Last week, the racing community was saddened by the death of Steven LaRochelle, a veteran competitor in the Pro Stock class at the age of 25 in a motorcycle crash. Steven was a tenacious competitor on the track and a friendly man off the track.
The LaRochelles have been a steady presence at Lebanon Valley for more than 30 years. Paul LaRochelle came up through the Pure Stock and Street Stock classes in the 1980s before progressing up into what is now known as Pro Stock.
By the time Steven was born, Paul was deep in the class and racing his No. 78 with Shell sponsorship. As a result, he was always around race cars. It was more or less a natural move that Steven himself would get into racing in his own right.
Steven started out racing go-karts before progressing into the Pure Stock class at Lebanon Valley, driving an orange No. 79 Chevrolet Camaro sponsored by the LaRochelle family businesses.
Later on, Steven switched to the No. 178. With that came a yellow paint scheme. It was a bit of a letdown to some at the time, but the scheme was actually a throwback scheme to a car Paul raced at Lebanon Valley in 1988.
Eventually, Steven moved up to the Pro Stock class himself, running as a teammate to his father. It did not take long for Steven to come to grips with the additional power and tire on hand. As a result, good finishes came quickly.
In the past few years, Paul chose to step away from driving in his own right in order to focus on Steven’s effort. It is quite the in-depth effort as the team does a lot of fabrication on their cars themselves, as opposed to buying complete chassis from third parties.
Steven had developed into one of the best racers in the Pro Stock class in the past couple of years, always in the hunt for victories against stout drivers such as Chad Jeseo, Zach Sorrentino and others. When Steven passed away, he was third in Pro Stock points behind Jeseo and Sorrentino. He hadn’t won a race this season, but he’d been very close.
His best race of the year had been on July 8, where he had led until his car suddenly slowed exiting turn 2 with two laps with transmission issues. It was discovered afterwards that the teeth had been stripped off the rear gear.
Away from the track, Steven married his longtime girlfriend Taylor, who he had been with since 2014, just nine months ago. They were always together at the track, and they would do things together such as hunting for macaroons in Manhattan away from the track. He was fully embedded in the LaRochelle family businesses in Hinsdale, Mass as well.
Steven, much like the rest of the LaRochelle family, was a friendly man who was protective of his family and friends. He, along with Paul, was respected for his work ethic and his skill behind the wheel.
For now, Paul will return to the driver’s seat, racing his son’s car for the remaining three Pro Stock races in the 2023 season. In the Berkshire Eagle, track pit steward Ryan Hogencamp indicated that Paul is doing it “as a way to stay close to his son.”
Lebanon Valley Speedway plans to have a permanent memorial race in Steven’s honor. For Saturday night, the Pro Stocks will be racing for $3178 to win, a substantial increase over the regular $700 to win. In addition, there will be memorial stickers for sale at the pit shack. The driver that wins with that sticker on their car will get a $178 bonus. $100 bonuses will be handed out to whichever driver leads the first lap, lap 7 or lap 8. Additional bonuses will also be in play.
Prior to the Pro Stock feature, a memorial will be held in Steven’s honor Saturday night.
A number of sponsors have stepped up in order to increase the purse. These outfits include Cole’s Collision, Hillsdale Repairs, Meltz Lumber, Bulldog Concrete, Gary and Kristen O’Brien, the Bedell family, Milo Campbell and Campbell Builders.