Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – The Phaze3 Racing Campground across from the Lebanon Valley Speedway race track has always been known for some long, loud and legendary gatherings.
However, when the driver of the Phaze3 racecar, Brian Berger, wins a Modified feature, that party becomes even crazier.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday after the Castleton, NY driver visited victory lane in the prestigious tenth annual “JC Flach Memorial.
Berger took the lead from pole sitter Olden Dwyer just before the halfway point of the 30-lap feature and never looked back, capturing his first win on at the Valley since 2016 and doing so for a big $5,000 payday.
Even though the extra money is amazing, and would be well needed for any race team these days, to Berger, being able to win the annual event in honor of his late friend is what means the world.
“If there’s one race you want to win, it’s this one,” Berger said. “The Flach family is our family. I just love all of them and to do this for JC is just fantastic. This is just the perfect night.”
The event ran from green to checkers on the ultra-slippery but smooth racing surface, so once Berger got out in front, the only thing he had to encounter was lap traffic if he wanted to get back to victory lane.
“I just did everything I could not to make any mistakes,” he said. “I didn’t know who was coming behind me but I just figured I was going to do what I could do and if it wasn’t mean to be, it wasn’t going to happen. I just ran as hard as I could.”
It was mean to be on this night, and there was no wiping the smile off Berger’s face afterwards. He knew exactly what this win meant. Ironically, second place in the race was JC’s brother, Keith, who had a monster race himself, running a tribute car to his brother.
“John (Flach) told me afterwards that Keith was second,” he said. “That’s amazing. I heard Friday night that the weather forecast was a high of 77 (JC’s number), a low of 43 (Keith’s number) and 60 (Brian’s number) is right in the middle. JC first, me second and Keith third. That’s the perfect way to end this night.”
Flach came home in the runner-up spot with Bobby Hackel having a strong run to finish third, Marc Johnson in fourth and point leader Andy Bachetti muscling his way to a hard-fought fifth at the finish.
For Bachetti, it wasn’t a bad night at all, as he was able to take home his third win of the 2022 season in the 358-Modified division.
The 24-lap feature, marred by a massive multi-car pile-up on the backstretch that saw the 250 of Alan Hougtaling nearly go over, was all Bachetti’s after a lap six restart where he got around leader Frank Harper.
From that point on, Bachetti was unchallenged and took home the victory.
“Tonight was just a matter of not being involved in that wreck on the backstretch and then getting the first few laps sorted out,” Bachetti said. “Then, we just had to get this car going and we were able to do that. What a great race car tonight.”
Unlike his Big Block Modified, with every car having almost the exact same horsepower, getting to the front is a premium.
“It’s definitely different than the Big Block deal,” he said. “You have to tip-toe through there a little bit but when you can get out front, it’s a job well done.”
Frank Harper was running his first race of the 2022 season on Saturday evening and looked really strong in his #25 machine, but the Bachetti car was too strong on this night.
“Frank had a fast race car,” he said. “He ran a great race and it was fun running with him, but this car was just hooked up tonight.”
Harper finished second just ahead of his Paul Wehnau Snap-On sponsored teammate LJ Lombardo in third with Peter Carlotto and Montgomery Tremont finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
The 20-lap Pro Stock feature was also marred by a multi-car accident on the front stretch that saw the driver of the 177, Chris Stalker taken to the hospital.
In speaking with his wife later in the evening, Stalker was complaining of some head pain but was alert and the family thanks everyone who has offered prayers and well wishes for the driver.
In the event, once the field got strung out, it was a battle between two of the heavy hitters in the division, Steven Larochelle and Chad Jeseo. After multiple laps where the two were side-by-side late in the race, it was the defending champion Jeseo who squeaked ahead and then took home his class-leading fourth win of the season.
“I said a couple weeks ago that Steven was going to be a contender every week and that showed tonight,” Jeseo said. “That was about as tight as you can race without wrecking each other and it was just an awesome race we had.”
Each driver was strong on this night but it was Jeseo who came out on top.
“The car was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The track had all sorts of bite in it tonight. It was a track like the old days.”
Larochelle finished in the number two spot with Zach Seyerlein, Brian Keough and Nick Rogers completing the top five.
Brady Cordova remained perfect on the season in Limited Sportsman, taking the win with a two-lap-to-go pass of leader Kevin Ames to score the win. Ames was second with Karl Barnes a close third, Jim VanZandt in fourth and Matt Jordan completing the top five.
Dom Denue took home the victory in the Street Stock feature over Stalker who finished an extremely close second. Jeff Meltz Sr, Rob Partridge and Brian Walsh finished third through fifth.
MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Brian Berger* 60 2) Keith Flach 43 3) Bobby Hackel IV 97 4) Marc Johnson* 9J 5) Andy Bachetti*** 4 6) Wayne Jelley 45X 7) Brett Haas 55H 8) Kyle Sheldon 42S 9) Eddie Marshall* 98 10) L.J Lombardo 35 11) Ryan Charland 10C 12) Brandon Lane 33 13) Josh Marcus 91M 14) Olden Dwyer 88JR 15) Timothy Davis 7T 16) Kyle Armstrong 11A 17) Kolby Schroder 99 18) J.R. Heffner 74 19) Mike King 55K 20) Kenny Tremont Jr. 115
358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Andy Bachetti*** 4 2) Frank Harper 25 3) L.J Lombardo* 35 4) Peter Carlotto 12C 5) Montgomery Tremont 115 6) Brian Sandstedt 12S 7) Dylan Gibson 22 8) Ryan Charland 10C 9) Kim Lavoy 3 10) Olden Dwyer 88JR 11) Ryan Larkin 39 12) Alan Houghtaling 250 13) Lorne Browe 14B 14) Brian Petrerson 82 15) Joey Coppola 94 16) Kevin Petrucci 24 17) Jason Herrington 1
PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS 1) Chad Jeseo**** 25 2) Steven LaRochelle* 178 3) Zach Seyerlein 33 4) Brian Keough 311 5) Nick Rogers 77 6) Nick Hilt* 17 7) Rick Duzlak 29 8) Tom Dean 413 9) Zach Sorrentino 54S 10) Chris Stalker 177 11) Johnny Rivers 14J 12) Shawn Perez O9 13) Dan Burl 14B 14) Tom O’Connor 52
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Brady Cordova*** 4C 2) Kevin Ames 43 3) Karl Barnes 307 4) Jim Vanzandt 313 5) Matt Jordan 5MJ 6) Shaeden Mosso 4B 7) Alex Palmer-Sawyer 61 8) Frank Twing JR. 1T
STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS 1) Dom Denue* 145 2) Chris Stalker* 177 3) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 4) Rob Partridge 22 5) Brian Walsh 43 6) Scott Kilmer OO7 7) Evan Denue* 245 8) Chris Brown OO9 9) Scott Morris 84 10) Katarina Foster 10 11) Jim Dellea 77 12) Dave Striebel JR.** 73 13) Shawn Perez JR. O9 14) Franklin Smith 76 15) Dylan Fachini 35 16) Jennah Perez 14J 17) Craig Coons 133C 18) Nick Reillly 17