Steve Hough Wins J.C. Flach Memorial, Andy Bachetti Wins 6/1 Modified Feature
Saturday night was already going to be a big night at Lebanon Valley as $5000 was going to be on the line as part of the 7th annual J.C. Flach Memorial. However, the weather on June 1st did not cooperate, resulting in the Modified, Small Block Modified and Pro Stock teams failing to get their features in before the rains came.
As a result, before J.C. Flach could be properly feted, we still had to memorialize former Modified racer Maynard Forrette.
In the opening Modified feature, Paul Gilardi started from the pole and led early. Despite the race occurring early on the schedule, the track was very slick and could catch some drivers out. Josh Marcus found this out the hard way when he spun and backed into the wall to bring out a yellow. Marcus was able to continue after repairs in the pits.
On the original attempt to restart, there was a big stack-up on the frontstretch. As a result of that issue, Mike King was bounced into the inside wall. He was OK, but out of the first feature of the night.
Once the race finally restarted, Olden Dwyer was able to snatch the lead away from Gilardi and opened up a small lead. Meanwhile, Andy Bachetti was on the move, climbing from 12th to third.
Saturday was simply not Brian Berger’s night. On lap 12, Berger spun out and hit the wall in turn 2 to bring out another yellow. This allowed Bachetti to close up on Dwyer and Kyle Armstrong.
On the restart, Bachetti was able to get past Armstrong for second, then set out to stalk Dwyer. A few laps later, he was able to get to Dwyer’s inside and make the pass stick for the lead.
Despite having one of the fastest cars, he had to deal with a charging Keith Flach in the closing laps. Both drivers were all over the bottom lane, but Bachetti was able to hold on for the win, his first Big Block victory in a couple of years at Lebanon Valley. Flach was second, then Dwyer, Kyle Armstrong and Ronnie Johnson.
Later in the evening came the proper J.C. Flach Memorial. Stories were told, balloons were released, $5000 was on the line for the winner and Brett Hearn was back for more action.
Steve Hough started from the pole and led early. A difficult night for Brian Berger continued as he slid into the wall on the first lap to bring out the race’s one and only caution. Berger’s Phaze 3 Racing Bicknell had enough damage to end his night right then and there.
From here on in, the race ran caution free. Once the race restarted, Hough was able to hold off the likes of J.R. Heffner and Kyle Sheldon for the lead. Meanwhile, Hearn was moving up the order from 15th. For much of the event, the race was a four-man duel between Hough, Heffner, Kyle Sheldon and Kolby Schroder.
Kyle Sheldon was able to take second from Heffner on lap 15 and pressured Hough significantly for the advantage. Problem is that this pressure brought a number of additional drivers into the picture.
Hearn moved into fifth just past halfway, but had a big gap to make up. With the battling at the front, Hearn was able to slowly and methodically run down the lead pack. Once there, Hearn was able to quickly dispatch of Schroder and move up to fourth. With a little more than three laps to go, Kyle Sheldon made a move for the lead in turn 4 and slipped. That allowed Hearn to get past both Kyle’s No. 42 and Heffner for second. At the same time, Hough was able to not only hold on to the lead, but extend it.
Hearn did his best to run down Hough in the final three laps, but simply could not catch up in time to prevent Hough from winning the 7th Annual J.C. Flach Memorial. Then again, Hearn knew that Hough had a good car. He used to race it himself.
“The car was real good tonight. Really helped starting out front,” Hough said after the race. “It feels real good to win on the J.C. Flach Memorial night. I usually knock off a win a year, so this will make things a little easier for us.”
Hearn ended up second, followed by Heffner. Bachetti made a late charge to get to fourth, while Flach was fifth. Kyle Sheldon’s slip on lap 27 dropped him all the way back to sixth.
The Small Block Modifieds had two features of their own Saturday night. In the first 24-lap race, Alan Houghtaling started from the pole, but came under early pressure from rookie Chris Curtis. After pressuring the veteran for a couple of laps, Curtis was able to take the advantage on lap 5. Frank Harper followed past into second
Much like in the first Modified race, Bachetti was once again the man to beat. Starting 13th, Bachetti was in the top five within only a few laps. On lap 10, he was second. A lap later, Bachetti was in the lead.
Behind Bachetti, Guy Sheldon worked himself into contention. When Bachetti took the lead on lap 11, Guy followed into second a lap later.
In the second half of the feature, Guy was able to keep pace with Bachetti, but he could never quite get to him. Bachetti was able to hold on to take his fifth Small Block Modified win of the year. It is also his sixth career two-fer at Lebanon Valley and allowed him to retake the Small Block Modified points lead from Brett Haas.
Guy ended up second, followed by Heffner and Harper. Haas was fifth.
The second feature saw Houghtaling on pole once again, but this race did not run caution-free like the first one. On the second lap, Brian Sandstedt spun in turn 2, collecting Harper, Curtis and Jason Herrington. Herrington and Curtis were out on the spot, while Harper and Sandstedt were able to continue.
Timothy Davis, who started seventh, showed significant pace. After the restart, he quickly come to the front and dispatched Houghtaling for the lead on lap 4. Once out front, Davis pulled away from the pack.
Behind Davis, Guy was once again very strong. He had moved into second shortly after Davis took the lead, but then spotted Davis a significant lead. Slowly but surely, Guy was able to cut into Davis’ lead.
Davis had spent the whole race running the high line, but chose to go down low late to defend. The No. 7T couldn’t stick down there, which allowed Guy the chance to sneak past on the inside on the final lap. From there, he held on for his first win in a number of years.
