. Baer, 4. Strohl, 5. Stangle, 6. Martison, 7. Robert Miller, 8. Moyer, 9. Kibler, Jr., 10. Dave Chapman, 11. Oswald, 12. Jeremy Miller, 13. Stone Wentz, 14. Cody Roth, 15. Jake Kibler DQ: Barry Christman, Jr.