RPW Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – Rob Pitcher needed to park his number 17 Teo Pro Car in victory lane on Sautrday night at Lebanon Valley.
In fact, it was probably exactly what everyone on the Pitcher Motorsports team needed.
After a heart-breaking year in 2019 that saw the passing of Rob’s son, Brandon, Pitcher has shown resurgence in the abbreviated racing campaign we’ve had this season, with several top finishes. However, the win had eluded him, until Saturday night.
Pitcher started on the front row with the Connecticut Yankee, Denny Soltis. Soltis led the first six laps but Pitcher took command off turn four to complete lap seven and held the top spot the rest of the way. However, it was no cake walk.
“We had one great car tonight,” Pitcher said. “I really want to thank Bobby and Matt Hearn at Teo, Dan Bedell for getting this engine freshened this week and my crew for working their butts off. This win is well-deserved for them and a nice way to end the season.”
When the night began, Pitcher didn’t feel like he had a car that could take the checkered flag. However, with hard work by the crew, they turned Pitcher’s hot rod into the fastest piece on the High Banks and it landed them in the winner’s circle.
“We’ve been struggling with different setups and we change the car every week, which makes it tough,” he said. “It’s always a challenge the first three or four laps until you get settled in on the new setup. We changed everything tonight before the feature and it paid off tonight. We were fast.”
It’s been since June of 2017 that Rob Pitcher has graced victory lane. For one reason or another, the #17 hasn’t run a full season on the high banks since. That was, until this season and Rob’s already looking to 2021.
“We didn’t race much last year or the year before,” he said. “We had a strong 2020, even an abbreviated season as it was, but we plan on coming back for the full season next year again.”
Pitcher not only took home the $2,000 top prize, he was able to win an extra $1,000 that some Lebanon Valley fans added to the purse. They also added $500 for the driver who came in second. That extra cash went to a guy who’s had an amazing comeback this season, maybe for only a handful of shows but it’s been seven years in the making, Mark Flach Jr.
Even with the short amount of time on track in 2020, he’s been fast in the Madsen Motorsports #22 and showed it again on Saturday night. Flach drove from seventh starting spot to finish runner-up on the night.
“We were pretty decent in the feature tonight,” Flach said. “We just took too long to get going. The car really started to fire off around lap 15.”
While Flach hasn’t made his way back to victory lane quite yet, a second place finish sure seems like a near mission accomplished for the 2008 Lebanon Valley Modified Champion.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “I’ve got to thank a lot of people because this has been a long time. My good friend Tim Emerick who’s been with me the whole time I was hurt, my family, my wife and the entire Madsen family. This is an amazing opportunity and I can’t thank them enough.”
The car Mark raced at the Valley this season is the former Madsen Motorsports Teo Pro Car that carried Brett Hearn to several championships. With all of the new technology that has infiltrated the Modified world as of late, Flach and the Madsen team have remained true to what works.
“When you’re a driver, you adapt pretty quickly,” he said. “This is Lebanon Valley. We’ve been around here forever and we’re on an older style torsion bar (rear suspension) car because that’s what we like and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Wayne Jelley, Keith Flach and Eddie Marshall completed the top five. With an 11th place finish, Andy Bachetti is your 2020 Modified champion.
If there was a driver flying in the 358-Modified feature on Saturday night, it was the Flyin’ Farmer, Jason Herrington.
Herrington drove from his seventh starting position to track down leader Brandon Lane in lap traffic in just 17 green flag laps and went on to capture the convincing win to close out the 2020 points season.
Not only that, Herrington came up one point shy from capturing the track title after starting the night 13 markers back in fifth.
“That was amazing,” Herrington said. “That was fun. A night of features with no heats and a couple sets of hot laps…you’re second guessing yourself all night wondering what’ the track’s going to do. The track came back. It had some bite in it and this thing just ran awesome.”
This was Herrington’s first win of the season and he’s so appreciative of the people who helped to get him to victory lane.
“I have to thank all of my sponsors, Donath Motorworx because this thing really ran tonight, my Dad, my Uncle, my Daughter, my girlfriend and my crew,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without any of them.”
