The 4th Turn: 4/6/2021

~ By Tom Boggie

Much ado about nothing.

Not only is that a Shakespearean comedy, it’s also the way I look at Keith Flach’s decision to leave Lebanon Valley Speedway.

If not for social media, this issue probably would have slipped through the cracks. Hey, this isn’t the first time a driver has left a speedway because of a disagreement with a promoter. Does the name Mike Romano ring a bell? He spent years racing in Canada after a war of words with Fonda promoter Ralph Compani.

What about Dave Camara? He pulled up stakes at Devil’s Bowl in mid-season in 2003 after being fined by Bruce Richards for an incident in the pits. What about Bob Savoie? He stopped racing on the Champlain Valley Racing Association circuit in 1992 after C.J. Richards dropped the overall point fund.

Life is about choices. You make them and then you have to live with the outcome.

Two weeks ago, Flach chose to compete in the Super DIRT Series weekend at Bristol. Was this a bad decision? Heck, no. It was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was also the weekend of Flach’s birthday, and he got to celebrate it with his wife and two daughters at one of the most hallowed speedways on earth.

On that same weekend, Lebanon Valley was holding a practice session. Promoter Howie Commander chose to reward the drivers who supported him that day by awarding the top two starting spots for the May 1 season opener to the two drivers with the fastest practice times.

Flach didn’t think that was fair. After meeting with Commander, Flach decided he could no longer support Lebanon Valley and announced that he would start racing at Orange County Speedway in Middletown.

That, in itself, seems to be somewhat of an odd choice. Right now, Flach will only be running big block shows at Orange County (he finished 15th in his season debut there last Saturday). There are only nine more big block races at Orange County this year, and five are on Thursday nights. Flach will be skipping the big block race at Orange County on June 12 because it conflicts with the JC Flach Memorial at the Valley, so that leaves a lot of open Saturday nights.

Keith Flach didn’t get punished for going to Bristol. Do you really think that Howie sat in his office, twirled an imaginary handlebar mustache and said, in his best Snidely Whiplash voice, “Aha. So Flach wants to race in Bristol, does he? I’ll fix him!”

Nope, I can’t see it.

I once heard someone say, don’t cry about what you lost; smile about what you had. In simple terms, dwell on the positive, not the negative. Even though Flach didn’t get an opportunity to start on the front row on opening night at Lebanon Valley, he shared an experience with his family at Bristol that they will cherish forever.

And besides, even if he had been at Lebanon Valley, there was no guarantee that he was going to post one of two best times in practice.

There are no good guys or bad guys here. Two men made their choices, and life goes on.

I WAS FREEZING MY ### OFF!

Last Friday, I told Albany-Saratoga Speedway promoter Lyle DeVore he should walk through the grandstands and give the fans who were sitting in that bone-chilling wind a free pass for another Friday night. Of course, he laughed. I haven’t felt that kind of cold since some of those nasty Super DIRT weekends in Syracuse.

Mike Mahaney let me in on a little secret after his first modified win of the season last Friday. He’d much rather start mid-pack than on the front row.

Now remember, Mahaney picked the pole for both races in Bristol. But he only finished fifth and fourth in those two races.

But last Friday, he started 12th, and put on a heck of a show, first battling with Peter Britten, and later, holding off Billy Decker.

“At Bristol, it was discouraging to start on the pole and not get a win,” Mahaney said after his victory in the George Huttig-owned Bicknell. “When you start on the pole, you don’t get a chance to find out what works and what doesn’t. Tonight, I had to work to get the lead and I could see what other lanes were working, if I needed to switch.

“I felt like Billy was a little better than we were. He was running a different line and was doing some different stuff. I started moving around because I felt if I stayed on the bottom, he would go by me. I started running some different lines because I wanted to keep him guessing.”

The move of the race came on a restart on lap 27. Mahaney got a big run out of the second turn and pulled even with Britten going down the backstretch. Between three and four, Mahaney and Britten pulled off an amazing crossover move, with Mahaney grabbing the lead for good.

Decker made life interesting for the final seven laps, even pulling even with Mahaney with one to go. But Mahaney slid up to block, and that was it.

I’m sure Decker was happy with the finish, but I’ll never know. By the time I was done talking with Mahaney, Decker was long gone.

“We can’t complain. We had a good car,” said Scott Jeffries, Decker’s long-time crew chief, as he was preparing to load up the No. 91. “He just couldn’t make that last move.”

Decker had a scare in his heat race, when he tangled with Matt DeLorenzo and wound up climbing the inside barrier in the second turn but the car wasn’t damaged. But that incident put Decker 20th in the starting field for the feature.

Ken Tremont Jr. passed the most cars, coming from a 29th starting position to finish eighth. The bad starting position was the result of finishing last in his heat race.

“The track was dry-slick last week, and we had a dry-slick setup tonight, even though it rained for two days straight,” said Tremont with a laugh after the feature. “The car wouldn’t go anywhere (in the heat).”

Hey, what about that performance by Anthony Perrego in his heat race? He hit the inside barrier in the fourth turn on the fifth lap and ran the rest of the heat with a flat left front, picking it right up in the air on the straightaways as he was running side-by-side with Flach.

Tim Meltz had the first single-cam car to cross the finish line in the four-cylinder feature, but he was later disqualified, giving the win to Robert Garney, making him 3-for-3 on the season.

AROUND THE TRACKS

Stewart Friesen finished second to Tim Fuller in Tuesday’s Super DIRT Series race at Bristol. Friesen, who made his 100th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start last weekend in Kansas, will be running a Tim Richmond throwback wrap on his Halmar truck Friday night in Darlington.

Andy Bachetti swept the opening night features at the Valley, leading 51 of a possible 54 laps to win both the big block and small block modified features. The big block win was worth $5,000. The sweep pushed Bachetti’s career win total to 196.

Congratulations to former Albany-Saratoga Rookie of the Year Jack Lehner for recording the first modified win of his career last Saturday night in the Bill Nelson-owned modified at that track off Exit 28 on the Thruway. Nelson had his car at Albany-Saratoga for its practice session in April and when I asked him how much longer he planned to be a car owner, he pointed to the No. 85 and said, “When I’m that old.”

Has Britten finally turned the corner? He finished fourth at Albany-Saratoga, fifth at Orange County on Saturday and fourth at Bridgeport on Tuesday, getting the Hard Charger Award after starting 16th.

Tim Laduc’s mother, Barbara, died last Friday. Barbara Laduc, the wife of Vermont legend Charlie Laduc, was a fixture in Vermont racing for over 60 years and was a familiar face at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. Tim Laduc finished second to Demetrios Drellos in the Devil’s Bowl opener last Saturday.

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