Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – June 14, 2014. That was the last time veteran Eddie Marshall graced victory lane. The was, until Saturday night, when the Marshall Oil #98 took Rodney Rescott’s double checkered flags first and ended a nearly four year winless streak.
Marshall, the second generation driver from Ridgefield, CT, started in sixth spot and was on the move quickly, jumping to the third position within a matter of circuits. He then got into a fierce battle with the 34 of Steve Hough for several laps before disposing of him and setting his sights on leader Elmo Reckner.
Just before the halfway point of the 30-lap feature, Marshall put his Teo Pro Car out in front and the rest, they say is history, as he would never be seriously challenged again and went on to collect his 29th career Modified win. He now has sole possession of 10th on the all-time wins list, breaking a tie with Dave Leckonby.
“Boy, it’s been a long wait and I can’t thank the fans for their support in sticking with us,” Marshall said. “We’ve run good the last couple years, at times, but victory lane has eluded us.”
Last week, Marshall was involved in a high-speed lap one accident on the backstretch which left his machine in need of some TLC at the Teo shop in New Jersey, so to come back this week and win was huge for the entire team.
“Tonight, the car was pretty good,” he said. “Bobby & Matt Hearn and everyone at Teo worked hard for us during the week after we had to do some minor repairs from last week’s accident. My crew worked really hard this week as well and I now think we have a better combination then what we’ve had so that’s a plus and the track was in really good shape tonight.”
To get to victory lane on any given night, you need all the cards to fall into place. Luck has to be on your side, and everything came together for Marshall on this night.
“It was a really good race for us tonight,” he said. “Steve Hough was really fast. I passed him and then he got back by me a couple times so it was a little dicey there. Elmo was running well too, but on the night’s you win, you need a few breaks to go your way and we were lucky for that tonight.”
Even though Marshall has been one of the most consistent cars on the high banks over the last few years, the marks in the win column haven’t been added. That can wear on a driver and their team, but for Marshall, he just kept his nose to the ground and continued to work.
“Tonight definitely feels good for all of us on the team,” he said. “It’s almost like if you don’t get a win, no matter how consistent you are, it doesn’t feel good but everyone on the team is striving for that and at this track it’s very difficult to win. A lot of competition here and it’s not easy that’s for sure.”
Second place finisher on the night was Brett Hearn, who had a long way to go in the feature if he wanted a shot at the win. After failing to qualify through his heat, Hearn had to start 16th on the field, but was a man on a mission.
By lap six, the Madsen Motorsports #20 was in seventh, and after a few caution flags, Hearn made his way to the top five. Once in third though, it got a little tougher. A spirited battle with Hough for second place let Marshall get out to a sizable lead, and left Hearn virtually a couple of laps to run him down once he made his way to the number two position.
“Steve (Hough) and I had a really great race for second,” Hearn said. “After so many laps, he finally slipped up enough that I could get by and get second place and I just ran out of laps trying to track down Eddie.”
Even though Hearn has over 900 victories to his credit, he has deep respect for the driver who won Saturday night.
“I don’t like to finish second, but I’m okay with it tonight,” he said. “If I can’t win, there’s no nicer guy to win the feature than Eddie Marshall.”
Hough was able to bring his #34 home with a solid third place finish followed by JR Heffner and Brian Berger, who was third fastest in middle of the night hot laps.
The start to the 2018 season in the 358-Modified division hasn’t been one that’s up to Kenny Tremont’s standards, to say the least. After a fourth on opening night and engine problems during last week’s feature, the Tremont team went back to work and showed why they are the four-time and defending track champions in the class.
Tremont started in 13th and drove through the field like a hot knife through butter, taking the lead from Timothy Davis with about 10 laps left in the feature and went on to grab his first victory of the 2018 season.
“We’ve been struggling with our Small Block program so far this year to say the least,” Tremont said. “But our guys really dug in and worked hard tonight so I have to thank everybody that’s a part of this team.”
The 358-Modified class is very competitive with several drivers who can win on any given evening and Tremont is hoping his team can build on the win Saturday.
“This car was really stout tonight,” he said. “Hopefully we can take a little momentum from this and keep going through the season. I’m real fortunate to have a good team and some amazing sponsors supporting this operation. Everyone is really working hard.”
After leading most of the feature event, Timothy Davis brought his #7 home in the runner-up spot with Frank Hoard III coming in third. Ricky Davis finished fourth and Brian Sandstedt brought this Darcy Construction #12 home in fifth.
