This past weekend, Lebanon Valley Speedway held their annual banquets to celebrate the champions from 2016 and get everyone pumped up for the upcoming season. Friday and Saturday nights saw the Lebanon Valley Clubhouse filled with drivers, crewmembers and their families enjoying each other’s company and receiving awards. Roughly $100,000 in year-end awards were given out to those in attendance
For the Modified class, Brett Hearn picked up a check for $9,300 for winning his fourth straight Modified track championship. Hearn plans a very similar campaign for 2017, where he looks to add to his total of 97 Modified wins (second, all-time).
“We’re very optimistic about the year,” Hearn said. “We’ve got our crew reorganized and our help in place. It’s all solid and we’re off to a good start. We’ve done a lot of homework this winter. We kept to ourselves in the shop; didn’t worry about much else other than getting the cars better.”
Hearn will use the same Teo chassis that took him to last year’s championship at Lebanon Valley. In addition, he has Steve Beckwith back as his crew chief this season. Beckwith spent 2016 working for Chip Ganassi Racing on Brennan Poole’s No. 48 Chevrolet in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Keith Flach, who finished third in Modified points, was honored with the Modified Entertainer of the Year Award. The award was given due to Flach always being around much of the action. 2016 was one of Flach’s strongest seasons, one where he took the fight to Hearn and Kenny Tremont, Jr. on a regular basis.
In the Small Block Modified class, Tremont won the title by 119 points on the strength of 10 wins. He had a lot of fun doing it as well.
“I really felt confident every time I came out on Saturday night,” Tremont said. “Actually, it was a pleasure. It was even a pleasure to watch [my crew] get excited about winning races. All the credit goes to those guys because they’re the ones who work on it. All I did was show up on Saturday night and sit in it.”
For 2017, Tremont will be back running in both the Modified and Small Block Modified classes (for the Modifieds, it will be his 37th consecutive year in a big block).
Brett Haas finished as the runner-up in Small Block Modified points. While Haas has been shut out of Victory Lane for the past couple of seasons, consistency has worked in the 23-year old Pittsfield native’s advantage. For his performance, Haas was awarded with the Small Block Modified Outstanding Achievement. Haas plans another full season at Lebanon Valley along with races in the new King of Dirt Small Block Series.
Friday night’s banquet was a big night for the Watson family. Jeff Watson celebrated not only his Sportsman championship, but his third Jeff Yasinsac Mr. Excitement Award as well. Meanwhile, Jeff’s father Danny Watson was inducted into the Lebanon Valley Hall of Fame. The honor was kept a complete secret from Danny. As a result, he really didn’t know what to say, but thanked everyone profusely.
In Pro Stock, Rob Yetman collected his championship trophy and over $2,000 in point fund money. For 2017, Yetman will be back to defend his crown once again.
The Pro Stock Outstanding Performance went to Rick Duzlak, who finished a strong fourth in points with two victories. He’s back as well in Pro Stock and plans on being even better.
“I’m ready [to do better in 2017],” Duzlak said. “I’m putting everything I have into this. We’re coming this year. It’s the Duzlak attitude.”
Jason Meltz was crowned Pure Stock champion after putting up a strong season with two wins and no finishes worse than eighth. After partnering with Nick Stone to race a Pro Stock at Super Dirt Week XLV and winning the Pro Stock Futures race, Meltz will be moving up to the Pro Stock division full-time in 2017. 4-Cylinder champions Kenny Stager (Dual-Cam) and Jim Williams (Single-Cam) were also properly celebrated.
Lebanon Valley Speedway Track Manager Lyle Devore announced that the track is bringing in additional help in the Pit Shack for 2017 from Albany-Saratoga Speedway. The technical inspection will be much stricter in order to guarantee as equal a playing field as possible. Engines in particular will be scrutinized much more.
In addition, the track is currently looking into potential options to cut engine costs in the Modified class. More to come.
The 2017 season kicks off with warmups on Apr. 15. The season opener is scheduled for Apr. 22 and will feature the Modified, Sportsman, Pro Stock, Pure Stock and 4-Cylinder classes. The Small Block Modifieds will debut on Apr. 29.