Jason Herrington Grabs Long-Awaited Victory, Champions Crowned
Saturday night was the final night of racing at Lebanon Valley for 2016. A number of championships were still up for grabs as fans and drivers were greeted with unusually warm and humid weather for the second weekend of September.
The Small Block Modified championship had already been decided last week as Kenny Tremont, Jr. clinched it, but there were still positions up for grabs. Brett Haas was all but locked into second. However, his race ended as soon as it began when the transmission, failed in the No. 55.
Bryan McGuire parlayed a heat race win into the pole for the feature. Early on, McGuire appeared to be pretty quick, but the time to make hay was very early. On the complete restart, Jason Herrington was able to take second from Chad Pierce. He then immediately put the pressure on McGuire and took little more than a lap to take the lead away.
Pierce held onto third and was running well until his No. 83 quit in turn 4, bringing out another yellow. On the restart, Olden Dwyer was able to get past McGuire for second and set off in search of Herrington. However, Herrington was able to run off and hide.
Further back, a number of drivers had issues. J.R. Heffner pulled off shortly after the restart with mechanical issues. Last week’s winner Chad Jeseo had torsion bar issues and was forced to retire.
Behind Herrington and Dwyer, the man on the move was Demetrios Drellos. Starting tenth, Drellos quickly made his way up the order to third. By lap 8, he had already run Dwyer for second. The two drivers ran side-by-side for a number of laps, but Drellos ended up being a victim of slight overheating. This forced him to drop back a little bit.
For Herrington, it had been a year since he’d been in position to win. In that race, he held the lead for much of the feature before losing it late to J.R. Heffner. Afterwards, Herrington was dejected. "That was my chance,” Herrington said at the time.
After that race, there was still one race to go in the season. However, that event was rained out, leaving Herrington unable to build on his second-place finish.
Unlike that last time, he was able to hold on to take a well-deserved victory. Afterwards, Herrington was very happy with his evening and took time to note his mother’s presence.
“My car was awesome tonight,” Herrington said in the pits. “Last year, J.R. [Heffner] got me. I wasn’t going to let that happen tonight.
“My mom, who hasn’t been to the races in a couple of years since her health wasn’t doing too well, she was
here tonight,” Herrington continued. “To be honest, I think my mom said a prayer and helped me win this thing.”
Olden Dwyer held on to finish second, followed by Drellos. With his overheating issue, Drellos nearly fell into the clutches of Tremont by the finish. Tremont’s fourth-place finish after starting 15th padded his championship margin. The final margin over Haas was 119 points. Brian Sandstedt was fifth.
In Sportsman, Points leader Jeff Watson lost 24 points of his lead on Sep. 3 due to a busted rocker arm that forced him to race on seven cylinders. He entered the night with a 16-point advantage on John Virgilio and only needed to keep him in sight to win. He did that and more, moving up from the ninth starting spot and quickly putting himself into the top 5.
The night was rather physical before the feature even started as three drivers failed to take the start. Christopher Delfino rolled his No. 99jr in his heat race after crashing with Dan Lyle. Neither answered the bell for the start. Frank Hoard, Jr. also suffered significant damage in his heat race and could not start the feature.
Cody Ochs started from the pole and opened up a good-sized gap on the field. Rob Maxon, who was very confident coming into the race, moved up to second early on. Whitey Slavin was just behind in his rented (for now) Bicknell in third.
It was a slow process, but Maxon was able to run down Ochs with six laps to go and got to the inside of him on the frontstretch. In turn 1, Maxon was able to make the pass. However, said pass was negated when Robby Knipe hit the wall in turn 3 to bring out the only caution of the race with five laps to go
On the restart, Maxon was able to take the lead from Ochs again in turn 1. This time, he was able to make it stick and pulled away. Meanwhile, Timothy Davis was able to get by Slavin for third and ran off in search of Ochs. With a lap and change to go, Timothy Davis was able to get by Ochs for second. However, Davis could not catch Maxon, who took the win on the track.
However, that was not the end of the Sportsman story. In post-race technical inspection, it was determined that the camshaft in Maxon’s engine was illegal. As a result, the technical staff disqualified Maxon. It is the second disqualification in a regular Sportsman feature due to a camshaft and the fourth overall (the King of
Dirt races are not regular Sportsman point races, but two more DQ's came out of the recent Mr. Crate Track U.S.A. event on Sep. 1).
Davis’ pass on Ochs in the closing laps turned out to be the difference as Davis claimed his second victory of the year. Both wins came as a result of the flagged winner being disqualified.
Ochs ended up second, while Watson was third and Virgilio fourth. As a result, Watson claimed his fifth track championship by 18 points. Whitey Slavin finished fifth, but dropped out of the top 5 in points by virtue of Davis winning.