After being rained out last Saturday, the seventh annual Andrew Sherman Memorial got the green flag at the Valley and for former track champion John Viriglio, it was a great thing. Virgilio led the entire way from start to finish and took home the $2,000 payday.
Even though the #14 started on the pole, the race wasn’t a cakewalk.
“Man, over the first two weeks here, we’ve had some pretty bad luck,” Virgilio said. “I knew we had something with the car and we were finally able to put it together tonight and I can’t thank all of my guys enough.”
It is a total team effort when it comes to the Turner Auto #14 operation. John is a second-generation driver and it’s his father, Gary, and his entire team that has helped keep things going this season.
“I don’t get to spend that much time at the shop anymore,” he said. “We have a new baby, who I wish was here tonight to enjoy this with us, but my guys are the ones who really got us here and they deserve this more than I do.”
You may think having the pole meant that Virgilio walked away from the field to take the win. However, with several caution flags slowing the pace of the race, the rest of the field was on John’s back bumper on several occasions, and one driver in particular was very hungry for the victory…Michael Sabia.
“We had a fast car tonight but they (Virgilio) had a fast car as well and started up front,” Sabia said. “It took us a while to get to him but he just had the good jumps on the restarts.”
The weather Saturday was absolutely picture perfect for the first time this season. Only problem with that is the temperatures crept up which meant several cars ran hotter than they had hoped to. Sabia’s #7 machine was one of them.
“We started to overheat about halfway through the feature,” he said. “On the starts, he could get out and run and after a few laps we could catch back up a little but he was too far gone.”
Defending track champion Whitey Slavin came home third followed by Peter Carlotto and opening night winner, Chris Curtis. With his fourth place finish, Carlotto now moves into a tie for the point lead with Curtis, just two points ahead of Slavin. This class will surely be a tight point battle all the way to the end of the season.
In the Pro Stock feature event, Steven Larochelle was able to work his way passed the #52 of Tom O’Connor just before the halfway point of the race and held off a determined Jon Routhier to score his first win of the 2018 season.
The only thing that put a little fear in the young racer…coming to the white flag and seeing a lap car in the groove up ahead, knowing he has pressure on his back bumper.
“I was getting a little nervous because I saw the white flag and saw the lap car and said to myself, well, this is how it ends,” Larochelle said with a laugh. “But we made it through. The car was handling great and I am super pleased with the way it was after the last three weeks we’ve had. A lot of failures and issues we had to deal with but I can’t thank my crew for the hard work they’ve done to get us here.”
It took Steven several laps to get by Tom for the lead as the #52 was holding a great line. He made Larochelle really have to work to get by which makes the win ever sweeter.
“Tom’s a tough guy to pass because when he knows you’re on his bumper, he knows you’re there,” Larochelle said. “I was trying with everything I had to get by him nice and clean and somehow I was able to make it happen on the inside. I was getting nervous because the water temp was starting to go up in the first half and I was worried about the tires and the handling but the car actually got better as the race went on so I have nothing to complain about.”
Routhier finished a close second followed by Jason Casey, Rob Yetman and current division point leader Jason Meltz.
Kevin Paul and Ray Hall Sr. took home the wins in the Pure Stock races on the night.
News & Notes…
Saturday night was New York State Stock Car Association Night at the speedway. NYSSCA does so many great things for the racers, through support at the track and away and is a big supporter of everything we do at Race Pro Weekly.
Anyone can be a member of NYSSCA, and its very reasonable to do so. If you’re interested, check out www.nyssca.com for more information.
The Brett Hearn team had the car they run at Albany-Saratoga as a back-up on Saturday night, in case it was needed. The team is running a little light in that department currently so the Malta program, which is run out of the shops of Mark Flach, brought that car if needed.
According to Hearn, adding in the team led by Flach, Tim Emerick, Tim Gofmanas and everyone a part of it has been fantastic this year and the teams from both nights are working well together and are very consistent.
Look for former Valley Pure Stock champion Matt Humes to join the 358-Modified ranks on the high banks in a car owned by his brother, Dan. Over the off-season, Dan hurt his back and has been unable to race this season while he heals.
Humes is hoping to have clearance to race by Super DIRT Week, if not sooner but is obeying doctor’s orders and not rushing back.
The youngest of the Humes brothers to race, Matt is looking to get his feet wet again in the seat as it’s been several years since he’s raced competitively.
Last week’s Small Block winner JR Heffner never got passed early night warm-ups with his Hough #34 Teo as engine issues sidelined him. To save points, Heffner took out the Virgilio #14 in the feature, only completely a handful of laps and finishing 20th.
