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  • Phil Allaway

Ronnie Johnson, Andy Bachetti Split Valley Modified Features

Due to lightning and heavy rains on July 20th, there were two Modified features on Saturday night. The first one was just the start of a rather expensive night at the races.

Denny Soltis had won the pole for the first Modified feature last week, but pulled off during the pace laps to conserve his car for later in the evening. That gave the lead to Marc Johnson. The former Albany-Saratoga champ was able to hold the advantage over Ronnie Johnson, who quickly moved up to second from fourth on the grid.

Then, things took a turn for the worse. On lap 10, Kyle Armstrong had his throttle hang entering turn 3. He ran over the front end of Steve Hough and went nearly head-on into the wall. The impact resulted in Armstrong’s car rolling multiple times and the car bursting into flames briefly. Luckily, Armstrong was able to get out without assistance, to raucous cheers from the crowd. Despite that, Armstrong still spent a significant amount of time in the ambulance. He was eventually sent to the hospital, but only for observation. He has since been released from the hospital and reports soreness.

The race was red-flagged to clean up the destroyed Armstrong car and Hough’s damaged No. 34. Both drivers were done for the night.

After the red flag, there was more contact in turn 1. Luckily, this time, there were no catastrophic failures involved. Contact was made, resulting in a crash involving Ricky Davis, Olden Dwyer, Eddie Marshall and L.J. Lombardo. The crash Davis, Dwyer and Marshall out, but Lombardo was able to continue. For Davis, Saturday night was the first night back for his Big Block Modified after an earlier crash, so this was not the welcome back that he would have liked.

Just before the stack-up in turn 1, Peter Britten had taken third away from J.R. Heffner. Having started in 12th, Britten definitely had a quick car.

Ultimately, the Johnsons opened up a gap on the field and attempted to settle things among themselves. With eight laps to go, Ronnie was able to get to the back of Marc Johnson’s No. 33. Shortly afterwards, he made the move for the lead stick. From there, Ronnie Johnson ran away to take his first victory since moving his Saturday night schedule to Lebanon Valley.

“Our car was good tonight,” Ronnie Johnson said after the races. “It got a little free in the second race. We probably didn’t make enough adjustments for the conditions, but we’re very happy with the way things have been going this year to get the feature win. It was real satisfying.”

Peter Britten was second, followed by Marc Johnson, Kenny Tremont Jr. and Keith Flach.

The second feature saw Ricky Davis start on pole in his repaired Big Block. Unfortunately, his time up front was very short as Kyle Sheldon was able to get the lead on the first lap. A couple of laps in, Brian Berger spun and tapped the wall in turn 2 to bring out the first yellow. Issues in the first feature had forced Berger to turn to his Malta car for the race. Issues with the suspension were discovered in the pits by the crew. In an attempt to salvage the night, Berger continued, but at a reduced pace. He would finish 15th, two laps down.

Andy Bachetti was once again the man on the move, quickly advancing from the 11th starting spot to get himself into the top five. After a lap 14 yellow due to a flat tire for Heffner, Bachetti pounced to snag second a couple of laps after the restart.

Sheldon was looking good out front until Matt Pupello stalled in turn 2 to bring out the yellow with seven laps to go. That wiped out a decent lead for the Nassau native. On the restart, Bachetti dove to the inside and was able to take the lead away in turn 2. Despite the relative ease in which Bachetti took the lead, by no means was he substantially faster than Kyle Sheldon. From there, Bachetti held on to a small advantage to take his second win of the year.

“It was really good. The Garrity power was real good,” Bachetti said on the frontstretch. “Just happy to get [the car] up front and keep the momentum going. Going to be a tough battle [in the points] to the end.”

Kyle Sheldon was second, followed by Flach, Tremont and Britten.

The Small Block Modifieds were not immune to the destruction as well. Alan Houghtaling started from the pole and led early. Then, trouble struck on Lap 2.

“All I know is that a car came across my right front,” Sean Mandel stated after the races. “I think it might have snapped the front spindle. Next thing I [knew], I was rolling down the track.”

Mid-roll, debris from Mandel’s car struck two people in the infield. One of those people had to be transported to the hospital for treatment, while the other reportedly refused to be transported. Mandel stated that he had a bit of a headache Saturday night and was sore all over later on, but was otherwise ok.

In this race, the man on the move was Brett Haas. Starting fifth, he was able to take second on the restart after Mandel’s crash. One lap later, Haas took the lead from Houghtaling.

Once out in front, Haas was able to pull away from the pack. Further back, a battle erupted between Timothy Davis and Guy Sheldon. Guy, driving the No. 628 in honor of his late father Todd, was able to get past Timothy Davis for second on lap 13. Bachetti was also right there, but could not get past.

Haas held on to win his third race of 2019, the perfect start to a nice vacation. Guy Sheldon was second, followed by Bachetti. Timothy Davis was fourth, while Jason Herrington was fifth.

The Pro Stock feature turned out to be the cleanest feature of the night. Nick Arnold started on pole with Mike Baker alongside. Unfortunately, Baker got a terrible start and clogged the field up. That allowed Rick Duzlak to move up to second.

The majority of the race saw Duzlak trying to size up Arnold. As the event continued on, Duzlak noticed Arnold starting to slip. Eventually, it was time to go for Duzlak. With five laps to go, Duzlak made his move in turn 4 and swept past Arnold for the lead.

From there, Duzlak was able to hold on to take his second win a row and third of 2019. He was quite the happy camper afterwards.

