Saturday night was the fourth annual J.C. Flach Memorial, a special race to honor the former racer who won his only Big Block feature on this weekend in 2012, before passing away later that year. In a short time, it’s become one of the bigger races of the season.
Kyle Armstrong started from the pole and opened up a small gap on the field. Meanwhile, Rob Pitcher moved up to second early in the race, dispatching of front-row starter Mike King.
Meanwhile, point leaders Brett Hearn and Kenny Tremont, Jr. had to start back in the pack and deal with lots of traffic. Hearn was up to eighth by lap 12, but was about a straightaway behind the leaders. Tremont was tenth after starting 13th.
Pitcher ran down Armstrong after Armstrong had to check up behind the slower Jeff Sukup. What followed was a long-lived battle between the two racers for the lead. Pitcher would go to the inside, but Armstrong would use the outside to power past. The two continued to fight as Hearn and Tremont charged forward.
On lap 19, Hearn took third from King and set off to catch the leaders. With three laps to go, Pitcher made his move in turn 1. The Chatham racer appeared to get partially past the No. 11A, but contact was made. Armstrong’s No. 11A broke a left front suspension part and swept down to the inside of the backstretch, coming to a stop near the inside wall. Armstrong then exited his car and waved angrily at Pitcher, blaming him for the incident. For his part, Pitcher claimed after the race that Armstrong came down on him exiting turn 2, precipitating the contact.
The officials deliberated on whether to levy a penalty, but ultimately chose not to. As a result, Pitcher claimed the lead, but ended up with Hearn right on his tail with King in third.
On the restart, Hearn immediately put the pressure on Pitcher for the lead and managed to get past with a lap and a half to go. From there, the veteran pulled away to take his third win of the year. Afterwards, Hearn indicated that he got lucky with the late yellow.
“We kind of caught [Armstrong and Pitcher], but we used a lot of car to get to them,” Hearn said. “The yellow let us cool off our tires a little bit and gave us a chance at [Pitcher]. I don’t know whether I would have gotten them under green, especially with two of them running together.”
Pitcher held on for second, while Eddie Marshall moved up to third with a repaired chassis after last week’s crash. Tremont moved up from seventh on the restart to finish fourth, while King was fifth.
The Small Block Modified feature saw Ricky Davis start from pole and hold off Brian Peterson early. Shortly after the start, a stack-up occurred in turn 4 that resulted in Brian Sandstedt spinning after contact from Olden Dwyer. While Sandstedt continued, Dwyer had mechanical issues and was forced to retire.
Davis continued to lead, but had to deal with Chad Jeseo and Elmo Reckner running him down. While Davis was able to hold off Jeseo’s charges, Reckner just appeared to be much faster. Reckner dispatched of Jeseo, then made short work of Davis, taking the lead on lap 8.
From there, Reckner opened up a healthy gap on the field. Points leader Tremont had to come up from 15th, but the all-green stretch for the final 23 laps made it very difficult to put himself in the discussion, no matter how hard he tried.
Reckner was able to hold on to take his first career victory at Lebanon Valley. Tremont was second, followed by Jeseo. Davis held on for fourth, while Demetrios Drellos was fifth.
The Sportsman class had two features Saturday.
In the first feature, a make-up from May 14th, Whitey Slavin took the lead from Carmon Carnibucci on lap 1, then consolidated the advantage when Nikki Ouellette was hit and spun in turn 2 to bring out a yellow. Shortly after the restart, Dan Lyle spun in turn 4 and was hit by Christopher Delfino, who was making his season debut in a car formerly raced by Kolby Schroder. Both drivers would eventually retire.
The scariest moment of the night came on lap 9 when Rob Maxon and David Schilling had contact entering turn 1, sending Maxon hard into the wall and upside-down. Maxon was ok, but done for the night. The team may be out of action for quite a while as they seek the necessary funds to get back out onto the track.
Jeff Watson, who won two weeks ago, was the man on the charge. Starting in 11th, the former champion drove into the top 5, then took advantage of the yellows to get right up on Slavin’s tail. He then worked on Slavin for a couple of laps before getting past on lap 12.
A late caution for Gerard LeClair stopping in turn 4 allowed the rest of the field to catch up for a Green-White-Checker. On the GWC, Watson pulled away to take his second win in a row. Slavin was able to hold onto second, but he only just beat Chris Lynch to the line. Michael Sabia was fourth after starting 18th, while John Virgilio rounded out the top 5.
With the double features, no heat races were held. Instead, the grid was set by handicapping the top 15 in Sportsman points after the first feature, then tacking on everyone else in the order they finished in the first feature. As a result, Dan Lyle ended up starting from pole with John Miller alongside.
There was a stack-up on the start that allowed Cody Ochs to get past to take the lead before Kevin Ward spun out to bring out a quick yellow. Slavin once again had a very quick car and took advantage of the stack-up to move into the top 3. On the second lap of the race, he took the lead from Cody Ochs on lap 2 before another yellow came out due to Alyssa Cody stopping on-track with damage after wall contact.
Lynch appeared to once again have a strong car in the second feature, but he was involved in a crash on the backstretch with Lyle and Albany-Saratoga regular Jack Speshock. Lynch tried to resume, but discovered that his spindle was split in two after a trip to the pits. As a result, his night was over.
The rest of the feature was clean and green. Slavin spent the first ten laps fighting off a charging Virgilio, but eventually pulled away. Watson moved up into the top 3 late in the feature and battled Virgilio for second. Watson was able to make the pass on lap 19, but Virgilio was not quite done yet. Slavin held on to take his first win of the year, but Virgilio battled back and just eked out second over Watson at the line. Sabia finished fourth, while Ward recovered from his early spin to finish fifth.
The Pro Stock feature was one that won’t be forgotten for a while. A number of incidents marred
the evening. Jay Corbin brought out the first yellow by spinning all by himself exiting turn 4. Right after the caution flew, Rick Duzlak spun in turn 2 after contact from Paul LaRochelle as everyone was slowing down. Everyone involved continued. On the restart, Matt Cross and Tom Dean collided in turn 2 to draw another yellow. Later, a third yellow came out due to debris.
Ray Hall, Jr. had led from the pole, but the yellows resulted in little actual racing. However, Chuck Towslee showed a lot a pace and quickly moved up from his seventh starting spot. Towslee was able to get by Chad Arsenault, then Hall and Nick Hilt at the same time to get the lead on lap 7.
Shortly afterwards, Rick Dempsey spun out in turn 4 after a tap from Corbin to bring out the fourth yellow. Dempsey had another spin a lap after the restart, but that did not draw a yellow.
Following one more caution, Corbin and Paul LaRochelle collided in turn 2 and ground to a halt to bring out the sixth yellow of the race on lap 9. Corbin continued at the rear, but Paul LaRochelle pulled into the pits and retired for the night. Jon Routhier then had mechanical issues on the