Marc Johnson Holds Off L.J. Lombardo To Claim $5000 on Rifenburg Night at Lebanon Valley
Saturday night saw the annual Rifenburg Construction Night at Lebanon Valley Speedway. $5000 was on the line to the winner.
Josh Marcus started from pole in a feature that took a little time to get going. At the beginning of the second lap, Wayne Jelley spun his Butch Jelley tribute car in turn 2 and was hit by Dan Humes to bring out the yellow. Humes continued with significant right-side damage, while Jelley was done for the night.
On the restart, Bobby Hackel, IV was able to get past Marcus to take the lead. Shortly afterwards, John Ruchel spun exiting turn 4, collecting Humes and Kolby Schroder to bring out another yellow. Schroder was done for the night here.
Marcus’ chances at a good finish ended when he slid into the wall in turn 4 to bring out a yellow on lap 4. He was able to continue and finished a lap down in 14th.
The constant yellows allowed the big names to move up the order. Points leader Andy Bachetti was already up to sixth from 15th. Brett Haas was eighth, while Marc Johnson was second and L.J. Lombardo third.
On the restart from the fourth yellow, Lombardo was able to take second from Johnson. Then, the yellow flew for Timothy Davis doing a 360 in front of much of the field in turn 4. Here, Johnson noticed something.
“On the restarts, Hackel was playing some games, waiting a long time to fire,” Johnson explained afterwards. “He was setting himself up for the guy in third to put him in a bad position if he could drive right to the bottom. As soon as [the officials] told me I was third, I was really happy and more than happy to let Lombardo go up front. It worked out [from there].”
On the restart, he swept past Lombardo to get second back in turn 1. He then immediately snatched the lead from Hackel in turn 3.
Despite the sweeping move to the lead, he did not run away from the pack. Hackel and Lombardo kept pace, while Haas quickly moved up to fourth behind Eddie Marshall. Meanwhile, Bachetti’s charge was stunted.
Lombardo would charge up to Johnson’s bumper, then fall back in lapped traffic. In the final few laps, Lombardo made another charge up to Johnson’s rear bumper bar. He never quite got alongside as Johnson held on to take his second win of the year.
Lombardo ended up a half-second back in second, followed by Haas. Marshall was fourth, then Bachetti.
The Sportsman class had 31 cars on hand Saturday night and a surprise early on. Dylan Gibson started from pole and ran very well at the front. Harold Robitaille’s car struggled to come up to speed at the start. Since Robitaille drew the fourth starting spot, this caused a stack up. Everyone avoided Robitaille, but Jeff Reis lost control of his car and nosed into the inside wall exiting turn 4 to bring out a yellow.
The stack-up on the inside line allowed a number of drivers, such as points leader John Virgilio, to make runs towards the front. Virgilio started in 13th, but was already up to third by lap 5. Virgilio was far from done there. He made short work of Matt Burke for second, then snatched the lead away from Gibson on lap 9.
A caution for Kevin Ames slowing on the backstretch bunched the pack back up with nine laps to go. When the race restarted, Rob Maxon took advantage to move up from fifth to eventually take second.
Incidents involving Reis, Nikki Ouellette and Peter Lorenzo slowed the pack once again and set up a five-lap shootout. However, nothing was going to prevent Virgilio from taking his third win of the year.
Walter J. Hammond snatched second from Rob Maxon in the closing laps. Burke finished a strong fourth, while Jeff Watson was fifth.
Pro Stock saw Zach Seyerlein start from the pole and outpace the pack early on. Jay Fitzgerald was able to get past Tom Dean for second.
Jason Meltz, who entered the night second in points, had a terrible evening. He had a mechanical failure in his heat race that pitched him into the wall in turn 2. The feature was no better as he dropped out early, finishing 14th.
For the first half of the feature, Seyerlein had to do battle with Fitzgerald. However, Seyerlein was eventually able to open up a comfortable gap over the rest of the pack. From there, Seyerlein was able to hold on to claim the victory in a caution-free feature.
Fitzgerald held on for second, while Chad Jeseo was third. Dean was fourth, while Johnny Rivers was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, slick conditions played a role. Dave Streibel Jr. started from the pole and led early, but Jim Dellea slid into the wall in turn 1 on the first lap to bring out a yellow. Chris Murphy also found the barrier on lap 2, but he was able to keep going.
Later on, Franklin Smith hit the wall in turn 3 to bring out another yellow while Katarina Foster spun onto the apron. Foster spun again shortly afterwards, while Murphy also spun exiting turn 2 to bring out another yellow.
It was here that that the race changed. Dave Streibel Jr. was still lead and looking for his first win while Janai St. Pierre was right on his tail on the restart. St. Pierre got a good restart and looked to the inside. Unfortunately, it seemed that Streibel did not know that she was there. Streibel Jr. seemed to turn down on St. Pierre entering turn 1, spinning himself out to bring out another yellow. Track officials reviewed the contact and determined that it was not intentional, allowing St. Pierre to inherit the lead.