Herrington also remember his number one fan who had one of the best seats in the house for his victory on Saturday.
“I lost my mom back in the beginning of the year,” he said. “This is the first victory without her here but she knew I did it and I know she loved that.”
Now back to the points situation. At the finish, Herrington was your winner with Brandon Lane finishing second, Olden Dwyer third, Timothy Davis fourth and Chris Curtis fifth. That fourth place finish would have given Davis the 2020 Small Block Modified championship.
Unfortunately, Davis came up light at the scales, which moved Curtis to fourth and Brett Haas into the top five and gave him the title. With the win, though, Herrington moved within one point of his first division crown as well.
It was tough luck for Davis but jubilation for the Haas team.
For the first time in his career, Nathan Johnson is a feature event winner….on the dirt that is.
Johnson, who has been racing on asphalt since the age of five, made the switch to the Lebanon Valley dirt a few years back and Saturday night put it all together to capture his first career win at the West Lebanon, NY oval.
“When we first made the jump to dirt, we started with a Small Block Modified and it was fun,” Johnson said. “It was definitely a different learning curve coming from asphalt. It’s taken us a few years and we decided to run a Crate Sportsman so we could move around and do some other racing.”
Johnson hasn’t had a great season at the Valley in 2020 but Saturday night he was able to put all of the struggles behind him and take his #5J to victory lane.
“We’ve been struggling here this year but I have to thank Matt and Bob Hearn from Teo, my uncle and all my crew,” he said. “They’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of work to get this thing where it needs to be.”
Pat Jones came home in the runner-up position. Jones hounded Johnson to the finish but couldn’t quite get by. Joseph Coppola, Ryan Larkin and your 2020 Sportsman division champion, John Virgilio, rounded out the top five.
With this year’s crown, Virgilio becomes the first three-time Sportsman champion since the Valley made the move to the crate engine back in 2009.
Eastwood Detailing put up some extra money for the Pro Stock racers on Saturday night. An additional $500 to the winner, $300 to second place and $200 to third and it was one of the Eastwood-sponsored cars, Jason Casey, cashing in, taking the victory.
Casey was able to use the luck of the draw to grab the pole starting spot but really had to work for the money, however. He had to first fend off his father, Jay, in the early portion of the event and then young Scott Towslee during the middle of the race, but in the end, the 324 pulled away to take the win.
“I was nervous,” Casey said. I don’t normally do well with the draw. We drew two and nobody drew the pole so we lucked out and that gave us the good starting spot.”
Even though he started up front, Casey knew he would have his hands full. It wasn’t going to be a piece of cake, and it wasn’t.
“Winning from the pole sounds easy but I didn’t know who was coming,” he said. “The car was great. I knew I had a car we prep in our shop right along side mine that was going to be just as good (his dad, Jay). But, you can’t count anybody out in these races.”
As the race went on, Casey’s neon yellow machine really started to hit the set up and it showed.
“The car felt like it started to come in about lap 10,” he said. “That’s when it started to feel better and better and better. I just kept digging though because, like I said, you never know who’s coming.”
Scott Towslee came home in the second position with the elder Casey, Jay, completing the podium in his dayglow orange 322. Eddie Bishop and Doug Olds rounded out the top five.
Even with an 11th place finish, running his DIRTcar Pro Stock Series car, just back from being fixed after a flip at Albany-Saratoga, Chad Jeseo is your 2020 Pro Stock division champion by 48 points over Nick Hilt.
Brian Walsh, Dom Denue and Clifford Booth took home the three Pure Stock main event wins with John Devine taking the championship on the strength of five wins this season.
It was a great night for Gary Malloy Sr. who not only took the victory in the Four-Cylinder Single Cam feature but is also your 2020 champion. James Street took the checkers in the Dual Cam feature over RPW’s own Lucas Ballard with Brandon Ely taking the title after winning three big feature events this season.
