Saturday night at Lebanon Valley was one of the coldest opening nights in recent memory. Temperatures hovered between 38-41 degrees for the entire night with wind, while precipitation at the track consisted of light rain showers, sleet, ice pellets and even some snow showers. Despite this, the entire schedule was completed and fans went home chilled, but happy.
By virtue of winning his heat race, Kenny Tremont Jr. started from the pole. From there, Tremont was able to open a quick gap on L.J. Lombardo. That was short lived due to a crash for Big Block debutant Ricky Davis and Denny Soltis that brought out a yellow.
Upon the restart, Tremont pulled away from the pack and opened up a big lead on Lombardo. Peter Britten and Kyle Armstrong were relatively close to Lombardo, but couldn’t quite get to each other.
Eventually, lapped traffic played a role. Tremont was able to deftly maneuver past slower cars, but Armstrong ended up getting held up. On Lap 22, Armstrong had contact with the lapped car of Paul Gilardi. The result was both cars going into the wall and out of the race. Both drivers were ok, but Armstrong was not happy with Gilardi for holding him up.
On the restart, Britten was able to get past Lombardo for second, but Lombardo was able to get him back. The battling allowed Tremont to get away again and hold on to record his 133rd career Modified win, extending his own track record.
“[It] was good, very good,” Tremont said after the race. “We were good out of the gate. Ran well in the heat race…got the pole with the heads-up start. It went really well. Not one complaint about tonight.”
Asked if he could recall a colder opening night for racing at Lebanon Valley in his career, Tremont honestly could not. The only colder races he could recall at Lebanon Valley involved snowmobile races that he watched in the grandstands with his family long before he raced.
Britten was able to get back past Lombardo on the final lap to take second. Andy Bachetti was fourth, while Marc Johnson was fifth.
The Small Block Modifieds saw a couple of chargers in Brett Haas and Bachetti win the heat races. Haas came from the rear to win his race and claim the pole. Despite a strong car, Haas wasn’t the greatest on restarts. That cost him as Bachetti was dynamite on starts.
Bachetti took the lead on the original start, then lost it when a caution flew for Kim LaVoy crashing in Turn 1. The second attempt was similar as Bachetti was able to get past Haas in Turns 1 and 2 on the first lap and take the lead.
Despite the deficiency on starts, Haas was actually still quite competitive with Bachetti. Problem is, it took his tires a little too long to come up to temperature in the cold weather. By the time they did, Bachetti was gone.
A late yellow for debris on the frontstretch set up a five-lap shootout for the win. No could do anything with the Sheffield, Mass. veteran as Bachetti held on for the win.
Haas was second, followed by Heffner and Jason Herrington. Ray Hall Jr. was fifth.
The Pro Stock feature was once again a very interesting affair. Rob Yetman early in the night was completely dominant in earning the pole for the feature. He came back to earth during the race.
Yetman was able to pull out a good lead in the opening laps, but Jason Casey was able to run him down towards the halfway point. Further back, there was some stiff racing for position between a number of contenders.
A particularly rough race for position was the battle for seventh between Rick Duzlak and the returning Chad Jeseo. The two raced each other, having contact multiple times. On Lap 11, things came to a head. Duzlak leaned hard on Jeseo in Turn 4 and contact was made. Both drivers got loose and while Jeseo was able to catch his car, Duzlak slid to the inside wall and ended up on top of the Jersey Barrier on the inside.
Jeseo was ultimately sent to the rear for causing the crash. He would eventually finish eighth, while Duzlak was done for the night and very upset with Jeseo. He showed his displeasure in a very animated fashion.
When the green came back out, Jason Casey went back to work on Yetman. The two battled had, side-by-side at times, but Yetman had the advantage of the outside line. That allowed him to hold off the No. 324 and win his fourth straight season opener.
Jason Casey was second, followed by Jason Meltz. Rich Crane finished fourth and Jay Casey was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Jeff Kreutziger drew the pole position and made the best of it. He was able to get the jump on Brian Walsh and opened up a gap on the field.
Don Kennedy started fourth and was running well early on. Then, he lost control of his No. 89k in Turn 2 and spun. Kennedy was able to restart his car and continued, meaning that no yellow was thrown.
