MALTA, NY – Marc Johnson must have been thinking, “It’s about time.” when he hit the finish line Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
After suffering through numerous mechanical breakdowns, which resulted in uncharacteristic DNFs, during the month of May, Johnson outdueled Matt DeLorenzo to record his first victory of the season in the 35-lap NAPA Modified feature, which paid $3,000 to win, at the historic Malta track.
“I’m so glad the car held together for 35 laps,” said a relieved Johnson, a two-time modified champion, in victory lane.
Johnson, who brought out a new Bicknell chassis a week ago, lined up eighth in the 27-car starting grid Friday night, and only needed six laps to move into second, behind leader Scott Huber.
The leaders got into traffic on lap 16, and Johnson began to close the gap on Huber, who had started on the pole. On lap 19, Huber, who was running the outside, came up on the lapped car of Ryan Odasz, and had to check up. That break in momentum was just enough to let Johnson, who was running the bottom, to get the lead.
Just one lap later, Odasz brought out the caution, and Johnson suddenly was faced with another challenge.
That came from DeLorenzo, who has been the hottest driver at Albany-Saratoga for the last month. DeLorenzo, who had started 12th, lined up fifth on the restart, did some fancy dancing going down the backstretch and was up to second as the field completed lap 20.
Then it came down to restarts. Yellows came out on laps 21, 24, 30 (twice) and 32, and each time, Johnson took the inside, got a big run coming out of the fourth turn, switched back to the top and held DeLorenzo at bay.
DeLorenzo’s best shot came on the first restart on lap 30, created when Demetrios Drellos got into Mike Mahaney in turn one, resulting in Mahaney spinning and Peter Britten slamming into Mahaney’s car. On that restart, DeLorenzo and Johnson fired almost simultaneously, and when Johnson went to the top in the first turn, DeLorenzo was right next to him. But before DeLorenzo could built any momentum, and before lap 30 was completed, another caution flew for a three-car tangle in turn two, creating a single-file restart and forcing DeLorenzo to settle for second.
“I think I would have had him if that second caution hadn’t come out,” said DeLorenzo, who was the runner-up for the second week in a row. “He was keeping his car straight, and I had to be perfect on the bottom. I was just hoping it would slow up a little on the outside, but it didn’t.”
“I knew Matt was right there,” said Johnson, who became the eighth different modified winner this season. “He’s been really fast, and he made me work hard for this one.”
Following Johnson and DeLorenzo across the finish line were Adam Pierson; Jack Lehner, who was behind the wheel of a new DKM chassis; and Jessey Mueller.
The 25-lap Northeast Paving and Sealcoat Sportsman feature was Round 3 of the John Ray and Sons/Dean’s Electrical Sportsman Shootout Series, and Tim Hartman Jr. picked the perfect time to record his first win of the season.
After starting 16th and working his way through the field, Hartman got the big break he needed when a caution came out with two laps to go, putting him right alongside leader Tyler Rapp, who was trying to lock down his first career win.
Following the restart, Rapp refused to give up the lead, hanging tough on the inside. But Hartman Jr. pulled even going down the backstretch on the final lap and the two leaders banged together coming out of the fourth turn, But Hartman Jr. kept his car straight and hit the finish line just 0.111 seconds ahead of Rapp to grab the winner’s payoff of $1,500.
The win was also the 33nd of Hartman Jr.’s career, putting him on top of Albany-Saratoga Speedway’s all-time sportsman win list, one ahead of Mike Ballestero.
Cody Ochs finished third, followed by Andrew Buff and Brian Calabrese, who had started 24th in the 30-car starting field. Darryl Nutting won the Four States Enterprises Dash for Cash and took home a $200 bonus.
Rob Yetman won the 25-lap Eastwood Detailing Pro Stocks feature, holding off Jason Casey to pick up his third win of the season. The victory was worth $1,000 through additional sponsorship from Stone Motorsports.
There was some wild action in the pro stock feature. For a while, it looked like Luke Horning was the man to beat. After starting ninth, he squeezed by rookie Jaxson Ryan to get the lead to complete lap nine. But just after getting the lead, Horning, Ryan and Jordan Modiano tangled in the first turn as they battled for the lead, which allowed Yetman to inherit the top spot.
But Yetman had his hands full with the father-son team of Jay and Jason Casey, who were running right him following the restart. When Yetman began pushing up going through the third and fourth turns, Jason Casey put some heavy pressure on the leader.
But Yetman then moved to the top, found more traction, and held off Casey for the win.
“Jason pushed me to the top, but it worked in my favor, because it was good up there,” said Yetman after the race.
