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  • Phil Allaway

Paul Gilardi Earns 7th Career Big Block Win at Lebanon Valley

Saturday night at Lebanon Valley was spent racing the rain. After the heats and Pure Stock features were completed, a 10-minute steady rainstorm resulted in a one-hour rain delay. The result was a somewhat slick track.

Paul Gilardi started from the pole in his Hig Fab chassis and ran extremely well early on. Things weren’t going so well for John Ruchel, who suddenly slowed on the frontstretch a couple of laps in. This caused a stack-up that brought out the caution. Everyone was able to continue, but Ruchel’s night ended a few laps after the restart.

Marc Johnson climbed up to second on the start of the race and began to challenge Gilardi for the lead briefly. Then, the power went away on the No. 33. On lap 11, Johnson lost second to Eddie Marshall. A puff of smoke came out of the car shortly afterwards. By lap 13, Johnson was out with apparent engine issues.

Once in second, Marshall slowly began to reel in Gilardi for the lead. Behind him, L.J. Lombardo had climbed up to third and was closing as well. Further back, points leader Andy Bachetti was having some trouble moving up the order. Ronnie Johnson was even worse off before being forced to retire due to mechanical issues.

A blown right rear tire for Olden Dwyer brought out the yellow with eight laps and brought Marshall to Gilardi’s bumper. Despite that, Gilardi was able to get a decent restart and build the lead back up. In the closing laps, Marshall was moving back when Kyle Sheldon and Wayne Jelley collided exiting turn 4. The contact turned Jelley into the outside wall exiting turn 4 before he bounced across the track and hit the inside wall. Jelley was ok, but very upset at Sheldon.

The crash set up a one-lap shootout. Gilardi got another good restart and that was all he needed to take his seventh career Modified win at Lebanon Valley.

“The Hig Fab chassis was excellent tonight,” Gilardi said. “We scrambled and made about six changes on the car [to fit the track]. We were very good in the heat race, then the rain came. We made five more changes to put it in between [tacky and slick]. I’d say we nailed the setup pretty close.”

Marshall was second, followed by Lombardo. Kenny Tremont Jr. made a late move to get fourth, while Brian Berger was fifth.

The Small Block Modified feature saw Alan Houghtaling start from the pole and run quite well shortly after the rain delay. However, the man to beat on this evening was Brett Haas.

Haas started in 11th and quickly made his way up to sixth in the first few laps. A caution due to Timothy Davis stopping on-track allowed him to regroup. Once the green came back, Haas made his move. Within a couple of laps, Haas was already up to second. Three laps later, he had passed Houghtaling for the lead and was trying to run away.

The whole time this was happening, Andy Bachetti was hot on Haas’ heels. Bachetti, who had started 14th, had passed Haas on the second lap of the feature for position. Haas had gotten him back and Bachetti wanted a sixth Small Block win of the year.

On this evening, he simply could not catch Haas, who pulled away to take his second victory of 2019. Bachetti was second, followed by J.R. Heffner, Houghtaling and Brian Sandstedt.

Sportsman teams had two races on Saturday night. The first was the conclusion of the feature from June 1st that was stopped after eight laps due to rain. Nikki Ouellette restarted the event in the lead and ran well at the front of the field. John Stowell moved up to second and gave chase.

The fastest driver on the track in this race was Rob Maxon. Restarting in ninth, he made short work of the drivers in front of him and moved up to third. A spin for John Santolin brought out a caution on lap 13. That was all Maxon needed as he blasted past both Ouellette and Stowell to snatch the lead on the restart.

A crash on the backstretch involving Peter Carlotto, Robbie Colburn and Ryan McCartney set up a three-lap shootout, but no one was preventing Maxon from taking his first win of the year. Ouellette was second, followed by Stowell, Karl Barnes and Robby Knipe.

The regularly scheduled feature saw Bobby Knipe start from the pole, but Jeff Watson made short work of him on the first lap to take the lead.

A number of drivers took shots at Watson during the feature. First, it was Knipe, then Gary O’Brien and Whitey Slavin.

The biggest incident of the night was a multi-car crash in turn 4 on lap 8 that collected Stowell, Ouellette, Pat Jones, Karl Barnes and Harold Robitaille. Everyone continued, but it brought out a caution.

Despite apparently missing the setup for a tacky track, Maxon was on the move again. Starting 15th, Maxon quickly moved up the order and took third from Peter Carlotto at the halfway point.

With five laps to go, Maxon took second from Slavin and attempted to run down Watson. However, he ran out of time as Watson held on for his first win since 2017. Maxon was second, then John Virgilio, Carlotto and Slavin.

The Pro Stock feature saw trouble effectively at the start when Tom Dean and Rich Crane collided in turn 2 on the first lap. That created an incident that collected Jay Casey and Rick Duzlak. In Casey’s case, the crash bent suspension parts that resulted in his car pulling to the left for the remainder of the night, but he was able to continue and finish seventh.

In the whole mess, Nick Hilt was able to move up from the sixth starting spot and take the lead from pole sitter Gary Silkey. That got him in front of a fair amount of contact.

