Andy Bachetti Snatches 2nd Victory of 2021; John Virgilio Claims Andrew Sherman Memorial
Warm weather and dry conditions greeted teams and race fans Saturday night at Lebanon Valley as the memory of Scott Kurtzner was celebrated with extra money in the purses for each race. The dry weather led to a series of issues, but Andy Bachetti passed J.R. Heffner with less than three laps to go to take his second win of the year.
“We definitely had a great race car tonight,” Bachetti said after the race. “I think we’re firing on all eight cylinders right now.”
Brian Berger started from the pole and led early. Unlike the first two Modified features of the year, this one had more interruptions. The trouble started early when a chain reaction incident wrapped up Keith Flach, who was making his season debut, in turn 4. Flach recovered and eventually finished 10th.
J.R. Heffner was the man to beat on May 15th before engine woes knocked him out early. Here, he proved to be just as fast. Starting fourth, Heffner quickly moved up to second in the short stints of action between cautions.
After a yellow due to issues for Marc Johnson, Heffner was able to get past Berger to take the lead on lap 7. Further back, Bachetti was making his way forward from 15th starting spot. He was able to sweep past slower traffic and moved up to fourth by lap 10.
Following another yellow due to Johnson’s issues, Bachetti was able to sweep into second past both Berger and Ricky Davis on the restart. From there, Heffner and Bachetti were able to run away with the proceedings.
A couple of cautions at halfway brought everyone back together, but no one could run with Bachetti or Heffner. Heffner pulled out a decent advantage, but faded late in the going, allowing Bachetti to run him back down in the closing laps.
Once Bachetti got past on lap 28, he pulled away to take an easy victory. May 15th winner L.J. Lombardo made his own charge from 14th on the grid to finish in a strong third. Kolby Schroder was fourth, while Eddie Marshall was fifth. Through three races, Bachetti has a 24-point lead over Lombardo, with Marshall third, then Kyle Sheldon and Johnson.
Sportsman teams had $2076 on the line for the winner of the Andrew Sherman Memorial. 33 cars turned out for the race, and it was a rough one.
Jeff Watson started from pole by virtue of winning his heat race and led early. The rough action started quickly as a crash on the backstretch wrapped up Ray Hall Jr., Matt Burke, Dylan Gibson and Joey Coppola. Hall was eliminated on the spot, while the others made repairs and continued.
Later on, another multi-car crash on the backstretch saw Shane Powell nearly get up on his side. This incident, which also involved Gibson, Jeff Reis and Dave Fachini, caused a brief red flag. Everyone managed to continue.
Watson ended up in a side-by-side battle for the lead with Peter Carlotto. Carlotto briefly had the advantage on lap 6, but Watson got it back. Through all of this, defending class champion John Virgilio was quickly moving up the order after starting in 14th. The Watson-Carlotto battle distracted the two drivers, allowing Virgilio to get the drop on Carlotto and steal second after his unsuccessful run for the lead.
After another restart, Virgilio was able to get the lead away from Watson. However, the wrecking was not over. The biggest wreck of the night saw Garrett Poland hit the wall hard in turn 1 and nearly flip over before John Santolin, Dylan Grogan got involved. The drivers were ok, but another red flag flew for cleanup purposes.
Virgilio was able to pull away in the final five laps to claim the $2076 first prize. While it looked like Virgilio had a great Bicknell chassis during the race, it was not really so at all. This victory was the result of overcoming a heat race crash and dealing with a bent race car, as he describes in this video.
Watson was second, followed by Kevin Ward, Carlotto and Rob Maxon.
Unlike the Modified and Sportsman races, the Pro Stock race was clean. Jay Fitzgerald, driving a repaired No. 56 after a crash on May 15th, started from the pole. From here, Fitzgerald was able to open a small gap while Dave Stickles and Shawn Perez fought for second.
Johnny Rivers was able to eventually pass them both and move his Team Repo No. 14J into second on lap 7. Further back, Chad Jeseo was attempting to move forward from his 10th starting spot, but found the going rather difficult.
Fitzgerald was able to turn in the fastest laps out there, nearly a quarter of a second faster than the field. As a result, he was able to lead flag-to-flag to take his first Pro Stock win at Lebanon Valley. Rivers was second, then Steven LaRochelle, Jason Meltz and Jeseo.
Pure Stock feature No. 1 saw Franklin Smith start on the pole, but he immediately lost the lead to Keri VanDenburg in turn 2. Brian Walsh got an incredible start from sixth and was up to third by turn 3 on the first lap. Here, Walsh was able to dive to the inside and get past VanDenburg to snatch the lead before the lap was even complete.
Following Walsh up through the field was Jeff Meltz Sr. and John Devine. Together, the three drivers pulled away from the rest of the pack. Jeff Meltz Sr. attempted to make a move on Walsh, but never quite got there.
Walsh was able to hold on to take his first win of the year. Jeff Meltz Sr. was second, then Devine. Janai St. Pierre was fourth, followed by VanDenburg.
While the first Pure Stock feature was fairly quiet, the second was anything but. On the initial start, Scott Morris spun on the frontstretch and nosed into the outside wall after contact from Rob Partridge. Partridge was judged responsible for the incident and was sent to the rear as a result.