Kreutziger was able to manage the conditions and hold off defending Pure Stock champion Ed Hatch to win the first feature of the year. John Devine was third, followed by Ray Hall Sr. and Zach Seyerlein.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw John Denue lead from the pole in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Jeff Meltz Sr. gave chase and was able to get past on Lap 3.
John's son, Dom Denue, started in fifth and ran down the two leaders. While John ran nose to tail with Meltz, Dom Denue made a move to the inside in Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead on Lap 5.
Once out front, Dom Denue pulled away to take the win. Meltz was second, followed by John Denue, Rob Partridge and Mike Eichstedt.
The 4-Cylinder class has a number of longtime Single-Cam competitors that have made the move up to the Dual-Cam class. One of those drivers is Jim Williams, who has acquired a Honda Prelude for 2019.
Williams was able to snatch the lead on the first lap and managed to open up a decent gap on the field. However, it was another newcomer to Dual-Cam that rained on his parade.
JRS Racing's James Street has acquired a newer Nissan Sentra to replace his Chevrolet Cavalier. Street showed a lot of speed in his Sentra Saturday night by running Williams down on Lap 5 and easily taking the lead away. From there, Street opened up a big lead and held on to take the overall win. Williams was second, while the returning Brandon Ely in a new Honda was third.
The good times for JRS Racing continued in Single-Cam as John Sheppard led flag-to-flag to win the class and finish third overall. Second was Joey Batho and Chris Bierce was third.
Heavy Hauler/Sysco Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Kenny Tremont Jr. 2) Peter Britten, 3) L.J. Lombardo, 4) Andy Bachetti, 5) Marc Johnson, 6) Ronnie Johnson, 7) Keith Flach, 8) Kyle Sheldon, 9) Kolby Schroder, 10) J.R. Heffner, 11) Wayne Jelley, 12) Mike King, 13) Brian Berger, 14) Josh Marcus, 15) Kyle Armstrong, 16) Paul Gilardi, 17) Eddie Marshall, 18) John Ruchel, 19) Matt Pupello, 20) Ricky Davis, 21) Denny Soltis, 22) Olden Dwyer, 23) Steve Hough, 24) Ken McGuire
Small Block Modified Feature Results (24 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) Brett Haas, 3) J.R. Heffner, 4) Jason Herrington, 5) Ray Hall Jr., 6) Frank Harper, 7) Timothy Davis, 8) Ricky Davis, 9) Chris Curtis, 10) Lorne Browe, 11) Olden Dwyer, 12) Nathan Johnson, 13) Brian Peterson, 14) Steve Hough, 15) Brian Sandstedt, 16) Cody Ochs, 17) Kenny Aanonsen Jr., 18) Frank Hoard III, 19) Kim LaVoy, 20) Alan Houghtaling
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Rob Yetman, 2) Jason Casey, 3) Jason Meltz, 4) Rich Crane, 5) Jay Casey, 6) Rick Dempsey, 7) Steven LaRochelle, 8) Chad Jeseo, 9) Johnny Rivers Jr., 10) Nick Reilly, 11) Nick Arnold, 12) Adam Schneider, 13) Gary Silkey, 14) Tom Dean, 15) Nick Hilt, 16) Rick Duzlak, 17) Brian Keough, 18) Don Collins
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Jeff Kreutziger, 2) Ed Hatch, 3) John Devine, 4) Ray Hall Sr., 5) Zach Seyerlein, 6) Shawn Perez, 7) Keri Vandenburg, 8) Brian Walsh, 9) Don Kennedy
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Dom Denue, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) John Denue, 4) Rob Partridge, 5) Mike Eichstedt, 6) Clifford Booth, 7) Craig Coons, 8) Rocco Procopio. DNS: Ryan Brown
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) John Sheppard, 2) Joey Batho, 3) Chris Bierce, 4) Bradley Batho, 5) Luke Williams, 6) Nick McClendon
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) James Street, 2) Jim Williams, 3) Brandon Ely, 4) Mike Duncan, 5) Steve Burbank, 6) Jim Guertin, 7) John Wright, 8) Rob Miner, 9) Lauren Suriner, 10) Jeff Tubbs, 11) Marcus Hillard