Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – They say that, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky rather than good. Well, Saturday night at Lebanon Valley Speedway, Olden Dwyer experienced both.
Dwyer fired from the seventh spot and was running a very solid race early on in the 30-lap DIRTcar Big Block Modified feature. The Pownal, VT driver was putting a challenge on early race leader John Virgilio for second as the pair began to pressure leader Keith Flach.
Then came the turning point of the race.
As Dwyer moved to the inside of Virgilio, Flach’s #43 drove into turn one and pushed up the corner. Both second and third made their way passed Flach and the race was on to see who would take the top spot.
As they entered the third turn, Dwyer buried his #88 in deep, made the slide passed the 74 of Virgilio and was never challenged the rest of the way, en route to his second Big Block Modified win of 2022 and second of the his career.
“Honestly, all the doors opened perfectly early on in the race,” Dwyer said. “I got to third there and was kind of dogging John and Keith. Then, as I was up under John, Keith shoved the nose and I was just praying I could check out from there.”
From the time Dwyer got to the top spot, he knew he had to get on the gas and try to put some distance between himself and the rest of the field if he wanted to visit victory lane.
“I knew that was the time I had to go,” he said. “I wasn’t really sure, though, where I wanted to run.”
What made that decision so difficult for him?
“The track was relatively racy tonight compared to the way it normally is,” he said. “There were really two grooves tonight so it was tough to decide where I wanted to be. Finally go to figure it out and glad we were able to bring it back to victory lane.”
Compared to the past few events at the Valley, air temperature was way cooler on Saturday night.
“We could run anywhere on this track tonight,” he said. “As it got cooler, it started to bring some bite back into the race track and it made it extra racy.”
Flach was able to rebound from his early race misfortune to come home in the runner-up spot at the finish. After starting in sixth spot, it’s a matter of what might have been for the Keith but a second place showing was a great result.
The Ravena, NY driver now sits eighth in points but is just three markers behind fifth place drivers Brian Berger and Eddie Marshall.
Berger had another solid run to come home in third position after starting eighth. The veteran campaigner continued his career year Saturday at the Valley as the season winds down.
Brett Haas and Marc Johnson completed the top five. This was a great points night for both of these drivers as point leader Andy Bachetti had early race trouble and was a DNF on the night. Bachetti finished 18th after stuffing his #4 in the turn four wall and severally damaging the front axle and radius rods, among other parts.
Now, the top three are separated by just 43 points with Haas in second, 24 behind.
Kim Lavoy has been having a tough 2022 racing season at Lebanon Valley Speedway. With a multitude of issues, the season in the 358-Modified division has been a struggle for her.
Saturday night, she changed her luck by leading from start to finish in the 24-lap DIRTcar Small Block feature, and now, the weight of the world is off her shoulders.
“Man, my guys worked their butts off tonight on this car,” Lavoy said. “I’m always complaining to them but they work so hard to get the car right for me and tonight I couldn’t have asked for a better car.”
The Lavoy team unveiled a brand new Bicknell race car for the 2022 season and, Saturday, it appeared as if she had the field covered.
“We’ve had trouble getting this new car figured out so far this season,” she said. “I think we finally got it tonight.”
From the moment the field saw the starter’s green flag, Lavoy’s black and neon yellow #3 was on the march in search of the checkered flag.
“This thing was spot on and the track was beautiful tonight,” she said. “Mike Petrucci, my motor man, built us one hell of an engine. We wouldn’t be in victory lane without him.”
Lavoy’s thoughts were heavily on her team. She drove a wail of a race, but knows it’s was a total team effort.
“My crew is just unbelievable,” she said. “They just never give up. Even when I want to give up sometimes, they never let me. I’m just really proud of my team.”
Division point leader Andy Bachetti drove from deep on the field, 12th starting spot, to come home in second and pick up points on second place man, LJ Lombardo, who finished sixth on the evening.
Olden Dwyer had a really good Saturday night at the Valley. Before picking up the Big Block Modified win, Dwyer placed third in the 358-Mod main.
Montgomery Tremont had a career-type evening. After picking up his first heat race win in the class, the newest driver in the Tremont family ran solid all night long and came home with a career-best fourth place finish.
Ryan Larkin completed the top five.
To say Sportsman racer Kevin Ward has been bitten by the bad luck bug at Lebanon Valley this season would be an understatement. He’s had some solid runs, but most of the time, he’s experienced either mechanical troubles or wrecks that had him scratching his head.
