RPW Column: Olden Dwyer Gets DIRTcar Big Block Career First Saturday At Lebanon Valley, & It Was MUCH Needed

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – “This one’s for Peanut!”

The perfect sentiment from Lebanon Valley Speedway DIRTcar Modified winner Olden Dwyer after the Pownal, VT driver picked up his first career win in the division Saturday night.

It was two years ago to the day that Edmund “Peanut” Pierce lost his courageous battle with Esophageal Cancer. Pierce was a championship car owner, a member of several Halls of Fame and once a vital part of both Dwyer race team as well as that of his father, Ron.

More than that, though, Peanut and Olden were family. That’s why, as Dwyer and second place runner Brett Haas made contact coming off the final corner, Dwyer did everything in his power to beat the 55 to the finish line.

He did.

“Peanut, Brandon (Colpack), (Scott) Duell and myself built this car the year COVID hit,” Dwyer said. “Peanut passed away four days before opening night that year. He didn’t get to see this car take the green flag but I am 100% certain he was right here with me tonight because this is exactly what he wanted. This one’s for Peanut.”

So far this 2022 season, Dwyer’s Big Block program has been plagued by cooling issues. Through a multitude of issues, The OD’s Auto #88 has struggled to finish races. As the cars lined up for the 30-lap main, Olden was strapped in, ready to go from the pole starting spot, but seemed to have a calm about him. He stated that the problems had been rectified and he felt good heading into the feature.

“Tonight was the first night all season that I felt like I legitimately had a shot at this,” he said. “This is awesome. It’s truly hard to put into words right now.”

Dwyer led from the drop of the green, and with several cautions slowing the race, it allowed the likes of Haas, Kolby Schroder, LJ Lombardo and Marc Johnson to work their way into the top half of the field. However, with every restart, Dwyer was able to pull away.

Lap after lap, the 88 was out front, but by lap 14, Haas had worked his way to the runner-up spot and methodically inched closer to the leader. As starter Rodney Rescott threw the white silk, the two cars were just two car lengths apart, but as they entered turn three, Haas’ 55 was door-to-door with Dwyer.

They made contact which sent the 88 wide off of four and gave Haas a chance. However, Dwyer’s car drove down the race track and the two made contact once again. Then, it was a flat-footed drag race to the line which saw Dwyer’s racing dream revealed.

“Brett will throw everything he’s got at you, but he’s talented enough to keep it underneath him,” he said. “It’s always fun racing with Brett. He and his whole team are class acts. Honestly, I feel we should have been standing here twice tonight but contact in the Small Block feature with the guy who won didn’t allow that to happen.”

That driver was Jason Herrington and late in the going of the 24-lap DIRTcar 358-Modified feature, contact was made between Dwyer, who was leading, and Herrington, who was second.

When the checkers flew, the “Flyin’ Farmer” was in victory lane and Dwyer crossed third, but a physical altercation between the two teams forced officials to disqualify Dwyer from his podium finish. How much did losing that race amp him up for the Big Block feature?

“Honestly, it put me more in a mindset that there’s nothing to lose,” he said. “I was at a point where I felt like that Small Block win would be a jumpstart to our season and that didn’t happen. It was pulled out from under me pretty quick so in this race, I felt like I just had to go.”

Did he learn anything in that race earlier in the night that helped him get to victory lane?

“I wanted to run the exact same line I was running in the Small Block race,” he said. “I felt like that was perfect line to run and it was. Just happens that everything aligned for us and we got the job done.”

There’s that word again…we. To Dwyer, this wasn’t just ‘his’ win. This was a total team effort and he’s extremely quick to give his crew the credit.

“This one is 100% to these guys,” he said. “These guys should have given up on me a long time ago. With all of our struggles, I was ready to throw in the towel and these guys kept working. Over the last two weeks, if they didn’t take the car and just ‘do their thing,’ we wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

Struggling will do that to a driver, and Dwyer had reached his point.

