LEHIGHTON, Pa. -- When the green flag drops on the season opening Ferris Mowers Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Fueled by Sunoco “Break-the-Ice 75” feature on April 9 at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway, fans will be treated to a wide-open field of amazing talent that will be lined-up, all with the main focus of collecting the $2800 top prize.
Of those drivers look for 20-year old Austin Kochenash to be among the likely favorites and for good reason. In just a five year span of racing a Modified, “Kid Kochenash” has risen to the ranks of probable winner each and every time he rolls out onto the demanding quarter mile oval.
Kochenash’s talents aren’t just limited to Mahoning Valley either where he has 22 career wins, 17 in a Late Model plus a championship. He also has five Modified victories at Evergreen Raceway.
And now he stands the chance to win a Race of Champions Asphalt Tour race and with this being at his home track, the Mahoning opener could very well be it.
“I was excited when they first announced that the RoC would be coming here because we are able to race an event like this so close to home and at a track that I’m really familiar with,” said Kochenash, who drives the Performance Driveline/M & T Repair/Fastenal of Lehighton/Circle 1 Designs No. 66 Troyer with power coming from Boardwick Racing Engines.
“A lot of the (RoC) Tour guys may have the advantage when we are in New York at most of those tracks but here at Mahoning I feel we definitely have a good shot at the win. We ran well in the extra distance races here last year and that’s where I seem to be at my best. It will come down to if you have the luck.”
Kochenash is coming off a great season that saw him loose a very tight point battle to champion Earl Paules. He clicked off three wins including a 100 lapper and finished all but one point race inside the top ten. He also came close to a victory in the marquee season ending Octoberfast 150 before being scooped up in a late race skirmish.
For two years, 2013-14, he was part of the Race of Champions Asphalt Tour where he was named Rookie of the Year and had a best point finish of third. Same goes for his best race finish.
Although he been close to a win on numerous occasions when he traveled the Tour, now that it’s on his home turf he feels poised to bring his first RoC checkered flag back to his nearby Danielsville home.
“We’ve been close at other tracks too but I feel that this race is our best opportunity to get that first RoC Tour victory. I have been racing here since I was a kid and there is no doubt I know this track better than any others that we go to,” said Kochenash.
As the race draws near the list of Modified teams continues to grow and that number is expected to exceed 40 come race day. Kochenash knows the job of winning won’t come easy but he is ready to put is expertise of racing at Mahoning to good use.
“75 laps could click off here in a hurry so getting a good starting spot will be important. If you’re set-up right then you won’t see a lot of tire fall off. You’ll pretty much have to jump out right from the green. I think starting anywhere beyond 12th will be tough to win that day,” admitted Kochenash.
“When I won Opening Night a couple of years ago that was the same thing. It was only 50 laps and you had to hammer down right from the start.”
Mahoning Valley is known for its two-wide racing and Kochenash stated that lane choice will be pivotal.
“If there’s someone on the outside that will drag you back then it’s best to get to the bottom in a hurry and wait it out. With the inside you always have the opportunity to drive underneath for the pass which works well here but for this race you’ll have to make that decision quick.”
The matchup among the weekly regulars is tough enough and then you add in a host of New Jersey aces plus all of the RoC Tour drivers and Break-The-Ice-75 has the components of one amazing must see race.
“There are going to be a lot of great teams rolling in here and you certainly can’t count any of them out. They’ll adapt and the fans are going to be in for a good entertaining race. If you have the right setup you should be able to run all 75 laps hard from start to finish,” said Kochenash.
On Opening Day 2016 will see race teams enter the pits starting at 11:00 a.m. followed by Modified inspection at 11:30 a.m. Sign-in takes place from 1:00 – 2:15 p.m. Heat racing will begin at 4:00 p.m. Also on the card will be Late Models, Street Stocks and Hobby Stocks.
For additional information please log onto www.mahoning-speedway.com or on Facebook at Mahoning Valley Speedway. Likewise with the Race of Champions at www.rocmodifiedseries.com
-Mahoning Valley Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Austin Kochenash Racing