Saturday night, that all went away as the veteran racer parked his #98 in victory lane and afterwards, you couldn’t get the smile off his face.
“It’s been a long time coming that’s for sure,” Ward said. “We’ve had a lot of these things stolen from us and a lot of bad luck. Finally, we got the job done.”
This season, it’s been a back-and-forth battle between Whitey Slavin and Tim Hartman Jr. for victories in the Sportsman class. On this night, however, Ward served notice that his team might be on the right track to make a late-season push.
“This track was awesome right from the start,” he said. “Whitey and Tim are tough. They’re fast but I feel we’re as fast as them. I just need some breaks. We’ve flat out just had some bad luck.”
Ward and his team have been working hard to develop and learn the new rear suspension in these cars and Saturday night, that effort showed.
“We’re learning this coil deal,” he said. “We’re getting there. I think the notebook that we’re building and all of the changes we’ve made are working. We did some more tonight and the car was super. Everything we’re doing, I think we’re getting into the coil game a lot quicker than I expected. I think we’re fine. I think we’re competitive and I think we’re there.”
Second on the night was captured by Keith Johannessen who had a nice showing. The young racer had a career best finish Saturday and now sits fourth in track points.
Pete Lorenzo is another who is having an amazing season. Saturday, he finished third and made up a few points on Slavin and Hartman in the standings. Lorenzo is now behind the pair in third.
Hartman and Chris Lynch were fourth and fifth, respectively.
“This one’s for Jimmy.”
That was the words out of the mouth of an emotional Zach Sorrentino after the rookie DIRTcar Pro Stock racer picked up his first career win on Saturday.
Sorrentino ran a flawless race and had to hold off the likes of Zach Seyerlein early on and then Nick Hilt for nearly half the race. The Massachusetts driver was able to withstand every challenge thrown at him and parked his Jimmy Langenback-inspired paint scheme in victory lane for the first time.
What he had accomplished was not lost on Sorrentino afterwards.
“This one’s so emotional to me,” he said. “When we were waiting for the Big Blocks to finish, I said a prayer to Jimmy and said, I know you watch over us, I know you look out for us, but we could really use this tonight.”
Late last season, Sorrentino and his team began racing in the class and this season, their hard work and dedication has been paying off with several great runs. However, Saturday, he had the best run of his season to date…a win.
“I think it was last August we started racing Pro Stocks here,” he said. “Being able to win, a year later, in our rookie season, is just so valuable for this team.”
Sorrentino was quick to give credit to his crew for the victory.
“These guys bust their ass day and night,” he said. “Weekends, holidays, they don’t stop. This is more than just my win. It’s all for my team, my family, my wife, my daughter and especially my father. I know how much this means to him, especially after all he did for Jimmy and working on his cars.”
Being able to accomplish a dream he’s had since he was a young kid was not on Zach afterwards.
“This is just so overwhelming,” he said. “To be in victory lane, a place where the likes of Jimmy Langenback and Robbie Speed and Chad Jeseo have stood, this is just remarkable.”
The 54s never missed a beat on Saturday. Zach Sorrentino ran a perfect 20 laps with no mistakes.
“Before the race, I was talking with my crew chief, Scotty, and said I just green-to-checkers race,” he said. “I wanted to be able to pull away and run my own race. To see three cautions, luckily we were able to get this done.”
With those three cautions, one was for Chad Jeseo who ended up having to come from the rear of the field. Sorrentino never underestimated the competition in the class.
“When I saw Chad on pit lane, I knew he’d be coming,” he said. “That’s what you’re always wondering. When’s Chad coming? When’s Steve (Larochelle) coming? When’s (Nick) Hilt coming? Every time there was a caution tonight, I was thankful to see Zach Seyerlein next to me because I knew he’d run me clean and not take me out for the win. Tonight was our night.”
Hilt and Jeseo followed Sorrentino to the finish in second and third, respectively, with Scott Towslee and Steven Larochelle rounding out the top five.
In the 19th annual Boomer’s Performance Pure Stock Classic, in memory of Todd Putnam, the guy who seems to be dominating this division, Chris Stalker, stood in victory lane.
Stalker made his way to the top spot by lap three and held off all other challenges to score the win in the richest race in Pure Stock / Street Stock history at the speedway.
