On Saturday night at Lebanon Valley, it was a race against time. It was sunny at the beginning of the card, but thunderstorms quickly rolled in. The Modified and Pro Stock features, in addition to the Boomer’s Performance Purestock Clash, were unable to be completed before the rains wiped out the card. Next Saturday night's card will have Double Features for the Modifieds.
The Small Block Modified feature did get in before the rains came. It turned out to be an interesting race.
Sean Mandel started from the pole and led the field to green in a race that struggled to get underway. On the first lap, Brandon Pitcher spun in turn 1 and drew a caution.
Shortly after the restart, a chain reaction in turn 4 resulted in Brett Haas and Ray Hall Jr.’s cars getting hooked together. As it is very difficult to move under those circumstances, another yellow flew so that the track crews could unhook the cars. Both drivers continued.
Right after the next restart, another jam-up in turn 2 collected Hall, Pitcher and Timothy Davis. Davis’ car was too damaged to continue.
The start-and-stop nature of the racing did allow a number of drivers to move up quickly. Most notably, J.R. Heffner moved up to third from the 13th starting spot in under six laps.
The race ultimately came down to a four-car pack. Mandel, Frank Hoard, III, Heffner and Demetrios Drellos. Hoard seemed to have a fast car, but could do nothing with Mandel. Mandel found the high line and used it to his advantage to fend off any and all challenger from the Vermonter.
Heffner was able to get past Hoard for second on lap 20 for second and started to work on Mandel. However, Mother Nature decided to speak up here. Dark clouds had been moving in on the track all race long, but no rain had fallen.
Suddenly, it started pouring. The caution was put out quickly, but the rain took the track from dry to unraceable in about 10 seconds. As a result, the entire top five ended up in the turn 3 wall.
At that point, the race was declared complete as of the end of lap 20. As a result, Mandel was declared the winner, his first feature victory in the current Small Block Modified class.
Afterwards, Mandel was ecstatic with his car.
“[My car] was awesome tonight,” Mandel said in his trailer. “Just had to hit my marks. There was definitely more grip up on top for me than the bottom.”
A disappointed Heffner was second, followed by Hoard, whose car ended up on its side in the crash. Jason Herrington was fourth, followed by Drellos.
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 saw Jesse Murphy charge up from third on the grid to take the lead from Mike Arnold on the first lap. Shortly after Murphy took the lead, Jordan Miller spun to bring out a caution.
With the green back out, the Hillsdale-based Murphy opened up the gap on the pack. Further back, Al Relyea was moving forward in his black and orange No. 14.
Relyea caught Murphy with a couple of laps to go and used his veteran skill to make short work of Murphy. From there, Relyea pulled away to take the win in his first race back in his own car in weeks.
Murphy was second, followed by Larry Perez. Dave Stickles was fourth, followed by Arnold.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 was a race that Tim Meltz would rather forget. After starting on the front
row alongside Keri VanDenburg, Meltz would spin in turn 4 after contact from Mike Eichstedt. After the result, Meltz spun again after contact from VanDenburg, something that he was not very happy about. A third spin resulted in the end of his race.
On the first lap of the race, Ridgefield, Conn.’s Scott Morris took the lead away from VanDenburg and seemed to have a pretty quick Camaro. However, Chad Arsenault and his Malibu were giving chase.
With a couple of laps to go, Arsenault caught and passed Morris for the lead. From there, Arsenault held on and took the checkers first. Unfortunately, Arsenault’s Malibu was underweight, resulting in a DQ. Morris inherited the win.
Clifford Booth was second, followed by Zach Seyerlein. Eichstedt was fourth, followed by Mark Dwyer.