WEST LEBANON, N.Y. — Seldom does one find all three podium finishers unhappy at the end of a race, especially one that paid the winner $25,500 as was the case in Saturday night’s 101-lap Mr. DIRT Track USA DIRTcar modified race at the Lebanon Valley Speedway.
But winner Andy Bachetti was livid that DIRTcar officials had put him back two positions after a lap-82 restart, saying he’d jumped the start. That had put Stewart Friesen in the lead for a while, but he was unhappy with the way Bachetti used him as a bank board to get the lead back on a subsequent restart 10 laps later.
And Matt Sheppard, who finished between Bachetti and Friesen, was upset about a tangle with Tyler Dippel on a late-race restart that cost him a handful of positions and possibly a shot at running down Bachetti.
“I hate to say it, because it’s not professional, but every time I race with DIRTcar they try to screw me,” said Bachetti, still wound tight even after the traditional victory lane ceremonies concluded. “Putting me back would have cost me a lot of money if I hadn’t been able to get the lead back. Then I jumped the berm getting into turn one on that single-file restart and got into Stewie. That wasn’t intentional but it happened!”
Polesitter Mike Mahaney gave an indication of what kind of a night it would be when he shot out to a lead over front row companion Adam Pierson on the initial break, then blasted the turn three wall the next time around, sending cars every which way as he coasted down off the steep banking.
Mahaney’s flat tire and subsequent crash put Larry Wight on the point but Bachetti, who started fifth, was on his way and soon he and Wight were battling side by side for the lead.
After getting alongside Wight on the high side a few times, Bachetti suddenly switched lanes on lap 20 and drove under the Gypsum Express No. 99L as they hit turn three. Bachetti then drove away from his pursuers, catching the tail of the field three laps later.
Sheppard, who had lined up ninth, had advanced to third by this point and he and Wight both narrowed the gap on the leader substantially on lap 41 when Bachetti hit turn one too hard and slid right to the concrete, sending a rooster tail high into the air as he stood on the gas to get off the wall.
Friesen, who’d started beside Sheppard in the fifth row, was still a distant fourth when yet another caution flew just before halfway for a stalled car. That put the big dogs side by side for the restart, with Bachetti again prevailing and looking like the strongest car in the field as he drove away from Wight, Sheppard and Friesen.
A lap-63 restart triggered by last year’s Mr Dirt Track winner Kenny Tremont Jr.’s flat tire saw Friesen get a run on Sheppard and move to third, then Adam Pierson’s flat tire at the three-quarter mark set the stage for Sheppard’s problem with Dippel.
“He ran right over me on that restart,” said Sheppard, who dropped back to sixth instead of gaining as he’d hoped. When Tremont had another flat just past the 80-lap mark, Sheppard showed his displeasure by bumping Dippel under caution. He then shot by him when the green reappeared, with Dippel getting wound up in a skirmish that sent him pit side for the evening.
The resulting restart saw Bachetti get a big jump, which the outside row typically does as they come off the high bank onto the frontstretch, and the yellow flew immediately to put him back a row. Suddenly, Friesen looked like he might have another lucrative win in hand as he was now first in the outside row.
With Bachetti getting back around Wight easily and drawing in on Friesen, the yellow flew yet again on lap 92, inside the range where double file restarts gave way to single file. This appeared to benefit Friesen but Bachetti’s rocket like entrance into turn one saw him bounce off Friesen and retake a lead he would hold to the checkers.
“I didn’t think he’d drive through me down there,” said Friesen. “He had no problem with me roughing him up because I’d gone by him under yellow when they penalized him. I guess it’s because this is the only place he can win.”
Sheppard appeared to be set for a third-place finish but a yellow for debris at the century mark gave him one last shot at arch-rival Friesen and he pulled it off. Billy Decker was fourth ahead of Bobby Hackel III.
Feature (101 Laps): 1. 4B-Andy Bachetti ; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard ; 3. 44F-Stewart Friesen ; 4. 91D-Billy Decker ; 5. 97H-Bobby Hackel ; 6. 21A-Peter Britten ; 7. 99S-Kolby Schroeder ; 8. 42S-Kyle Sheldon ; 9. 25R-Erick Rudolph ; 10. 35L-LJ Lombardo ; 11. 98H-Jimmy Phelps ; 12. 88W-Mat Williamson ; 13. 115-Kenny Tremont ; 14. 3J-Marc Johnson ; 15. 45J-Wayne Jelley ; 16. 60B-Brian Berger ; 17. 74H-JR Heffner ; 18. 215p-Adam Pierson ; 19. 2L-Jack Lehner ; 20. 5H-Chris Hile ; 21. 9D-Chase Dowling ; 22. 99L-Larry Wight ; 23. 35CC-Chris Curtis ; 24. 111D-Demetrios Drellos ; 25. 1T-Tyler Dippel ; 26. 55B-Brett Hass ; 27. 2RJ-Ronnie Johnson ; 28. 98M-Eddie Marshall ; 29. 32CC-Max Mclaughlin ; 30. 35M-Mike Mahaney