“I truly mean it,” he said. “These guys won this race for us. I drove it for the 30 laps, but they won the race. They kind of took over everything with this car because I basically had just had it. I don’t think I’d even be at the race track if it wasn’t for the dedication of my team and I will forever be grateful to them.”

For his part, Haas very nearly took the wind out of Dwyer’s sails, and it would have been a storybook victory at the same time. The main sponsor on the 55 was also the sponsor of the night, Dave Prime Mac Tools, so Haas tried everything he could to get to victory lane, but came up one spot short.

“I was throwing everything I could at it trying to catch Olden,” Haas said. “I didn’t save a bit. I bounced the car off the back stretch wall, ran over the inside berm a couple times. I tried everything I could, but congrats to Olden. He earned it tonight.”

Did Haas wish there were a few more laps in the race?

“You never know, but I probably waited about three or four laps too long on the bottom,” he said. “I was good down there early on in the race and then I could see we weren’t catching him so I had to do something. Then, I went up top and started sailing it in and the car was really good. I guess I should have moved up quicker, but that’s racing.”

Haas explains the last lap from his vantage point as just good, hard racing.

“That last corner, I was hoping Olden was going to lift a little early and play it safe,” he said. “He didn’t and I had to bury it in there and try something. We made contact but he did the right thing because if he didn’t come down the track to try and cut my momentum, I think we could have had him but it was still a great night for our team.”

Kolby Schroder brought his #99 home with another solid run in third, LJ Lombardo finished fourth and point leader Andy Bachetti, who started deep on the field, clawed his way forward to grab another top five finish.

Now, for the aforementioned 358-Modified feature, Dwyer had a good size lead from the drop of the green and was looking as though he was on his way to victory. However, after Jason Herrington cleared Lorne Browe for second near the midway point of the race, the “Big Red 1” started chipping away at Dwyer’s lead.

As the race began to wind down, Herrington got to the rear bumper of the 88. One lap, they were door-to-door with a little contact made. That dropped Herrington back a few car lengths and gave him time to regroup.

He did just that, and with three laps remaining, they found themselves side-by-side again. Contact was made again, but this time, the Herrington Farms Bicknell wrestled the lead away.

At the end, Herrington took the checkers for his first win of the season.

“Olden was running the top and I was following him,” Herrington said. “Then, I caught him, but once you catch a guy, you have to pass him. A couple times I’d show my nose and then get back up behind him. A few laps I got along side him, and once he knew I was there, he’d come off the corner and shoot down a lane.”

That was something that Herrington kept in the back of his mind the rest of the race.

“The first time he came down, we touched and I backed right out of it,” he said. “His car went sideways. I was sideway and he took back off. Then I fell back in line, ran the top and caught him again.”

Then, it was time to decide.

“It was less than five to go,” he said. “You have to think, okay, what do you do? I showed my nose and he did the same thing again and came down. This time, I just stayed there. I didn’t back out. I knew it was crunch time and if I back out, I’m not going to win.”

Herrington wasn’t happy that the two made contact like that, but also knew a race win was on the line.

“I know he was upset,” he said. “But, I guarantee you, if the shoe was on the other foot, he would have done the same thing.”

This has been a trying week for Herrington and his team. After a wreck in last week’s feature event severely damaged the frame of his machine, Herrington was in awe of just how well everything came together to get his car back in racing condition, and was quick to give those responsible the credit.

“This was in no way just my win tonight,” he said. “Sunday morning, we sat and thought, “what do we do now?” That’s when we got a hold of the guys at SHR Race Supply and they told us they had a clip and got a hold of my buddy who is a professional welder. My guys stripped this car all day Sunday. Scott (Hamlin) brought the clip home Monday. My buddy welded it up Tuesday. We primed it that night and then I was out in the shop at 3am Wednesday painting it. Then, my crew went to work.”

That’s when Herrington became amazed. Things were falling into place.

