Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – All’s right in the world in the eyes of the 115 faithful.
Kenny Tremont is back in victory lane at Lebanon Valley Speedway.
One week removed from what looked like surefire trip to the winner’s circle for the King of the Valley, only to go away due to a part failure, Tremont was not leaving anything to chance.
The veteran simply dominated the 30-lap DIRTcar Big Block Modified feature for his first win of 2023, his final season as a driver.
“I was starting to wonder about halfway through the season if we’d ever get back to victory lane,” Tremont said. “This has been one of my most trying seasons. I knew we had the equipment. We just needed a little bit of luck.”
Luck was on Tremont’s side on Saturday night as the West Sand Lake, NY driver used his front row starting position to beat pole sitter Ryan Charland to the lead on the opening lap. The number one position is a spot the #115 never relinquished.
“We were finally able to put it all together tonight,” he said. “This really feels good, not just for George Rifenburg and all the effort he’s put into our team, but also Pete Chuckta from PMC who built a great race car, Dan Bedell who built the engine and a really good group of people who have stood behind this team.”
While this is the first win of the 2023 season, Tremont feels like a few have slipped through his fingers.
“I really feel like we should have been running better all year,” he said. “I’m sure everyone feels that way, though.”
The magnitude of his victory on Saturday night was not lost on Tremont.
“Lebanon Valley is where we got the first win of my career,” he said. “We’ve got a few more to go, but maybe, it’ll be the place where we won our last.”
Recently, Tremont announced that he’ll be stepping away from driving at the end of this season. To grab another checkered flag before all is said and done means a great deal to him.
“It’s been a ton of work over the 45 or so years we’ve been racing,” he said. “I think father time’s caught up with me and it’s time to slow down.”
While he knows that it’s been a lot of work and he’s had some great teams behind him, Tremont understands just what Saturday night’s win meant to his loyal fan base.
“It’s been great having the fan’s support,” he said. “Lebanon Valley has to have the greatest fans. All throughout the years, they’ve been behind me and without the fans, we’d have no racing so thank god for the fans.”
It was a family affair in the top two positions as Tremont’s brother-in-law, Brian Berger, stormed through the field to score a solid second place finish. Berger was making passes with reckless abandon and it paid off in the end with a well-earned second place finish.
Marc Johnson brought the Kevin Starchak-owned #9 car home in third and in doing so, regained second place in the final point standings. After his tough outing last week in the double-point event, this was a great rebound for the S&S Asphalt team.
While not making it to victory lane, Ryan Charland’s fourth place finish has to feel like a win for the 10C team. The second-year driver has had his ups and downs but Saturday was surely a highlight as he came home in fourth and Olden Dwyer captured a fine fifth place finish.
Just by starting the night on Saturday, Andy Bachetti is your 2023 Big Block Modified Champion on the strength of two big wins. Saturday, he finished in eighth but that was just fine with the Sheffield, MA driver.
The top 10 in points look like this. Johnson is second with LJ Lombardo in third. JR Heffner went into the night second in points but after Keith Flach drove through some water on the opening lap, and sprayed the fluid all over turn two, Brandon Lane got into it and then got into Heffner who ended up barrel-rolling his #74H machine.
That resulted in a 20th place finish for the former track champion and dropped him to fourth in the standings with Brett Haas rebounding from early season engine troubles to come home fifth at season’s end.
Sixth through tenth are Kolby Schroder, Kyle Armstrong, Keith Flach, Tremont and Dwyer.
In the DIRTcar 358-Modified feature, winner Joey Coppola had luck on his side.
Coppola rain the top five for most of the first portion of the 24-lap main event, and got as high as third behind leader Jeff Reis and second place Lorne Browe.
Things started to turn when Browe’s car went up in flames on lap 15 to bring out a caution flag. He was okay but was done for the night.
On the ensuing restart, Coppola out-dragged Reis into turn one and grabbed the top spot.
However, the caution came out for Ryan Larkin, Jeff Watson and Brian Peterson who came together.
This would have negated the pass by Coppola but while he beat Reis to turn one, Reis and third place runner Jason Herrington made contact causing damage to the #21R PMC.
This ended his night and he was credited with 17th in the final rundown.
From that point on, over the course of the final night laps, it was all Coppola who cruised to his second win of the 2023 season.
“This is just surreal at this point,” Coppola said. “This doesn’t even feel like I won tonight. We’ve just been taking things one lap at a time, slowing ourselves down and it’s been helping out quite substantially.”
How were track conditions on Saturday night? It seemed like Coppola’s car could go anywhere he wanted, especially after winning his heat race and the four-lap dash for cash.
“This place was unbelievably fast,” he said. “I talked to a couple people early on and said it wasn’t going to get slick tonight. They have Mr. DIRT Track USA next weekend so they’re prepping the track for that right now.”
Once out front, it seemed as if Coppola could run where he wanted.
“The top was where you wanted to be,” he said. “One I was able to get to the front, I just stayed on top. Ryan Heath had a hell of a run and I saw Jason (Herrington) show a nose and I was like, oh boy, they’re coming.”
Coppola wasn’t giving up without a fight.
“I knew I had to keep up the pace,” he said. “I couldn’t let up. If someone was going to get me, they were going to put a slider on and then it would have been a race.”
Herrington drove to a nice second place finish. After an extremely tough week which saw the team build a newer chassis due to a lap one incident last week, this was a great rebound and keeps him in the hunt for the track title.
