- Phil Allaway
It's Crunch Time at Lebanon Valley
Hard to believe that the 2016 Lebanon Valley Speedway season is nearly complete. Only one more race remains for Modified and Pro Stock teams, and that is this Saturday. Reasoning as to why these two classes finish for the season when they do is relatively simple. DIRTcar requires that track championships for Modified and Pro Stock divisions be over by Labor Day.
In the Modified class, the race on Aug. 27 has played a huge role in closing the points up. Brett Hearn entered the race with a 41-point lead, but contact with Tyler Dippel broke a suspension part and forced Hearn to retire for the night. Hearn’s 20th-place finish along with Kenny Tremont, Jr. finishing second closed that 41-point lead to just eight markers. As a result, Hearn will claim the championship by finishing at third or better, regardless of what Tremont does.
Keith Flach is 25 points behind Hearn in third. Last week’s feature showed that big swings in the standings are possible from week to week, but Flach likely cannot win the championship without both Hearn and Tremont having problems. Andy Bachetti is fourth in points on the strength of four victories. Meanwhile, Eddie Marshall is fifth with consistency. The No. 98 has really come on in the past month.
The top 5 drivers are all but in stone. Sixth-place J.R. Heffner is 54 points behind Marshall. The only way he could pass Marshall is if Marshall does not start the feature and Heffner finishes second or better. Brian Berger is within striking distance of sixth in points, just ten behind Heffner.
The top 15 Modified drivers earn money from the points fund and that group appears safe. Mike King is 15th in points, but he has a 48-point lead over Steve Hough. All King will need to do to guarantee his cut is to start the feature on Saturday.
The Pro Stock title will be decided Saturday night and the thoughts going through the minds of
most of the contenders likely revolves around wishing the King of Dirt Pro Stock races counted for normal points as well. That would have given the rest of the pack two additional shots at Rob Yetman. However, those races are run to slightly different rules as compared to Lebanon Valley’s.
Yetman, on the strength of two victories and consistency, has a 37-point lead over defending champion Jay Corbin. All Yetman needs to do to win the title is finish 20th or better. Corbin is all but locked into second. He has more than a full race over Jon Routhier in third. Rick Duzlak is in fourth, while Rick Dempsey is fifth.
The Small Block Modifieds finish their season on Sep. 10, but the title should be decided Saturday. Tremont, on the strength of three consecutive wins (nine overall) has an 89-point lead over Brett Haas. Haas cannot catch Tremont if Tremont starts both remaining features. Haas must gain 29 points Saturday night just to take the championship to the final night. Even then, Tremont would still clinch the title just by starting the final feature.
Haas is pretty solidly locked into second. He currently has a 32-point lead over J.R. Heffner in third. Ray Hall, Jr. is 50 points behind Heffner in fourth, but Frank Harper, Frank Hoard, III and Jason Herrington are fairly close behind.
The Sportsman class sees Jeff Watson with a 40 point lead over defending champion John Virgilio. Only two points behind Virgilio is Kevin Ward, while Chris Lynch is only four points behind Ward. There’s another 21 points between Lynch and Whitey Slavin in fifth.
At this point, the class only had one more point race scheduled after this point. However, an earlier rainout has resulted in the Sportsman class being added to the card for this Saturday night. For Watson, all he needs to do in order to guarantee a championship is hold serve Saturday night. If he does that, he’ll only need to start the feature on Sep. 10 to clinch the championship.
The Pure Stock class has been dominated by a couple of teams in 2016. Jason Meltz currently leads the points by 24 over veteran Al Relyea, who continues to produce in a car that he’s been racing for at least 18 years. Gary O’Brien is third in points, 38 behind Relyea. Ray Hall, Sr. is right on O’Brien’s tail, while Jeff Meltz, Sr. is fifth.
Finally, in the 4-Cylinder category, Tim Meltz leads the Single-Cam division, but by only two points over Jim Williams. Both drivers race Hondas (Meltz is in a Prelude while Williams is in a Civic). 38 points out of the lead is Jethro Rossman in the No. 14 Neon. James Street is fourth, followed by Bradley Batho. The Single-cam racers have only one feature remaining (Sep. 10).
Dual-Cam sees Kenny Stager with a 54-point lead over Ammo Wright. Shawny Hazel, who has switched back and forth between two different cars (one blue and one green) is third, six points behind Wright. Philipp Gomm and Chris Vandeputte are tied for fourth, 12 points behind Hazel.
The Dual-Cam campaigners will finish out their season on Sep. 10 with double features. One is regularly scheduled, but the other makes up a race that was postponed on Aug. 13 due to severe weather.
Saturday night marks the final Big Block Modified race of the year at Lebanon Valley. They will be joined by the Small Block Modifieds, Sportsman, Pro Stocks and Pure Stocks. Action is set to begin at 6 p.m.