Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – It was opening night for the 358-Modifieds at the Valley of Speed and LJ Lombardo put his Paul Wehnau Snap-On #35 in victory lane.
Even though Lombardo started on the pole after winning his heat race, it wasn’t a given that he was going to get the win.
In fact, the Danbury, CT driver had to endure one final challenge if he wanted to grab checkers.
Lombardo enviably held off Jason Herrington and Ryan Larkin on one lap shootout to take the victory Saturday evening.
“Man, these guys are awesome,” Lombardo said. “Everyone worked their butts off to get this car better and I can’t thank them enough.”
On the final restart, Lombardo fired first and beat Herrington to the lower preferred line heading into turn one. That probably was the key move of the race.
“I apologize to Jason for crowding him on the final restart,” he said. “However, I needed this. It’s been a rough winter and trying to get back to victory lane here at Lebanon Valley is tough.”
The Lombardo team made the decision to run two classes at the Valley weekly in 2022, both Big Block and Small Block Modified. Heading into the second week of the season for the 358’s, LJ will now be the point leader so things look like they’re heading in the right direction.
“We’re here for wins,” he said. “You make the most money and points here if you win and that’s what we did tonight.”
Track conditions played into LJ’s hands Saturday night as well.
“Big shout out to the track,” he said. “It was a good Small Block track tonight. It was just a little too slick for the Big Block.”
Did Lombardo learn anything in running the Big Block race before the 358’s that helped him?
“I don’t know why more people aren’t running both classes because you learn more,” he said. “The reason we won this race is because we made changes to the Big Block knowing we were starting mid-pack. Then, we adapted those changes to this car to make it better.”
Herrington came home in second place on Saturday with Larkin close in toe. Andy Bachetti came from deep on the starting grid to finish fourth. His team had to replace a rear end after breaking one in his heat race. Lorne Browe, who is making a return to racing this season in the 358-Modifieds, came home in fifth.
Jacob Perry made Lebanon Valley history on Saturday with his win in the first-ever Limited Sportsman feature event. Brady Cordova was second with Kevin Ames, Nick Arnold and Karl Barnes rounding out the top five.
Chris Stalker took home the 20-lap Boomer’s Pure Stock Clash to close out the night.