WEST LEBANON, NY – Opening night is usually a joyous time where everyone gets to reconnect with each other (if they didn’t already do so at the banquet) and have fun with the first races of the year. Unfortunately, the weather forced the entire card into hurry up mode. Andy Bachetti was more than happy to take advantage.
By virtue of winning his heat race, the defending Modified champion started on the pole with Eddie Marshall alongside. Once the green flag came out, Bachetti quickly opened up a gap on the field. Marshall was able to keep pace early. Kyle Armstrong and Brett Haas were joined by Marc Johnson, who moved up from seventh on the grid. These five drivers quickly ran off to have their own race.
Further back, Bobby Hackel, IV led a pack consisting of the rest of the field as they did battle. Kolby Schroder should have been up there as well, but he had a mechanical problem on the first lap and dropped to the apron. He tried to continue, but ended up pulling behind the wall for repairs. He would eventually get back out there and finished 15th.
Bachetti and Marshall continued to pull away from everyone in the opening 10 laps. Beyond that point, Bachetti pulled away from Marshall as well. Then, Bachetti caught the rear of the field at the halfway point.
Bachetti struggling to get past Keith Flach and Kyle Sheldon allowed Marshall to move back in. However, once Bachetti was able to get past them, Marshall lost the same amount of time as he struggled to dispatch lapped traffic.
With the weather coming, drivers were a little more courteous than normal. As a result, the race went caution-free as precipitation began to fall late in the race. Despite this, Bachetti was able to hold on to start his season right with a victory.
“We had a pretty good race car for sure tonight,” Bachetti said afterwards. “[There was] a light, light drizzle falling out there. But, it stayed green long enough to hold it off until we finished.”
Marshall held on for second, while Armstrong was third. Haas held off Johnson for fourth. Hackel was sixth, but more than half a lap behind.
In Sportsman, the field was cut down in size due to weather issues and a shortage of crate engine parts. As a result, a field of only 12 took the green.
Whitey Slavin started from the pole and led early over Jeff Watson. However, trouble broke out further back. A chain reaction in the field resulted in Tim Hartman Jr. running in the back of Joe Mennitte in turn 3. Mennitte spun, resulting in a stack-up that collected Matt Burke, Keith Johannessen and Ryan Heath. Everyone was able to drive away, but Burke ended up pulling in and retiring. Johannessen retired shortly after the restart.
Despite the contact with Mennitte, Hartman was the man on the move. After starting seventh, he quickly made his way up the order. He took second away from Watson on lap 4 and went after Slavin, who had opened up a big gap.
For the first 12 or so laps, Hartman and Slavin were just about equal in pace. However, in the final laps of the race, Hartman began to reel Slavin in.
In the final couple of laps, Hartman was able to get to about a second back, but could not prevent Slavin from taking the win.
Hartman was second, then Watson. Alan Houghtaling was fourth, while Chris Lynch was fifth.
In Pro Stock, six-time class champion Rob Yetman made his return to Lebanon Valley after spending the past couple of seasons focusing on Albany-Saratoga Speedway. He showed that he hasn’t lost a step.
Yetman drew the pole position and drove away from Zach Seyerlein at the drop of the green. Seyerlein had to do battle for much of the evening with Steven LaRochelle.
LaRochelle was able to finally get past Seyerlein for second on lap 11. However, by that point, the rain, which had been falling for nearly the entire race, began to pick up in intensity.
LaRochelle tried to gain some time on Yetman, but the rain simply got to be too much. Track officials waved the yellow with three laps to go, which quickly brought an end to the race, giving Yetman the win. LaRochelle was second, then Seyerlein. Chad Jeseo came from 14th on the grid to finish fourth, while Johnny Rivers was fifth.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, defending class champion Jeff Meltz Sr. started from the pole, but he had Dave Streibel Jr. on his tail. The two racers fought for the first couple of laps for the advantage while Rob Partridge was right behind, waiting to pounce.
Streibel was able to get to the inside of Meltz on lap 3 to take the lead. Partridge was unable to follow. From there, Streibel held on to take the win over Meltz, Partridge, Shawn Perez Jr. and Katarina Foster.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Gary O’Brien start from pole and lead early. Meanwhile, Chris Stalker cut his right rear tire and spun in turn 2 to bring out an early yellow.
O’Brien, despite wall contact in turn 4 during warmups, was not threatened in the eight-lap feature on his way to the win. Dom Denue was second, then Scott Morris, Jim Dellea and Stalker.
70th Annual Season Opener Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) Eddie Marshall, 3) Kyle Armstrong, 4) Brett Haas, 5) Marc Johnson, 6) Bobby Hackel, IV, 7) Ryan Darcy, 8) L.J. Lombardo, 9) Brian Berger, 10) Kenny Tremont Jr., 11) Wayne Jelley, 12) J.R. Heffner, 13) Keith Flach, 14) Kyle Sheldon, 15) Kolby Schroder, 16) Olden Dwyer, 17) Mike King, 18) Paul Gilardi, 19) Brandon Lane, 20) Ryan Charland
Sportsman Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Whitey Slavin, 2) Tim Hartman Jr., 3) Jeff Watson, 4) Alan Houghtaling, 5) Chris Lynch, 6) John Virgilio, 7) Robbie Knipe, 8) Peter Lorenzo, 9) Joe Mennitte, 10) Ryan Heath, 11) Keith Johannessen, 12) Matt Burke
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Rob Yetman, 2) Steven LaRochelle, 3) Zach Seyerlein, 4) Chad Jeseo, 5) Johnny Rivers, 6) Tom Dean, 7) Zach Sorrentino, 8) Dave Stickles, 9) Nick Hilt Jr., 10) Shawn Perez, 11) Chris Stalker, 12) Brian Keough, 13) Nick Rogers, 14) Tom O’Connor, 15) Don Collins
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 (8 laps): 1) Dave Streibel Jr., 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Rob Partridge, 4) Shawn Perez Jr., 5) Katarina Foster, 6) Evan Denue, 7) Christopher Brown, 8) Franklin Smith
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 (8 laps): 1) Gary O’Brien, 2) Dom Denue, 3) Scott Morris, 4) Jim Dellea, 5) Chris Stalker, 6) Scott Kilmer, 7) Ray Kilmer, 8) Brian Walsh, 9) Jennah Perez