RPW Column: An Emotional Win For Brian Berger In Bryan Goewey Memorial At Lebanon Valley; Continues Career Year

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – A Brian win on a Bryan night.  How fitting!

At the beginning of June, Brian Berger grabbed the biggest win of his career, taking the JC Flach Memorial at Lebanon Valley Speedway and the $5,000 payday that went along with it.

Saturday night Berger one-upped himself, taking the lead early on in the 44-lap Modified feature and then leading the rest of the way to take checkers in the inaugural Bryan Goewey Memorial.

Oh, did I mention this race paid $10,000?

“I’m speechless right now,” Berger said after his big win.  “This is so unbelievable.  I didn’t think this was possible until coming off the last corner.  I truly don’t know what to say right now.”

The race was marred by a massive multi-car incident before a single lap was complete when inside front row starter LJ Lombardo’s right rear made contact with his front row mate, Ryan Darcy, as the two exited the second corner.  The contact sent both cars into the outside wall, folded up the front end of the Darcy 21 and send his car airborne.

Darcy’s car then began to barrel roll before the entire field began to pile in.  Brett Haas, Kolby Schroder, Wayne Jelley, Brett Hearn, Josh Marcus, Mike King, Eddie Marshall and Kyle Armstrong were all involved with Schroder’s car also getting airborne.

All drivers were physically okay and but some hot tempers resulted due to the incident.

When the race resumed, DIRTcar Modified rookie John Virgilio took the point with Haas, whose team did an amazing job securing the body panels that were crushed in the accident, along side.  Virgilio took the point but the car on the move was Berger’s #60.

Berger quickly got to the runner-up spot and was hunting the down the freshman driver, waiting for a chance to get by.

That came on the sixth circuit as Virgilio’s #74 had a handling hiccup in turns three and four and the Castleton, NY driver was right there to take advantage, bringing the 43 of Keith Flach along with him.

On lap later, the #9 of last event’s winner, Marc Johnson, moved to third, around the Virgilio car.

As the race went on, Berger held his own but then Johnson would get around Flach for second.  He then tried lap after lap after lap to get up to the Berger #60 to try and contend for the big payday, but it would never materialize.

Brian Berger held off all challengers to score the victory, and it was an emotional one at that.

“This is truly amazing but there’s only one person I’m thinking about right now,” he said.  “That’s my Aunt Andrea.  I love her so much.  She’s home in Hospice right now but this one is for her.  She was riding with me tonight.”

One of the key moments for Berger’s winning ride was avoiding the accident on the opening lap.

“I saw it all unfolding in front of me,” he said.  “It was unfortunate for Ryan.  I was right behind it and I ducked to the inside and missed the whole thing.  There were no laps down at the time so I knew we still had a long, long way to go.”

Once getting the lead on lap six, Berger had nearly a full regular Lebanon Valley feature to go if he wanted to hold off one of the best at the track this year in Johnson, and take the win.  However, he never missed a step, and that was thanks to something the team found right before the feature event.

“I haven’t been feeling like the car was too good as of late,” he said.  “We’ve been scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get more speed and we decided to make an adjustment right before the feature.  That’s when we found that we had a broken valve in our right rear radius rod.”

That sent the Phaze 3 Racing team scrambling.

“If we hadn’t tried to make the adjustment, we wouldn’t have seen it,” he said.  “Actually, Kenny Tremont gave us a spare and we made it out to the starting grid just in time.”

It’s stuff like this which prove to be poetic justice for special nights like the one Brian Berger had on Saturday.  With the victory, he’s now captured two of the three biggest wins of the season, to date, at the Valley of Speed in what is turning out to be a career-type season for Berger.

“This is truly just unbelievable,” he said.  “I’ve got the best team in the business and they earned this victory.  I can’t believe this.”

Johnson brought the Kevin Starchak-owned #9 home in the runner-up spot with Flach having a great run to finish third.  LJ Lombardo rebounded from the opening-lap incident to bring his #35 home fourth and so did Eddie Marshall who drove to fifth at the finish.

The Sportsman raced 20 laps in honor of the late George Marcus, who lost his courageous battle with Cancer last July but was one of the best drivers the division ever had.

The feature paid $1,000 to the winner and current point leader Whitey Slavin was very happy to see that.

“I watched George race a lot when I was a kid,” Slavin said.  “It’s an honor to win this race in his memory.”

Slavin, who was driving a retro paint scheme in honor of the Hughes Bros. from back in the day, took the lead on lap seven after making contact with leader Keith Johannessen as the two went into turn three.

From there, Slavin never looked back as we went on to score his third victory of the 2022 season at the Valley.

“Tonight, this car was really fast and so was the track,” he said.  “You can almost feel it in the air with a lot of money on the line.  I am just glad to pull this one off.”

It has been quite some time since a Hughes Bros. Special sat in victory lane but at the Valley but Slavin felt as if there was no other place that paint scheme should be.

“This is just awesome,” he said.  “This isn’t just a dedication to Spencer and Carlton but also my father, Jerry Townley, Tommy and Donnie Corellis.  This is for them but there are a lot of pictures of my dad running this car and it was pretty special.  I wanted to give this one to all of these guys.”

Kevin Ward came home in second but knew it was a matter of who got to the front first early on in the feature that might bring home the victory.

“All of these guys are good out here,” Ward said.  “You’ve got to be good to get to victory lane here and we just had something a little off in the front end tonight.  That was it but congratulations to Whitey.”

Rounding out the podium was Tim Hartman Jr. who ran a great race to bring the MRP Companies #22 home in third.

