Ronnie Johnson Takes 1st Lebanon Valley Win of 2020
Saturday night brought some more action to Lebanon Valley Speedway. The racing has been popular on the internet recently and fans were treated to a mostly clean night at the track.
Mike King claimed the pole for the feature and managed to lead early. Fellow front-row starter Ronnie Johnson was right there early on and put the pressure. On Lap 4, Johnson was able to make the pass and take the lead from King.
Kenny Tremont Jr.’s night came to an end on Lap 5 when his car came to a stop in Turn 3, bringing out the only yellow of the race. The 19th-place finish hurt him significantly in the points.
Points leader Andy Bachetti started sixth and quickly moved up the order. On the restart from Tremont’s issues, he was able to get second from King. From there, Bachetti ran down Johnson and tried to make a move on him. Unlike a number of races lately, he was not able to get it done.
Johnson was able to fend off Bachetti’s charges for a few laps before Bachetti began to drop back (afterwards, Johnson thought that Bachetti had gotten his tires too hot). Bachetti would make another charge a few laps later, but Johnson was able to fend that challenge off as well.
Ultimately, no one had anything for Johnson, who took his first win of the season.
“As far as [Bachetti’s] been this year, it was a little nerve-wracking having him back there,” Johnson said afterwards. “We had a good setup tonight, the car worked really well and we’re happy.”
Johnson’s victory moved him up to sixth in points, just three out of the top five. Bachetti finished second and expanded his lead to 33 points over Eddie Marshall. Wayne Jelley finished a somewhat distant third, followed by Kyle Armstrong and Keith Flach.
The Sportsman feature was another clean affair. Keith Johannessen started from pole in a car that has struggled at times. On this night, Johannessen described his car as “perfect.” He was able to lead with ease early on.
However, the fastest man on the track was Ryan Larkin. Larkin returned to Lebanon Valley to race after an absence of nearly a decade late last year. On this night, he was able to snag the lead from Johannessen on Lap 6.
From there, Larkin was off to the races. He slowly but surely pulled away from Johannessen and everyone else. Larkin remarked afterwards that he had no idea that he had as large of a lead as he did.
Larkin continued to pull away to win the caution-free Sportsman feature by over seven seconds. Johannessen finished a career-best second. Nearly 10 seconds off the lead at the finish was Robbie Colburn, who made a late pass of Peter Carlotto to take third. John Virgilio finished fifth.
The Pro Stock class had the annual Ol’ Buzzard 30, a 30-lap feature held in memory of the late Jimmy Langenback. Langenback was a smooth driver who raced his opponents fairly. The race ended up being fairly similar to a Langenback race.
By virtue of a redraw, points leader Chad Jeseo ended up with the pole with Steven LaRochelle alongside. The two ultimately ran away from the rest of the field and settled things among themselves.
The race ended up going caution free. The only incident actually occurred at the start of the race when Nick Hilt’s hood flew off. Since it landed between the outside wall and the catchfence, no caution was thrown. A similar incident occurred during the heat races when Johnny Rivers’ hood blew off on the backstretch and hit the billboards.
LaRochelle pressured Jeseo to the best of his ability. On Lap 7, he was able to get fully alongside the multiple-time Pro Stock champion. Jeseo was able to fend off the Dalton native and pulled out a small gap.
Further back, a small group of drivers fought hard over third. Rick Duzlak had it at first, but both Jay and Jason Casey were there to give chase, along with Tony Markou and Scott Towslee. Eventually, Towslee was dropped and fell back to the third group before retiring.
Jason Casey was able to get past Duzlak for third with 12 laps to go, but could make no ground on the leaders. Jeseo pulled away to take a big win and $1054. LaRochelle was second, then Jason Casey, Duzlak and Jay Casey.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, a stackup on the initial start resulted in Jethro Rossman spinning out on the frontstretch. This was treated as a caution period even though it was more along the lines of a false start.
When the race finally got underway in full, Dylan Fachini was able to get past pole sitter Evan Denue to take the lead on the first lap. Evan Denue was able to keep pace with Fachini and hold off the rest of the field.
Points leader John Devine started in 12th, but wasted no time getting his No. 24 towards the front of the field. However, there was contact made between Devine and Dom Denue. Dom didn't like that much. The two drivers rubbed each other all through Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 3 as Dom showed his displeasure with Devine.
That contact ultimately cut one of Dom's tires. Eventually, Dom stopped in Turn 2 to bring out the yellow on Lap 5. Track officials viewed this amount of contact as rough driving. While Dom eventually finished sixth, he was moved back to 10th after the race.
Devine was still quick after the restart and went after Fachini for the lead. He was able to take the advantage on Lap 7. Then, trouble struck as Devine went into the wall in Turn 4 to bring out another yellow, likely due to the previous contact.
Devine's crash put Fachini back in the lead. From there, Fachini held on over the final two laps to take the victory on the track. Janai St. Pierre, who had kept herself out of trouble, passed Evan Denue in the final run to the finish for second.
However, Fachini's No. 35 came up light on the scales. That relegated the purple Monte Carlo to the back of the field. By virtue of finishing second, St. Pierre inherited her first career Pure Stock victory. Evan Denue was second, followed by Scott Kilmer, Don Kennedy and Scott Morris.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Rocco Procopio start from the pole and lead early on. Further back, there was some argy-bargy. Chris Murphy spun in Turn 1 after a tap from Chris Stalker to bring out an early caution. Later on, Stalker ran a little too hard into Turn 1 and half-spun out. He was then hit by Clifford Booth. Both drivers were able to continue and no yellow was thrown.
