Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – The final Big Block Modified race of the 2021 season at Lebanon Valley Speedway was a big one…Mr. DIRT Track USA…and it was won by Andy Bachetti.
Bachetti picked up right where he left off during Saturday night’s 2022 lid-lifter at the West Lebanon, NY oval, leading all 30 laps to take home the victory in the DIRTcar Modified main event.
After drawing the lowest number early in the evening, Bachetti started on pole of the first heat race of the night and won it handily, which put him on the pole for feature in a heads-up start.
From the drop of the green, the black #4 was gone, driving out to a commanding lead and was never really challenged, taking his first win of the season as he chases yet another crown.
“Definitely, starting up front here at Lebanon Valley is a big plus,” Bachetti said. “Track was starting to get a little slick as the race neared the end.”
All night, track officials rushed the program along due to the threat of rain which made the 30-lap non-stop race fly by.
No matter how you slice it though, the Bachetti machine was tough to beat on this night.
“We just had an awesome race car,” he said. “I can’t say enough about my team for the piece they’ve put together and all of my sponsors who help make this car and team what it is. Just an awesome job by my crew. I couldn’t do it without these guys.”
After a 2021 season that saw Andy capture four big victories, this was sure a great way to begin the new year.
“This is just an awesome way to start off the season,” he said. “It’s was perfect. Being in victory lane is just how we wanted to start things off.”
Second on the night was Eddie Marshall. In the non-stop race, Marshall, who started alongside Bachetti on the front row, was the only one who could even come close to the winner. However, he had to settle for a runner-up spot.
Kyle Armstrong held off Brett Haas for third at the finish with Marc Johnson, in his opening race in the Kevin Starchak-owned #9, rounding out the top five.
In the $1,000-to-win Sportsman feature event, only one caution on the first lap slowed the pace that winner Whitey Slavin put down.
Slavin, who started on the pole as well, drove the Goodermote Excavation #5 from the front row to victory lane and never faced any competition enroute to the win.
“We ran this car probably the last few races last year, just to test it out,” Slavin said. “We knew it was good. We got a win the first night out with it and it’s a bullet.”
The only thing that Slavin had to deal with was lap traffic, and most of that came around the three-quarter mark of the 20-lap affair.
“When you have a veteran like Jeff (Watson) behind you, you don’t know where he is so you don’t have any room for hiccups,” he said. “I was aggressive with the lap cars and I think you should.”
Even with the upfront starting spot, Slavin knew he had to get away as quick as possible if he wanted to hold off the likes of Watson, Chris Lynch, John Virgilio and first-year regular Tim Hartman Jr.
“It’s was a short car count tonight, but there’s some great drivers out here,” he said. “There’s a handful that can really get around here well. We’re excited for this season and we’ve got one hell of a car.”
Hartman Jr. drove from the seventh starting spot to bring his Parillo-owned #22 home in the runner-up position with Watson third. Alan Houghtaling drove a great race to finish fourth with Lynch finishing a strong fifth.
With no heat races for the Pro Stock division Saturday night, based on a draw, Rob Yetman started on the pole with Zach Seyerlein to his inside (Brian Keough was suppose to start on the front row but elected to go to there rear of the field).
From the drop of the green, Yetman was gone, chasing the $1,000 top prize. With a light mist falling since the drop of the green flag, the black #7 of Yetman was way out in front.
As the laps clicked off, the 178 of Steven Larochelle moved past Seyerlein to take the second spot, and began to reel in the leader. However, as Larochelle moved within five car lengths of the top spot, the rain began to become a little bit harder and the caution was thrown on lap 17.
Track officials deemed the conditions were too wet to continue which gave Yetman another opening night win at the Valley.
“This is like a dream,” Yetman said. “I feel like I’m 35 again.”
Yetman never missed a mark on Saturday night, driving the race he wanted to, with no traffic in front of him, from the drop of the green until the final flag flew. Counting his two wins to start the season at Albany-Saratoga, Rob’s now unbeaten in three starts.
“When you get a roll like this to start the year, you know it’s going to be a good season,” he said. “The car was just good tonight.”
How was it for Yetman running with the light mist as the race went on?
“A couple laps to go before they threw the caution, I was having trouble cleaning my helmet,” he said. “Then, it started to come down a little harder and I began wondering, ‘I wonder if they’re going to call it,’ ya know?”
They did with three laps remaining as Larochelle was closing in.
“Then saw the yellow flag and then the checkers,” he said. “However, when things go your way, they go your way.”
Seyerlein finished in third with 2021 champion Chad Jeseo, who worked his way up from 14th to fourth in the non-stop feature, coming home fourth and Johnny Rivers completed the top five.
Dave Striebel Jr. and Gary O’Brien were victors in the two Pure Stock feature events Saturday.
Modified: 1) Andy Bachetti* 4 2) Eddie Marshall 98 3) Kyle Armstrong 11A 4) Brett Haas 55H 5) Marc Johnson 9J 6) Bobby Hackel IV 97 7) Ryan Darcy 21 8) L.J Lombardo 35 9) Brian Berger 60 10) Kenny Tremont Jr. 115 11) Wayne Jelley 45X 12) J.R. Heffner 74 13) Keith Flach 43 14) Kyle Sheldon 42S 15) Kolby Schroder 99 16) Olden Dwyer 88JR 17) Mike King 55K 18) Paul Gilardi, 87X 19) Brandon Lane 33 20) Ryan Charland 10C
Sportsman: 1) Whitey Slavin* 5 2) Tim Hartman 22H 3) Jeff Watson 22 4) Alan Houghtaling 250 5) Chris Lynch 74 6) John Virgilio 14 7) Robbie Knipe 57K 8) Pete Lorenzo 3G 9) Joe Mennitte 112 10) Ryan Heath 6R 11) Keith Johannessen 4NY 12) Matt Burke 12
Pro Stock: 1) Rob Yetmen* 7 2) Steven LaRochelle 178 3) Zach Seyerlein 33 4) Chad Jeseo 25 5) Johnny Rivers 14J 6) Tom Dean 413 7) Zach Sorrentino 54S 8) Dave Stickles 55 9) Nick Hilt 17 10) Shawn Perez O9 11) Brian Keough 311 11) Nick Rogers 77 12) Tom O’Connor 52 13) Don Collins 149 14) Chris Stalker 177
Pure Stock #1: 1) Dave Striebel JR.* 73 2) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 3) Rob Partridge 22 4) Shawn Perez JR. O9 5) Chris Stalker 177 6) Scott Kilmer OO7 7) Chris Brown OO9 8) Brian Walsh 43 9) Craig Coons 133C
Pure Stock #2: 1) Gary O’ Brien* 57 2) Dom Denue 145 3) Scott Morris 84 4) Jim Dellea 77 5) Katarina Foster 10 6) Evan Denue 245 7) Ray Kilmer 807X 8) Franklin Smith 76 9) Jennah Perez 14J