Even though he’s only 21 years-old, Lehighton’s Kris Graver has been competing on the asphalt of Mahoning Valley Speedway for the past seven seasons. And the young charger has packed a tractor-trailer full of success into those seven campaigns…
Graver has accumulated 37 feature wins and four track championships during his time behind the wheel at the ultra competitive quarter-mile of pavement, including the feat of becoming the youngest driver to win a Mahoning Modified point title, which he accomplished in 2014.
Kris has also earned a pair of Dirt Mod championships and a Pro-4 title, along with two feature wins in his first two starts aboard a USAC Championship SpeedSTR – both of those wins came at his home track as the Rich Tobias/ Speedway Entertainment creations made their MVS debut last season.
Graver proudly points out that all of those wins and championships came from cars produced and maintained “in my grandfather’s basement garage; the same garage that he (Kevin Graver, Sr.) started his career in and throughout my uncle’s (Kevin, Jr.) career, too.”
Now that he’s built such an impressive resume on the Mahoning asphalt, what’s next?
“I want to get dirty,” smiles the friendly but soft-spoken Graver.
“I love dirt racing, even though pretty much all of my experience is on asphalt,” he explained. “In 2015, I am going to focus on becoming a dirt track driver. I’ll still race at Mahoning, but my focus will be with the SpeedSTR on dirt. If I want to eventually move up to Big Block Modifieds or whatever, I have to get a lot of experience on the dirt. And the SpeedSTR division, at Kutztown’s Action Track USA and on their National Tour, is a perfect place to race against top notch drivers and get that seat time on dirt.”
Kris compares the technique needed to gas a SpeedSTR to that of driving a dirt Modified. “A few years ago, I got to practice a bit with my uncle’s Small Block Modified at Big Diamond. And now I’ve had one start in a SpeedSTR on dirt (at Grandview). The SpeedSTR seems to drive somewhat like the Modified, but I think my biggest learning curve will be adapting from asphalt to dirt.” Graver’s first two results in a SpeedSTR – those triumphs at MVS – appear to reinforce the fact that the youthful wheel-twister is not phased by hopping into different types of racecars. It’s the new and different surface on which he’s competing, however, that will require some education.
Graver is set to join the three-car team fielded by John Kovatch of Nesquehoning, Pa. He’ll be a teammate to Kovatch and Mike Bednar, and the trio will be weekly fixtures at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds, as well as most, if not all, of the SpeedSTR National Tour events.
“I believe Kris will adapt to the dirt very quickly and very well,” noted Kovatch. “He ran a SpeedSTR at Grandview’s Fall Jamboree in November and he looked good. He won his heat and was having a decent run in the feature until someone got crossed up and Kris wound up flipping because of it. But he’ll be fine; he’s a real wheel-man, no matter what he’s driving.”
“You know,” continued Kovatch, “family values are important and they are constantly on display in racing. The Gravers are a role model for racing families…if every family in the pit area acted like they do, the sport would be better off and a lot more fun. I know, as a car owner and sponsor, that the Gravers will never make me or my business look bad. I’m proud to have them represent me at any track where we go to race.”
The deal to put Kris Graver in a Kovatch-owned SpeedSTR came about after John jokingly suggested it. “Kevin (Graver, Jr., who is Kris’ uncle) drove my Dirt Mod at Mahoning last year and Kevin’s son, Ryan, drove one of my Slingshots a few times. I was sort of kidding when I said to Kevin, ‘why don’t you sell that Modified and let Kris drive one of my SpeedSTR’s?’ We both thought about it and realized it was a really good idea.”
The Gravers will help with the weekly maintenance on the KME/ FireTruckParts.com SpeedSTR’s, and that definitely appeals to the team owner, too.
“We’re looking to establish a better maintenance program this year,” said Kovatch. “Based on their success over the years at Mahoning, I know the Gravers spend a lot of time in their basement garage, going over the cars in detail each week. That kind of effort will help our program a bunch; my drivers are responsible for the maintenance on their car, but we all work together to help each other, too.”
The Kovatch Team is unique – not to mention extremely benevolent – in the fact that all of its prize money goes to worthy causes throughout the Lehigh Valley and Nesquehoning communities. Kovatch has donated race winnings during his entire career, and that practice will continue this season. The KME race team has donated to various charities over the years, but the main benefactors have been the Lehigh Valley Burn Prevention Network and the Sonny Kovatch Scholarship Foundation.
By Barry Angstadt – https://www.facebook.com/barry.angstadt?fref=ts&ref=br_tf