- Phil Allaway
J.R. Heffner Claims First Lebanon Valley Win of 2017
Saturday night was another opportunity to score some pay dirt at Lebanon Valley in the Maynard Forrette Memorial. With the track prepped for sprint car action, the course was fast and smooth. That doesn’t mean that bumping wasn’t out of the question.
Niverville’s John Ruchel started from the pole, but quickly lost his advantage to the Cyclone chassis of Kyle Hoffman. Hoffman was able to hold the advantage early on.
Saturday night was not a very good night for Kyle Sheldon. Sheldon spun in turn 1 to bring out the caution on lap 3. Shortly after the restart, Sheldon spun again to bring out another yellow after contact from Mike King. Sheldon would eventually finish a lap down in 13th.
On the first restart, Matt Pupello was able to take the lead away from Hoffman. Once up front, Pupello opened up a decent lead in what was his best run of 2017 to this point.
Then, the action picked up. An incident in turn 1 involving Denny Soltis and Brandon Pitcher brought out another caution. On the restart, J.R. Heffner was able to get past Hoffman for second. Shortly afterwards, L.J. Lombardo went hard into the turn 3 wall to bring out another yellow. King and Wayne Jelley were also involved.
Heffner, who had been shut out of Victory Lane so far in 2017, was chomping at the bit to restart. He jumped Pupello at least once, forcing a re-rack.
Once the race finally got back underway, Heffner ran Pupello hard in turns 1 and 2. There was some contact in turn 2 between the two drivers as Heffner was able to get past and take the lead.
Once out front, Heffner was able to pull away from the rest of the pack easily. Meanwhile, points leader Brett Hearn tried to charge from his 13th starting spot, but the going was tough. He got into the top five, but could not progress much more.
Heffner pulled away from the field and stormed to his first win of the season. Pupello was not happy afterwards and confronted Heffner after the race.
Heffner explained afterwards quite simply that it was time to go. “Nah. You gotta get going when its time to go,” Heffner said. “[Our car] was a handful tonight, but it handled much better once we got out into the clean air.
“We got into the No. 42[P] a little bit [on the restart],” Heffner continued. “I didn’t mean for that, but I was trying to get that lead. You don’t want to hit the leader, or have any contact at all.”
Eddie Marshall took advantage of lapped traffic to get past Pupello on the final lap to take second. Hoffman finished fourth, holding off a tough charge from Hearn.
In Pro Stock, a DIRTcar Pro Stock Series race at Cornwall Motor Speedway in Ontario meant that the race was run for appearance points only. Despite that fact, it was still a great duel.
Nick Hilt started from the pole and quickly outdistanced Tom Dean to open up a small gap on the pack. That gap was short-lived as Nick Arnold stalled exiting turn 2 to bring out the only yellow in the race.
Once the green came back out, it was still Hilt up front. However, Jason Meltz was the man on the move. Starting seventh, Meltz moved forward in his No. 51 to put himself in position to battle for the lead.
It took only a few laps to Meltz to get to Hilt, but getting past Hilt proved to be very difficult. The two drivers fought side-by-side for about five laps for the lead. Meltz would lead one lap, then Hilt would be able to get him back. However, on lap 10, Meltz was finally able to make the pass stick.
Unfortunately for Meltz, all that battling allowed Chuck Towslee into the picture. Towslee took over second from Hilt on lap 12 and chased down Meltz. After a brief battle, Towslee took the lead away with three laps to go. From there, Towslee pulled away to take his third win of 2017.
Towslee believes that his team has really hit upon something.
“The car was handling good,” Towslee said after the race. “I think we’ve got some things figured out. PFC hooked me up with some new [brake] pads, which definitely helped. I’m liking the way the car is feeling.”
A disappointed Meltz ended up in second, followed by Hilt. Steven LaRochelle was fourth and Rick Duzlak was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Karen Verhagen led from the pole in her No. 9S. However, that advantage was briefly held. On the second lap, Mark Dwyer was able to get past and take the lead.
Things went from bad to worse as Verhagen hit the wall in turn 4 shortly afterwards. The wall contact didn’t actually hurt the car all that bad, but what followed did.
Verhagen ended up clipping Nick Reilly. Tim Meltz spun to avoid the whole mess. Finally, contact from Brian VanDenburg ended both drivers’ races and brought out the yellow.
On the restart, Larry Perez was able to motor past Dwyer to take the lead. Chad Arsenault, driving in place of Tom Murphy, followed into second.
The remainder of the race saw Larry Perez and Arsenault fight for the lead. However, Perez was fast enough that Arsenault could not alongside. Perez held on to take the win.
Behind Perez and Arsenault was Dave Stickles in third. Dwyer ended up fourth and Brian Walsh fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 2, Keri VanDenburg took the lead on the first lap from pole sitter Wuggie Burdick. Meanwhile, Scott Morris and Jordan Miller collided and spun to bring out a quick yellow. Both drivers would continue.
On the restart, Clifford Booth snuck past Keri VanDenburg to take the lead. John Denue, driving Evan Denue’s No. 245, followed past. Booth and Denue then drove off to settle the race amongst themselves.
On lap 4, Denue was able to get a run on Booth and snatched away the lead. From there, Denue pulled away from the pack.