JR dropped from fifth to 13th in points after Saturday’s misfortune.
The first heat race for the Modifieds Saturday was stacked to say the least. Most would have considered it a feature at many tracks. Listen to this line-up. Mike Keeler, Mike King, Eddie Marshall, Brian Berger, Keith Flach, Andy Bachetti, Kenny Tremont and Brett Hearn. They were all up on the wheel trying to get to the handicapped spots, with Keeler, Hearn and Bachetti missing out.
If you like close points battles, look no further than the Pure Stock division. After Saturday night, the top 10 are separate by just 10 points. Jeff Meltz Sr. currently leads with 214 and there is a four-way tie for seventh between, Chad Arsenault, Jeff Meltz Jr., Jeff Kreutzinger and Kevin Paul, with 204. This is another battle that will surely come down to the final night of action.
Saturday JUNE 2, 2018 – West Lebanon, NY – KEYBANK PRESENTS – Modified Results (30 Laps) -1) Eddie Marshall, 2) Brett Hearn, 3) Steve Hough, 4) J.R. Heffner, 5) Brian Berger, 6) Keith Flach, 7) Elmo Reckner, 8) Ronnie Johnson, 9) Mike King, 10) Wayne Jelley, 11) Kyle Sheldon, 12) Kyle Armstrong, 13) Kolby Schroder, 14) Kenny Tremont, 15) Andy Bachetti, 16) L.J Lombardo, 17) Rob Pitcher, 18) Chad Jeseo, 19) Paul Gilardi, 20) Mike Keeler, 21) Denny Soltis, 22) Olden Dwyer, 23) Josh Marcus, 24) Dave McFeeters,
Small Block Modified Results (24 Laps) – 1) Kenny Tremont, 2) Timothy Davis, 3) Frank Hoard III, 4) Ricky Davis, 5) Brian Sandstedt, 6) Andy Bachetti, 7) Jason Herrington, 8) Brett Haas, 9) Olden Dwyer, 10) Kim LaVoy, 11) Brandon Pitcher, 12) Frank Harper, 13) Steve Hough, 14) Ray Hall Jr, 15) Bryan McGuire, 16) Nathan Johnson, 17) Alan Houghtaling, 18) Dillion Stuer, 19) Chad Pierce, 20) J.R. Heffner,
Sportsman Results (20 Laps) – 1) John Virgilio, 2) Michael Sabia, 3) Whitey Slavin, 4) Pete Carlotto, 5) Chris Curtis, 6) Ted Teal, 7) Vinnie Visconti, 8) Harold Robitaille, 9) Karl Barnes, 10) Scott, McCoy, 11) Kevin Ward,12) Paulo Pascarella, 13) Nikki Ouellette, 14) Rob Maxon, 15) Chris Lynch, 16) Cody Ochs, 17) Alan Houghtaling, 18) Zach Louster,
Pro Stock Results (20 Laps) -1) Steven LaRochelle, 2) Jon Routhier, 3) Jason Casey, 4) Rob Yetman, 5) Jason Meltz, 6) Rick Dempsey, 7) Nick Hilt, 8) Frank Twing, 9) Rick Duzlak, 10) Tom O’Connor, 11) Jay Casey, 12) Tom Dean, 13) Ed Bishop, 14) Scott Govertsen, 15) Nick Arnold, 16) Rick Spencer, 17) Brian Keough, 18) Nick Reilly, 19) Scott Kilmer, 20) Dave Stickles, 21) Joe LaFlamme, 22) Doug Olds, 23) Rich Crane, 24) Don Collins,
Pure Stock #1 Results (12 Laps) – 1) Kevin Paul, 2) Brian Walsh, 3) Chris Murphy, 4) Evan Denue, 5) Adam Schneider, 6) Shawn Perez, 7) Craig Coons, 8) Jake Gomm, 9) Kerri Vandenburg, 10) Wuggie Burdick, 11) Greg DeCamp, 12) Rocco Procopio, 13) Karen Verhagen, 14) Tom Murphy SR.
Pure Stock #3 Results (12 Laps) – 1) Ray Hall Sr., 2) Jeff Meltz, 3) Zach Seyerlein, 4) Ed Hatch, 5) Al Relyea, 6) Chad Arsenault, 7) John Devine, 8) Jeff Meltz Jr., 9) Jeff Kreutzinger, 10) Zach Sorrentino, 11) Clifford Booth, 12) Dom Denue,