RPW Column: Right Place, Right Time Nets Andy Bachetti His First Lebanon Valley Big Block Mod Win Of ’23
Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – Andy Bachetti won Saturday night’s DIRTcar Big Block Modified feature at the Lebanon Valley Speedway.
That’s what the record books will say.
However, he may not have been able to without the final caution just five laps from the finish.
That’s because pole sitter Ryan Darcy was running a great race and looked like he was on his way to his second career Big Block Modified checkered flag with John Virgilio nipping at his heels.
Unfortunately, trouble set in on the MRB Darcy #21 machine as the field thundered down the backstretch on that restart. An apparent fuel problem was the culprit which allowed second place Virgilio to grab the top spot heading into turn three with Bachetti in tow.
Virgilio’s lead was never made official tough. Bachetti drove to the inside of the A. Colarusso #74 before the 26th circuit clicked off the lap counter.
From there, Bachetti drove on to score his first win of the 2023 season and his second top two finish in as many races.
“That’s what I like,” Bachetti said. “Coming from 15th (starting position), that’s just awesome!”
The Garrity Asphalt #4 machine made move after move to get to the leaders and was in the right place at the right time when it counted the most.
“I could tell there was something going wrong with Ryan’s car,” he said. “It looked like he was running out of fuel or something. I hate it for him but luckily we were in the right place to capitalize.”
Bachetti was able to back up his runner-up performance of a week ago with a decisive victory on Saturday evening. If he’s looking to capture his fourth-straight Big Block title and sixth overall, he’s off to an amazing start.
“We worked this off-season to really clean up our program,” he said. “We needed to get some things back on track. I’ve got some really good people on my site and some great sponsors who are looking to win. That’s what I’m hoping to deliver.”
It’s that determination by everyone on the Bachetti team that had things rolling Saturday night.
“We’ve definitely got a great setup right now in this car,” he said. “I can’t say enough about my team right now. They work their guts out for me and hopefully this is the sign of even better things to come.”
One piece to the puzzle this year is a person that Bachetti is pretty close with.
“My brother, Greg, has been taking care of the Small Block car with the Carlotto family for the last several years and has done a great job,” he said. “Now, he’s helping me with the Big Block program as well and it’s already starting to pay off.”
Second at the finish was Virgilio who bounced back from a fuel pump issue last week to garner his best career Modified run with Kenny Tremont nipping at his heels in third.
Darcy ended up crossing the finish line in fourth.
“It was a good run for us but the results won’t it,” Darcy said. “The back bowl of the carburetor just wasn’t pumping fuel for some reason. The car was spitting and sputtering real bad on the final restart.”
Even with the disappointment, Darcy looked as though he had the field covered.
“Yea, I think we might have,” he said. “The car was really good tonight. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you let one slip away like that, though.”
Unfortunately for Darcy, officials deemed that his car came up light at the scales post race so he was placed last (25th) at the finish.
“I don’t believe it physically possible for this car with me in it to weigh as little as they said we did,” he said. “Tonight just wasn’t our night. You know, sometimes, that’s just how racing goes.”
With Darcy’s misfortune, LJ Lombardo was moved to the fourth position with Mike King enjoying a solid run to come home in fifth.
Lombardo may have come in fourth in the Big Block main, but he was all smiles after taking the 2023 lid-lifter for the DIRTcar 358-Modifieds.
Lombardo led every one of the 24 laps of the main event en route to the opening night win, and described it only as LJ knows how.
“Man, my guys kicked ass all week,” Lombardo said. “That was a good ole’ Lombardo ass-kicking right there. Man, this thing was good.”
Due to this being opening night, it was a heads-up start and both Lombardo and Bachetti won their respective heat races and started the feature from the front row.
Did the driver of the Paul Wehnau Snap-On #35 PMC know he had what it took to beat Andy on this night and eventually keep him from sweeping both features?
“I know he knows the same deal,” he said. “Whoever comes off turn two on that opening lap is going to win the race. Andy ran me clean getting into turn one. He tried to give me a slider on the entry which I don’t blame him.”
This was the first time several of the Small Block drivers have seen the “new” Lebanon Valley Speedway, but this was week three for Lombardo. Was that to his advantage?
“It’s really going to be able to pass here right now with what we’ve got,” he said. “However, when this race track gets widened out, Lebanon Valley’s going to be the place to be.”
Bachetti came up one spot short of winning both features Saturday, but was happy with the result.
“This was a great run for this car,” Bachetti said. “My brother and the Carlotto’s do so much to make car go as good as it does but we were just a little too free tonight. LJ did what he had to and he came out on top. Congratulations to him.”
Ryan Larkin came home third on this night with Jason Herrington in fourth and another Paul Wehnau-sponsored machine, Jeff Watson, book-ending the top five in fifth.
Kevin Ward started on the front row of the Sportsman feature Saturday night and went on to score the victory, leading all but one lap.
However, that doesn’t mean it was easy.
Ward had to fend off a serious late-race challenge from last week’s winner and defending champion Tim Hartman Jr. to grab his fourth career victory in open wheel competition and that Valley but he was up to the task.
“The track tonight was really racy,” Ward said. “I just had to hit my marks and stay up front.”
This was a great rebound for Ward who had some difficult races at the Valley over the last year, including one where his HigFab Chassis ended up rolling over late in the race while leading.
Saturday, he put it all together.
“I’m tired of taking flight,” he said. “I’ve got to keep this thing on its wheels and I just have to thank everybody that helped get us to victory lane. This is great.”
Hartman was able to drive his MRP Services #22 to a near win, but finished second. Whitey Slavin, Rob Maxon and pole sitter Matt Burke rounded out the top five.