“[Davis] was running the high side for the whole race,” Guy Sheldon explained afterwards. “I was right behind him since that seemed to be the fast way around. On the last lap, [Davis] went to the bottom to try to protect it.
“I just got a really good run on the top,” Guy continued. “Coming out of [turn] 2, I saw him slip up a bit into the black and I could see his tires break free. I just came up on him really, really fast; I had to turn it really hard to not hit him. I got underneath three-quarters of the way down the backstretch and never saw him again.”
Davis was second, followed by Brandon Pitcher, Heffner and Hough.
Pro Stock teams also had double features to contend with. The first feature saw Tom Dean start from the pole and run very competitively early on. Johnny Rivers Jr. ran into trouble early when he spun and hit the wall in turn 1 to bring out a caution. The Rivers Asset Recovery team were able to make repairs and got Rivers back out.
On the restart, Steven LaRochelle was able to snag the lead away from Dean. From there, LaRochelle was unable to open up much of a gap on the field for a couple of reasons. One reason was that a couple of cautions flew for problems on-track.
Don Collins spun on lap 9 and nosed into the inside wall to bring out one of them. Later on, Rick Duzlak had issues and slowed on-track.
The other reason why LaRochelle couldn’t get away was that Rob Yetman was right on his tail. The two drivers raced hard for the lead, but fair. According to LaRochelle, that’s something that he can always expect out of the multi-time Pro Stock champion.
Late in the race, Yetman dropped down the order a bit, but no one could keep LaRochelle from claiming his first win of the season. Chad Jeseo ended up in second, then Jason Casey, Yetman and Rick Dempsey.
The second feature saw Rivers start from the pole and run the best that he has all season to this point. Behind the No. 14J, it was a dogfight for position. Contact was somewhat common. Nick Arnold scrubbed the wall early on. Jason Casey cut a tire on lap 8 and spun in turn 1 to bring out a yellow.
On the restart, Dempsey had contact with Jay Casey and spun exiting turn 2. This incident did not draw a caution, but cost the Nassau resident significant track position.
Much like the first feature, Jeseo came to life in the second half of the race. He was able to get around Yetman for second on lap 11 and proceeded to run down Rivers for the lead. A couple of laps later, Jeseo took the lead and Yetman followed.
Once out front, Jeseo and Yetman gapped the rest of the field and battled it out for the win. The racing was close between the two past champions, but Jeseo was able to hold off Yetman for his first Pro Stock win since 2012.
“Me and Rob were so close,” Jeseo said after the race. “Talent-wise, he’s one of the best. You’re not going to just drive by Rob Yetman. You’re not gonna. Hats off to the No. 25 team, Mike Slauson and all the guys that work on the car. Gotta thank Glenn [Ames] for setting the car up. It’s absolutely awesome.”
Yetman was second, followed by Rivers in third across the line. However, Rivers’ Chevrolet came up light on the scales after the race. That resulted in Rivers’ disqualification. Connecticut’s Jay Casey inherited third-place in the feature, followed by Nick Hilt and Jason Meltz.
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 saw Janai St. Pierre start from the pole and instantly get swamped by Mike Eichstedt entering turn 1 for the lead. Eichstedt had a lot of speed, but used a little too much of it. On the second lap, Eichstedt jumped the cushion in turns 1 and 2. In the scramble to recover, Eichstedt slid down the track, had contact and spun up the track to draw a caution.
Fairfield, Conn.’s Scott Morris avoided Eichstedt and snatched the lead here. From there, Morris did battle with Clifford Booth. Booth tried to get to the inside in his early 1980s Chevrolet, but could not get fully alongside Morris’ Camaro.
Morris was able to hold on to take his first win of 2019. John Devine made a late charge to finish second, followed by Booth and Jim Dellea in his late 1970s Chevrolet Nova. Chris Murphy was fifth
In Pure Stock Feature No. 2, Shawn Perez started on the pole and ran strong early on. Further back, Keri Vandenburg spun in turn 2 to bring out the first yellow of the race after getting a tap in turn 2. Vandenburg was able to continue.
The slippery conditions in the early features definitely came into play in this race. Jeff Meltz Sr. drew a caution on lap 2 when he spun in turn 2. Less than a lap after the restart, Perez lost control in turn 4 all on his own and spun in front of the field. This created a chain reaction crash that involved a dozen cars. Perez and Don Kennedy were eliminated in the crash, but everyone was ok.
Ray Hall Sr. was able to get through the wreck without damage and claimed the lead as a result. The remainder of the race was quite the duel as Hall, Ed Hatch and Jeff Kreutziger fought it out. However, it was the inauspicious Zach Seyerlein that rose to prominence right when it counted.
Seyerlein was able to take his Chevrolet Monte Carlo to the outside and pass everyone, including Kreutziger for the lead on lap 8. From there, Seyerlein was able to hold on to take the victory. Hatch was second, followed by Hall, Kreutziger and Jeff Meltz Sr.
The 4-Cylinder feature saw Brandon Ely charge to the lead on the first lap from eighth on the grid in his Honda Civic. Giving chase was the JRS Racing contingent, led by the Nissan Sentra of James Street.
After an early caution due to an incident involving Bradley Batho, Street approached Ely and raced him hard for the lead. The two drivers (who are known to not like each other) had contact multiple times. Street partially ran over Ely’s right front tire on lap 7. Interestingly enough, not only did Street maintain control, but he snagged the lead as well.