“That night, Joe from JAM Performance called and said my shocks were ready,” he said. “Once we got everything bolted back together, Joe told me, ‘set this here, set this there and you should be in the ball park.’ We did and the car was five pounds off.”

That left the Troy, NY driver nearly speechless.

“After welding a new clip on it, putting a new front axle and all new radius rods on it, to be that close was just amazing,” he said. “Tonight, I was just the lucky guy in the seat. This win is because of my crew and everyone that helped out. It’s just awesome.”

Andy Bachetti came home with a strong second place finish. One has to wonder if he would have had a shot at the victory with the luck of a caution. As stated earlier, Dwyer cross the line third but was disqualified due to the altercation at the scale area so that moved Lorne Browe up to the show position in third.

Ryan Larkin and Peter Carlotto completed the top five.

In the 20-lap Sportsman feature, it appeared as those Kevin Ward had the car to beat, as he had grabbed the top spot from front row starter Ryan Heath on an early-race restarted.

However, as the race went on, the shock slider on the right rear of Ward’s #98 slid up on the chassis which drastically changed the handling of his mount.

That let second place running Tim Hartman Jr. and third place’s John Virgilio close in.

The three put on a whale of a show in the closing stages, duking it out lap after lap until TH2 was able to get by Ward on the high side with just a handful of laps remaining and went on to secure his second victory of the 2022 season on the high banks.

“I saw Kevin starting to come back to me,” Hartman said. “I could see it was because he was having issues but it was making him a little bit squirrelly. That made it hard for me to gauge where I could get a run at him.”

Timing was everything for Hartman as he tried to decipher where to make his move.

“When I was six car lengths back, he’d slip off the bottom,” he said. “When I’d get to him, he’d do a good job running the bottom so I was kind of waiting on him to slip up once I was there.”

However, that’s when Hartman saw he wasn’t the only driver challenging for the victory.

“Then, I felt John (Virgilio) there,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was now or never or John was going to go by both of us.”

Hartman ended up making his move on the Ward machine, utilizing the outside lane, with just a handful of laps left as the trio entered lap traffic. Was going to the high side a calculated move?

“Honestly, it’s scary to run the top at this place,” he said. “It really is. The boiler plate comes at you pretty quickly at the end of these straightaways. It looked dirty up there. It looked real sandy and gritty and I didn’t know if there’d be any grip. I was planning to run the bottom but once I realized going to the top was my only hope, I figured ‘what do I have to lose.’ Luckily, there was some grip up there and I was able to keep Kevin from sliding up to the wall and slowing my run.

Virgilio was able to get by Ward as well, but it was one lap after Hartman did and then the defending champion just ran out of laps. Ward held on for third with Whitey Slavin, rebounding from a first corner, first lap melee which saw the red flag come out and the cars of Robbie Coburn and Brady Cordova taken off on the hook, drive back to fourth at the finish with Jeff Reis getting his best career finish, crossing the line in fifth.

The record books will show that defending DIRTcar Pro Stock track champion Chad Jeseo won feature event on Saturday, but the race went green-to-checkers and the person standing in victory lane wasn’t decided until the final circuit.

Zach Seyerlein and Jeseo waged war at the front for what seemed like more than half the race, with Seyerlein coming out on top lap after lap.

Unfortunately, on the next-to-last circuit, the two leaders made slight contact which caused the left front of Seyerlein’s machine to go flat and let Jeseo scoot away to his fifth win in seven races this season.

“I’ve been saying for a while that Zach is going to be a force in this division for years to come and tonight, he proved it,” Jeseo said. “The problem he was having in this race was that he was pinching me down so hard in the corners. He’d bury it in the corner and get sideway and I feel bad because I think when we touched, he got the flat. It was truly fun to race with him lap after lap.”

Jeseo was able to get to second pretty quickly in the feature event. However, as many drivers will tell you, getting to the leader is one thing. Passing the leader is a whole other story.

