Once again, rain played a role in the overall outcome at Lebanon Valley. This week, the Pro Stock feature was red-flagged after five laps due to enough rain falling to lose the racing surface. It will be joined in-progress next Saturday night with Jay Corbin in the lead.
Before the rains came, Chad Jeseo started the Modified feature from the pole with Kyle Sheldon alongside. Sheldon has struggled so far in 2016, but seemed to find the proper setup. He was able to keep tabs with Jeseo for the first few laps, then pounced to take the advantage on lap 4. From there, Sheldon began pulling away from the field.
Meanwhile, Brett Hearn, Kenny Tremont, Jr. and Andy Bachetti were attempting to move up from their mid-pack starting positions to contend. By lap 6, Hearn was up from 15th to ninth and seventh by lap 12. Tremont and Bachetti’s advances were much slower. They would stall out around ninth and tenth, then battle with each other.
Sheldon had a big lead until Kyle Armstrong and Mike King collided exiting turn 4 and spun on lap 18 after battling hard for quite a few laps. The caution put Hearn, who was up to fourth, on the tail of the leaders. It also set Bachetti back two places to 11th as a result of illegally changing lanes on the initial start of the race.
On the restart, Hearn passed Steve Hough for third while Tremont moved up a number of spots after restarting ninth. Four laps later, another yellow flew when Kolby Schroder bunched up the pack for the last eight laps.
On the restart, Hearn made quick work of Jeseo for second, then began running down Sheldon for the lead. Hearn tried the inside on Sheldon, but the young racer used the outside line to keep ahead. Coming to the white flag, Hearn got alongside Sheldon and finally made it stick exiting turn 2 on the final lap. From there, Hearn pulled away to take his second win in a row.
Hearn was very happy with the win, but acknowledged that it was not easy.
“Tonight was a little harder,” Hearn said in the pits. “I thought that we might have to settle [for] second at the end because the tires were so overheated. I got just enough of a run there on the last lap…to execute the pass.”
For Sheldon, his second-place finish was by far his best run of the year and he’s happy with the progress shown.“Our car was absolutely phenomenal,” Sheldon said. “I knew that on the initial green when I dove underneath Chad [Jeseo] and it stuck. I knew that if I stayed patient, I would get him. “In the end, the cautions got us,” Sheldon continued. “It was fun to be able to race with [Brett Hearn]. I know he’s going to race me clean. It stinks to get passed, no matter who it is, but it’s a very respectable second-place. I’m very proud of my guys.”
Jeseo finished in a season-best third. He admitted after the race that he didn’t have much for Hearn and Sheldon, but was very satisfied with his run. Brian Berger was fourth, while Tremont was fifth.
In the Small Block Modifieds, Buddy Hencke led from the pole and was easily able to maintain the advantage over Alan Houghtaling. Meanwhile, Tremont started in a distant 14th and quickly made his way up through the order.
Steve Hough crashed into the Jersey barrier on the frontstretch to bring out the yellow on lap 11. At the same time, Hencke developed issues with his engine and was forced to retire, giving the lead to Houghtaling. On the restart, Tremont had a great run from fourth and quickly dispatched Brian Sandstedt and Rob Pitcher to move up to second. Frank Harper followed Tremont past Brian Sandstedt and moved up to fourth.
Tremont then ran down Houghtaling and took the lead away two laps later. From there, the veteran racer
pulled away from the pack. Earlier in the evening, Brett Haas had touted the strength of his brakes while reviewing video from last week’s feature. However, those brakes turned traitor in warm-ups, resulting in a crash. The Brett Haas Racing team repaired the No. 55 mechanically in time for Haas to drive in his heat race. Starting 15th, the Pittsfield native quickly made his way up into the top 10. When Hough crashed, Haas was up to sixth.
Shortly after the restart, Haas passed Sandstedt for fifth and spent much of the remainder of the race battling Harper for fourth. With two laps to go, Haas moved past Harper for fourth.
Houghtaling, after dealing with panhard bar issues last week, held on for second. Rob Pitcher held on for a season-best third.
Haas held on for fourth, salvaging what could have been a terrible night with a wounded race car. Harper rounded out the top 5.
The Sportsman class saw the scariest incident of the night. Just after the first lap was completed, Anthony Savoca slid into the wall exiting turn 2 and ground to a halt on the backstretch. Savoca was then hit, triggering a multi-car crash in which both Savoca and Greg Catlin rolled over. Catlin’s roll was of the end over end variety. Dan Speedling, Alissa Cody, Ryan Heath, David Schilling and Jim Boardman were also involved. At the same time, a separate incident in turn 1 wrapped up Nikki Ouellette, Dan Lyle and John Miller.
Despite the severity of the crash, everyone involved was ok. A lengthy red flag was required for cleanup. Catlin, Savoca and Speedling’s cars were the most severely damaged, with Speedling taking a big hit in the roll cage. All three were eliminated. Heath and Boardman were also done for the night, while John Miller retired due to the secondary incident. Schilling and Cody continued after significant repairs in the pits.
It was difficult to get a rhythm going due to the start-stop nature of the feature. Shortly after the restart, Nikki Ouellette spun in turn 1, drawing another caution. Ouellette would continue without damage.
Once the race got back underway, Whitey Slavin was able to take the lead away from Carmon Carnibucci, bringing Jeff Watson with him. Following another spin for Ouellette, Watson tried for the lead in turn 3. However, Brandon Pitcher spun and hit the wall in turn 1 to bring out the fourth caution. Watson technically beat Slavin to the line, but had to give the spot back since the pass happened after the yellow flew.
Watson took the lead for good on lap 8 and pulled away from the pack. Meanwhile, Slavin began to drop back. Kevin Ward got by for second. After a third yellow for an Ouellette spin, Slavin continued to fall back.