RPW Column: Drama & Strategy Highlight ‘King Of Spring 100’ Super DIRTcar Series Event At Lebanon Valley

Column By: MARTY KELLY III / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – LJ Lombardo won the 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series modified feature at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Monday, May 30, after a nail-biting test of Hoosier’s finest rubber that saw multiple competitors come down pit road with flat tires.

Crewmen and drivers glanced nervously around the high banks as the night wore on. Hot temperatures and a brutal sun in a cloudless sky beat and dried the surface of the high banks, leading teams to a familiar yet difficult decision at one of the series’ trickiest tracks.

Hoosier D400 compound right-rear tire, or D500?

All along the south row of the infield pit area, crew members slapped black duct tape over the compounds on the sidewall, preventing their choice from being seen by others.

Some new D400 tires had blistered and scabbed early in the night after the heat races. With 30 cars slated to run 100 laps, concern was mounting over which tire to bolt onto the right-rear corner. Not only 400 vs. 500, but also with different degrees and depths of sipes, from aggressively siped 500s, to 400s without any sipes, and everywhere in between.

As the evening progressed and saw Chad Jeseo win the pro stock feature and the last of the modifieds be transferred into the main event through the consolations, track crews watered the speedway and the sun went down, leaving a brown, sticky-looking surface for the start of the main event, but the surface’s appearance was deceiving.

Peter Britten led the first twenty laps before he was passed by Lombardo. Britten retired almost immediately after with power steering issues on lap 22. His right-rear tire, a siped D500, was hot and beginning to scab and peel already.

Not long after, Brett Haas brought out a caution from his second position with a flat right-rear tire.

Andy Bachetti took the lead on the ensuing restart, from his eighth starting spot and he led until lap 68 when a transmission issue sidelined him for the rest of the night

With 32 laps remaining, Lombardo led Marc Johnson and the rest of the field back to green and survived a late-race caution for Matt Sheppard’s flat right-rear to win the ‘King of Spring 100’ over Johnson, Billy Decker, Mat Williamson, and Kyle Armstrong.

“It’s kinda hem and hawing weekly about a 400 or 500, thirty laps just doesn’t seem like enough to run one,” Lombardo said. “[The tire] never once came across my mind…I think we really just cut it the perfect way.”

With the $13,500 in his pocket, an ecstatic Lombardo confessed he’s still hungry for more.

“I want the big one, Mr. Dirt, I really do,” he said.

He’ll have to wait until Labor Day Weekend, when the Super DIRTcar series returns to the Valley of Speed for the annual Mr. Dirt Track, USA title event, paying $25,500 to the winner.

 

TIDBITS AND NOTABLES

Lombardo, Johnson, Decker, and Williamson were all equipped with modestly siped D500 tires on the right-rear. Johnson’s tire was beginning to show belts on the outside of the tire. Armstrong made a D400 survive the entire 100 laps for the 5th place run, the best of his career in series races at his home track.

“I’m really happy,” Armstrong said. “To run with this caliber of cars and get a top five out of that, we’ll take it any day of the week.” Armstrong recorded the second-best time overall in time trials and won his heat race leading up to the main event.

Recent back-to-back winner of Mr. Dirt Track USA, Kenny Tremont Jr. (2018, 2019) retired early due to an evil-handling automobile, additionally plagued tonight and all season with a brake problem.

The right-rear tire Stewart Friesen blew on lap 36 was a D400 without any sipes. He returned to the race after a pit stop and retired on lap 79 with mechanical issues.

John Virgilio won the sportsman feature. Recent winner Tim Hartman, Jr. ended his night early when he suffered a torque arm failure after contact in the heat race.

Along with the $13,500 winner’s share, LJ Lombardo earned a guaranteed starting spot for the 200-lap big-block championship event at Super Dirt Week, this coming October at the Oswego Speedway.

 
 
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