WEST LEBANON, NY – With all eyes watching, anticipating a potential repeat, Andy Bachetti leaned into the pressure and scored his third straight Mr. DIRT Track USA title at Lebanon Valley Speedway Saturday night.
The five-time and defending Mr. DIRT Track USA champion led the entirety of the 100-lap matchup, largely aided by his front row starting spot.
After drawing the SRI Performance/Stock Car Steel Pole Award, the six-time Big Block track champion lined up on the front row, ready to do what he’d done so many times before.
Bachetti bolted out in front at the drop of the green flag, with Kyle Armstrong, Billy Decker, and Matt Sheppard following successively behind him. He earned himself a comfortable lead out in front after the first 20 laps, while Decker and Sheppard battled for second position.
On the first restart of the race on Lap 25, Sheppard rocketed out in front of Decker to move into second place while Decker dropped back to third. The next challenge for the defending Series champion was to see if his #9s machine had enough juice to catch Bachetti out in front on the 5/8-mile track.
The competition slowed down on two more cautions, one on Lap 28 and one on Lap 53, slowing Bachetti’s momentum and giving Sheppard a chance to make a play. But Bachetti would have none of it, and fired hard on the restarts, remaining in the lead.
As the laps ticked down, and tire durability in question due to the high lap count, lapped traffic seemed the only blockade that could stop Bachetti from driving his way to Victory Lane.
The two front runners navigated their way through the traffic with 20 laps to go, with Bachetti running high on the outside and Sheppard running towards the middle. Neither faltered, finding their way through the field, remaining equal in their standing.
Holding strong until the end in front of his home crowd, Bachetti drove his #4 machine to victory, scoring the $15,500 payday and securing himself a starting spot at Super DIRT Week 51. Sheppard held on to finish in second for the seventh time this season.
“It feels awesome (winning the event three times in a row),” Bachetti said. “You can’t sneeze at that. Especially with the company of guys that come here and race. I mean, just your locals are really, really good here. To be able to do that three times is pretty awesome.”
Sheppard was happy with how his car performed on the restarts but lamented not having some extra power to take over the lead.
“This thing was a rocket ship on restarts,” Sheppard said. “Restarts are a big part of it…I didn’t have quite enough to get by Andy (Bachetti),” Sheppard said. “I kinda followed him at about the same speed for about 75 laps or so, and every time I thought maybe I could do something, I just couldn’t. We were too equal.”
Behind them, Decker had been following behind in third place, battling to stay in the top three. On the final restart of the race, the Hall of Famer abruptly turned into the pits with mechanical issues, moving fourth place runner JR Heffner up one spot. Decker did not return to the track.
The weekly Lebanon Valley contender ran strong for the remaining 42 laps, finishing in third to round out the podium.
“We were just a little off for the Feature and it kept us in the third and fourth range,” Heffner said. “Overall, we just put this car together this week and I couldn’t be happier for finishing third.”
Adam Pierson finished in fourth place, his third top-five finish of the season, and Eddie Marshall finished in fifth.
Fourteen-time Big Block track champion Kenny Tremont Jr. competed for the last time of his storied career at Lebanon Valley, finishing in 17th place. Tremont Jr. will retire at after the Malta Massive Weekend at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in September.
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks will travel to Weedsport Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 10, for a 100-lap, $10,000-to-win, Super DIRT Week 51 qualifier.
Mr DIRT Track USA 100
1. 4-Andy Bachetti; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 74-JR Heffner; 4. 215-Adam Pierson; 5. 98-Eddie Marshall; 6. 43-Keith Flach; 7. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 8. 74V-John Virgilio; 9. 35L-LJ Lombardo; 10. 11A-Kyle Armstrong; 11. 2-Jack Lehner; 12. 35-Mike Mahaney; 13. 99-Kolby Schroder; 14. 84Y-Alex Yankowski; 15. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 16. 88-Mat Williamson; 17. 115-Kenny Tremont Jr; 18. 9-Marc Johnson; 19. 99L-Larry Wight; 20. 5H-Chris Hile; 21. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 22. 12-Darren Smith; 23. 91-Felix Roy; 24. 33-Brandon Lane; 25. (DNF) 91D-Billy Decker; 26. (DNF) 45-Wayne Jelley; 27. (DNF) 60-Brian Berger; 28. (DNF) 17-Marcus Dinkins