John Virgilio Earns 1st Career Big Block Victory
John Virgilio moved up to the Modified class at Lebanon Valley a little over a year ago. Since then, the protégé of J.R. Heffner has shown flashes of brilliance along with mechanical issues. Saturday night saw him take the lead on a lap 12 restart and hold on to take his first career Lebanon Valley Modified win and took home a check for $5,000 on Rifenburg Construction Tommy Corellis Night. Marc Johnson was second, then Kolby Schroder, Olden Dwyer and Heffner.
“It was really good. We’ve had a lot of bad luck in recent weeks, fluke things.” Virgilio said afterwards. “We finally got the failures worked out and we were able to execute tonight.”
By virtue of finishing in the top five in his heat race, Tommy Corellis started from the pole. The first lap did not go well. Timothy Davis was able to get past entering turn 1. Corellis didn’t want to give up the lead and ran a little too hard through turn 2 and brushed the wall. Additional issues brought out the yellow.
In that scrum, Brandon Lane took over the lead with Ryan Darcy giving chase. Issues for both Mike King and Kenny Tremont Jr. brought out another yellow on lap 3. King was able to continue and finished 13th. Tremont was done for the night.
Darcy and Lane battled back and forth for the lead before Darcy took it on lap 10. Virgilio followed Darcy past into second. Shortly afterwards, Kolby Schroder cut his right rear tire to bring out a yellow.
On the restart, Kyle Armstrong slowed on the backstretch after having contact to bring out another yellow. Armstrong was able to continue after a pit stop and eventually finished ninth.
On the next restart, Virgilio got a great run into turn 1 that allowed him to take the lead from Darcy. Despite the pass, the spate of mechanical issues continued, keeping the field close to Virgilio.
Behind Virgilio, drivers were taking everything they could. Heffner was able to move up to fourth with a daring four-wide move on the frontstretch.
Darcy was still running in the top five when he had contact with the recovering Schroder and went hard into the wall exiting turn 2 bring out the seventh caution. Darcy was ok, but his night was over.
When the race restarted, Virgilio was able to drive away from the pack. Dwyer inherited second after the caution, but had Johnson on his tail.
Johnson took second away with seven laps to go, but could do nothing with Virgilio, who coasted to victory. Schroder took third from Dwyer with a last-lap pass. Corellis ultimately finished on the lead lap in 14th on his special night.
In the Small Block Modifieds, Alan Houghtaling started from the pole and very quick early on. Joey Coppola, who started fifth, quickly moved up to second, the recent braking woes clearly in the past.
The two drivers ran away from the pack to decide the race between themselves. Coppola was able to wrestle the lead away from Houghtaling on lap 10. Houghtaling then scrubbed the wall exiting turn 4, allowing Coppola to get away.
Coppola had nearly a five-second lead when L.J. Lombardo cut his right rear tire and brought out a yellow. Andy Bachetti was running fourth and set to go after the lead, but his car simply didn’t want to get up to speed. After two false restarts, he went to the rear and nursed the car to a 14th-place finish. That came in addition to mechanical issues in the Modified feature that left him with a 15th-place finish there.
Following a spin for Brian Sandstedt, Coppola was able to pull away on the final restart to take his first win of the year. Jeff Watson was second, then Jason Herrington, Peter Carlotto and Ryan Larkin.
The Sportsman class saw Rob Maxon take the lead on lap 2 from pole sitter Kevin Ames and attempt to pull away from the pack. In recent years, the class has been a battle between Tim Hartman Jr. and Whitey Slavin, but that wasn’t so Saturday night. Hartman had two flat tires, one on lap 3 and another on lap 13. He would ultimately finish seventh.
Slavin got up to second early on, but rode behind the No. 143. In the closing laps, Slavin was able to drive up to Rob Maxon in an attempt to snatch the victory, but the veteran racer held on to triumph over Slavin. Kevin Ward was third, then Chris Lynch and Gary O’Brien.
In Limited Sportsman, Owen Lewis started from the pole and led early in what was originally scheduled to be a 20-lap feature. Due to early incidents, it was shortened to 15 laps.
On the first lap, a crash broke out on the backstretch involving Ira Doull, Matt Jordan and Anthony Maxon to bring out a yellow. All three drivers were able to continue.
Later on, Kent Clark hit the wall in turn 4, then spun out half a lap later to bring out another yellow. On the restart, Frank Twing Jr. jumped the cushion in turn 2 and spun in front of much of the field. He was then hit hard by Mike Engwer. Both drivers were out on the spot.
That incident resulted in single-file restarts being declared for the remainder of the race. Alex Palmer-Sayer, who started in the sixth row, came into contention here, moving himself up to second. He was briefly able to take the lead away from Lewis on lap 7 before Lewis retook the advantage.
Following another yellow due to a crash involving Clark and Adam Schneider, the second half of the race was a duel between Lewis, Palmer-Sawyer and the recovered Anthony Maxon.
Palmer-Sawyer was able to retake the advantage on lap 11 when Lewis made a mistake and went up the hill in turn 2. From there, Palmer-Sawyer held on to take the win on the track.
Then came what is normally a simple task, the post-race weight check. As per the 2023 Sportsman Rules, Sportsman cars have to weigh a minimum of 2400 pounds with the driver. Palmer-Sawyer’s No. 61 weighed in at 2383 pounds. That is 17 pounds too light.
