- Phil Allaway
Andy Bachetti Wins Attrition-Filled Valley Opener
Lebanon Valley Speedway’s opening night was chilly and moist. The schedule was sped up to avoid rain and everything got in. Attrition was the name of the game in the Modifieds, but Andy Bachetti fought through the issues.
By virtue of winning his heat race, Mike King started from pole. The action started very early when Mike Keeler spun on the first lap in turn 1. Kyle Sheldon, Paul Gilardi and Matt Pupello were all collected.
One of the biggest battles in the heat races was one between defending champion Brett Hearn and Eddie Marshall. The veterans had a clean duel early in the evening and rekindled it in the feature. Hearn, who started sixth, appeared to have a fast car and tried to get to the inside of Marshall. Then, contact was made, spinning both drivers out.
Marshall was unable to restart due to a mechanical issue and was forced to retire. Hearn drove off, but dropped out due to steering issues.
On the restart, Bachetti immediately went to work on the longtime veteran. However, King was able to hold off Bachetti’s charges. The battle continued on for ten laps before Bachetti was able to get past on lap 13.
It was here that the attrition cranked up. Just as Bachetti took the lead, Kenny Tremont Jr. slowed from third with mechanical woes. Two laps later, it was King’s mount that dropped off the pace. Keeler and Steve Hough dropped out. As a result, Bachetti ended up with a four second lead over Kolby Schroder.
From here, Bachetti held on to take the opening night victory in his new No. 4. Afterwards, Bachetti was happy that he won, but still felt that he had room to improve. “The car was ok tonight. Still feel like we have room to improve,” Bachetti said after the races. “For opening night, I’ll take it. Mike [King] was tough, I didn’t know if we were going to be able to get him. Everybody’s stepped their game up.”
Schroder held on for second, while Elmo Reckner finished a strong third. Keith Flach finished fourth and Rob Pitcher was fifth.
In the Sportsman class, it was a two-man show between Jeff Watson and John Virgilio. Virgilio started from the pole while Watson was third. Watson quickly dispatched Frank Hoard Jr. on the start and started hunting down Virgilio. At the same time, the lead duo were able to run away from the rest of the field.
Ultimately, lapped traffic and the weather helped decide the race. During the early portion of the feature, rain fell on the high banks. As a result, some of the drivers struggled to keep pace.
Virgilio and Watson ended up nose to tail after encountering lapped traffic. That allowed Watson to slip by and take the lead on lap 7. Once in the lead, Virgilio attempted to pull out an advantage.
Debutante Joe Smith spun out on the backstretch to bring out the first yellow on lap 11, closing the pack back up. That put Michael Sabia back in the hunt. Sabia started at the rear of the field after spinning twice and getting lapped in his heat race. By halfway, he had already charged up to fifth.
On the restart, Watson and Virgilio pulled away while Whitey Slavin and Sabia made short work of Hoard. Slavin was driving one of the new PMC chassis out of Schodack that ran very well on Saturday night.
Smith's adventure came to end with five laps to go when he crashed on the backstretch, ripping a wheel off his car. Smith may have been driving a car formerly raced by Brett Hearn, but the magic did not rub off on him.
The yellow set up a five-lap sprint to the finish. However, Watson was able to get a good advantage on the restart that Virgilio could do nothing about. From there, Watson held on for the win.
Afterwards, Watson said that a duel in his heat race with Chris Curtis lit a fire under him. However, once he got to the feature, it was a rather interesting experience.
"Virgilio pulled out a little bit [early] and I thought I would follow him for 20 laps and be angry [afterwards]," Watson said after his engine passed the mandatory Cam Doctor check. "All of a sudden, [Virgilio] backed up to me in a hurry, we just pounced and it was over."
The conditions were not ideal during the race. Head flagman Rodney Rescott asked the drivers for a thumbs up/thumbs down opinion on the track surface at halfway. Watson vigorously gave the conditions a thumbs down. Smith's first incident ultimately ended any chance of a yellow being thrown due to the weather.