“It was nice having last weekend off,” Stalker said. “We spent a couple of weeks getting this thing ready for tonight. For the last three years, I’ve wanted to win this race and we got it now, finally.”
With the winner’s share and lap money that Boomer’s and their sponsors put together, Stalker took $2,400 home to Hillsdale, NY with him.
“Brian and Margaret (Bedell) do a lot for this class,” he said. “They do a lot for everybody at the track. I talk with Brian just about every week and this is a very nice event they put on for us and I’m honored to say we’ve won it.”
Dom Denue came home in second with Stalker’s teammate, Jim Dellea, finishing third. Rob Partridge and Dave Striebel, Sr. were fourth and fifth when all was said and done.
In his first race of the season on the Valley’s high banks, Pittsfield, MA’s John Santolin drove from shotgun on the field to win the Limited Sportsman feature.
A multi-car accident on the original start knocked out Alex Palmer-Sawyer, Cody Cordova and Karl Barnes, but Santolin worked his way through.
By the second circuit, Santolin was in the lead and went on to capture his second career victory at the track. Fourteen years earlier, the Pittsfield, MA native got his first career win at the West Lebanon oval in the now-defunct Limited Pro Stock class.
Kevin Ames was second with Matt Jordan completing the podium in third.
MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS (30 LAPS) 1) Olden Dwyer* 88JR 2) Keith Flach 43 3) Brian Berger* 60 4) Brett Haas 55H 5) Marc Johnson** 9J 6) John Virgilio 74V 7) Kyle Armstrong* 11A 8) Kenny Tremont Jr.* 115 9) Eddie Marshall* 98 10) L.J Lombardo 35 11) Brandon Lane 33 12) Mike King 55K 13) Dylan Gibson 22 14) Paul Gilardi, 87X 15) Kyle Sheldon 42S 16) Timothy Davis 7T 17) Josh Marcus 91M 18) Andy Bachetti**** 4 19) Kolby Schroder 99 20) Chris Lynch 42L
358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Kim Lavoy* 3 2) Andy Bachetti**** 4 3) Olden Dwyer 88JR 4) Montgomery Tremont 115 5) Ryan Larkin 39 6) L.J Lombardo* 35 7) Frank Harper 25 8) Jason Herrington* 1 9) Ryan Charland 10C 10) Jeff Watson 22W 11) Brian Sandstedt 12S 12) Kevin Petrucci* 24 13) Ray Hall JR. 72 14) Peter Carlotto 12C 15) Alan Houghtaling* 250 16) Brian Petrerson 82
SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Kevin Ward* 98 2) Keith Johannessen 4NY 3) Pete Lorenzo 3G 4) Tim Hartman*** 22H 5) Chris Lynch 74 6) Whitey Slavin*** 5 7) Rob Maxon 96 8) Shane Powell 33S 9) Jacob Perry 21 10) Garret Poland 17G 11) Mike Arnold 76A 12) Brady Cordova*** 4C 13) Butchie Irwin 117 14) Bob Fachini 728 15) Ryan Heath 6R 16) Ray Hall JR. 72
PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS 1) Zach Sorrentino* 54S 2) Nick Hilt* 17 3) Chad Jeseo******** 25 4) Scott Towslee 23 5) Steven LaRochelle** 178 6) Zach Seyerlein 33 7) Tom Dean 413 8) Rich Colesanti 41 9) Chris Stalker 177 10) Brian Keough 311 11) Tom O’Connor 52 12) Dave Stickles 55 13) Tom Gomm 32
STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS 1) Chris Stalker***** 177 2) Dom Denue** 145 3) Jim Dellea 77 4) Rob Partridge 22 5) David Striebel 273 6) Dylan Fachini 35 7) Brian Walsh* 43 8) Rocco Procopio 62 9) Evan Denue* 245 10) John Devine 24 11) Kerri Vandenburg 89 12) Ray Royals 6 13) Mike Dianda 315 14) Dave Striebel JR.*** 73 15) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 16) Katarina Foster 10 17) Franklin Smith 76 18) Scott Morris 84 19) Daniel Coonradt 74 DQ) Gary O’ Brien* 57 21) Craig Coons 133C
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) John Santolin 6 2) Kevin Ames** 43 3) Matt Jordan 5MJ 4) Shaeden Mosso 4B 5) Alex Palmer-Sawyer 61 6) Karl Barnes** 307 7) Cody Cordova 11 8) Frank Twing JR.* 1T