In Pure Stock, Jason Meltz entered the final night of racing with a 30 point lead. Effectively, all Meltz had to do to successfully defend his championship was to start the third feature. He did that without issue and walked off with the hardware. That said, there was still some racing on tap.
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 saw Nick Reilly start on the pole and pull away from the pack. Further back, contact was made at the entrance to turn 1 between Zach Sorrentino and John Devine. Sorrentino spun, causing the pack to scatter. Karen Verhagen hit Sorrentino and went into the wall. Verhagen's No. 9s briefly rode the wall before coming to a halt. Everyone was ok, but the yellow was out.
Shortly afterwards, another incident broke out exiting turn 4 when Brian Walsh spun following contact from Phil Sherman. Dave Fachini was also involved.
Once the green came back out, Reilly drove his Camaro away from the rest of the pack. Ed Hatch emerged from the scrum in second, but could do nothing with the rookie as Reilly held on to take his first career win.
Afterwards, Reilly talked up how much fun he had during his rookie season. He fully intends to be back for more in 2017.
Hatch finished second, while Sherman was third. Devine finished fourth, while Bob Palmer was fifth.
Feature No. 2 saw Mark Dwyer come up from the second row to take the lead away from pole sitter Wuggie Burdick on the first lap. Scott Morris was also on the move, quickly advancing from seventh to plant himself right on Mark Dwyer's tail.
A couple of quick yellows kept the field close together, one for Kyle Cole stalling in turn 1 and another for debris. On the final restart, Morris was able to get past Mark Dwyer to take the lead. From there, Morris held on to take his third win of the year.
Chris Streeter moved into second on the final lap of the race when Mark Dwyer had problems. Sure enough, the No. 35xjr leaked a significant amount of water onto the track at the finish. The performance was still good enough for third, but Mark Dwyer ended up getting in his own fluid and hitting the wall in turn 1. Shawn Perez and Kevin Paul rounded out the top 5.
Feature No. 3 had Harold Robitaille on the pole, but he quickly lost his advantage to Larry Perez in the No. 74. Earlier in the season, Larry had stated that his car was quick at times, but couldn't quite keep it up for the whole 12-lap distance with the stiff competition in play. That was not the case on Saturday night as Larry's blue Monte Carlo was very quick.
Meanwhile, Al Relyea had a very disappointing Friday night at Albany-Saratoga. Contact with Josh Coonradt cut a tire and took at minimum, a second-place finish away. Saturday saw Relyea out to get the spoils that he was denied. He quickly rose from sixth starting spot to battle Ray Hall, Sr. for second within the first couple of laps. Naturally, given Hall's experience, it took a while to get past, but Relyea was able to pull it around halfway. By that time, Larry Perez had a big lead.
Unfortunately for the Perez squad, the big lead was eradicated on lap 10 when Dom Denue hit the wall hard
in turn 2. Denue rode the wall, then rolled his Camaro over one time. Denue was ok, but his No. 145 was heavily damaged. On the restart, Relyea immediately put the pressure on Larry Perez and managed to get past.
However, Larry Perez would not be denied. He came back on Relyea and got back around the No. 14 on the final lap for the victory.
Behind Larry Perez and Relyea was Hall in third. Gary O'Brien was fourth, while Jeff Meltz, Sr. was fifth. Jason Meltz ended up eighth, more than enough to take the title.
In 4-Cylinders, Jim Williams took the lead from pole-sitter Bradley Batho with three laps to go to take the win. That was enough to overcome a two-point deficit to Tim Meltz and give Williams the Single-Cam championship.
Tim Meltz didn't take the defeat sitting down. He did everything he could to take the title in his Honda Prelude, but came up short, finishing second. Brett Horlacher was third, followed by James Street and Batho.
For the Dual-Cam racers, Saturday was supposed to feature a make-up race in addition to the regularly scheduled event. Instead, a double points 15-lap finale was held. East Greenbush’s Kenny Stager entered the night with a 54-point lead. He clinched the championship by starting the race and got into a groove.
Inside pole-sitter Kelly Duncan's night came to an early end when she crashed her Dodge Stratus hard into the outside wall on the backstretch on lap 2. Duncan was shaken up, but otherwise ok.
Jim Guertin had the lead with his Honda Prelude, but Lagrangeville's Shawny Hazel charged past to take the lead on the restart. Hazel had a fast car, but developed mechanical issues. The issues allowed Stager to quickly run down the No. 98 and take the lead on lap 4.
Guertin's night came to an end on lap 6 when he slapped the wall in turn 4 and e