Modified Results (30 Laps) -1) Rob Pitcher, 2) Mark Flach, 3) Wayne Jelley, 4) Keith Flach, 5) Eddie Marshall, 6) Peter Britten, 7) J.R. Heffner, 8) Marc Johnson, 9) Ronnie Johnson, 10) Olden Dwyer, 11) Andy Bachetti, 12) Mike King, 13) Denny Soltis 14) Josh Marcus, 15) Kenny Tremont Jr, 16) Brett Haas, 17) Kolby Schroder, 18) Kyle Armstrong, 19) Karl Barnes, 20) Paul Gilardi, 21) Brian Berger,
Small Block Modified Results (24 Laps) -1) Jason Herrington, 2) Brandon Lane, 3) Olden Dwyer, 4) Chris Curtis, 5) Brett Haas, 6) Andy Bachetti, 7) Ryan Charland, 8) Mark Pullen, 9) Brian Peterson, 10) Alissa Cody, 11) Angelo DiCarlo, 12) Kevin Petrucci, 13) Kim LaVoy, 14) Ryan McLean, 15) Ray Hall Jr, DQ) Timothy Davis,
Sportsman Results (20 Laps) -1) Nathan Johnson, 2) Pat Jones, 3) Joseph Coppola, 4) Ryan Larkin, 5) John Virgilio, 6) Rob Maxon, 7) Robbie Knipe, 8) John Stowell, 9) Matt Scultz, 10) Walter J. Hammond, 11) Pete Carlotto, 12) Kevin Chaffee, 13) Bobby Chalmers, 14) Nikki Ouellette, 15) Ted Teal, 16) Bob Fachini JR., 17) Todd Buckwold, 18) Robbie Colburn, 19) Matt Burke, 20) Del Liquori, 21) Steven Larry, 22) Shane Henion, 23) Karl Barnes, 24) Nick Plumstead, 25) Angelo Dicarlo, 26) Gary O’Brien, 27) Keith Johannessen, 28) Jacob Perry, 29) Walter Hammond JR., 30) Rob Hallaback, 31) Austin Smith, 32) Harold Robatille,
Pro Stock Results (20 Laps) -1) Jason Casey, 2) Scott Towslee, 3) Jay Casey, 4) Ed Bishop, 5) Doug Olds, 6) Steven LaRochelle, 7) Jason Meltz, 8) Nick Hilt, 9) Phil Arnold, 10) Zach Seyerlein, 11) Chad Jeseo, 12) Tony Markou, 13) Johnny Rivers, 14) Nick Arnold, 15) Dave Stickles, 16) Shawn Perez, 17) Tom O’Connor, 18) Brian Keough, 19) Tom Dean, 20) Dave Demorest, 21) Aidan Demorest, 22) John Linblade, 23) Dan Therrian,
Pure Stock #1 Results (10 Laps) -1) Brian Walsh, 2) Ryan Brown, 3) Dave Striebel JR., 4) Jethro Rossman, 5) Franklin Smith, 6) Peter Huntoon, 7) Kitty Foster, 8) Colby Kakosa, DQ) Rocco Procopio,
Pure Stock #2 Results (10 Laps) -1) Dom Denue, 2) Chris Murphy, 3) Lou Ganczar, 4) Dave Fachini, 5) John Devine, 6) Chris Brown, 7) Wayne Mahar, DQ) Evan Denue, DQ) Janai St. Pierre,
Pure Stock #3 Results (10 Laps) -1) Clifford Booth, 2) Jeff Meltz SR., 3) Keri Vandenburg, 4) Don Kennedy, 5) Dylan Fachini, 6) Scott Morris, 7) Wayne Taylor, 8) Rob Partridge, 9) Jay Casey,
4 Cylinder Single Cam Feature (15 Laps) -1) Gary Malloy SR., 2) Chris White, 3) Bradley Batho, 4) Doug Howe, 5) Bob Ely, 6) Joe Wolfe, 7) Althea Roy, 8) Joey Batho, 9) Chris Bierce, 10)Matt Narzynski,
4 Cylinder Dual Cam Feature (15 Laps) -1) James Street, 2) Brandon Ely, 3) Lucas Ballard, 4) Steve Burbank, 5) Garrett Biagiarelli, 6) Adam Petell, 7) Tyler White, 8) Mike Duncan, 9) Jon Twing, 10) Jim Guertin,