WEST LEBANON — Saturday night brought dry weather and fierce racing as the Modified class had their final night of regular points. Brett Hearn entered the night with a nine-point lead over Ronnie Johnson and a podium would get him the title no matter what, but it didn’t turn out to be necessary.
Paul Gilardi started on pole and led early in a start-and-stop feature. L.J. Lombardo’s night ended almost immediately with mechanical issues.
Mike King didn’t fare much better as a cut tire put him in the pits. He would retire shortly afterward.
The man with the fastest car early on was Eddie Marshall. It took only three laps for him to get up to second from sixth. He then proceeded to stalk Gilardi for the next few laps before snatching the advantage on Lap 9.
Giving chase to Marshall was Kenny Tremont Jr., who followed Marshall past Gilardi into second on Lap 10. Further back, Hearn was quickly making his way up the order with Johnson right behind him.
Ultimately, the title was decided when Johnson cut a right rear tire on Lap 13, bringing out a yellow. Johnson would get a new tire and continue, but his title chances were over. He would finish 11th.
The second half of the race saw a four-car pack break away from the field. Marshall, Keith Flach, Tremont and Hearn pulled away to settle things among themselves.
Marshall seemed to have the pace for victory, but lapped traffic slowed his pace and allowed Flach to run him down.
On the final lap, Marshall was balked by slower traffic. In addition, Bobby Hackel IV blew a right rear tire. That was enough for Flach to get alongside and out-drag Marshall to the line for the win.
“Our car was pretty good tonight,” Flach said afterward. “We were able to maneuver in traffic a little bit better than we have in the last couple of weeks. You’re better off being the second guy in lapped traffic towards the end than the leader. Ended up panning out that the outside was open and got a decent run [off of Turn 4].”
Marshall was three-hundredths of a second back in second. Tremont was third, while Hearn’s fourth-place was enough to take the championship. Kolby Schroder was fifth.
Saturday night was officially the last night of regular points for the Modifieds. DIRTcar has a rule that states that track point championships for the Modified and Pro Stock classes must be complete by Labor Day at the latest.
Races for touring series are considered to be appearance points only. As a result, the only way that Hearn could technically lose the championship at this point is the highly unlikely scenario where he doesn’t show up for Mr. DIRT Track U.S.A. Saturday night and doesn’t delegate a substitute.
In the Small Block Modifieds, attrition was the name of the game. In total, 23 cars started the race, but only 13 finished.
Brandon Lane led the field to green and showed great pace early on. It didn’t take long for the incidents to start, though.
On the first lap, Timothy Davis spun in Turn 1 and was hit by Kenny Aanonsen Jr. to bring out the first caution. Both drivers were OK, but done for the night.
Lane’s chances to win ended when he was involved in a Lap 2 crash in Turn 2 along with Brian Sandstedt, Jason Herrington, Frank Harper and Alan Houghtaling. Sandstedt and Houghtaling were out on the spot, while Herrington’s team had to make substantial bodywork repairs. That included one crewmember stomping on the interior bodywork to get it out of the air.
Lane would make repairs and eventually finish 11th. The crash gave the lead to 16-year-old Dillon Steuer, who showed a lot of pace Saturday night.
Points leader Tremont started way back in 17th, but used the cautions to put himself right into contention. It only took seven laps for Tremont to get all the way to second.
Meanwhile, the trouble continued. Brett Haas had a mechanical failure and fell off the pace directly in front of J.R. Heffner. Heffner had nowhere to go and ran into Haas, spinning both cars out. Both drivers were OK, but done for the night.
On the restart, another crash broke out in Turn 2 involving Kim LaVoy, Flach (driving in place of Olden Dwyer), Matt Humes and Nikki Ouellette. LaVoy was done for the evening, while the others were able to continue following minor repairs.
Finally, in the scariest incident of the night, Lorne Browe flipped his No. 14 out of third-place in Turn 2. Everyone walked away from these incidents.
The second half of the race was caution-free, allowing Steuer and Tremont to settle things among themselves. Steuer was strong, but got loose late.
Tremont was able to capitalize on Steuer going too high in Turn 2 to take the lead with five laps to go. From there, Tremont held to take his fifth win of the year.
Steuer finished second, but was quite disappointed with the result. Andy Bachetti was third, followed by the damaged car of Jason Herrington. Ricky Davis was fifth.