Behind Hilt, it was a series of battles for position. Nick Arnold took second at the halfway point from Jon Routhier, but had Jason Casey breathing down his neck. The younger Casey took second with three laps to go, but could not prevent Hilt from taking his first win since 2014. Jason Casey was second, followed by Arnold, Rob Yetman and Chad Jeseo.

In the Pure Stocks, Scott Morris and Ray Hall Sr. each won features.

Upstate GMC Dealers/DMC Racing Products Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Paul Gilardi, 2) Eddie Marshall, 3) L.J. Lombardo, 4) Kenny Tremont Jr., 5) Brian Berger, 6) Kyle Armstrong, 7) Peter Britten, 8) Keith Flach, 9) Demetrios Drellos, 10) Andy Bachetti, 11) J.R. Heffner, 12) Kyle Sheldon, 13) Kolby Schroder, 14) Rob Pitcher, 15) Mike King, 16) Steve Hough, 17) Wayne Jelley, 18) Olden Dwyer, 19) Ronnie Johnson, 20) Ricky Davis, 21) John Ruchel, 22) Marc Johnson, 23) Matt Pupello, 24) Chad Jeseo, 25) Kenny Aanonsen Jr.

Small Block Modified Feature Results (24 laps): 1) Brett Haas, 2) Andy Bachetti, 3) J.R. Heffner, 4) Alan Houghtaling, 5) Brian Sandstedt, 6) Ricky Davis, 7) Olden Dwyer, 8) Frank Harper, 9) Frank Hoard III, 10) Ray Hall Jr., 11) Brandon Pitcher, 12) Guy Sheldon, 13) Timothy Davis, 14) Ryan Charland, 15) Sean Mandel, 16) Chris Curtis, 17) Jason Herrington, 18) Nathan Johnson, 19) Steve Hough

Note: Brandon Pitcher became ill at the track and was unable to drive Saturday night. Pitcher Motorsports nominated Brandon’s father Rob to drive in his place. Under substitution rules, Brandon will earn the points that his father collected in the Small Block Modified feature for his 11th-place finish.

Sportsman Feature No. 1 (completed feature from 6/1, 20 laps): 1) Rob Maxon, 2) Nikki Ouellette, 3) John Stowell, 4) Karl Barnes, 5) Robby Knipe, 6) Gary O’Brien, 7) Gary O’Brien, 8) Kevin Arnold, 9) John Virgilio, 10) Cody Ochs, 11) Pat Jones, 12_ Ted Teal, 13) Joey Coppola, 14) Ryan McCartney, 15) Chris Lynch, 16) Harold Robitaille, 17) Shane Henion, 18) Peter Carlotto, 19) Robbie Colburn, 20) John Santolin, 21) Jeff Watson

Sportsman Feature No. 2 Results (20 laps): 1) Jeff Watson, 2) Rob Maxon, 3) John Virgilio, 4) Peter Carlotto, 5) Whitey Slavin, 6) Kevin Arnold, 7) Gary O’Brien, 8) Robby Knipe, 9) Cody Ochs, 10) Bobby Knipe, 11) Walt Hammond, 12) Ted Teal, 13) Cody Hunt, 14) Chris Lynch, 15) Shane Henion, 16) Harold Robitaille, 17) Colin Clow, 18) John Santolin, 19) Matt Wescott, 20) Karl Barnes, 21) Joey Coppola, 22) Pat Jones, 23) John St. Germain Jr., 24) Ryan McCartney, 25) Nikki Ouellette, 26) John Stowell, 27) Robbie Colburn, 28) Justin Gozzi, 29) Aaron Mulready

Pro Stock 7th Annual Bubba Tanner Classic Results (23 laps): 1) Nick Hilt, 2) Jason Casey, 3) Nick Arnold, 4) Rob Yetman, 5) Chad Jeseo, 6) C.D. Beauchamp, 7) Jay Casey, 8) Gary Silkey, 9) Tom Dean, 10) Rich Crane, 11) Don Collins, 12) Adam Schneider, 13) Brian Keough, 14) Paul LaRochelle, 15) Jon Routhier, 16) Rick Spencer, 17) Rick Duzlak, 18) Steven LaRochelle, 19) Rick Dempsey, 20) Jason Meltz, 21) Johnny Rivers Jr., 22) Tony Markov, 23) Jay Casey

Note: There are two Jay Caseys in the Pro Stock race. The Jay Casey from Connecticut finished seventh while the Jay Casey from Massachusetts finished 23rd.

Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Scott Morris, 2) Shawn Perez, 3) Chris Murphy, 4) Janai St. Pierre, 5) Dave Stickles, 6) Ryan Brown, 7) Fred Hoffman

Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Ray Hall Sr., 2) Jeff Kreutziger, 3) Ed Hatch, 4) Zach Seyerlein, 5) Rob Partridge, 6) Rocco Procopio, 7) Jeff Meltz Sr., 8) Don Kennedy, 9) Brian Walsh, 10) Keri Vandenburg

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