“Racing wheel-to-wheel with Zach like that for so many laps was awesome,” he said. “At the end of the day, everyone’s like, ‘you caught him quick.’ It’s tough to pass because you’ve got to leave the guy a lane to race. I can’t get the entrance I want to make up to get that two-tenths of a lap. It shortens up the swoop of your entry about 15 feet so catching someone and passing them are totally different.”

Jeseo was happy to get his car back to victory lane on this night.

“We got the win tonight and this was a total team effort,” he said. “I have one of the best crews in the business right now and things are just clicking.”

Even with the flat tire, Seyerlein held off Steven Larochelle for second with Nick Hilt and Tommy Dean completing the top five.

The Limited Sportsman ran combined with the Sportsman division on Saturday night with Kevin Ames putting an end to the Brady Cordova stranglehold on the class, picking up his first career victory at Lebanon Valley. Karl Barnes was second with Shaeden Mosso third.

In the 15-lap Street Stock feature, Brian Walsh grabbed the hard-fought and well-deserved victory. Rob Partridge was second with Jeff Meltz Sr., Dave Striebel Jr. and Jim Dellea completing the top five.

MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Olden Dwyer* 88JR 2) Brett Haas 55H 3) Kolby Schroder 99 4) L.J Lombardo 35 5) Andy Bachetti*** 4 6) Marc Johnson* 9J 7) Bobby Hackel IV 97 8) Eddie Marshall* 98 9) Brian Berger* 60 10) Wayne Jelley 45X 11) Kenny Tremont Jr. 115 12) Brandon Lane 33 13) Ryan Charland 10C 14) Mike King 55K 15) Timothy Davis 7T 16) Keith Flach 43 17) Kenny Aanonsen JR. 42A 18) Kyle Armstrong 11A 19) Kyle Sheldon 42S 20) Josh Marcus 91M

358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Jason Herrington* 1 2) Andy Bachetti*** 4 3) Lorne Browe 14B 4) Ryan Larkin 39 5) Peter Carlotto 12C 6) Frank Harper 25 7) Kim Lavoy 3 8) Montgomery Tremont 115 9) Jeff Watson 22W 10) Ryan Charland 10C 11) Brian Sandstedt 12S 12) Alan Houghtaling 250 13) L.J Lombardo* 35 14) Kevin Petrucci 24 DQ) Olden Dwyer 88JR DNS) Dylan Gibson 22

SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Tim Hartman** 22H 2) John Virgilio** 14 3) Kevin Ward 98 4) Whitey Slavin** 5 5) Jeff Reis 21R 6) Rob Maxon 96 7) Pete Lorenzo 3G 8) Robbie Knipe 57K 9) Matt Burke* 12 10) Ryan Heath 6R 11) Shane Powell 33S 12) Keith Johannessen 4NY 13) Brady Cordova*** 4C 14) Robbie Colburn 18 15) Bob Fachini 728

PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS 1) Chad Jeseo***** 25 2) Zach Seyerlein 33 3) Steven LaRochelle* 178 4) Nick Hilt* 17 5) Tom Dean 413 6) Dave Stickles 55 7) Zach Sorrentino 54S 8) Brian Keough 311 9) Chris Stalker 177

STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS 1) Brian Walsh* 43 2) Rob Partridge 22 3) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 4) Dave Striebel JR.** 73 5) Jim Dellea 77 6) Chris Stalker* 177 7) Scott Morris 84 8) Dom Denue* 145 9) Rocco Procopio 62 10) Evan Denue* 245 11) Dylan Fachini 35 12) Katarina Foster 10 13) Franklin Smith 76 14) Chris Brown OO9 15) Kerri Vandenburg 89 16) Craig Coons 133C

LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Kevin Ames* 43 2) Karl Barnes 307 3) Shaeden Mosso 4B 4) Adam Schneider 61 5) Jim Vanzandt 313 6) Frank Twing JR. 1T

 
 
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