Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – Heading into Saturday night’s DIRTcar 358-Modified finale at Lebanon Valley Speedway, LJ Lombardo, Jason Herrington and Andy Bachetti knew what their jobs were.
When the 24-lap feature was complete, each had done their jobs to the best of their ability. The Wild Child graced victory lane with the Outlaw and the Flyin’ Farmer in tow.
Andy Bachetti drove his way to victory lane on the Valley’s High Banks but it was Lombardo, utilizing his runner-up finish, who came away with his first career 358-Modified title.
Heading into the evening, the top three in points were only separated by 12 markers and it was the Garrity Asphalt #4 of Bachetti who was able to get to the front first. After Jeff Watson took command of the feature with an inside move around Peter Carlotto on lap 10, it was tenth-place starter Bachetti who wrestled the lead away a lap later.
From there, nobody was stopping Bachetti from taking home the victory and putting the pressure back on Lombardo or Herrington to keep pace.
“The race track was real good tonight,” Bachetti said. “Tommy (Corellis) did a hell of a job on the surface. I wish it was like this every week.”
The night didn’t go 100% smooth for Bachetti as he endured some issues early on but seemed to get them figured out.
“My guys worked hard to get the carburetor changed on this car,” he said. “I can’t say enough about them and especially the Carlotto family who maintain this car and have gone above and beyond to help this team in any way they can.”
Not only was Saturday a little bit tougher for Bachetti, this season has been uncharacteristically difficult. However, to finish strong on Saturday really helps heading into the off-season.
“To come back and get a win with our 358-Modified program, with everything we’ve had go on this year, it’s pretty special for this team,” he said. “Everyone on this car works so hard and I’m just glad we were able to get them a victory.”
The challenge was accepted by Lombardo, who made his way from 13th to finish in the second position and secure his first title.
Bachetti knew it was going to be an uphill battle to leapfrog both drivers and take the championship, but he’s glad to have gotten a chance to race for it.
“To have all three of us up there battling it out, that’s exciting racing,” he said. “That’s what the fans come here to see is us racing hard like this. I didn’t want to lose the championship due to rainout. The fact that we raced it out, to lose it this way is okay by me.”
Bachetti tipped his cap to Lombardo on the title for 2023.
“Hats off to LJ and his whole team,” he said. “When it comes to the championship, it was a hard-fought battle all year long and everyone worked their tails off.”
For three of the last four years, heading into 2023, Bachetti stood at the head table when the 358-Modified season was complete. However, if this year’s proved anything, it’s that winning a title isn’t easy.
“It definitely isn’t,” he said. “These cars are getting more and more equal every year and every team is working hard so this just means we need to go to work and work even harder.”
The champion for 2023, LJ Lombardo brought his Paul Wehnau Snap-On #35 home in second with Jason Herrington coming home third. The only other leaders in the feature event, Jeff Watson and Peter Carlotto, came home in fourth and fifth, respectively on the night.
In the Sportsman season finale, another classic battle to the finish between Whitey Slavin and Tim Hartman Jr. saw Slavin unofficially take home his second victory of the 2023 season.
Slavin, who had driveline issues in his heat race and barely got repairs completed before the feature went to green, rocketed to the lead from his fifth starting spot when he passed Bob Fachini on the fifth circuit of the 20-lap affair.
However, Hartman, the now two-time track champion (2022 and 2023) wasn’t going to let Slavin have this one easily as he charged late in the race. Hartman applied serious pressure to the leader for the last quarter of the race but to no avail as Slavin was able to take the checkers.
Hartman crossed the line second with Bob Fachini, Gary O’Brien and Brady Cordova following him. At press time, track officials informed us late Saturday evening that the finish is currently unofficial due to a technical issue with the winning car.
In the 15-lap Limited Sportsman feature, Scott Zehnacker avenged his disqualification earlier in the season by dominating on Saturday night and scoring his first win of the season.
Zehnacker took the lead on the first lap after the front row of Bella Pickard and Mike Engwer got together and did tandem spins. He never faced another serious challenge en route to the win.
Anthony Maxon, the 2023 track titlist, started shotgun on the field Saturday and proceeded to slice through the field, ultimately getting to second at the checkered flag.
Mike Arnold brought his #76 home in third with Craig Coons and Brian Walsh completing the top five.
Joe Wolfe (Single Cam) and Jon Sheppard (Dual Cam) took wins during the first 4-Cylinder feature of the night while Tim Meltz (Single Cam) and James Fachini Jr. (Dual Cam) scored checkers in the night cap.
358 MODIFIED FEATURE RESULTS (24 LAPS) 1) Andy Bachetti*** 2) L.J Lombardo* 3) Jason Herrington 4) Jeff Watson 5) Peter Carlotto 6) Ryan Larkin* 7) Montgomery Tremont 8) Jeffrey Reis 9) Kim Lavoy 10) Mark Pullen 11) Kevin Petrucci* 12) Joey Coppola** 13) Donny Travaglin 14) Ryan Charland 15) Ryan Heath 16) Lorne Browe* 17) Ray Hall JR.* 18) Brian Sandstedt 19) Derek Schibi
SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) (UNOFFICIAL) 1) Whitey Slavin** 2) Tim Hartman***** 3) Bob Fachini 4) Gary O’Brien* 5) Brady Cordova* 6) Anthony Maxon***** 7) Kevin Ames 8) Kevin Ward*** 9) Scott Duell 10) Shane Powell 11) Scott Zehnacker* 12) Cody Cordova 13) Karl Barnes 14) Chris Lynch 15) Rob Maxon*
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE RESULTS (15 LAPS) 1) Scott Zehnacker* 2) Anthony Maxon***** 3) Mike Arnold* 4) Craig Coons* 5) Brian Walsh* 6) Harold Robitalle* 7) Owen Lewis 8) Fred Pavia 9) Sara Arnold 10) Mike Engwer 11) Bella Pickard
4 CYLINDER SINGLE A FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Joe Wolfe* 777S 2) Tim Meltz***** 515S 3) Wayne Russell 54S 4) Dylan Macleod 14S 5) Stephen Burka 8S
4 CYLINDER DUAL A FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Jon Shepard*** 2) Jason Peck 3) James Fachini JR 4) Chris Danylieko 5) Chris Dyer 6) Mike Duncan
4 CYLINDER SINGLE B FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) Tim Meltz****** 2) Joe Wolfe* 3) Dylan Macleod 4) Stephen Burka 5) Wayne Russell
4 CYLINDER DUAL B FEATURE RESULTS (20 LAPS) 1) James Fachini JR* 2) Jason Peck 3) Chris Dyer 4) Chris Danylieko