In addition, pole sitter Dave Streibel Jr. and Jethro Rossman also spun out. Since they were involved in the incident, Rocco Procopio ended up in the lead for the restart.
A couple of laps after the restart, an additional spin for Partridge brought out the yellow. At the same time, Procopio spun out in turn 2 and was hit by Chris Stalker and Chris Calkbro. All three were done for the day.
Clifford Booth inherited the lead in his Monte Carlo-based truck, but had Ryan Brown pressuring him. Brown, driving a different chassis than he typically races, ran down Booth and snatched the lead with two laps to go. From there, he held on to take his first career victory. Partridge recovered for second, then Morris, Streibel and Booth.
The 4-Cylinder feature saw Jim Guertin start on pole in his Honda Prelude and lead early. Lucas Ballard ended up running him down and taking the overall lead on lap 4.
A yellow for Tim Meltz stalling on-course resulted in the field bunching back together for the second half of the race. With help from his crew, Tim Meltz was able to get his No. 515 back underway in time for the restart.
After being held at the end of pit road, he rejoined the pack at the direction of officials towards the back. From there, the No. 515 began a charge towards the front of the Single-cam class.
At the very front, Brandon Ely was able to run down Ballard and slip past coming to two laps to go. Shortly afterwards was the scariest moment of the night when John Wright's Acura Integra caught fire, forcing him to bail on the backstretch. Wright was ok, but the resulting caution resulted in a one-lap shootout.
Ely was able to run away from the pack to score his second overall and Dual-Cam win of the year over Ballard and Guertin. Mike Duncan was fourth, while Steve Burbank was fifth.
In Single-Cam, Tim Meltz was able to get an excellent final restart and get past Victor Duncan Jr., denying the Prelude driver his second straight victory. Tim was able to get his previous-generation Prelude up to third overall to take the Single-Cam win over Victor Duncan Jr., Luke Williams, Bradley Batho and Matt Narzynski.
Bonded Concrete Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) J.R. Heffner, 3) L.J. Lombardo, 4) Kolby Schroder, 5) Eddie Marshall, 6) Kyle Sheldon, 7) Brian Berger, 8) Brett Haas, 9) Ricky Davis, 10) Keith Flach, 11) Jackie Brown Jr., 12) Kenny Tremont Jr., 13) Olden Dwyer, 14) Dan Humes, 15) Marc Johnson, 16) Ryan Darcy, 17) Josh Marcus, 18) Wayne Jelley, 19) Mike King, 20) Kyle Armstrong, 21) Timothy Davis, 22) Bobby Hackel, IV, 23) Kenny Aanonsen, III, 24) Mark Flach Jr., 25) Rob Pitcher
Sportsman Andrew Sherman Memorial Results (20 laps): 1) John Virgilio, 2) Jeff Watson, 3) Kevin Ward, 4) Peter Carlotto, 5) Rob Maxon, 6) Chris Lynch, 7) Whitey Slavin, 8) Michael Sabia, 9) Joey Coppola, 10) John Stowell, 11) Walter Hammond Jr., 12) Karl Barnes, 13) Jacob Perry, 14) Dylan Gibson, 15) Nikki Ouellette, 16) Dave Fachini, 17) Robbie Colburn, 18) Kevin Ames, 19) Dylan Grogan, 20) Jeff Reis, 21) Shane Powell, 22) Garrett Poland, 23) John Santolin, 24) Matt Burke, 25) Frank Twing Jr., 26) Harold Robitaille, 27) Walter J. Hammond, 28) Peter Lorenzo, 29) Ryan Heath, 30) Ray Hall Jr., 31) Alan Houghtaling, 32) Bob Fachini, 33) Chris Johnson
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Jay Fitzgerald, 2) Johnny Rivers, 3) Steven LaRochelle, 4) Jason Meltz, 5) Chad Jeseo, 6) Zach Seyerlein, 7) Shawn Perez, 8) Dave Stickles, 9) Scott Towslee, 10) Brian Keough, 11) Doug Olds, 12) Tom O’Connor, 13) Tom Dean, 14) Nick Hilt
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Brian Walsh, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) John Devine, 4) Chris Murphy, 5) Keri VanDenburg, 6) Janai St. Pierre, 7) Franklin Smith, 8) Shawn Perez, 9) Christopher Brown, 10) Peter Huntoon, 11) Wayne Mahar
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Ryan Brown, 2) Rob Partridge, 3) Scott Morris, 4) Clifford Booth, 5) Jethro Rossman, 6) Mike Dianda, 7) Dave Streibel Jr., 8) Katarina Foster, 9) Rocco Procopio, 10) Chris Calkbro, 11) Chris Stalker
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Brandon Ely, 2) Lucas Ballard, 3) Jim Guertin, 4) Mike Duncan, 5) Steve Burbank, 6) Doug Howe, 7) Garrett Biagiarelli, 8) John Wright, 9) Jim Williams
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Tim Meltz, 2) Victor Duncan Jr., 3) Luke Williams, 4) Bradley Batho, 5) Matt Narzynski, 6) Althea Roy, 7) Joe Wolfe, 8) Chris Bierce, 9) Gary Malloy Sr., 10) Joey Batho