Following another crash on the restart that ended Clifford Booth's night, single-file restarts were instituted for the remainder of the event. From here, St. Pierre was able to hold on for her second win of the year. Murphy recovered from his spin to finish second, then Foster, Dave Streibel Jr. and Rocco Procopio.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 was the calmest of the races. On the start, Chris Stalker charged to the inside of pole sitter Christopher Brown and tried to snag the lead immediately. He ultimately went a little too fast into turn 1, spinning himself out. Brown also spun to avoid Stalker. The yellow came out and Jethro Rossman inherited the advantage.
Rossman led on the restart, but Dave Streibel in the No. 273 was able to take the advantage away on lap 2. Rossman ended up spinning out in turn 2 on lap 4 to bring out the second yellow.
Colby Kokosa has shown substantial pace recently and Saturday night was another example of his speed. Kokosa started seventh, avoided the opening lap incidents and moved up to second by the second caution. On the restart, Kokosa was able to sweep past and move into the lead. Once there, he was able to open up a small gap.
A spin for Brian Walsh in turn 2 after he brushed against Stalker set up a three-lap sprint to the finish, but Kokosa was able to hold on to take his second win in a row. Dave Streibel was second, then Stalker, Dylan Fachini and Rossman.
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 saw the scariest moment of the night. Rob Partridge and Don Kennedy collided exiting turn 4 early on while racing for the lead. Kennedy went hard into the outside wall at the crossover gate. Kennedy was able to exit his car very slowly with assistance, but complained of back pain and pain in his knees afterwards. He was transported to the hospital for further treatment.
Partridge pits next to Kennedy in the infield. He was saddened by the crash.
"It really sucks when it's a racing incident like that," Partridge said afterwards. "Don's my brother. I had the line on the bottom open and I took it. We got together and all hell broke loose. I didn't get to see him hit [the wall], but I saw the aftermath. I'm hoping he's alright."
Kennedy's wife shared this update with Lebanon Valley Speedway's Facebook page:
As a result of the crash, Partridge ended up with the lead. From there, Partridge had to do battle with Jeff Meltz Sr., another driver that Partridge has a lot of respect for. Partridge was able to hold off the Pure Stock points leader to take his fourth win of the year, tying him with Jeff Meltz Sr. and Stalker for the most in the class.
Jeff Meltz Sr. was second, then John Devine. Scott Morris recovered from a first-lap crash to finish fourth, while Jeff Meltz Jr. was fifth.
Rifenburg Construction Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Marc Johnson, 2) L.J. Lombardo, 3) Brett Haas, 4) Eddie Marshall, 5) Andy Bachetti, 6) Bobby Hackel, IV, 7) Kyle Sheldon, 8) Kyle Armstrong, 9) Olden Dwyer, 10) Ryan Darcy, 11) Timothy Davis, 12) Mike King, 13) Dan Humes, 14) Josh Marcus, 15) J.R. Heffner, 16) Kenny Tremont Jr., 17) Paul Gilardi, 18) Kenny Aanonsen, III, 19) John Ruchel, 20) Wayne Jelley, 21) Kolby Schroder, 22) Brian Berger
*- Jim Bemiss raced Saturday night in a substitute role in place of Brian Berger. Berger will earn the points for his finish.
Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) John Virgilio, 2) Walter J. Hammond, 3) Rob Maxon, 4) Matt Burke, 5) Jeff Watson, 6) Peter Carlotto, 7) Kevin Ward, 8) Walter Hammond Jr., 9) Michael Sabia, 10) Robbie Colburn, 11) Dylan Gibson, 12) John Stowell, 13) Bob Fachini, 14) Bill August, 15) Jeff Reis, 16) John Santolin, 17) Greg DeCamp, 18) Nikki Ouellette, 19) Jimmy VanZandt, 20) Robert Burl, 21) Karl Barnes, 22) Peter Lorenzo, 23) Kevin Ames, 24) Jacob Perry, 25) Rob Hallaback, 26) Chris Lynch, 27) Harold Robitaille, 28) Alan Houghtaling, 29) Whitey Slavin, 30) Ryan Heath, 31) Ed Arnold*
*- Jim Bemiss raced Saturday night in a substitute role in place of Ed Arnold. Arnold will earn the points for his finish.
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Zach Seyerlein, 2) Jay Fitzgerald, 3) Chad Jeseo, 4) Tom Dean, 5) Johnny Rivers, 6) Nick Hilt Jr., 7) Steven LaRochelle, 8) Dave Stickles, 9) Doug Olds, 10) Brian Carter, 11) Shawn Perez, 12) Brian Keough, 13) J.J. Courcy, 14) Jason Meltz
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Janai St. Pierre, 2) Chris Murphy, 3) Katarina Foster, 4) Dave Streibel Jr., 5) Rocco Procopio, 6) Jim Dellea, 7) Clifford Booth, 8) Franklin Smith, 9) Mike Dianda
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Colby Kokosa, 2) Dave Streibel, 3) Chris Stalker, 4) Dylan Fachini, 5) Jethro Rossman, 6) Brian Walsh, 7) Peter Huntoon, 8) Christopher Brown, 9) Chris Calkbro
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 Results (10 laps): 1) Rob Partridge, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) John Devine, 4) Scott Morris, 5) Jeff Meltz Jr., 6) Scott Kilmer, 7) Don Kennedy, 8) Shawn Perez Jr., 9) Keri VanDenburg