I had some unfortunate restarts tonight,” Hartman said.  “It’s tough starting on the bottom here.  I was side-by-side with Whitey for almost every one of those restarts and I couldn’t quite get enough to try and get in front of him.  Once he got to the front he walked away from us but it was a good night.”

Chris Lynch rebounded from an opening lap accident to bring his #74 fourth and Johannessen completed the top five.

It’s hard to find anything that defending Pro Stock champion Chad Jeseo hasn’t done in the division this year, let alone his career.  One Saturday, we found one as he was able to finally capture the 23-lap Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic for the first time.

After a side-by-side race with leader Nick Hilt for several circuits, Jeseo was able to make the move for the lead on the 13th lap.  Hilt then raced back to Jeseo’s inside and the two raced door handle to door handle for another couple tours around the 5/8-mile track with the #25 finally pulling ahead for good.

When all was said and done, Jeseo finally captured “The Bubba” but also took home his fifth-straight victory this season.

“That was a really good race tonight, especially with Nick,” Jeseo said.  “To take it from him, finally, is awesome.  He’s got like six of these things.  I swear.  It seems like every year he’s got his name on the trophy.”

Actually, Hilt’s won it three times and is in a tie as the all-time winningest driver of the event with Robbie Speed and Rob Yetman.  Now, Jeseo has added his name to the great list of winners of the race.

“This is twice as special right now,” he said.  “I’ve always wanted to win this race and to finally get my name on the big check is truly an honor.  I can’t say enough about the 25 team.  They really worked hard to get this car ready for tonight and it showed.”

Hilt brought his #17 home in second but just couldn’t get another Bubba on this night.  Steven Larochelle crossed the line with a solid third place finish after a torrid battle against invader Bruno Richard for several laps.  Richard took fourth and welcome back to the Valley Robbie Speed.  Speed drove the back-up Chris Stalker #177 on this night and finished an impressive fifth.

Speaking of Stalker, Chris took home the victory in the 15-lap Street Stock feature after first across the line, Rocco Procopio, was disqualified in post-race technical inspection.  Dave Striebel Jr. was second with Jeff Meltz Sr., Gary O’Brien and Evan Denue completing the top five.

Karl Barnes grabbed his first win of the 2022 season in the Limited Sportsman division while the two Four-Cylinder features were won by Victor Duncan Jr. (Single Cam) and Gary Malloy (Dual Cam).

 

MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS (44 LAPS) 1) Brian Berger** 60 2) Marc Johnson** 9J 3) Keith Flach 43 4) L.J Lombardo 35 5) Eddie Marshall* 98 6) Andy Bachetti*** 4 7) John Virgilio 74 8) Kenny Tremont Jr. 115 9) Wayne Jelley 45X 10) Mike King 55K 11) Timothy Davis 7T 12) Brandon Lane 33 13) Jeff Sukuip 35 14) Brett Hearn 20 15) Brett Haas 55H 16) Dylan Gibson 22G 17) Matt Humes 0 18) Alan Houghtaling SB 250 19) Kyle Sheldon 42S 20) Ryan Darcy 21 21) Kolby Schroder 99 22) Olden Dwyer* 88JR 23) Josh Marcus 91M 24) Kyle Armstrong 11A 25) Lorne Browe 14 26) Ray Hall JR. SB 72

SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Whitey Slavin*** 5 2) Kevin Ward 98 3) Tim Hartman** 22H 4) Chris Lynch 74 5) Keith Johannessen 4NY 6) Robbie Knipe 57K 7) Rob Maxon 96 8) Matt Burke* 12 9) Shane Powell 33S 10) Brady Cordova*** 4C 11) Ray Hall JR. 72 12) Pete Lorenzo 3G 13) Butchie Irwin 117 14) Garret Poland 17G 15) Jeff Reis 21R 16) Bob Fachini 728 17) Ryan Heath 6R

PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Chad Jeseo******* 25 2) Nick Hilt* 17 3) Steven LaRochelle* 178 4) Bruno Richard 72 5) Robbie Speed 177S 6) Zach Sorrentino 54S 7) Chris Stalker 177 8) Tom Dean 413 9) Zach Seyerlein 33 10) Dave Stickles 55 11) Tom O’Connor 52 12) Brian Keough 311 13) Rick Duzlak 29 14) Nick Rogers 77 15) Tom Gomm 32 16) Dominic Hilt 17H

LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Karl Barnes* 307 2) Jim Vanzandt 313 3) Matt Jordan 5MJ 4) Kevin Ames* 43 5) Frank Twing JR. 1T

STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS)  1) Chris Stalker** 177 2) Dave Striebel JR.** 73 3) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 4) Gary O’ Brien* 57 5) Evan Denue* 245 6) Ryan Brown O10 7) Katarina Foster 10 8) Scott Morris 84 9) Kerri Vandenburg 89 10) Brian Walsh* 43 11) Franklin Smith 76 12) Dom Denue** 145 13) Jim Dellea 77 14) Rob Partridge 22 15) Chris Brown OO9 16) Ray Royals 6 17) Mike Dianda 315 18) Daniel Coonradt 74 19) Chris Calabro 3C DQ) Rocco Procopio 62

4 CYLINDER SINGLE CAM FEATURE RESULTS (15 LAPS) 1) Victor Duncan JR. 73S 2) Bradley Batho* O7s 3) Joey Batho, 7S 4) Joe Wolfe 777S 5) Matt Tedrow 28S

4 CYLINDER DUAL CAM FEATURE RESULTS (15 LAPS)  1) Gary Malloy** 69D 2) Steve Burbank 22D 3) Jon Shepard* 99D 4) Doug Howe 12D

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