John Bennett Repeats as Mahoning Modified Champ

Date: 12/10/2009 8:11:45 PM

John Bennett Repeats as Mahoning Modified Champ
By Dino Oberto …. “Keeping Track” 

             John Bennett has done it again. The Lehighton racing resident captured his second straight Modified title at his hometown track Mahoning Valley Speedway and despite the fact that the paved ¼-mile oval sports some of the toughest racers anywhere, he at times made it look easy.

             Bennett moved into the point lead after week three and once at the top of the standings there was no looking back. He led all drivers with a season best seven feature wins and 13 out of 19 top-fives. No one came close to those numbers.      

             This was the third time since 2005, when he first got behind the wheel of a Modified, that he has led the division with season feature wins.

             For how good he really is, in typical Bennett fashion he is always complimentary of his competition.

“The group of individuals that we raced against throughout year and with the Poker Series guys coming and those being point shows made for a very competitive season,” said 31-year old Bennett.

             “I feel that the Mahoning regulars are some of the best in the Northeast and you add in some of the best touring Modified racers and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

             Winning titles has almost become second nature for Bennett. This year marked his unprecedented sixth career track crown. As a driver and team accustomed to finishing on top he was already poised for a repeat performance coming into 2009 especially as the reigning champ.

             “You always have to have high expectations. You always have to aim high so we always look to do the best we possibly can. After having a championship season last year you can’t hope for anything less than another championship,” said Bennett.

             “We had a couple of nights where we struggled. One time we got into the wall and wound up having to re-clip the whole car and there were a few other times that we had some rough nights but thankfully it all worked out in the end.”

             By the time the final checkered flag had waved on the 2009 season, not only was he basking in yet another track championship, he had also set new records in several categories.

             His seven wins this year ties the record for most in a single season with John Markovic. Bennett has amassed 51 career wins which is the all-time track mark.

             “It’s amazing. When I started way back when I was just hoping to win a race. Now I still just want to win races even though I’ve won a lot of them,” said Bennett who has been wheeling around Mahoning since 1995.

             Six overall titles is also a new history making accomplishment. Up until this year he was tied with track greats Markovic and Rod Snyder, Jr. at five apiece. Bennett’s other tiles have come in Street Stocks, D/A Modifieds and Pro4 Late Models.

             Another historical note about the six championships. There is an elite group of drivers who have raced at the three Northeast Pennsylvania asphalt short tracks, defunct Dorney Park Speedway, Sundance Vacations (Evergreen) Speedway and Mahoning Valley who have scored five championships each at those respective tracks.

             Freddy Hamm has five at Dorney. As mentioned Markovic and Snyder have done it at Mahoning and Brian DeFebo is a five time titlist at Sundance. However, Bennett’s half dozen lead trophy awards are now the best by a single driver at one track.

             “It’s really special, especially racing against the guys that compete at Mahoning Valley Speedway. It’s a privilege to be able to win a championship against the caliber of drivers we race with,” said Bennett.

“When I started doing this about fifteen years ago I never expected to be where I am today. It’s nice to be in a category with guys like Rod (Snyder), Johnny (Markovic) Freddy (Hamm) and Brian (DeFebo). They got five championships and just to be able to get one is an honor.”


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