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  • Phil Allaway

L.J. Lombardo Claims First Small Block in First Attempt at Lebanon Valley

With the Big Block Modifieds done for the season, the Small Block Modifieds served as the headliners at Lebanon Valley Saturday night. The result was an attrition-filled race.

Brian Sandstedt started from the pole and led early over Kim LaVoy. Further back, Kenny Tremont Jr. and Andy Bachetti, the primary championship contenders, were scratching and clawing their way up through the field.

Any realistic chance Bachetti had at the title ended when Bachetti cut a tire just four laps into the race, bringing out a yellow. On the restart, Sandstedt had a mechanical issue and hit the wall in Turn 1, giving the lead to LaVoy. Sandstedt’s crew made repairs that allowed him to continue. He would eventually finish ninth.

On the next, a big crash broke out in Turn 2 after Lorne Browe and Kenny Aanonsen Jr. spun in front of the field. A number of drivers were eliminated here, cutting the field down to 13.

L.J. Lombardo, driving in place of the injured Frank Harper, moved up to second from his fifth starting spot. Once the race restarted, he made short work of LaVoy and took the lead. Tremont followed past. Once out front, Lombardo was able to put significant distance on Tremont and the rest of the field.

A crash in Turn 3 involving Olden Dwyer and Ricky Davis brought out the yellow with less than 10 laps to go. Despite the pack closing up, no one could prevent Lombardo from winning in his first Small Block start at Lebanon Valley.

“The car kept getting better every lap,” Lombardo said. “I’d never turned a lap in a Billy the Kid [engined] small block and never turned a lap in a PMC Modified [prior to tonight]. It took me maybe 10 laps to figure it out. [The team] really hit on it tonight.”

Of note, Lombardo was a designated substitute driver for Harper, something that can be done once a year. Harper will earn the points that Lombardo collected. Despite the victory, not being in the car really fazed Harper. He believes that he could have won the race himself had he been physically up to driving himself.

Tremont finished second and wrapped up the Small Block Modified championship. J.R. Heffner was third, followed by Bachetti and LaVoy. The results may change due to a post-race altercation between LaVoy and Timothy Davis’ teams.

The Sportsman class has a very close points race and things only got closer Saturday night. Alan Houghtaling started from the pole and led early.

Rob Maxon, running with increased confidence after his engine was found to be 100 percent legal following a protest, had to charge up from 10th on the grid. Unfortunately, he spun early in an incident also involving Ted Teal, Karl Barnes and John Stowell. Stowell was eliminated in the crash. Barnes continued, then spun again on the restart and backed into the wall in Turn 1, ending his night. Teal continued and finished 12th.

Whitey Slavin moved up from the fourth starting spot to second and immediately started to put the pressure on Houghtaling. Slavin managed to get three-quarters of his car in front of Houghtaling at one point, but Houghtaling used the outside line to get back past.

Once Houghtaling was able to withstand Slavin’s charge, he pulled out a small gap and held on to win. Slavin finished second, but claimed the points lead. Chris Lynch was third, followed by Chris Curtis and John Virgilio. Slavin leads Curtis by one point with one race remaining.

The Pro Stock points ended Labor Day weekend. With the DIRTcar Pro Stock Series in action at LeRPM Speedway, it was appearance points only Saturday night. That said, it was still a good race.

By virtue of winning his heat, Steven LaRochelle started from the pole. Jason Casey started third and got in front of Nick Hilt on the start. What followed was an excellent battle.

The night also saw Dom Denue make his Pro Stock debut. He intends to run as close to full-time as possible in 2019. Pro Stock Race No. 1 for Denue was up and down as he was involved in a couple of incidents and finished 16th.

The second of Denue’s spins set up a two-lap shootout. Casey tried his best to get past LaRochelle in a clean manner, but could not do it as LaRochelle claimed his third win of 2018.

“This race tonight couldn’t have gone any better,” LaRochelle said after the race. “We ran a really good race. My car was perfect, my crew was awesome. I just focused on hitting my marks. I didn’t care who was behind me or beside me, I just ran my own race.”

In addition, LaRochelle praised Jason Casey for running him clean during his Victory Lane interview. He stated, “Jason Casey was racing me hard and I appreciate it because he didn’t touch me once. It is always a good time to race side-by-side, fair, no contact and no stupid stuff.”

Jason Casey was second, followed by his father Jay. Rick Duzlak was fourth, followed by Chuck Towslee.

In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Craig Coons started from pole, but Scott Morris quickly moved up from third to take the lead on Lap 1. Coons’ night was not a great one as his front bumper fell off to bring out a yellow. Shortly afterwards, he was forced to drop out due to mechanical issues.

Ray Hall Sr. charged to the front from the seventh starting spot to take the lead on Lap 7. Shortly afterward, Morris spun while fighting for position to bring out another yellow. Evan Denue also lost control on the frontstretch after fighting his No. 245 for nearly a quarter of a lap. He backed his into the Jersey Barrier, damaging the rear end of his Camaro.

The caution set up a one-lap sprint. On that restart, Hall simply pulled away from the field to take his second win of the year. Don Kennedy was second, followed by Rob Partridge. Phil Sherman was fourth, while Dave Fachini was fifth.

Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Brian Walsh start on pole and hold onto the advantage for the first couple of laps. On Lap 3, trouble struck. Exiting Turn 4, Walsh was bumped by Jeff Kreutziger, spinning Walsh out. Al Relyea had nowhere to go but right into Walsh’s car to bring out the first yellow.

Kreutziger was judged to be responsible for the crash and was sent to the rear. That gave the advantage over to Dom Denue.

Much of the rest of the race was run in a start-and-stop fashion. First, Keri Vandenburg spun in Turn 4 and right as the yellow flew, Ed Hatch spun as well. Later on, Relyea spun for a second time in Turn 4. That ended his night. Finally, Clifford Booth spun out of a spot in the top five when he bumped against Zach Seyerlein.

The yellow for Booth’s spin set up a three-lap run to the finish. While Dom’s Pro Stock debut may not have gone exactly to plan, his Pure Stock race was everything he hoped that it would be as he claimed victory. Jeff Meltz Sr. was second, followed by Hatch, Seyerlein and Zach Sorrentino.

The 4-Cylinder class was back in action to close the night. Mike Duncan started on pole, but was quickly usurped by Chris White. White proceeded to drive away from the field and open up a huge lead.

The giant lead disappeared when Jim Guertin spun in Turn 2 to bring out the first yellow on Lap 7. Shortly after the restart, a catastrophic failure occurred on White’s Honda, resulting in billowing white smoke coming out of the No. 418.

Naturally, the smoke ended White’s night, but not before bringing out the caution for multiple laps. The yellow wasn’t even so much for track cleanup, but to wait for the smoke to clear.

White’s failure gave the overall lead over to Single-Cam competitor Gary Malloy in his older Honda Civic hatchback. Once the green came back out, Malloy opened up a good lead over the pack, including Dual-Cam leader Kenny Stager.

A late spin and wall contact for Derek Quintero Jr. in Turn 2 brought the field back together for one last restart. Despite that, Malloy was able to hold on to take the overall win.

Devin Besze was second in a similar Civic hatchback to Malloy. Stager finished third overall, good enough to take the Dual-Cam win. James Street was fourth in his Chevrolet Cavalier, while Jim Williams recovered from wall contact on the first lap to finish fifth.

Snap-On Tools/Douglass Industrial Supply Small Block Modified Feature Results (24 laps): 1) Frank Harper, 2) Kenny Tremont Jr., 3) J.R. Heffner, 4) Andy Bachetti, 5) Kim LaVoy, 6) Timothy Davis, 7) Jason Herrington, 8) Ricky Davis, 9) Brian Sandstedt, 10) Mark Pullen, 11) Dylan Scribner, 12) Dillon Steuer, 13) Olden Dwyer, 14) Lorne Browe, 15) Kenny Aanonsen Jr., 16) Brandon Pitcher, 17) Brett Haas, 18) Steve Hough, 19) Cody Bleau, 20) Alan Houghtaling, 21) Angelo DiCarlo, 22) Ryan Charland

Note: Frank Harper designated L.J. Lombardo as his substitute driver for the evening. As a result, Lombardo earned points for Harper. The victory counts as 60 points for Harper.

Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Alan Houghtaling, 2) Whitey Slavin, 3) Chris Lynch, 4) Chris Curtis, 5) John Virgilio, 6) Peter Carlotto, 7) Cody Ochs, 8) Ray Hall Jr., 9) Rob Maxon, 10) Vinnie Visconti, 11) Joey Coppola, 12) Ted Teal, 13) Harold Robitaille, 14) Scott McCoy, 15) Matt Burke, 16) Nikki Ouellette, 17) Karl Barnes, 18) John Stowell, 19) Joe Carnibucci

Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Steven LaRochelle, 2) Jason Casey, 3) Jay Casey, 4) Rick Duzlak, 5) Chuck Towslee, 6) Nick Hilt, 7) Jon Routhier, 8) Ed Bishop, 9) Doug Olds, 10) Nick Arnold, 11) Don Collins, 12) Dave Stickles, 13) Rick Spencer, 14) Brian Keough, 15) Scott Kilmer, 16) Dom Denue, 17) Tom O’Connor, 18) Nick Reilly, 19) Adam Schneider

Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Ray Hall Sr., 2) Don Kennedy, 3) Rob Partridge, 4) Phil Sherman, 5) Dave Fachini, 6) Karen Verhagen, 7) Scott Morris, 8) Ryan Brown, 9) Evan Denue, 10) Craig Coons, 11) Marcus Hillard, 12) Tim Meltz

Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (12 laps): 1) Dom Denue, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Ed Hatch, 4) Zach Seyerlein, 5) Zach Sorrentino, 6) Jeff Kreutziger, 7) Gary O’Brien, 8) Clifford Booth, 9) Shawn Perez, 10) Brian Walsh, 11) Keri Vandenburg, 12) Al Relyea

4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Gary Malloy, 2) Devin Besze, 3) James Street, 4) Jim Williams, 5) Brett Horlacher, 6) Victor Duncan Jr., 7) Jon Sheppard, 8) Demetrie Thompson

4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Kenny Stager, 2) Connor Hill, 3) Mike Duncan, 4) Jim Guertin, 5) John Wright, 6) Derek Quintero Jr., 7) Chris White

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