Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – After a rainout on April 20th, the Sportsman division got their season underway Saturday night Lebanon Valley, and that was just fine for former track champion John Virgilio.
Virgilio passed leader Chris Lynch near the halfway point of the feature and went on the take the checkered flag to stake his claim as a contender for this year’s points title.
“Hopefully this will be a marker to show what our season’s going to be like the rest of the year,” Virgilio said. “It’s always good to win on opening night.”
The Turner Auto #14 was hooked up on this night and easily outdistanced the rest of the field to take the lid lifter for the class.
“The car was absolutely incredible tonight,” he said. “Hats off to my guys. To be able to start our season off with a win, that’s not me. This is all them.”
Even though Virgilio had a decent lead, without being able to see behind him, he stayed up on the wheel and drove a smooth race, completing consistent laps to bring home the win.
“You always think someone’s close to you,” he said. “The best thing is when you’re leading and Rodney (Rescott, head starter) spreads those flags out to show you have a good lead so then you can take a breath. But, as long as I hit my marks, this car is pretty easy to drive.”
Rob Maxon brought his #96 home in the second position on Saturday night. Mr. Excitement from one year ago, Maxon started his season off with a solid run, but surely wishes he could have been one spot better.
“We had a good car tonight but were just a little off in the center of the corner,” Maxon said. “That let John (Virgilio) get out first and get a gap on me. Lap cars kind of a threw a curveball at us too but John was quick. Congratulations to him.”
Maxon was the winningest driver in the division in 2018, taking three checkered flags including the big Sportsman event on Mr. DIRT Track USA night. He knows that it’s important to have a strong start to the season to keep momentum rolling and spirits high on the team.
“It’s always good to start the season with a finish like this,” he said. “It’s all about points. We’re here to point race so we’ll take a second place finish any day.”
Peter Carlotto, Pat Jones and Robbie Knipe rounded out the top five finishers.
After being the first car out with a hard wreck on opening night, Rick Duzlak was able to use his back-up car and a pole starting position to his advantage, leading all 20 laps of the Pro Stock feature to capture his first win of the 2019 season.
Duzlak held off several late race challenges from Canaan, CT’s Richie Crane to take the win.
“This feels real good,” Duzlak said. “I tried to get the other car back in shape but couldn’t. Thank you to Scott Hamlin and Bobby Gile. They give me the right stuff and I’m getting it done. I put a lot of work into this and this means a lot. To come back and roll out a car I’ve never driven before, get a checkered flag, there’s going to be a lot more of these coming.”
With his good run, Duzlak was able to rebound for the win but doesn’t know if this is the car he’ll stick with or if he’ll run the car he wrecked on opening night.
“I’ve got a good feeling this year,” he said. “Maybe we’ll run this one or maybe we’ll put it away and bring my other one back and do the same thing next week.”
For second place finisher Richie Crane, cautions through the middle of the race, in his opinion, hurt the chances to see the #711 in victory lane.
“I needed to go caution-free a little longer I think,” Crane said. “My tires cooled down and took a bit to fire off.”
That wasn’t the only issue that Crane had with his ride. A problem with his brakes hindered the performance a little bit.
“I had a problem with the bias bar for my brakes,” he said. I had no front brakes so I didn’t think I was going to stay in second tonight, but that just shows how good of a car we had.”
While he would have loved to have won, all-in-all, Crane is happy with a second place finish on this night.
“To be honest, Ricky deserved that win after his misfortune last week,” he said. “I’m happy. My whole family is here. My nephews were rained out with their kart racing so even they’re here. It’s a great night.”
Crane now holds a four point lead over Rob Yetman, who had a tough night and finished eighth, in the Pro Stock standings.
Former Sportsman and Pro Stock competitor Don Kennedy and Rob Partridge were the two Pure Stock feature event winners with John Devine taking home the Boomer’s Performance Pure Stock Clash to close out the night.
Sportsman Results (20 Laps) -1) John Virgilio, 2) Rob Maxon, 3) Pete Carlotto, 4) Pat Jones, 5) Robbie Knipe, 6) Chris Lynch, 7) John Stowell, 8) Cody Hunt, 9) Walt Hammond, 10) Jeff Watson, 11) Kevin Arnold, 12) Gary O’Brien, 13) Colin Clow, 14) Karl Barnes, 15) Nikki Ouellette, 16) Robbie Colburn, 17) Matt Burke, 18) Scott Zehnacker, 19) Cody Ochs, 20) Ted Teal, 21) Lem Atkins, 22) Joseph Cappoloa, 23) Whitey Slavin, 24) Harold Robitaille, 25) John Santolin, 26) Jared Powell, 27) Shane Henion,
Pro Stock Results (20 Laps) -1) Rick Duzlak, 2) Rich Crane, 3) Jay Casey, 4) Chad Jeseo, 5) Nick Hilt, 6) Rick Dempsey, 7) Jason Meltz, 8) Rob Yetman, 9) Steven LaRochelle, 10) Nick Arnold, 11) Tom Dean, 12) Mike Baker, 13) John Rivers, 14) Phil Arnold, 15) Jason Casey, 16) Tom O’Connor, 17) Brian Keough, 18) Nick Reilly, 19) Don Collins, 20) Adam Schneider, 21) Gary Silkey,
Pure Stock #1 Results (10 Laps) – 1) Rob Partridge, 2) Jeff Kreutzinger, 3) Keri Vandenburg, 4) Evan Denue, 5) Ed Hatch, 6) Shawn Perez, 7) Brian Walsh, 8) Mike Eichstedt, 9) Scott Morris, 10) Ryan Brown, 11) Jake Gomm,
Pure Stock #2 Results (10 Laps) -1) Don Kennedy, 2) Ray Hall Sr., 3) Jeff Meltz, 4) Zach Seyerlein, 5) Rocco Procopio, 6) Paul Harding, 7) Karen Verhagen, 8) John Devine, 9) Dom Denue, 10) Craig Coons,
Boomer’s Performance Pure Stock Clash (20 Laps) -1) John Devine, 2) Jeff Meltz, 3) Zach Seyerlein, 4) Mike Eichstedt, 5) Brian Walsh, 6) Ed Hatch, 7) Rob Partridge, 8) Paul Harding, 9) Karen Verhagen, 10) Don Kennedy, 11) Rocco Procopio, 12) Ray Hall SR, 13) Evan Denue,