Kim LaVoy was third with a solid run on Saturday and Ryan Charland seems to like the fourth spot as he brought his 358-Modified home in position number four as well.
LJ Lombardo brought the Paul Wehnau Snap-On PMC #35 home in fifth and held on to the point lead by a slim margin. After Saturday night, he leads Herrington by nine points and Andy Bachetti by 10.
Bachetti, who blew the engine in his own #4 during his heat race, drove the Carlotto #12c in the feature.
Due to a myriad of issues, including being forced to the rear after stopping to clean off his face shield, Bachetti was only able to muster a 12th place finish.
Bachetti states it was a safety issue after his visor was coated with mud from LJ Lombardo who drive through a big hole full of water on the lap 15 melee.
Officials didn’t see it as necessary like Bachetti did and made him go to the rear.
Bachetti wasn’t happy with the decision, coming to discuss things with starter Rodney Rescott under a caution on track and then visiting with the chief starter on the frontstretch once the race was complete.
In the 20-lap Sportsman feature event, Chris Lynch looked like he was on his way to his first victory of the 2023 season but luck wasn’t on his side.
After leading the first 12 laps of the main event, Lynch’s car lost power off of turn four and handed the lead to Kevin Ward.
For the next six circuits, it was all Ward but Tim Hartman Jr. was coming.
Hartman ended up putting a slide job on Ward as they entered turns one and two with two laps remaining. However, he slid up just a little bit to give Ward the opening to cross him over.
The two made contact but Ward regained the top spot, a position he wouldn’t let go of as the veteran captured his third win on the 2023 season.
Hartman came home in second with Rob Maxon, Whitey Slavin and Matt Burke rounding out the top five.
It was a good night all around for the Maxon Racing team. Rob was able to grab a top five finish in the Sportsman main while his son, Anthony, captured his fourth victory of the season in the Limited Sportsman.
The younger Maxon took the lead from Scott Zehnacker through turns three and four with five laps remaining and never looked back.
Zehnacker finished second with Mike Arnold, Harold Robitaille, and Craig Coons third through fifth, respectively.
The Street Stock feature ended up being shortened by three laps due to time. However, it all came down to a one-lap shootout.
Dave Striebel Jr. held the lead with Chris Stalker and Jeff Meltz Sr. in tow as the green flew. They stayed that way until the three entered the third corner.
That was when Striebel’s car got into the loose stuff just a bit which forced him off the gas while Stalker drove in extremely hard. The two made contact and appeared stuck together as they drove across the track at towards the inside jersey barriers at a high rate of speed.
Both cars made violent contact with the first barrier at a pit opening and flipped it on to its side. Both drivers cars came to rest and Jeff Meltz Sr. went on to claim the victory.
Striebel got out of his car under his own power. Stalker did as well with the assistance of safety personnel who were quickly on the scene and had to remove the roof off the #177 to allow the driver to climb out.
At time this was written, we are unsure of Stalker’s condition but he was talking to EMT’s after the event while sitting in the ambulance.
Lou Gancarz took second at the finish with Kerri Vandenburg third and Scott Kilmer fourth. Striebel was credited with fifth and Stalker sixth.
To allow the safety workers time to tend to Stalker after the crash, officials decided to postpone the Four-Cylinder feature until another evening.
MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS (50 LAPS) 1) Kenny Tremont Jr.* 2) Brian Berger 3) Marc Johnson* 4) Ryan Charland 5) Olden Dwyer 6) Kyle Armstrong 7) L.J Lombardo 8) Andy Bachetti** 9) Eddie Marshall* 10) Brett Haas* 11) Kolby Schroder* 12) John Virgilio* 13) Wayne Jelley 14) Matt Pupello* 15) Keith Flach 16) Ryan Darcy 17) Brandon Lane 18) Mike King 19) Timothy Davis 20) J.R. Heffner* 21) Kyle Sheldon 22) Dave Mcfeeters 23) Kenny Aanonsen JR.
358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS (24 LAPS) 1) Joey Coppola** 2) Jason Herrington 3) Kim Lavoy 4) Ryan Charland 5) L.J Lombardo* 6) Ray Hall JR.* 7) Chris Curtis 8) Donny Travaglin 9) Ryan Heath 10) Ryan Larkin* 11) Montgomery Tremont 12) Andy Bachetti** 13) Brian Petrerson 14) Mark Pullen 15) Kevin Petrucci* 16) Jeff Watson 17) Jeffrey Reis 18) Lorne Browe* 19) Brian Sandstedt 20) Olden Dwyer*
SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Kevin Ward*** 2) Tim Hartman**** 3) Rob Maxon* 4) Whitey Slavin* 5) Matt Burke 6) Gary O’Brien* 7) Nick Giardni 8) Brady Cordova* 9) Karl Barnes 10) Mike Arnold* 11) Kevin Ames 12) Harold Rabitalle* 13) Scott Zehnacker 14) John Miller 15) Chris Lynch 16) Ricky Davis 17) Cody Cordova 18) Dan Ferguson
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (15 LAPS) 1) Anthony Maxon**** 2) Scott Zehnacker 3) Mike Arnold* 4) Harold Rabitalle* 5) Craig Coons* 6) Owen Lewis 7) Mike Engwer 8) Brian Walsh* 9) Bella Pickard 10) Kent Clark
STREET STOCK FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Jeff Meltz SR.*** 2) Lou Gancarz 3) Kerri Vandenburg 4) Scott Kilmer 5) Dave Striebel JR.** 6) Chris Stalker*** 7) Franklin Smith 8) Don Kennedy