The fastest driver on the track in this feature was Jeff Meltz Sr. Starting eighth, Meltz slowly made his way up the order, getting into second by halfway. Once there, he put the pressure on Procopio. With three laps to go, Meltz snagged the lead away.
Shortly afterwards, Keri VanDenburg spun in Turn 4 to bring out one more yellow. Here, some anger overflowed as Booth and Stalker had contact under yellow. Officials weren't tolerating that behavior and parked both drivers.
Once the green came back out, Meltz opened up a small gap and held on to take his second win of the year. Procopio held on for second, followed by Murphy. Rob Partridge was fourth, while Ryan Brown was fifth in a borrowed car after his regular mount turned traitor following warmups.
The 4-Cylinder feature saw Steve Burbank start on pole, but JRS Racing's James Street made short work of Burbank to take the lead. Lucas Ballard followed past into second.
Daniel Joubert, making his debut in a Volkswagen Rabbit, spun in Turn 1 after contact from Althea Roy to bring out the caution. On the restart from this caution, Mike Duncan's Mazda3 was turned into the outside wall by Burbank. Burbank was sent to the rear by the officials for causing this incident.
The race quickly became a two-car duel between Street's Nissan Sentra SE-R and Ballard's Acura Integra. What proved to be Street's downfall was that he went a little too hard into Turn 1. On Lap 8, Street got his Sentra a little too loose in Turn 1. That allowed Ballard to take the lead on the inside.
Duncan's Mazda stalling on the frontstretch resulted in a caution that set up a three-lap sprint. On the restart, Ballard opened up a small gap on Street. Meanwhile, Gary Malloy Sr. hit the wall in Turn 2, allowing the Honda Prelude of Victor Duncan Jr. to take the Single-cam lead.
Ballard was able to hold on to take his first career 4-Cylinder victory in only his seventh start. Afterwards, Ballard was overjoyed with his victory and wanted to celebrate in style. However, he went a little too hard and hurt his wrist banging it on his car. Despite an apparent wrist sprain, Ballard plans to be back in the car this weekend.
Brandon Ely was second, then Street. Jim Guertin and Burbank rounded out the top five in Dual-Cam.
Despite hitting the wall on Lap 13, Malloy was able to run Victor Duncan Jr. back down and pass him on the final lap to finish fourth overall, good enough to win the Single-Cam class. Victor Duncan Jr.'s No. 73 was second, then Luke Williams, Matt Narzynski and Bradley Batho.
Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Ronnie Johnson, 2) Andy Bachetti, 3) Wayne Jelley, 4) Kyle Armstrong, 5) Keith Flach, 6) Marc Johnson, 7) Brett Haas, 8) Peter Britten, 9) Kolby Schroder, 10) Eddie Marshall, 11) Mark Flach Jr., 12) Brian Berger, 13) Mike King, 14) Rob Pitcher, 15) Kyle Sheldon, 16) J.R. Heffner, 17) Denny Soltis, 18) Karl Barnes, 19) Kenny Tremont Jr., 20) Derek Bornt, 21) Paul Gilardi, 22) Olden Dwyer, 23) Josh Marcus, 24) Kevin Petrucci, 25) Jason Herrington, 26) Frank Harper, 27) Brandon Lane
Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Ryan Larkin, 2) Keith Johannessen, 3) Robbie Colburn, 4) Peter Carlotto, 5) John Virgilio, 6) Pat Jones, 7) Robbie Knipe, 8) Nikki Ouellette, 9) Joey Coppola, 10) John Stowell, 11) Gary O’Brien, 12) Chris Lynch, 13) Matt Schulz, 14) Walter Hammond Jr., 15) Walter Hammond, 16) Jimmy Devitt, 17) Jeff Higham, 18) Bob Fachini Jr., 19) Karl Barnes, 20) Brian Heath, 21) Pat Mann, 22) Shane Powell, 23) Angelo DiCarlo, 24) Jordan Miller, 25) Rob Hallaback
Pro Stock Ol’ Buzzard 30 Results (30 laps): 1) Chad Jeseo, 2) Steven LaRochelle, 3) Jason Casey, 4) Rick Duzlak, 5) Jay Casey, 6) Nick Hilt, 7) Tony Markou, 8) Doug Olds, 9) Shawn Perez, 10) Zach Seyerlein, 11) Phil Arnold, 12) Brian Keough, 13) Dave Stickles, 14) Tom Dean, 15) Ed Bishop, 16) Johnny Rivers, 17) Scott Towslee
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Janai St. Pierre, 2) Evan Denue, 3) Scott Kilmer, 4) Don Kennedy, 5) Scott Morris, 6) Brian Walsh, 7) Jethro Rossman, 8) Franklin Smith, 9) Christopher Brown, 10) Dom Denue, 11) John Devine, 12) Dylan Fachini
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Jeff Meltz Sr., 2) Rocco Procopio, 3) Chris Murphy, 4) Rob Partridge, 5) Ryan Brown, 6) Dave Streibel Jr., 7) Clifford Booth, 8) Chris Stalker, 9) Dave Fachini, 10) Keri VanDenburg, 11) Colby Kokosa, 12) Jim Dellea
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Lucas Ballard, 2) Brandon Ely, 3) James Street, 4) Jim Guertin, 5) Steve Burbank, 6) Matt Tedrow, 7) Garrett Biagiarelli, 8) Gene Chariott, 9) Mike Duncan, 10) John Wright
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Gary Malloy Sr., 2) Victor Duncan Jr., 3) Luke Williams, 4) Matt Narzynski, 5) Bradley Batho, 6) Doug Howe, 7) Corbin Lavoy, 8) Althea Roy, 9) Chris Bierce, 10) Daniel Joubert, 11) Joe Wolfe, 12) Joey Morey