RPW Column: Nick Hilt Beats The Field & Mother Nature; Wins Third Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic At Lebanon Valley

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – Heading into Saturday night at the Lebanon Valley Speedway, there had only been two three-time winners of the Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic, Robbie Speed and Rob Yetman.

Now, you can add a third driver to that list as Nick Hilt had a dominating performance from start to finish on the evening at the Valley of Speed.

Hilt took home the win in one of the Godfroy’s Service Center heat races and the $100 that went along with it, drew the pole starting spot in the redraw and led every single circuit in the 23-lap affair to take home the $1,523 winners share for his third triumph in the event’s 16-year history.

While he led all 23 laps, Hilt had to fend off the likes of Steven Larochelle, Chad Jeseo and Johnny Rivers for two restarts within the final five laps of the event.  The last restart produced a one-lap shootout for the win, which saw Hilt power off the final corner to grab the checkers.

“We worked really hard on this car all week to so we could try and win this race again,” Hilt said.  “I’m real happy we were able to do so and get this car to victory lane.”

The first 18 laps of the race went without chief starter Rodney Rescott throwing the caution flag, which aided Hilt in getting a very comfortable lead.  However, after racing contact with Johnny Rivers for the runner-up spot, Jason Meltz put his #51 into the turn one wall hard.  He was okay but the car was done for the night and that set up the first of two restarts.

“Cautions always make things interesting,” he said.  “Being out front, I was hoping we didn’t get the caution but when we did, I knew Chad (Jeseo) was behind us and Larochelle was right next to us.  They’re both really fast and I was just happy to stay up front tonight.”

On the final restart, Jeseo was able to drive to the outside of Larochelle who held second at the time.  Coming to the checkers the point leader was able to complete the pass but ran out of the time to get up and challenge Hilt for the win and possibly capture his first-career Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic.

“I thought that last restart with Steven & Nick was going to get interesting,” Jeseo said.  “I really just didn’t have anything for Nick there at the end.  I was hoping I would but that was all the 25 had tonight.”

For his second place run on Saturday, Jeseo took home a hefty payday as well of $750.  However, he wanted the big trophy on the evening but came up one spot shy.

“This is my best finish ever in the Bubba,” he said.  “I haven’t won one of these things yet.  We chase this race every year and I have to thank everyone that puts this race on and all my guys and my sponsors that are a part of this car.

Third place finisher on the night was Steven Larochelle.  For a good portion of the event, the #178 was in contention for the victory but the last restart allowed Jeseo by.

Still, coming home with a third place finish on the night was a career-best for the Massachusetts racer.

“It was a fun race tonight,” Larochelle said.  “A lot of good, clean racing and this car was on rails all night.  Fast time in hot laps, won our heat race and third place in the Bubba.  I’m very happy with this.”

The Larochelle team has been one of the more consistent cars over the last few seasons at the Valley, and on Saturday night, Steven proved just how good of a car they have.

“This has been a big effort by all of our sponsors and everyone on this crew,” he said.  “We’ve had a good car for the last couple of years and hopefully we’ll be getting a win here soon.”

Jay Fitzgerald brought his bright-orange #56 home in the fourth position at the finish with Johnny Rivers continuing his strong runs this year to complete the top five.

To say that things are close in points after the Bubba would be an understatement.  Chad Jeseo has a 14 point cushion now over Jason Meltz who wound up being credited with 11th on the evening, there is only 10 markers between third-place Larochelle and a tie for sixth between Fitzgerald and Rivers.  This is going to be a close battle right down to the final night.

Next up on the racing card on Saturday was set to be the Modified feature.  However, as Pro Stock victory lane ceremonies were completing and the National Anthem was being sung, Mother Nature had other plans and the skies opened up.

Now, the Modifieds & Sportsman will run double features.  Rob Pitcher and Timothy Davis were set to start on the front row of the Modified main with Alan Houghtaling and Matt Burke doing the same in Sportsman.

Don Kennedy, Chris Stalker and Brian Walsh took home checkers in the three Pure Stock feature events.  The 4-Cylinder feature was also rained out.

Writer’s Note:

I’d personally like to thank everyone that assisted in to make the 16th annual Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic a success.

I first have to thank all of the great marketing partners whose generosity allowed us to create the richest edition of the event which honored the former champion’s memory.  They include:

Bulldog Concrete, Watson’s Auto Sales, Driveshafts By DMC, Classic Muscle Parts, Snap-On Tools Scott Hamlin, Godfroy’s Service Center, Bedell Racing Engines, John Santolin Racing & “Back Gate Mike,” Dwyer’s State Line Beer & Wine, Lebanon Springs Excavating, the New York State Stock Car Association, Roaring 20’s Brewery, Lebanon Springs Roll Offs, Lebanon Valley Speedway, DMC Racing Products, Race Pro Weekly, BCPR & the family & friends of Bubba.

I’d also like to thank track announcers John Stanley and Dan Martin, speedway officials John Casterella Jr., Steve Knott, Fred Lee, Lane Van Deusen, Rodney Rescott, Marty Poole as well as Cheryl Catman who helped to keep everything running as smooth as possible on Saturday.

I can’t thank everyone enough for making this year’s race another event in the history of the Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic.

PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS (23 LAPS) 1) Nick Hilt** 2) Chad Jeseo,** 3) Steven LaRochelle, 4) Jay Fitgerald* 5) Johnny Rivers, 6) Doug Olds 7) Shawn Perez, 8) Zach Seyerlein, 9) Brian Keough 10) Tom Dean, 11) Jason Meltz* 12) Dave Stickles, 13) Rick Spencer

PURE STOCK # 1 FEATURE RESULTS (8 LAPS) 1) Don Kennedy,* 2) Clifford Booth, 3) Dave Striebel JR. 4) John Devine** 5) Chris Brown, 6) Katarina Foster 7) Nick Hilt III 8) Mike Dianda 9) Scott Kilmer,

PURE STOCK # 2 FEATURE RESULTS (8 LAPS) 1) Chris Stalker**** 2) Rocco Procopio** 3) Jeff Meltz SR.*** 4) Dylan Fachini 5) Scott Morris, 6) Jim Dellea, 7) Ryan Brown* 8) Shawn Perez, 9) Franklin Smith,

PURE STOCK # 3 FEATURE RESULTS (8 LAPS) 1) Brian Walsh** 2) Janai St. Pierre* 3) Rob Partridge** 4) Colby Kokosa 5) Dave Striebel 6) Craig Coons, 7) Keri Vandenburg, 8) Peter Huntoon, 9) Jethro Rossman,


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