Saturday night marked the beginning of the Super DIRTcar Series season at Fulton Speedway. As a result, only appearance points were on the table for the Modifieds (you got them if you were at Lebanon Valley or Fulton). That didn’t mean that there wasn’t any action.
Paul Gilardi started from the pole, but was immediately pressured by Brian Berger. Berger had the stronger car and was able to get past on lap 3 for the lead. However, as the race continued on, Berger’s car got tighter and tighter.
Andy Bachetti, who started fourth, was easily able to take advantage of this deficiency. Berger’s car went up the track in turn 3 on lap 7, and that was all Bachetti needed to take the lead.
From there, Bachetti unleashed some of the wicked pace that he had shown earlier in the evening during warm-ups. Earlier, Bachetti had turned the fastest laps of the evening.
Further back, Kenny Tremont, Jr. was charging forward from his 15th starting spot, but finding it a bit tough. The first couple of spots were easy, but he got stuck right around the time he got to seventh. At that point, Wayne Jelley blew a right rear tire, bringing out the race’s only yellow.
With the field bunched back up, moves for position began again. Kolby Schroder was able to get past Mike King for third on the restart. Tremont was able to make a nice move to go from seventh to fourth, then tacked onto Schroder. For much of the rest of the race, Tremont hassled Schroder for third, eventually getting by on lap 26.
At the front, Bachetti pulled away from the pack and ran unchallenged to his first win of the year. It is the 15th consecutive year that the Sheffield, Mass. racer has won a Big Block feature at Lebanon Valley.
Afterwards, Bachetti was happy to be back where he feels he needs to be.
“We just have to keep [the performance] up,” Bachetti said in the pits. “Hopefully, we’re back on track. Gotta thank all my sponsors; everybody who’s involved here. We’ve had two tough years. We’ve been in a little bit of a slump, but hopefully, we’re pulling out of it.”
Berger held on for second, but only just beat out Tremont. Schroder was fourth, while Steve Hough was fifth.
In Pro Stock, Chuck Towslee started from the pole and asserted himself early. Meanwhile, last week’s runner-up Rick Duzlak had a rough beginning, spinning in turn 3 after contact from Tom O’Connor and collecting Steven LaRochelle. Rob Yetman essentially had to stop to miss Duzlak, but continued undamaged. Effectively stopping on track did drop Yetman nearly to the rear of the field as a result.
Ryan Hosier pressured Towslee on the restart, but he slipped up the track, allowing Rick Dempsey to move up to second. Dempsey was quick, but did not appear to have all that much for Towslee.
Hosier kept himself towards the front of the pack until he had contact with Chad Arsenault in turn 1 on lap 9. While Hosier did not spin out, he was forced onto the apron. Jon Routhier ended up getting collected as well. The caution was put out as a result of the incident. All three drivers were able to continue.
After the restart, Yetman started making his move towards the front. He quickly passed a number of competitors, including a group of five at a time shortly after the restart. In the last couple of laps, Yetman passed Dempsey for second, but ran out of time as Towslee held on to take his seventh career Pro Stock win.
Afterwards, Towslee was pleased with his performance, but still thinks that there’s still more speed to be found. “[The car] was good, but it wasn’t 100 percent,” Towslee said in the pits. “We’re still fine tuning things, but we’re close. It was all right. I think the cold weather’s helping us with the moisture coming out of the track and giving us a lot of bite. It’s good. I like it”
Yetman finished second, but would have needed only a couple more laps to catch Towslee. Dempsey was third, followed by Arsenault and Nick Hilt.
In Sportsman, Whitey Slavin appeared to have the fastest car out there. However, a recurring problem doomed his effort. Slavin was able to take the lead from pole-sitter Frank Hoard, Jr. on lap 4 just as Jeff Watson cut a tire in front of most of the field. While Watson was able to get down to the apron and eventually change his tire, the chain reaction resulted in Rob Maxon sliding into the inside wall on the frontstretch, ending his night and bringing out a yellow.
On the restart, Slavin pulled away, but his car began to overheat. A GM 602 Crate engine can do a lot of things, but it cannot function with water temperatures approaching 270 degrees. The Slavin team encountered the issue during his heat race early in the evening. During the Modified Hot Laps, the team was trying to figure out the issues, but felt that they were in a good place for the feature. Unfortunately, the issues returned as soon as the feature started. The caution for Maxon’s crash allowed the temperatures to drop to around 240 degrees, but once the green came back out, the temps went back to 270.
In addition, the car was putting some water down on the track. As a result, Slavin was forced to shut it down on lap 7 and pull to the inside on the frontstretch to save the engine. The move ended Slavin’s night and forced him to settle for a 19th-place finish. Hoard reclaimed the lead as a result.
From there, Hoard kept up a decent advantage over the rest of the pace. He was never challenged on the way to the opening night victory.
“The car was awesome,” Hoard said after the race. “Last year, we struggled with brakes a lot and we found an issue over the winter. Pretty sure we got that part of it solved.”
Behind Hoard was a thrilling battle between Timothy Davis, Jim Boardman and defending champion John Virgilio. While Davis had second on hold for much of the race, Virgilio and Boardman had a back and forth battle for third. The Virgilio team built Boardman’s No. 70 and Boardman used that chassis to defeat Virgilio.
In the final laps, Boardman and Virgilio caught Davis and gave him a run for his money, but Davis was able to hold for second. Boardman came home in a career-best third, while Virgilio was fourth. Jeff Watson charged back from his early flat tire to finish fifth. Now, these results are unofficial as officials are vigorously inspecting the engines out of the top 3 finishers.
In Pure Stock, Gary O’Brien passed Larry Perez in the closing laps to take home another victory in feature No. 1. In feature No. 2, the race was between Bill Deak, Jr. and Ed Hatch. Hatch had a hose come loose during warm-ups, resulting in a thrash to get ready for the race. During the feature, Hatch drove much of it one-handed, but gave Deak a fair race. Eventually, the issues resulted in Hatch dropping back and Deak taking the victory.
Finally, in feature No. 3, Shawn Perez earned his first career win in the toughest of the Pure Stock features, holding off a charging Jeff Meltz, Jr. Afterwards, he was very proud of his accomplishment.
“My car was running good tonight; it was sticking to the track,” Perez said in the pits. “I’ve been racing in the third feature for two years now and I hadn’t gotten a win yet. [The] third race is a big win.”
-Lebanon Valley Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Lebanon Valley Speedway