The King of Dirt Pro Stock Series rolled into Lebanon Valley Saturday night for 30 laps of action. The result was a pretty clean race.
By virtue of the redraw, the Caseys locked out the front row with Jason’s No. 324 on the pole. Early on, there were some issues.
Following an early yellow for a slow car, a stack-up in Turn 4 after Don Collins nearly wrecked caused Doug Olds and Tom O’Connor to have contact and spin. Both drivers were able to continue.
Jason Casey had struggled early in the evening with a tight race car and noted that he was looking to make changes. Then, the track came to him as the night wound on. As a result, no changes were made to his Pontiac. By race time, it was perfect.
After the restart, Jason Casey was part of a five-car breakaway along with Jason Meltz, Chuck Towslee, Rob Yetman and Jay Casey. Jason Meltz tried to get a run on the No. 324, but instead fell into the clutches of Towslee and Yetman. The battling allowed Jason Casey to get away.
Breaking free of the pack allowed Jason Casey to run his own race. That allowed him to drive as fast as he could, ultimately more than necessary. Jason led flag-to-flag to take the win. His margin of victory was 6.834 seconds over Jason Meltz. Yetman was third, followed by Towslee and Jay Casey.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Shawn Perez started on pole, but Don Kennedy was quickly able to dispatch of the No. 09 for the lead. Kennedy had a fairly quick car, but it just didn’t want to last.
Exiting Turn 4 on Lap 6, Kennedy’s No. 89K quit, allowing Jesse Murphy to take the lead. Kennedy’s car coasted to a halt, bringing out a caution and setting up a one-lap shootout.
On the restart, Gary O’Brien was able to get a run on Jesse Murphy exiting Turn 2 and drove past him. From there, O’Brien held on to take his second win of the year. Jesse Murphy was second, followed by Perez, Phil Sherman in his first start of the year and Rob Partridge.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Jeff Meltz Jr. return to the drivers’ seat after missing the last few weeks after a big crash. He started from the pole and showed that his No. 15 had been properly repaired and was good to go.
The race was briefly interrupted when Rocco Procopio spun his No. 62 out of third on Lap 4.
The second half of the race was more of the same as Jeff Meltz Jr. pulled away to take his second win of the year. Ray Hall Sr. was second, followed by Evan Denue, Chris Murphy and Karen Verhagen.
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 was a brisk affair.
Brian Walsh started from pole in his No. 43, but came under immediate pressure. Jeff Kreutziger was able to get past on Lap 2 to take the lead. He was pressured by John Devine and Chad Arsenault.
Arsenault got himself up to second and was primed to fight for the lead when his car developed a fender rub. That forced him to drop back. He was then tapped by Dom Denue and spun out in Turn 2 to bring out a yellow.
Kreutziger continued to lead until contact was made at the front of the field. While Kreutziger dropped off the pace, Devine (who started 11th) assumed the lead. From there, Devine held on for his fourth win of the year and some satisfying donuts. Ed Hatch was second, followed by Jeff Meltz Sr. Zach Seyerlein and Dom Denue were fourth and fifth, respectively.
The night wrapped up with the rescheduled Boomer’s Performance Purestock Classic, a special 20-lap event. The field was set based on the regular feature finishes. As a result, O’Brien claimed the pole thanks to his earlier victory.
Early on, O’Brien and Hatch ran away from the pack in an attempt to settle the race among themselves. The two raced each other hard until it ended in tears. On Lap 9, the two drivers were side-by-side when contact appeared to be made. O’Brien spun out while Hatch continued on.
While O’Brien pulled out of the race, Hatch was sent to the rear by the officials for causing the incident. The penalty gave the lead to Jeff Meltz Jr. Ultimately, he had to outlast the field on three separate restarts.
Jesse Murphy ended up in second and fought hard to keep that away from Evan Denue. The younger of the Denue brothers was able to get past on Lap 13. Shortly afterward, Murphy’s No. 012 hit the wall hard in Turn 3, bringing out the yellow and ending his night.
A multi-car crash in Turn 4 involving Chris Murphy, Zach Seyerlein, Dom Denue, Al Relyea and Karen Verhagen set up a four-lap dash to the finish. From there, Jeff Meltz Jr. was able to pull away to take the special event victory.
Hatch recovered from his penalty to finish second, while Evan Denue was third. Jeff Meltz Sr. was fourth, while Zach Sorrentino was fifth.