Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – The phrase ‘never over until it’s over’ was never more true than the 30-lap DIRTcar Modified feature Saturday night at Lebanon Valley Speedway.
Kolby Schroder had started in the third position, took the lead from Mike King on lap 3 and looked to be on his way to an easy victory.
Kenny Tremont, who started in eighth, had worked his way to the runner-up spot in impressive fashion, and was hunting down the leader. However, Schroder had worked up a massive full straightaway lead. If it goes green to the end, the 99 is the winner.
Then, fate steps in. As Schroder was entering turn three on the white flag lap, starter Rodney Rescott threw the caution for Brett Haas who’s #55 had a mechanical issue and came to rest on the inside of turn two.
This was the break that Tremont needed if he wanted to add win #141 to his all-time total. It was also the break that guys like Mike King, Andy Bachetti, Keith Flach and LJ Lombardo needed if they wanted to have a shot at a better finish, or even, a win.
One lap to settle things. The green flag was unfurled and Schroder hit the gas with Tremont door-to-door. As the two drivers entered turn one, the leader went in a little lower on the track to protect against any advance from the 115.
However, he failed to keep the top side protected and Andy Bachetti, who had dispatched with Mike King and was now in third heading into turn one, went to the very top shelf through one and two, drove around Tremont in turn two, and as the cars exited the corner, he was moving by the leader.
For the second week in a row, Andy Bachetti took home the Modified win, but this time, he drove from deep on the starting field after beginning the race in 15th.
“Starting back in the field, with no cautions, is tough,” Bachetti said. “It’s a deal where if you get any restart, you need to take full advantage of it, especially with those guys up front.”
Take advantage he did, as Bachetti was able to get to the outside on that restart and make the move around the two leaders that helped him remain undefeated early on in this 2022 racing season.
“That’s the way you wanna win right there,” he said. “That pumps me up.”
No matter how you look at it, Bachetti has one fast car to chase after his fifth career Big Block Modified championship. Opening night he started on the pole and led every lap to get the win. Saturday night, he started deep and only led one lap…the last lap.
“This team is firing on all eight cylinders right now,” he said. “I can’t say enough about my boys, Mike Garrity and everyone who supports this operation. It’s just awesome.”
Schroder had to settle for a heartbreaking second place with Tremont coming home in third. After the horrific start to his season on opening night, driving from eighth to second (ultimately finishing third) had to be a big shot in the arm for the veteran.
“At least it was exciting for everyone,” Tremont said. “We started the year with last year’s set up in the car. That wasn’t even close and I’m not sure why, so we went back and tried something different and it seemed good.”
Did Tremont feel like he had a shot at getting around Schroder and taking the win? Did he expect Bachetti to make the move that got around both of them?
“I really thought I had a shot at the win,” he said. “Kolby did what he thought was right on the restart. The only problem is that he left the entire top lane open. It was a good race though. This is just proof that you never know because it’s never over until it’s over.”
At the finish, LJ Lombardo came home fourth with Keith Flach rounding out the top five.
In the Sportsman feature, Matt Burke started on the pole and drove a great race, holding off every challenge thrown at him and fended off third place starter Robby Knipe to score his first career win at the Valley.
“We raced for years at Orange County and won a bunch down there,” Burke said. “We came to Lebanon Valley and have been just a train wreck for five years.”
Saturday evening, he put it all together to capture the victory and was quick to point out some of the reasons why.
“With all the help we’ve gotten from DKM Fabrication, Mike Petrucci and everyone around us, we’re standing in victory lane because of them,” he said. “It’s a true heartfelt thank you.”
You couldn’t wipe the smile off of Burke’s face as he talked about collecting his first checkered flag on the Valley’s high banks.
“I’m never at a loss for words,” he said. “I get paid to talk for a living, but right now, I’m at a loss for what to say. I just want to thank everyone who’s been behind this car and helped us to get here.
Knipe came home in second with Chris Lynch holding off last week’s winner Whitey Slavin for third with Pete Lorenzo completing the top five.
Anytime you can hold off Pro Stock track champion Chad Jeseo for multiple laps to score a win, you know you’ve done something right.
That’s exactly what Nick Hilt did after Hilt muscled his way to the lead past leader Chris Stalker on lap 5 and then fended off Jeseo for the final 13 laps take the win.
“This thing was definitely fast and we had a good starting spot (fourth) tonight,” Hilt said. “Last week we started in the back and finished ninth. I am definitely happy to take win whenever I can get one.”
Hilt knew he had his friend Chad Jeseo breathing down his neck.
“I saw Chad out my left side a few times,” he said. “I felt him beating and banging on me and I just didn’t want to push it. I drive the same car as him and I didn’t want to overdrive because that’s how he beat me once last year.”
Jeseo was a close second with Zach Seyerlein finishing in third. Steven Larochelle was fourth with Johnny Rivers bringing his Ford Mustang #14J home in fifth.
In the Pure Stock feature, it was Dave Striebel Jr. crossing the line first with Jeff Meltz Sr. in second. Scott Morris was third with Jim Dellea fourth and Chris Stalker completing the top five.
This was the first time the class ran a format with heat races and a 15-lap feature. As far as we understand, the finish is currently unofficial due to a protest and once we get more information this, this column will be updated.
Gary Malloy (Dual Cam) and Tim Meltz (Single Cam) were winners in the four-cylinder division.