Berwick, Pennsylvania’s Brian Defebo was in the right place at the right time by the end of an event-filled Tour-Type Modified feature that concluded Evergreen Raceway’s (PA) racing season. On a lap 64 restart the winningest driver in Modified history at the 1/3-mile used the outside line to gain the lead in the King of the Green, which was shortened from 100 to 69 circuits.
The upper groove worked like a charm for Defebo, who passed numerous cars for position at the start of the second half of the race. He would work around Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series regular Daren Scherer, who elected not to stop during a halfway break, for the final lead change of the night.
“On the restart we stuck the car on the outside and I had my mind made up that we were going to go,” Defebo told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I was hoping I wasn’t going to do it too early, and it worked in my favor. I wanted to dictate my own pace and I knew I had tire left.”
Following a dramatic conclusion to the consolation race that sent multiple cars competing for the transfer position into the turn four wall, a decision was made by officials that any driver that could make the start would be able to instead of the originally announced starting field of 20. That and numerous factors, in the minds of multiple racers, played into a long evening of racing that was eventually cut short.
“The cautions were a marathon,” Defebo commented. “That’s bad for us as drivers that we can’t get to 100. We should all be embarrassed, but we can’t be starting full fields of cars. We come here, everybody goes through the procedures, and 20 cars should be 20 cars. Now you are throwing another nine in there, which is causing more cautions, and cautions breed cautions.”
Another driver that had certain calls go against his favor was fastest qualifier and dominant leader of the first half of the event, Austin Kochenash.
At the halfway break, the right front tire was noticeably off the rim and going flat. The team put a new sticker on in addition to a right rear tire change. It was mandated that teams could only put on one tire at the halfway break.
“The right front was going down and I could feel it with two laps to go (before halfway),” Kochenash mentioned. “I came in and they said flats are free and you can put whatever you want on, but they change their minds on whatever they want to suit the people they want. I put a new tire on and then they came and told me I can’t race on it, so then we had to dismount a right front tire to put on the right rear wheel.”
The Danielsville, Pennsylvania driver raced his way back into the top 10, but was clearly dejected with the feature ending early and contact with competitor Paul Hartwig Jr. An accident and ensuing scuffle involving Hartwig and Todd Baer was the final of an excessive amount of cautions in a row, and the yellow and checkered flags were waved.
“I definitely feel we had the best car,” Kochenash said. “I wasn’t really pushing it from the beginning and I was able to run the outside where nobody really could to advance. It’s definitely disappointing. We lost a lot of money and got wrecked under caution by someone that shouldn’t be out there. Eventually it will catch up to him and it did.”
Zane Zeiner, who recovered from a practice wreck, four-time event winner Matt Hirschman, and Wall Stadium Speedway (NJ) regulars Eric Mauriello and Blake Barney were among the contenders near the front that ended up short of the victory. A strong finish should have been enough for Hirschman to be named the 2016 season-long Evergreen Tour Modified Series champion.
Defebo celebrated with his Donald Trump life-size cardboard cutout and kissed the start-finish line in an elated manner.
“I’m happy, but if I was second or third on lap 65 I might be disgusted,” Defebo indicated. “I know I had a good car tonight so I’m not disgusted.”
The King of the Green finishing order remains under review. Evergreen Raceway took responsibility for multiple mishaps that occurred throughout Sunday and addressed fans and competitors via their Facebook page and web site.
Despite having 55 Modified victories to his credit since 1997, Defebo had not entered victory lane at Evergreen so far in 2016.
“We’ve had some hard times trying to finish races and stupid parts breaking,” Defebo said. “Somebody asked me earlier today ‘when are you going to win?’ I said, ‘when God wants me to win I’m going to win.’ God wanted me to win today.”
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com