Watson also thought during the race that he was overheating because water was hitting him in the face. In reality, it was water coming off the track. The spray was bad enough for Watson's helmet to get soaked through. Temperatures in the mid-40's resulted in Watson's engine actually running 25-40 degrees below normal.
Behind Watson and Virgilio was Sabia in third, who moved into position after passing Slavin on the final restart. According to Sabia, his crew threw everything they had at the car after their disastrous heat race and hit on something. Slavin finished fourth, while Chris Lynch was fifth.
In Pro Stock, it was all Yetman, all the time. Yetman started third, but took very little time to get past front row starters Ed Bishop and Paul LaRochelle to take the lead. Shortly afterwards, the yellow was thrown due to water on the track in turn 3.
That yellow began a series of yellows that made it difficult to get the action. Todd Hoffman slowed on the frontstretch to draw another yellow. Next, Tom Dean spun in turn 3, sparking a number of sympathy spins. Finally, on the next restart, Hugh Page was turned into the outside wall on the frontstretch, then hit from behind by Bishop.
The incidents whittled the field down to a certain degree, but it did nothing to curb Yetman. Once the green was back out, the defending Pro Stock drove away from the field. Yetman opened up his advantage over Paul LaRochelle to nearly five seconds while Rick Duzlak gave chase.
With two laps to go, Nick Arnold hit the wall in turn 4 to bring out the final yellow. That closed the pack together, but no one could do anything to prevent Yetman from adding to his all-time leading total of Pro Stock wins.
Afterwards, Yetman was very pleased with his car.
"Oh, it felt [easy,]" Yetman said in his trailer. "We made a couple of adjustments after the heat race and the [car] was just on fire. We worked really hard over the winter to get into the spots that we were missing. I think we've got it just right."
Paul LaRochelle was second, followed by Jay Corbin, who made a late charge to third. Jon Routhier was fourth, followed by Jason Meltz.
In Pure Stock, a format change was made for Saturday night. Instead of the first two features being eight laps while the third was 12, all three features were ten laps in length. As a result, some drivers got a little more time than normal to race, while others got slightly less.
In Feature No. 1, Ed Hatch started from the pole with Walt Cross alongside. Unfortunately for Cross, he did not get off to the best start and ended up spinning in turn 2 on the first lap. Luckily, everyone managed to avoid Cross' Monte Carlo. Cross was also able to get back going on his own, which meant that the caution did not come out.
Jeff Meltz Jr. was the man on the move, coming up from his sixth starting to weld himself to the rear bumper of Hatch. Jesse Murphy also gave chase. Eventually, Jeff Meltz Jr. was able to put a move on Hatch to take the lead on lap 7. From there, the No. 15 pulled away to take the first Pure Stock win of the season.
Murphy was able to get past Hatch late to finish second. John Devine finished fourth, while Mike Arnold finished fifth.
Feature No. 2 saw Nick Reilly start from the pole. However, Reilly's No. 46 would not come up to speed at the start. Reilly's issues did stack up the field, but no one crashed as a result. Fellow front row starter Zach Sorrentino drove past into the lead in his No. 54s.
Unlike the first feature, the pack kept themselves bunched up here. Sorrentino was under constant pressure from Shawn Perez for the first couple of laps. Perez was eventually able to take the lead on lap 4, bringing Dave Stickles with him.
Stickles had the fastest car on the track, but the No. 55 started steaming almost as soon as he took second. The mechanical issues made Stickles' car difficult to drive, but Stickles persevered to take the lead on lap 6. Randy Miller, a veteran campaigner of Street Stocks at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, followed Stickles past Perez into second.
Stickles' issues continued to get worse. As a result, he was unable to hold off Miller's Chevrolet Malibu. Just after Miller took the lead, Perez spun in turn 3 and caused a stack-up to bring out the race's sole caution.
During the yellow, Stickles was forced to pull his steaming No. 55 into the pits. He would be forced to retire. Jeff Meltz Sr. inherited second as a result of Stickles' retirement.