As a result, Palmer-Sawyer was disqualified, costing him his first win of the year. The beneficiary ended up being Anthony Maxon, who recovered from his early incident to take his third win of the year and expand his points lead. Lewis was second, then Craig Coons, Dylan Grogan and Brian Walsh.
Dave Kokindo started from pole in the Pro Stock feature, but lost any chance at a good finish when he suddenly lost control of his No. 120 exiting turn 4 on the first lap. While Kokindo managed to regain control, he dropped to the back of the field. Shawn Perez was able to get into the lead.
Frank Twing was able to move himself up to second early on in the feature. Then, Mike Dianda spun out in turn 4 to bring out a caution, allowing the elder Twing (Frank Jr.’s grandfather) to line up alongside Perez.
On the restart, Frank Twing was able to sweep past Perez entering turn 1 to take the lead. Once out front, the veteran racer was able to open up a decent gap on the field.
A late caution due to an incident on the backstretch involving Katarina Foster bunched up the pack with five laps to go. While Frank Twing led on the restart, a an all-out brawl broke out for second. Steven LaRochelle, equipped with a new transmission, held the spot while Zach Sorrentino wanted it. The two swapped the position back and forth, allowing Frank Twing to hol on for his second win in three weeks.
LaRochelle was second, then Chad Jeseo, Dave Stickles and Tom Dean, despite Dean losing his hood at the beginning of the final lap. A significant amount of contact on the final lap dropped Sorrentino to sixth.
In Street Stock action, Franklin Smith started from the pole, but ran into immediate trouble in turn 2 as he spun out and collected Josh Bussino. Both drivers were able to continue. Keri VanDenburg took the lead as a result.
On the restart, Dave Streibel Jr. was able to take the lead away from VanDenburg and brought Jeff Meltz Sr. with him. From there, Streibel and Meltz ran away from the field in an attempt to settle things by themselves.
Meltz was ultimately never able to get close enough to make any kind of move on the points leader. Streibel was able to hold on to win by a half-second over Meltz, then Ray Royals, VanDenburg and Peter Huntoon.
Earlier in the evening, Cordova Heating & Plumbing sponsored a five-lap Street Stock Dash. VanDenburg led flag-to-flag to win over Meltz, Royals, Huntoon and Lou Gancarz.
Modified Rifenburg Construction Tommy Corellis Night Feature (30 laps): 1) John Virgilio, 2) Marc Johnson, 3) Kolby Schroder, 4) Olden Dwyer, 5) J.R. Heffner, 6) Brett Haas, 7) Kyle Sheldon, 8) Wayne Jelley, 9) Kyle Armstrong, 10) L.J. Lombardo, 11) Brandon Lane, 12) Ryan Charland, 13) Mike King, 14) Tommy Corellis, 15) Andy Bachetti, 16) Ryan Darcy, 17) Eddie Marshall, 18) Brian Berger, 19) Timothy Davis, 20) Matt Pupello, 21) Kenny Tremont Jr., 22) Keith Flach
Small Block Modified Feature Results (24 laps): 1) Joey Coppola, 2) Jeff Watson, 3) Jason Herrington, 4) Peter Carlotto, 5) Ryan Larkin, 6) Donny Travaglin, 7) L.J. Lombardo, 8) Brian Peterson, 9) Kim LaVoy, 10) Ryan Charland, 11) Kevin Petrucci, 12) Brian Sandstedt, 13) Jeff Reis, 14) Andy Bachetti, 15) Alan Houghtaling, 16) Ryan Heath, 17) Olden Dwyer, 18) Montgomery Tremont, 19) Lorne Browe, 20) Ray Hall Jr.
Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Rob Maxon, 2) Whitey Slavin, 3) Kevin Ward, 4) Chris Lynch, 5) Gary O’Brien, 6) Ricky Davis, 7) Tim Hartman Jr., 8) Brady Cordova, 9) Karl Barnes, 10) Kevin Ames, 11) Joe Pravia, 12) Alan Houghtaling, 13) Cody Cordova
Limited Sportsman Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Anthony Maxon, 2) Owen Lewis, 3) Craig Coons, 4) Dylan Grogan, 5) Brian Walsh, 6) Matt Jordan, 7) Allyson Papp, 8) Ira Doull, 9) Adam Schneider, 10) Kent Clark, 11) Frank Twing Jr., 12) Mike Engwer, 13) Harold Robitaille. DQ: Alex Palmer-Sawyer (underweight)
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Frank Twing, 2) Steven LaRochelle, 3) Chad Jeseo, 4) Dave Stickles, 5) Tom Dean, 6) Zach Sorrentino, 7) Shawn Perez, 8) Tom O’Connor, 9) Brian Keough, 10) Ryan Crellin, 11) Mike Dianda, 12) Katarina Foster, 13) Dave Kokindo, 14) Fred Lee
Street Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Dave Streibel Jr., 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Ray Royals, 4) Keri VanDenburg, 5) Peter Huntoon, 6) Lou Gancarz, 7) Franklin Smith, 8) Josh Bussino*
*- Bussino finished seventh on the track, but was moved back to eighth by track officials. He was originally brought in for the evening to be a substitute driver for Chris Stalker. However, Stalker was suspended for his actions on July 1st. As a result, it was determined that Bussino could not earn points for Stalker.
Street Stock Cordova Heating & Plumbing Dash Results (5 laps): 1) Keri VanDenburg, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Ray Royals, 4) Franklin Smith, 5) Peter Huntoon, 6) Lou Gancarz