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DeFebo Uses Strategy To Rule Mahoning Fall Brawl

LEHIGHTON, Pa. – Mahoning Valley Speedway’s Fall Brawl had dramatic ups and downs all race long but known more edge-of-your seat then the race’s final restart with six laps to go between Brian DeFebo and Jack Ely.  

Ely had just eked past DeFebo for the lead but the lap was called back when Kyle Strohl and Cody Kohler got together on the back straight. On the double-wide restart and with DeFebo inside of Ely the pair ran side-by-side. As they came off Turn 4 DeFebo moved up a lane and made contact with Ely who then brushed the front stretch wall and quickly fell back a number of spots

DeFebo, who was the only driver of the 22 starters that did not make a pit stop, was able to hold off fast-closing Don Wagner by less than half of a car length and go on to collect more than $3,800 from purse and lap money.

“Hey with five laps to go anything’s on. I didn’t stop for tires so I knew we had no option at that point so it was game on,” said DeFebo who won for the second time this season and 109th of his career.

“I knew I had no right rear (tire) left but there was a lot of money on the line and we came here with our mind set to win the final race. The car was too good and I didn’t want to make a pit stop.”

DeFebo, who started 12th after a redraw, had bided his time and while one car after another made pit stops, he elected to remain on track. Matter of fact it took him 82 laps before he cracked the top five and following a few subsequent cautions he found himself running third to Earl Paules on lap 89. Four laps later he had worked around Paules for the top spot.

With 25 laps remaining Don Wagner took second after Paules slid off the pace. At this point Ely, who had made a pit stop back on lap 85, was coming on like gangbusters. He dueled with Wagner over a 10 lap stint and finally got to second with a dozen circuits to go.

With his sights honed in on the race leader Ely, who had led a race high 78 laps after starting from the pole, pulled behind DeFebo and was waiting for just the right moment to make his bid and regain the front spot. On lap 119 that chance was there as he edged by for the lead.

However, Ely and DeFebo where the only two cars to cross the line as the caution waved for the back straight incident and the lap was called back. Battling hard and on very used tires DeFebo refused to let Ely get the better of him and with racing room in question there was the contact that squashed his shot at the win.

“You’re in a bubble when you are in the car and you don’t always know your surroundings so you’re dealt the hand that you have and you do the best you can,” said DeFebo.

“I have to thank the boss, my mom (Sophie Welsh) who if it wasn’t for her none of this would be possible. Gary Slusser and Gennie Yamelski and my boys back home with my wife Brandi.”

Wagner had been hovering in the top-five with 40 laps to go and stayed within reach of the leaders that whole time. He then made a last ditch effort to get underneath DeFebo but fell short by a mere .097-second margin.

“We had a really good car and got some good positions after some of the restarts. We saved it as much as we could for the end but unfortunately ran out of time,” explained Wagner.

“From my view what a race it was up front and I’m so glad I had a back row seat for that. It was a great night.”

Behind Wagner was 2021 Mahoning champ Bobby Jones. Jones was a threat over most of the race and had led laps 79 through 88.

Fourth place finisher and first time Mahoning starter Mark Bakaj of Lebanon, Connecticut was the surprise of the night as he turned in a steady run and landed a respectable fourth. He also won the lion’s share of the Bonus Buck Redraw worth an extra $1500 making his debut here worth close to $3000.

Rounding out the top five was Lou Strohl who despite having to make several pit stops hustled late in the going in bringing home the solid finish.

Zane Zeiner, Nevin George, Broc Brown, Paules and Nick Baer rounded out the top-10. Zeiner, Beers and Ely copped heat wins.      

While parked in Victory Lane there was an exchange of unsportsmanlike un-pleasantries with the winner that led to the disqualification of No. 9 and No. 19 cars of Ely and Austin Beers.

In the 40-lap Sportsman Modified feature Earl Paules won for the first time this season but it was hard fought in getting there.

Randy Ahner Jr., had led from the pole and was in control over the likes of Paules, Don Wagner and 2021 class champ Jaden Brown with that foursome running the brunt of the race under a blanket.

With just six laps to go Ahner seemed ready to collect his first Sportsman win after coming oh-so-close throughout the season. However, while coming off turn two on lap 34 he suddenly faltered and then spun as Paules and the others were right on his tail.

When the field was reset Paules was at the helm and then chased the rest of the way by Wagner with Brown third. For the cagey veteran it extended his track leading number of feature wins to 65.

Recently crowned Street Stock champion T.J. Gursky capped off his great year with a fourth win on the season. Gursky inherited the lead when Brandon Christman spun on lap 31 of 50. He then held off teammate Randy Ahner Jr., en route to the $1300 top prize.

From his pole starting position Christman set the early pace with Jillian Snyder, Mark Martini, Gursky and Jon Moser close behind. Within a dozen laps Gursky was pressuring his other Ripkey Racing teammate Martini for second spot and succeeded in snagging the spot just before lap 20.

He then honed in on the rear bumper of leader Christman. Coming into play as well was a very strong performing Cody Geist.

The proximity of the front pair was very tight and halfway into the 32nd circuit Christman came off the corner with his back end getting loose and regrettably spun from the lead.

Gursky then assumed the position and had no trouble in hitting all the right marks the rest of the way. Ahner and Geist had a spirited battle as they finished second and third respectively. Moser and Tommy Flanagan rounded out the top five.

When it comes to the big races with the Hobby Stocks it seems Corey Edelman has got the knack as for the second year in a row he scored a season ending extra distance event victory and not to mention his other big wins that includes several Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series races.

The race was very exciting too as Edelman did battle with Shayne Geist with both talents putting on a lead swapping duel over the first half of the 40-lapper.

By midway though, Edelman was solid and began to slowly distance himself from Geist and despite a very loose handling car cruised home to a class leading fourth win of the year and record extending 22nd with the Hobby Stocks.

With two laps to go Geist’s noteworthy effort faded when he spun. Taking the runner-up spot was 2021 champion Trisha Connolly followed by Rich Mutarelli, Travis Solomon and Jared Green.

Rookie Hobby Stock champion Greyson Ahner closed a memorable first season of stock car racing with an unwavering run as he led 18 of 20 laps and scored his unparalleled ninth win of the year.

Adam Steigerwalt was able to keep a close pace with the winner and settled for second. First time starter Justin Carneavale, Jared Green and Maggie Yeakel, completed the top five. Yeakel was the Futures winner.

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