A spin for Adam Schneider in turn 2 and mechanical issues for Jordan Miller resulted in a one-lap shootout. On that short run, no one could prevent Denue from taking the win.
Booth ended up second, followed by Morris. Keri VanDenburg was fourth and Joe Walcott was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 3, Tim Thompson started from the pole and outdistanced Mike Arnold. Behind Tim Thompson’s No. 144, some contact broke out. Jeff Meltz Jr. and Jesse Murphy both ended up cutting tires and slowing on track to bring out the yellow.
The man on the move early on was Bill Deak Jr. Deak, who entered the night third in points, started in eighth and quickly moved forward. It only took a couple of laps for Deak to get all the way to Thompson. Once there, it did not take long for the Connecticut native to snatch the lead.
As the race continued on, Ed Hatch came up to challenge for the lead. While he hasn’t won a race all season, Hatch has been right up there every week. Saturday night was no exception as Hatch and Deak raced side-by-side for the lead for multiple laps.
However, Deak was able to get his No. 86X back out in front of Hatch and held on for his second win of the year.
Hatch was second, followed by John Devine. Ray Hall Sr. was fourth and Jeff Meltz Jr. fifth.
In the 4-Cylinder class, Jethro Rossman started from pole in a borrowed Plymouth Horizon (Rossman’s normal ride (a Neon) has wiring issues). In the Horizon, Rossman ran quite well to hold the pack back. However, it did not take too long for Chris White to charge from seventh in his Honda Prelude to pressure Rossman.
On lap 5, White ran down Rossman and quickly took the advantage away. White was being chased at the time by the Dual-Cam competitors, led by Chris Vandeputte. Vandeputte made short work of White to take the overall lead a lap later.
The second half of the race was slowed no less than three times due to bumpers falling onto the track. Admittedly, such a scenario is rare, but there was quite a bit of contact back in the pack and it doesn’t take much to loosen up bumpers.
For the final four laps, Vandeputte had to deal with the Honda Prelude of Kenny Stager, which was recently repaired after a big wreck at the Eve of Destruction. Stager tried to make a run on Vandeputte in the closing laps, but he could not quite get to Vandeputte.
Averill Park’s Vandeputte held on to take the Dual-Cam win and the overall victory. Stager was second while P.J. Bleau was third. Chris White held on for fourth, good enough to win the Single-Cam class. Shawny Hazel came from the rear to finish fifth overall.
Sheldon Oil/Bulldog Concrete Maynard Forrette Memorial Results (30 laps): 1) J.R. Heffner, 2) Eddie Marshall, 3) Matt Pupello, 4) Kyle Hoffman, 5) Brett Hearn, 6) Keith Flach, 7) Kenny Tremont Jr., 8) Rob Pitcher, 9) Andy Bachetti, 10) Brian Berger, 11) Kolby Schroder, 12) Kyle Armstrong, 13) Kyle Sheldon, 14) Elmo Reckner, 15) Mike King, 16) Chad Jeseo, 17) Mike Keeler, 18) Wayne Jelley, 19) L.J. Lombardo, 20) Steve Hough, 21) Denny Soltis, 22) John Ruchel, 23) Paul Gilardi, 24) Olden Dwyer
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Chuck Towslee, 2) Jason Meltz, 3) Nick Hilt, 4) Steven LaRochelle, 5) Rick Duzlak, 6) Rich Colasanti, 7) Ed Bishop, 8) Jon Routhier, 9) Tom O’Connor, 10) Tom Dean, 11) Sparky Reilly, 12) Brian Keough, 13) Rich Spencer, 14) Nick Arnold, 15) Dave Peck, 16) Rick Dempsey, 17) Joe LaFlamme, 18) Hugh Page, 19) Dan Cote
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (8 laps): 1) Larry Perez, 2) Chad Arsenault, 3) Dave Stickles, 4) Mark Dwyer, 5) Brian Walsh, 6) Tim Meltz, 7) Nick Reilly, 8) Karen Verhagen, 9) Brian VanDenburg
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (8 laps): 1) John Denue, 2) Clifford Booth, 3) Scott Morris, 4) Keri VanDenburg, 5) Joe Walcott, 6) Adam Schneider, 7) Wuggie Burdick, 8) Jordan Miller
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 Results (12 laps): 1) Bill Deak Jr., 2) Ed Hatch, 3) John Devine, 4) Ray Hall Sr., 5) Jeff Meltz Jr., 6) Gary O’Brien, 7) Jeff Kreutziger, 8) Jeff Meltz Sr., 9) Tim Thompson, 10) Jesse Murphy, 11) Mike Arnold, 12) Lou Gancarz, 13) Shawn Perez, 14) Zach Seyerlein
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Results (15 laps): 1) Chris Vandeputte, 2) Kenny Stager, 3) P.J. Bleau, 4) Shawny Hazel, 5) Stephen Thompson, 6) Jake Gomm, 7) Jim Guertin, 8) Tomm Gomm
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Results (15 laps): 1) Chris White, 2) Jim Williams, 3) James Street, 4) Jethro Rossman, 5) Gary Malloy, 6) Victor Duncan Jr., 7) Bradley Batho, 8) Brandon Ely