Lebanon Valley was just about the only track in New York to race on Saturday night. Nearly all of the scheduled features were completed before the rains finally came. That action was quite fast and furious.
The only race that was not completed as scheduled was the Sportsman Feature. After a false start and an incident on the second start attempt, the rains came and finished the night off. As a result, the Sportsman class will have double features on May 21.
In the Modified feature, Olden Dwyer started from pole with a hard-charging Lorne Browe alongside. Browe clearly wanted the lead early and went into turns 3 and 4 hard on the inside. Unfortunately, Browe pushed it a little too hard. He lost control in turn 4 and spun in front of the field. Steve Hough, Paul Gilardi, Brian Berger and Andy Bachetti were all collected in the resulting crash. Everyone was ok, but only Bachetti was able to continue.
As a result of the crash, Kyle Hoffman moved up to second, but quickly lost it to Mike King. Meanwhile, Brett Hearn took advantage of the crash to move up the order quickly. By lap 5, he was knocking on the door of the top 5 after starting 14th. A couple of laps later, he was right up on the leaders.
Hoffman re-took second on lap 8 and put the pressure on Dwyer for the lead. At the same time, Hearn moved in on them both. Lapped traffic held up Hearn and allowed Hoffman to get past Dwyer for the lead on lap 12. That advantage was short-lived as Hearn got by Hoffman a lap later and began pulling away.
A yellow on lap 21 for Bachetti cutting a tire brought the field back together. This allowed Kenny Tremont, Jr. to enter the fray. Tremont passed Dwyer for third with seven laps to go. An exhaust pipe on the backstretch created a Green-White-Checker situation. On that final restart, Tremont was able to get by Hoffman for second, but could not keep Hearn from taking the win. Afterwards, Hearn stated that getting his car optimized was key.
“It’s a new car for us here for the first time in about four years,” Hearn said. “It was a matter of finding out what this car likes. Every car has a different personality that I have to relate to, and then adjust from there.”
Hoffman held on for third, followed by Keith Flach. Elmo Reckner was fifth.
In the Small Block Modifieds, an early incident set the tone. On the initial start, a pile-up involved a number of drivers including Brett Haas, Demetrios Drellos, Kim LaVoy, and J.R. Heffner, among others. Jeseo was done for the night, but Haas and others continued after repairs.
Shortly after the restart, Olden Dwyer and Ryan Darcy had contact in just the right spot exiting turn 4. That resulted in the two cars getting hooked together and grinding to a stop on the frontstretch and drawing a second caution. Darcy was able to continue after being disconnected, but the No. 88jr was done for the night.
On the next restart, Tremont was able to get past pole-sitter Chad Pierce to take the lead. Another chain reaction put that pass in stone when Jason Herrington slowed in turn 1. The aftermath resulted in Alan Houghtaling spinning out following contact from Brett Haas.
As well as Drellos’ opening night went, race No. 2 was the opposite. After getting caught in the first wreck, Drellos was angry at himself. As a result, he tried too hard to make up the positions that he lost. On lap 7, Drellos ran over the left rear of LaVoy’s No. 5 entering turn 1. The result was that Drellos spun and put himself hard in the wall. Afterwards, Drellos blamed himself for the crash, which ended his night. The car was heavily damaged, but the team believes that it can be fixed. LaVoy continued with damage and finished tenth.
The wrecking continued after the restart when Jason Tompkins went a little too hot into turn 3 and smacked the outside wall to bring out another yellow. Tompkins was ok, but the car was done for the night.
For the rest of the race, Haas was the man on the move. After pitting and dropping to the rear after the first lap crash, Haas made a methodical move towards the front. Houghtaling having a mechanical failure and spinning on the backstretch with six laps to go bunched the field and allowed Haas to eventually move up to second, but he could do nothing with Tremont, who held on for the win.
Tremont was happy to make up for his oil pressure issues from last week. “[The race] really went well,” Tremont said in his transporter after the race. “We made some chassis adjustments to. Everything worked in our favor. Of course, the starting spot helped. Next week will be the test, coming from the rear.” Haas felt that he had an excellent car, despite the contact. “The car was phenomenal, it was definitely the car to beat tonight,” Haas said after the race. “I thought we were out of it when I got in the first incident, but the cards fell in our favor. We bent the front bumper and a radius rod, but I think that it actually helped the car a little bit. I wish we had one more caution because I think we had something for Kenny [Tremont].”
Behind Tremont and Haas was Hough in third. Heffner charged back for fourth, while Harper was fifth.
In Pro Stock, veteran Victor Hopkins started from the pole with his longtime competitor Frank Twing alongside. The 55-year old Hopkins was able to get out to the advantage while Steven LaRochelle moved to second. A slip by LaRochelle on lap 4 ended up dropping him right out of the hunt, though.
LaRochelle’s slip put Rick Dempsey in second. Dempsey slowly reeled in Hopkins, but ultimately could not
a move on him at first. Meanwhile, Jay Corbin was slowly making progress towards the front, one position at a time.
The only yellow of the race came when Jon Routhier spun in turn 4. He would continue, but eventually finished 12th.
After the restart, Hopkins pulled out a lead while Corbin continued to move forward. Eventually a great battle erupted between Corbin and Dempsey for second. Contact was made on the frontstretch. This fierce battling allowed Hopkins to get away and take his first win of the year.
Corbin was able to get past on the final lap to finish second, while Dempsey settled for third. Twing was fourth, while Rob Yetman was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Jesse Murphy started from pole and opened up a decent lead. Meanwhile, Mike Arnold apparently jumped the start and would have been penalized. However, Arnold spun out on lap 2 and dropped to the rear, neutralizing any penalty that would have occurred. No yellow was thrown. As the race continued on, Gary O’Brien charged to the front and ran down Murphy. On the final lap, O’Brien caught Murphy and made a move to the inside exiting turn 4. From there, O’Brien was able to use horsepower to outdrag Murphy to the line for the win.
Behind O’Brien and Murphy was Ed Hatch in third in his Camaro. Zach Sorrentino was fourth in his season debut, while Zach Seyerlein was fifth.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Mark Dwyer start from the pole and spend the first half of the race battling with Tim Thompson for the lead. Dom Denue didn’t exactly want any of that. Once he got to the battling duo, he jumped to the inside on the backstretch and made it three-wide entering turn 3. Denue was able to make that move work and came out of the corner with the lead. From there, Denue pulled away as Mark Dwyer slowed with serious overheating problems to take his first career win. Tim Thompson held on for second, followed by Harold Robitaille, Nick Reilly and Joe Walcott.
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 saw Jeff Kreutziger lead from the pole, while Jeff Meltz, Jr. jumped the start. However, Meltz’s No. 15 then cut a tire and spun in turn 1 to draw a caution. After a tire change, Jeff Meltz, Jr. would eventually finish sixth. As the race continued, Al Relyea moved up from his eighth starting spot and put pressure on Kreutziger for the