“I saw that Nick [Arnold] was getting a little loose,” Duzlak said in the pits. “He was running a good line, so I figured, ‘I’m in second, I’m going to bide my time.’ He kept on getting looser and looser. After about lap 12, 13, 14, I said, ‘Alright, next time he steps out, I gotta go.” That’s exactly what happened [in turns 3 and 4] and it worked out perfectly.”

Arnold ended up second, followed by Nick Hilt, Rob Yetman and Jason Meltz. After the race, Yetman was spun out in turn 1 by Chad Jeseo in an act of retaliation for earlier contact in the race. Jeseo will likely receive a penalty next week for his actions.

In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Janai St. Pierre started on pole and held the lead early on. In this caution-free race, two packs of cars quickly developed. One held the leaders, topped by St. Pierre and Jim Dellea. The other pack had the remaining competitors.

At the halfway point, Dellea started challenging St. Pierre for the lead. On Lap 6, Dellea was after to take his purple Oldsmobile Cutlass (with a Chevrolet Monte Carlo nose) to the lead. Scott Morris followed in his Camaro.

The two drivers pulled away and attempted to settle things. There was some contact between the two drivers, but nothing serious. On the final lap, Morris took his orange and blue Camaro to the outside in turns 3 and 4 and swept past Dellea to take the victory. Dellea was second, followed by St. Pierre, Keri Vandenburg and Jake Gomm.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of Morris’ night. Mandel’s crash in the Small Block Modified feature occurred very close to where Morris pits his Camaro. At the time, Morris was changing back into his civilian clothes when debris rained on his pit. According to a post on his team's Facebook page, Morris was struck by a brace for the body of Mandel’s car and was injured. He went to the hospital for treatment before being released. He hopes to be back in the car this weekend to race, but that is currently up in the air.

The second Pure Stock feature saw Brian Walsh start on pole, but it was not long before trouble broke out. Walsh overran turns 1 and 2, jumping the cushion. Rob Partridge ended up clipping Walsh, spinning out the No. 43. The result was a pile-up that collected Jeff Meltz Sr., Shawn Perez, Chris Murphy and Jeff Kreutziger. Perez’s No. 09 ended up rolling in the crash. Everyone was ok, but Perez was out on the spot.

Despite significant damage to his No. 22, Partridge came out of the crash with the lead. Once the race restarted, Partridge was able to hold the pack back.

A couple of laps later, a squeeze play situation erupted on the frontstretch involving Murphy, Zach Seyerlein and Ed Hatch to bring out another caution. During this yellow, track officials called Partridge into the pits since his passenger door was hanging on by just a thread. That gave the lead to Ray Hall Sr.

The remainder of the race was clean as Hall had to try to hold the pack back. Despite damage in the opening lap crash, Kreutziger was able to drive himself up to the back of Hall’s Chevrolet. On Lap 6, Kreutziger made the move to take the lead away.

From there, Kreutziger held on to take his fourth win of the year, tops in the Pure Stock division. Hall was second, followed by Hatch, Jeff Meltz Sr. and Clifford Booth.

NBT Bank/Andy’s Speed Shop Modified Feature Results (30 laps, Postponed from 7/20): 1) Ronnie Johnson, 2) Peter Britten, 3) Marc Johnson, 4) Kenny Tremont Jr., 5) Keith Flach, 6) Andy Bachetti, 7) Brian Berger, 8) J.R. Heffner, 9) Kyle Sheldon, 10) Matt Pupello, 11) Mike King, 12) Josh Marcus, 13) L.J. Lombardo, 14) Kolby Schroder, 15) Paul Gilardi, 16) Ricky Davis, 17) Eddie Marshall, 18) Steve Hough, 19) Kyle Armstrong, 20) Olden Dwyer, 21) Denny Soltis, 22) John Ruchel

Sheldon Oil Services/Bulldog Concrete Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) Kyle Sheldon, 3) Keith Flach, 4) Kenny Tremont Jr, 5) Peter Britten, 6) Kolby Schroder, 7) Marc Johnson, 8) Ronnie Johnson, 9) Eddie Marshall, 10) J.R. Heffner, 11) Ricky Davis, 12) L.J. Lombardo, 13) Mike King, 14) Josh Delea, 15) Brian Berger, 16) Josh Marcus, 17) Matt Pupello, 18) Paul Gilardi, 19) Denny Soltis, 20) Olden Dwyer, 21) Kyle Armstrong, 22) John Ruchel, 23) Steve Hough

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

Pro Stock Results (20 Laps): 1) Rick Duzlak, 2) Nick Arnold, 3) Nick Hilt, 4) Rob Yetman, 5) Jason Meltz, 6) Jay Casey, 7) Jason Casey, 8) Chad Jeseo, 9) Rick Dempsey, 10) Steven LaRochelle, 11) Rich Crane, 12) Tom Dean, 13) Don Collins, 14) Gary Silkey, 15) Mike Baker, 16) Tom O'Connor, 17) Tony Markou, 18) Adam Schneider, 19) Phil Arnold, 20) Brian Keough, 21) Johnny Rivers

Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 Laps): 1) Scott Morris, 2) Jim Dellea, 3) Janai St. Pierre, 4) Keri Vandenburg, 5) Jake Gomm, 6) Wayne Mahar, 7) Craig Coons, 8) Ray Royals, 9) Chris Calabro, 10) Fred Hoffman, 11) Tom Gomm

Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 Laps): 1) Jeff Kreutziger, 2) Ray Hall Sr., 3) Ed Hatch, 4) Jeff Meltz Sr., 5) Clifford Booth, 6) Brian Walsh, 7) Zach Seyerlein, 8) Ryan Brown, 9) Rob Partridge, 10) Chris Murphy, 11) Shawn Perez

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