Saturday night saw Lebanon Valley Speedway open up the year with some exciting on-track action in chilly temperatures. For Brett Hearn, the task was simply to pick up from where he left off in 2017.
By virtue of winning his heat race, Andy Bachetti started from the pole while Hearn was fourth. In a matter of a couple of laps, Hearn was already up to second and pressing for the lead. Further back, Kenny Tremont Jr. was moving forward from the ninth starting spot, but the going was tough.
Tremont was helped out by the middle portion of the race progressing at a snail’s pace. First, Kolby Schroder stalled on the backstretch to draw a yellow on lap 10. A lap after the restart from that incident, Chad Jeseo spun exiting turn 4 and nosed into the inside wall on the frontstretch to bring out another yellow.
Another restart saw no progress made in terms of laps completed. This time, a spin in turn 2 brought out the caution. After the yellow flew, a multi-car incident broke out in turn 3 involving Mike King, Kyle Sheldon and Wayne Jelley. All of these incidents gave Hearn one more chance to plan his attack.
On the restart, Hearn made his move. It did not take long for the 12-time track champion to snatch the advantage away. Tremont followed Hearn past Bachetti into second. From there, Tremont did everything he could to keep pace with Hearn.
A late caution for a crash in turn 2 for Jeseo closed the pack up for a six-lap shootout. However, Hearn got an excellent start and pulled away to take the win.
For Hearn, the familiar is a big benefit.
“[We raced] the same car we’ve used for the last couple of years,” Hearn said after the race. “We know what we’re dealing with and how we want it to feel. We were real fast in hot laps, so it was appropriate that we won tonight.”
Hearn has indicated that the car he raced Saturday night will be exclusively used at Lebanon Valley this season. Additional Teo chassis will be used for Hearn’s racing at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and in Super DIRTcar Series races.
Tremont was second and stated afterwards that he just needed that little bit more to win. Bachetti was third, followed by Eddie Marshall and J.R. Heffner.
In the Sportsman feature, the primary move for the lead was made on the very first lap. Todd Buckwold started on pole and charged into the first turn. Unfortunately, Buckwold lost control and spun to bring out a caution. Chris Curtis was able to sweep past into the lead.
In the chain reaction that followed, Chris Lynch was hit from behind. According to Lynch, his car jumped about two feet in the air and broke a shock. His car seemed to be fine on the restart, but the car got to turn 3 and refused to turn. Ultimately, Lynch retired from the race and was credited with 20th.
Curtis was just about the class of the field all night. Behind him, Whitey Slavin moved his PMC chassis up to second after fighting with Kevin Ward.
The scariest incident of the night occurred on a lap 15 restart. Michael Sabia had a part in the front end of his No. 7 fail early on, forcing him to manhandle his car. Despite that, he was able to keep himself in fourth.
On a lap 15 restart, it completely broke. The failure pitched him directly into the wall, then into a series of pirouettes in front of most of the field. Buckwold, Alan Houghtaling, Nikki Ouellette and Paolo Pascarella were all involved in the crash. Everyone was ok, but Houghtaling and Sabia were out.
Curtis was able to hold on over the final five laps to take a convincing victory over Slavin and Ward. Peter Carlotto finished fourth, followed by Adam Gage.
In Pro Stock, Ed Bishop’s switch to No. 11 from No. 144 paid some dividends. A heat race victory gave him
the pole, but Rob Yetman was alongside. Yetman wasted no time in snagging the lead, claiming it on the very first lap.
The event was clean until Jason Casey broke his rear end on lap 12 to bring out a yellow. Shortly after the restart, a multi-car crash in turn 3 involved Scott Kilmer, Tom O’Connor, Tom Dean and Pro Stock debutant Dave Stickles. O’Connor dropped out as a result, but the others continued.
Over the final few laps, a swell duel for second broke out between Canaan, Conn.’s Jay Casey, Bishop and Jason Meltz. On the final lap, Meltz made a move to the inside in turns 3 and 4 that allowed him to go from fourth to second.
Meanwhile, Yetman could not be denied as he extended his record with his 52nd career Lebanon Valley Pro Stock win. It is also the 100th Pro Stock victory of his career.
Meltz was able to snag second, followed by Jay Casey and Bishop. Nick Hilt rounded out the top five.
Also of note, Rick Duzlak finished eighth on track. However, he was penalized four positions during the first caution for jumping the start of the race. Duzlak was judged to have to not taken that penalty and was placed at the rear of those who finished the feature.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Ed Hatch started from the pole and led early on. Jeff Meltz Jr. gave chase, along with John Devine and Jeff Kreutziger.
The top four drivers pulled away from the rest of the pack in order to settle the race by themselves. On lap 5, Jeff Meltz Jr. made his move and got by Hatch. Devine followed past into second, then immediately pounced on Jeff Meltz Jr. in turn 3. Devine was able to make his move for the lead stick.
From there, Devine was able to hold on to take his first win of the season. Jeff Meltz Jr. was second, followed by Kreutziger and Hatch. Jordan Miller was fifth.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Chad Arsenault start from the pole in a new chassis that he and his team traveled to Oneonta in order to acquire. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stretch his legs as Kevin Paul’s No. 94 was leaking fluid early on, drawing a yellow.
On the restart, Shawn Perez’s No. 09 had the right rear wheel break off and bound down the frontstretch. The wheel had enough momentum that it bounced up the banking in turn 1 and hit the wall before coming to rest. Naturally, Perez’s disabled car and the loose wheel drew a second caution.
Later on, Clifford Booth spun in turn 2 to bring out another caution. At the same time, Dom Denue cut a right rear tire and was forced to pit out of the top five.
The race ultimately came down to a battle between Arsenault and Al Relyea. Relyea had a fast car, but ultimately lost traction and spun in turn 2 while going for the lead.
That was all Arsenault needed as he pulled away and scored the victory. Ray Hall Sr. finished second, followed by Jesse and Chris Murphy. Denue ultimately came back to fi