After sitting out the majority of 2013, multi-time Mahoning Valley Speedway Late Model titlist Paul Koehler Jr. is ready for a full season assault.
Northampton’s Koehler is a three-time champion (’04, ’06, ’10) of the Late Model division and holds the record for most career wins at 37. Matter of fact he is the all-time feature wins leader of eastern Pennsylvania asphalt short track racing with 55 victories, 19 of them coming at Evergreen Raceway Park (formerly Mountain Speedway) where he also owns two titles.
Koehler made his intentions known that starting with the $1200-to-win 50 lap season opener on April 12 and every week thereafter, he will be looking to add to his wins total and focus on yet another championship.
“I’m feeling very good about 2014. We’re making a lot of changes to the car. We’ve updated everything and hopefully we’ll be able to show everyone else what we got,” said Koehler, who has been a mainstay of Late Model racing for nearly 25 years.
In all likelihood his years of experience will be put to the test too as the division has seen a spike since being taken over by Floyd Santee in 2012. Earl Paules Jr., has won the past two championships and scored 21 features. He’ll be trying for a third crown and aside from him there is Frankie Althouse the ’13 point runner-up, Mike Sweeney, Kevin Graver Jr., and George Ramos as well as numerous others who are all equally matched.
“Floyd (Santee) raised the purse money with the class and that also raised the competition level. Everything is going well with the Late Models as Mahoning Valley. There are such a solid number of good, quality cars and over the last few years everyone has really stepped up their game and I know this season is going to be a lot tougher than ever before,” said Koehler.
“I hear there are a few new guys coming in too like Jeremy Miller and he was a good shoe with the Pro 4 class and won a title there. He’s going to be someone to be reckoned with along with everyone else.”
Koehler returns with the same Howe chassis and will rely on horsepower from a Ron Hutter built engine. He will carry the family business, Koehler Brothers Collision Center as the primary sponsor of his signature No. 00. His father and former noted racing great, Paul Koehler Sr., will serve as crew chief.
While Koehler is an established leader of area pavement Late Model racing, he has also taken his talent on the road, touring at various other tracks. But he admits that when it comes to close action, it doesn’t get much better than Mahoning Valley Speedway.
“I think it’s so much tougher than many of the bigger tracks I’ve been too. You don’t have to be 100% all the time and it may even be forgiving at times and you don’t need a ton of horsepower. As long as you have a good handling car you’re going to have a good chance to win every week,” explained Koehler.
“The thing is the racing is always so tight and so close there and you have to be so sharp on every lap. I think anyone with the right set-up can win but you earn it at Mahoning.”
2013 saw Koehler run only three times as family commitments kept him from the weekly action. All is well and the crafty veteran is now anxious to return to battle.
“I’m really excited to get back on track. Family comes first and we’re all good on that front and my father and I are prepared and ready. It’s just he and I and we work as a great team,” said Koehler.
“Every year on Opening Day when I strap into the car my main thoughts are on winning a championship and I feel we have a real good chance at it. Right now Earl (Paules) is the guy to beat but I feel very confident with the package we’re putting together and the experience we have that it should be a very achievable goal.”
Koehler will see his first on track activity when Test and Tune days take place on March 22, 29 and April 5-6. Opening Night is slated for April 12 at 6:00 pm and will feature a 100 lap $4000 to win main for Modifieds, 50 lapper $1200 to win for Late Models, a $1000 to win 40 lap run for Dirt Mods, 50 laps and $1000 for the Street Stocks plus regular features for the Pro 4s and Hobby Stocks.