Completing the top five were Kim Duell, Scott Towslee and Horning.
Mike Parodi recorded his second consecutive win in the 20-lap Haun Welding Limited Sportsman feature, but needed some racing luck to get it.
Wesley Sutliff looked like he was going to come away with his first career win, but everything changed with two laps to go. Going through the first turn, Anthony Maxon, who was running second, caught Sutliff’s rear bumper, with both cars spinning around. Parodi, who had been battlling Chris Crane Jr. for third, had to take evasive action, and Crane wound up driving over his front end.
At that point, it looked like Mike Arnold, who had bobbed and weaved through the wreck, was the new leader. But track officials ruled that the Parodi-Crane incident occurred after the yellow had come out for Sutliff and Maxon, putting Parodi into the lead, and that’s where he stayed.
Arnold rocketed by Crane on the last lap to finish second, while Craig Wholey was fourth and Dylan Grogan finished fifth.
Mark Burch chalked up his first win of the season in the 15-lap Lake Auto Parts Street Stock feature. Burch, who began the season in the limited sportsman division, got the lead on lap nine and held off Matt Mosher to get the win. Josh Samrov, John Filarecki and Patrick Cram Sr. completed the top five.
The four-cylinders were back in action Friday night, with Jon Sheppard recording his second consecutive win in the 15-lap feature, despite being involved in a mishap on lap two and restarting at the rear of the field. David Frame, who also had to go to the rear after being involved in a different incident, got back up for second, while Robert Garney was third and won the single-cam division.
NAPA MODIFIEDS; MARC JOHNSON, Matt DeLorenzo, Adam Pierson, Jack Lehner, Jessey Mueller, Keith Flach, Rich Ronca, Don Ronca, Anthony Perrego, Ken Tremont Jr., Scott Huber, Mike Mahaney, Peter Britten, Jeremy Pitts, Derrick McGrew Jr., Ryan McCartney, Brandon Daley, Ryan Odasz, Jack Speshock, Demetrios Drellos, Rob Pitcher, Kris Vernold, Vinnie Visconti, James Meehan, Matt Depew, CG Morey, Derek Bornt.
NORTHEAST PAVING & SEALCOAT SPORTSMAN: TIM HARTMAN JR., Tyler Rapp, Cody Ochs, Andrew Buff, Brian Calabrese, Jeff Washburn, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Chris Jakubiak, Jim Osgood, Jim Nagle, Gerard LeClair, Dave Baranowski Jr., Elliot Lussier, Brock Pinkerous, Drew Cormie, Darryl Nutting, John Stowell, David Boisclair, Zach Buff, Bryce Breault, Dan Grignon, Mike Ballestero, Jon Miller, Butch Wilcox, Nikki Ouellette, Chris Johnson, Travis Witbeck, Brendan Gibbons, Pat Jones, Frank Hoard III.
EASTWOOD DETAILING PRO STOCKS: ROB YETMAN, Jason Casey, Kim Duell, Scott Towslee, Luke Horning, Jay Casey, Chucky Dumblewski, Shane Henderson, Chad Jeseo, Jordan Modiano, Frank Hoard Jr., Rich Crane, Kyle Hoard, Jaxson Ryan, Mike Baker, Devon Camenga, Norm Loubier.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN: MIKE PARODI, Mike Arnold, Chris Crane Jr., Craig Wholey, Dylan Grogan, Nick Arnold, Walter Cook, Ron Delease, Chris Bisson, John Santolin, Tanner Coon, Alex Palmer-Sawyer, Nick Auspelmyer, Brent Bouplan, Dan Seguin, Anthony Maxon, Wesley Sutliff, James Galarneau, David Zelker, Dakota Green, Steve Burch, Scott Bennett, Taylor Wason, Kyle Swartz, Ashton Pierson.
LAKE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS: MARK BURCH, Matt Mosher, Josh Samrov, John Filarecki, Patrick Cram Sr., Jimmy Duncan, PJ Cram Jr., Dana Van Veghten, Jeff Meltz, Josh Hemming, Jason Samrov, Fred Shippee, Cordell Younger, Damian Ward, Al Relyea, Tim McFarland, Nick Napoli.
FOUR-CYLINDERS: Jon Sheppard, David Frame, Robert Garney (first single cam), Justin Ramsey, Jason Mason, Chris Duffney Jr., Tim Meltz, Micah Grant, Josh Ramsey, Chyanne Garney, Olivia Swinton, Daneal Joubert, Chris Daylieko, Josh Reome, Kyle Lanfear, Adam Montville, Matt Tedrow, Elmer Montville, Brittany Ladd.