Ah, opening night. Everyone’s at square one. Hopes and dreams are still attainable. Teams in the Modified, Pro Stock, Pure Stock and 4-Cylinder classes took to the high banks for their first races of the year. Unfortunately, the high banks bit back.
In the Modified feature, Kyle Sheldon started on pole, but hit a hole wrong in turn 1 on the start and went up the hill. That allowed Keith Flach to move into the lead. A combination of Kyle Armstrong stopping on course and a flag being blown out of the flag stand due to brisk wind brought out a quick caution shortly afterwards. Armstrong would continue.
On the restart, a collision involving Paul Gilardi, Kolby Schroder and newcomer Stan Frankenfield brought out another yellow. Gilardi, who was racing with a pinched nerve in his neck, along with Frankenfield, were out on the spot. Schroder did briefly return to the race, but later retired.
The conditions led to a great deal of attrition. Brian Berger retired early due to a suspension failure. Andy Bachetti dropped out early as well, as did Steve Hough due to overheating. Even Brett Hearn had issues, breaking a shock tower on lap 6. Despite the breakage, he was able to get up to second.
The most serious incident of the night occurred on lap 8 when Mike King and Denny Soltis collided and spun into the wall in turn 1. King walked away from the crash, but Soltis complained of a back injury. Medical staff checked Soltis out and gave him a ride back to his pit.
On the restart, Kenny Tremont, Jr. made his move. Tremont went to the outside of Hearn in turns 1 and 2, bringing the fans to their feet. Tremont cleared Hearn, then immediately tried to go to the inside of Flach in turn 3 for the lead. That move didn’t work out, but Tremont continued to pressure the Ravena native. A lap later, Tremont was able to make the move stick.
While Tremont pulled away from the pack, Hearn fell back into the clutches of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regular Tyler Dippel, who will be making intermittent appearances during the season. Dippel tried to make the move on Hearn, but could not make it stick. Eventually, Hearn was able to pull away from Dippel and run Flach back down for second.
Hearn eventually regained second with ten laps to go, but by that point, Tremont had nearly a full straightaway lead. From there, Tremont held on to take his record 126th career Modified win at Lebanon Valley by more than five seconds. Afterwards, Tremont was pleased with his performance.
“[My car] was actually pretty good,” Tremont said in the pits. “It took me a while to get used to going through the hole in turn 1, but once I figured out what was best for the car, I think we were able to go through there and make up some time. That was the key for me tonight.”
Hearn battled his broken right rear shock tower and a head cold to finish second. Flach was third, while Dippel was fourth. Eddie Marshall rounded out the top-5.
In Pro Stock, it was once again a battle between the crate motors and open motors. Rick Duzlak led the field to green with his open motor-powered Chevrolet, with Jay Corbin and Jon Routhier close in tow. The first part of the race saw a small front pack develop with Duzlak in front. Routhier was able to get around Corbin at the start and pressured Duzlak, but was unable to get by. Next were Corbin and Rob Yetman, then Paul LaRochelle.
Yetman eventually made his move just after the halfway point to get past Corbin for third. Shortly afterwards, Routhier tried to get past Duzlak for the lead coming off of turn 2. The move slowed both Routhier and Duzlak down, which allowed Yetman to make a spectacular move on the backstretch to sweep past both drivers and take the lead. From there, Yetman ran off and hid from the rest of the field while Duzlak had to wage battle with Corbin and Routhier.
A late caution due to a flat tire for Chuck Towslee led to a one-lap shootout. From there, Yetman was able to hold on to take his record 46th career Lebanon Valley Pro Stock win.
Duzlak held on for a strong second-place finish with Corbin right on his tail in third. Routhier was fourth, while Paul LaRochelle was fifth.
In Pure Stock, Al Relyea, Kevin Paul and Jason Meltz each claimed opening night victories. Finally, in the 15-lap 4-Cylinder feature, Kenny Stager took the Dual-Cam and overall win with his Honda Prelude. Brandon Ely was third overall, good enough to win Single-Cam in his Honda Civic.
L&M Motors/Sayer’s Auto Wrecking Modified Feature (30 laps): 1) Kenny Tremont, Jr., 2) Brett Hearn, 3) Keith Flach, 4) Tyler Dippel, 5) Eddie Marshall, 6) JR Heffner, 7) Matt Pupello, 8) Rob Pitcher, 9) Chad Jeseo, 10) Wayne Jelley, 11) Kyle Sheldon, 12) Elmo Reckner, 13) Mike Keeler, 14) Kyle Armstrong, 15) Mark Chartrand, 16) Kolby Schroder, 17) Steve Hough, 18) Denny Soltis, 19) Mike King, 20) Olden Dwyer, 21) Kyle Hoffman, 22) Stan Frankenfield, 23) Andy Bachetti, 24) Lorne Browe, 25) Brian Berger, 26) Paul Gilardi, 27) Ken McGuire. DNS: Ed Kitchell. Small Block Racers: Craig Seeley, Demetrios Drellos, Alan Houghtaling, Jason Herrington, Brett Haas, Frank Harper, Ryan Heath
Pro Stock Feature (20 laps): 1) Rob Yetman, 2) Rick Duzlak, 3) Jay Corbin, 4) Jon Routhier, 5) Paul LaRochelle, 6) Rick Dempsey, 7) Nick Hilt, 8) Steven LaRochelle, 9) Victor Hopkins, 10) Ray Hall, Jr., 11) Rich Crane, 12) Kyle Hosier, 13) Hugh Page, 14) Chris Morris, 15) Chad Arsenault, 16) Chuck Towslee, 17) Tom O’Connor, 18) Joe LaFlamme, 19) Frank Twing, 20) Daniel Sanchez. DNS: Matt Cross
Pure Stock Feature #1 (10 laps): 1) Al Relyea, 2) Jay Casey, 3) Jeff Meltz, Jr., 4) Scott Morris, 5) Jeff Kreutziger, 6) Tim Thompson, 7) Mike Arnold, 8) Joe Cheneil, 9) Wuggie Burdick, 10) Gary Vandenburg. DNS: Gary Malloy
Pure Stock Feature #2 (10 laps): 1) Kevin Paul, 2) Chris Murphy, 3) Dennis O’Connor, 4) Tom Denue, 5) Harold Robitalle, 6) Keri Vandenburg, 7) Mark Dwyer, 8) Zach Seyerlein, 9) Aaron Fachini, 10) George Miles, III
Pure Stock Feature #3 (10 laps): 1) Jason Meltz, 2) Ray Hall, Sr., 3) Jeff Meltz, Sr., 4) Dave Stickles, 5) Shawn Perez, 6) Larry Perez, 7) Clifford Booth, 8) Brian Walsh, 9) Dan Cote, 10) Bill Deak, Jr., 11) Gary O’Brien. DNS: Bill Deak, Sr., Ed Hatch, Jesse Murphy
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature: 1) Kenny Stager, 2) Chris Vandeputte, 3) Shawny Hazel, 4) Ammo Wright, 5) Daniel Hoag, 6) Jared Powell, 7) William Sass, Jr., 8) Todd Goldstein, 9) Kelly Duncan
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature: 1) Brandon Ely, 2) Tim Meltz, 3) Jethro Rossman, 4) Jim Williams, 5) Luke Williams, 6) James Street, 7) Nick McClendon, 8) Stephen Cameron, Jr., 9) Victor Duncan, 10) Batho Bradley