With two laps to go in the DIRTcar Pro Stock feature event, leader Dave Stickles thought he had given the race win away to high point man Chad Jeseo.
He thought his race was over and he’d have to settle for second.
One lap later, Jeseo returned the favor. This time, however, Stickles wasn’t giving it up as the “Double Nickel” went on to collect his third career victory in the division.
“I thought I gave it away to Chad,” Stickles said. “He’s so fast but luckily he pushed up the same way I did and I was able to get the lead back. This is absolutely terrific.”
What was going through Dave’s head when he saw the #25 of Jeseo drive underneath him?
“I felt like I just gave that one away,” he said. “I then we thinking if I could just hold on to second, it’ll be a great night. Then, he bobbled and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. That was a miracle for me.”
Jeseo had to settle for second with Steve Hankle in third, Zach Sorrentino in fourth and Rick Duzlak in fifth.
In just his second feature event in an open wheel car, Brian Walsh made his way to victory lane in the Limited Sportsman feature and truly made his family proud.
“There were a lot of cars piling up at the beginning of that race,” Walsh said. “I wasn’t sure what the rest of the way was going to be like. We got the lead and thankfully we were able to hold it up front.”
Alex Palmer-Sawyer, Wesley Sutliff, John Santolin and Marc Burke were second through fifth, respectively.
The Street Stock main event saw last week’s winner, Chris Stalker, get to the lead before the first lap was competed and that was all she wrote for the 20-lapper.
The defending champion is now two-for-two start his 2023 season.
“It was a good night for us,” Stalker said. “The track was a little loose in turns one and two but in three and four, there was just so much bite coming. My brother and my cousin give me a good car every week and this thing was fast.”
One week after losing a win on a rules infraction that was later cleared up by LVS tech, Bradley Batho made a statement by taking home the Four-Cylinder Dual Cam win while Tim Meltz went back-to-back in the Single Cam.
MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) Andy Bachetti* 4 2) John Virgilio 74V 3) Kenny Tremont Jr. 115 4) L.J Lombardo 35 5) Mike King 55K 6) Timothy Davis 7T 7) Kyle Sheldon 42S 8) J.R. Heffner* 74 9) Olden Dwyer 88JR 10) Brian Berger 60 11) Kyle Armstrong 11A 12) Keith Flach 43 13) Eddie Marshall 98 14) Wayne Jelley 45X 15) Matt Pupello 42 16) Brett Haas 55H 17) Marc Johnson 9J 18) Paul Gilardi, 87X 19) Josh Marcus 91M 20) Ryan Charland 10C 21) Brandon Lane 33 22) Alex Bell 23 23) Kenny Aanonsen JR. 43K 24) Dave Mcfeeters 27 25) Ryan Darcy 21
358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS 1) L.J Lombardo* 35 2) Andy Bachetti 4 3) Ryan Larkin 39 4) Jason Herrington 1 5) Jeff Watson 22W 6) Joey Coppola 94 7) Peter Carlotto 12C 8) Brian Petrerson 82 9) Olden Dwyer 88JR 10) Ray Hall JR. 72 11) Kim Lavoy 3 12) Kevin Petrucci 24 13) Ryan Charland 10C 14) Donny Travaglin 7CT 15) Jeffrey Reis 21R 16) Brian Sandstedt 12S 17) Ryan Heath 6R 18) Lorne Browe 14B 19) Alan Houghtaling 250
SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Kevin Ward* 98 2) Tim Hartman* 22H 3) Whitey Slavin 5 4) Rob Maxon 143 5) Matt Burke 12 6) Bob Fachini 728 7) Gary O’Brein 57 8) Karl Barnes 307 9) Keith Johannessen 4NY 10) Jay Havland 78 11) Kevin Ames 43 12) Alan Houghtaling 250 13) John Miller 88 14) Tommy D’Angelo 23C 15) Jim VanZandt 313 16) Chris Lynch 74
PRO STOCKS FEATURE RESULTS 1) Dave Stickles* 55 2) Chad Jeseo* 25 3) Steve Hankle 44 4) Zach Sorrentino 54S 5) Rick Duzlak 29 6) Shawn Perez O9 7) Steven LaRochelle 178 8) Fred Lee 714 9) Tom O’Connor 52 10) Mike Dianda 315 11) Brian Keough 311 12) Tom Dean 413
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS 1) Brian Walsh* 43 2) Alex Palmer-Sawyer 61S 3) Wesley Sutliff 2004 4) John Santolin 6 5) Marc Burke 66 6) Brian Houghtaling 250 7) Kent Clark 128 8) Mike Engwer 22 9) Matt Jordan 5MJ 10) Craig Coons 395 11) Anthony Maxon 96M 12) Frank Twing JR.* 1T 13) Harold Rabitalle O3 14) Adam Schneider 61
STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS 1) Chris Stalker** 177 2) David Striebel 273 3) Rocco Procopio 62 4) Dave Striebel JR. 73 5) Bob Gibson 9 6) Franklin Smith 76 7) Lou Gancarz O8 8) Kerri Vandenburg 89 9) Jim Dellea 77 10) Jeff Meltz SR. 5X 11) Milo Campbell 143 12) Mike Dianda 315 13) Dave Fachini 3D
4 CYLINDER DUAL CAM FEATURE RESULTS 1) Bradley Batho O7D 2) Jon Shepard* 99D 3) Gary Malloy 69D 4) Jason Peck OD 5) James Guertin 7D
4 CYLINDER SINGLE CAM FEATURE RESULTS 1) Tim Meltz** 515S 2) Joe Wolfe 777S 3) Joey Batho 7S