Once the race restarted, Miller pulled away to take his first victory at Lebanon Valley. Jeff Meltz Sr. was second, followed by Dom Denue and Ray Hall Sr. Sorrentino rounded out the top five.
Unlike the second feature, the third Pure Stock feature was not quite as action-packed. Bill Deak Jr. started from the pole and maintained the advantage. Jeff Kreutziger and Jay Casey tagged along. Together, the three drivers pulled away from the rest of the field.
The race really got interesting when the leaders caught the slower cars of Tim Meltz (last year's 4-Cylinder Single-Cam champion, making his Pure Stock debut) and Jordan Miller. Deak got held up behind the slower traffic, allowing Kreutziger and Casey to apply pressure. Gary O'Brien and Al Relyea were also able to close up on the leaders.
In the end, Deak was able to hold off the pack to take the win. O'Brien charged up from fourth on the final lap to just nick Kreutziger at the line for second. Casey finished fourth, followed by Relyea.
L&M Motors/Sayer’s Auto Wrecking Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) Kolby Schroder, 3) Elmo Reckner, 4) Keith Flach, 5) Rob Pitcher, 6) Chad Jeseo, 7) Kyle Armstrong, 8) Wayne Jelley, 9) Kyle Sheldon, 10) Olden Dwyer, 11) Brian Berger, 12) L.J. Lombardo, 13) Matt Pupello, 14) Demetrios Drellos, 15) J.R. Heffner, 16) Steve Hough. 17) Mike Keeler, 18) Mike King, 19) Kenny Tremont Jr., 20) Eddie Marshall, 21) Brett Hearn, 22) Paul Gilardi, 23) Kenny Aanonsen Jr., 24) Kyle Hoffman, 25) Denny Soltis, 26) Alan Houghtaling, 27) Chad Pierce, 28) Ray Hall Jr., 29) Frank Harper
Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Jeff Watson, 2) John Virgilio, 3) Michael Sabia, 4) Whitey Slavin, 5) Chris Lynch, 6) Rob Maxon, 7) Kevin Ward, 8) Rob Lanfear, 9) Frank Hoard Jr., 10) Chris Curtis, 11) Robby Knipe, 12) Cody Ochs, 13) Kevin Arnold, 14) Nick Plumstead, 15) Lem Atkins, 16) Bobby DeLeon, 17) Mike Gramoli
ni, 18) Kale Groff, 19) Harold Robitaille, 20) Nikki Ouellette, 21) Joe Smith, 22) Dan Lyle, 23) Brandon Daley
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Rob Yetman, 2) Paul LaRochelle, 3) Jay Corbin, 4) Jon Routhier, 5) Jason Meltz, 6) Chuck Towslee, 7) Rick Dempsey, 8) Steven LaRochelle, 9) Rick Duzlak, 10) Victor Hopkins, 11) Henry Warner, 12) Sparky Reilly, 13) Nick Arnold, 14) Joe LaFlamme, 15) Matt Cross, 16) Brian Keough, 17) Ed Bishop, 18) Hugh Page, 19) Dan Cote, 20) Tom Dean, 21) Todd Hoffman, 22) Nick Hilt
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Jeff Meltz Jr., 2) Jesse Murphy, 3) Ed Hatch, 4) John Devine, 5) Mike Arnold, 6) Chris Murphy, 7) Lou Gancarz, 8) Brian Walsh, 9) Brian VanDenburg, 10) Wuggie Burdick, 11) Walt Cross
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Randy Miller, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Dom Denue, 4) Ray Hall Sr., 5) Zach Sorrentino, 6) Chris Streeter, 7) Tim Thompson, 8) Adam Schneider, 9) Dave Stickles, 10) Shawn Perez, 11) Clifford Booth, 12) Nick Reilly
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 Results (10 laps): 1) Bill Deak Jr., 2) Gary O’Brien, 3) Jeff Kreutziger, 4) Jay Casey, 5) Al Relyea, 6) Zach Seyerlein, 7) Scott Morris, 8) Jordan Miller, 9) Tim Meltz, 10) Mark Dwyer