MALTA, NY – Marc Johnson couldn’t have picked a better night to record his second win of the season at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
“Tonight is my dad’s birthday,” said Johnson after winning Friday night’s 35-lap NAPA Modifieds feature at The Great Race Place. “This one’s for him.”
Johnson’s father, Brett, who died in February 2016, built the engines for Marc and his brother Chris and was instrumental in directing Marc’s racing career to Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
“He always wanted me to race against Brett Hearn and Kenny Tremont,” said Johnson in a 2016 interview.
Johnson came from his eighth starting spot and was quickly gaining ground running in the outside lane. After getting past Jack Lehner for third on lap 9, he and Jack Speshock began to put pressure on early leader Rich Ronca.
On lap 14, Johnson found some good bite in the middle of the racing surface and was in position to rocket between Speshock and Ronca when Keith Flach brought out the first caution of the night.
On the restart, Ronca quickly went back to the front and three laps later, Johnson finally cleared Speshock to move into second.
Ronca was getting a good run out of the second turn, which enabled him to retain his lead, but on lap 20, Johnson pulled a slide job in the fourth turn to grab the top spot, and Ronca continued to slide backward, allowing Lehner to move into second and putting Tremont, who had started 11th, into third.
Johnson put his Scott Hamlin Racing modified on cruise control for the last 15 laps of the race, leaving Lehner and Tremont to battle for second and although Tremont was able to gain some ground by running the top, Lehner come away with the runner-up position.
Mike Mahaney crossed the finish line fourth, with Peter Britten fifth.
“The track had good grip all over the place,” said Johnson. “Lyle (promoter Lyle DeVore) did a great job tonight.”
After getting towed in during the hot lap session, Lehner was happy with second, the second time in five weeks that he’s finished in the runner-up spot.
“We broke a shock shaft (in hot laps). The same thing happened to us at Canandaigua,” he said, referring to Thursday night’s Super DIRTcar Series race at Land of Legends Raceway.
A random draw resulted in cash bonuses to five drivers through sponsorship from the Andy’s Speed Shop Pick 5 and Scott Hamlin Racing. The bonuses went to Lehner, Matt DeLorenzo (sixth), Adam Pierson (seventh), Jeremy Pitts (11th) and Todd Morey (16th).
The Northeast Paving and Sealcoat Sportsman ran a pair of features, due to a rainout on July 1, and the trend of first-time winners continued, as Travis Witbeck and Zach Buff both recorded their first career wins.
Witbeck, who won three limited sportsman features in 2020 before moving up to the regular sportsman division, started on the outside pole and led all 25 laps in the held-over feature, outrunning Daryl Nutting. Witbeck’s biggest scare came on lap 18, when the lapped car of Scott Bennett got out of shape in turn four, right in front of Witbeck. With nowhere to go, Witbeck drove right into the rear of Bennett’s car, putting it into a spin, but Witbeck got away unscathed.
“It doesn’t feel real to be here,” said Witbeck in victory lane after his win. “A lot of guys don’t ever get here.”
In the second feature, Buff, the youngest of the three racing Buff brothers, held off three-time champion Mike Ballestero to score his first career sportsman win at Malta. Buff, who had three limited sportsman victories last year, was leading at the halfway point of the second 25-lap feature, but a restart allowed Ballestero to move out in front on lap 20.
The two leaders ran side-by-side for the last five laps, with Ballestero on the top and Buff on the bottom. Buff was getting the better run out of the second turn, and that’s where he made his move on the final lap, nosing inside Ballestero and taking the lead down the backstretch. Witbeck, trying to pull off what would have been an incredible double, finished just .007 seconds behind Ballestero in third.
Chucky Dumblewski put on a late charge and came away with his fifth win of the season in the 25-lap Eastwood Detailing Pro Stock feature. Luke Horning and Kim Duell provided the early fireworks. Horning, who started eighth, only needed four laps to get the lead and Duell, who was always running with the front pack after starting fifth, moved into second on lap eight and began to race side-by-side with Horning.
Duell edged into the lead on lap 12, getting some good grip around the top, but two laps later, Dumblewski moved past Horning into second and when Duell drifted a little too high in the fourth turn on lap 20, Dumblewski shot through the opening to get the lead for good.
The top five consisted of Dumblewski, Duell, Horning, Jason Casey and Shane Henderson. Rich Crane won the Four States Enterprises Dash for Cash, which was worth $200.
Alex Sawyer-Palmer reached a milestone in his young racing career, notching his first career victory in the 20-lap Haun Welding Limited Sportsman feature. Sawyer, who started on the pole, had his hands full with Ashton Pierson early in the feature and held his own until lap 14, when Pierson used a low line to move around Palmer-Sawyer for the lead.
But that lead was short-lived, as Palmer-Sawyer used a restart on lap 15 to move back out front and that’s where he stayed, easily outrunning Taylor Wason and Steve Burch to the finish line.
Wason also took home a $200 bonus for winning the Dash for Cash, sponsored by Simmons Elevator Company.
Al Relyea’s up and down had another up on Friday, as he won the 15-lap Lake Auto Parts Street Stock feature. Relyea, who started sixth, got underneath Matt Mosher coming out of the fourth turn on lap three to get the lead and he then had to survive two late restarts to hold off Mosher for the victory. Dan Madigan got up for third, while the Samrov brothers, Josh and Jason, who went into the night tied for the lead in the points race, completed the top five.
The four-cylinder feature had a little twist. The 61 car, usually driven by Adam Montville, pulled away for an easy win. But when Chris Grady, doing the on-track interviews, congratulated “Adam” for getting his first win of the year, the driver answered, “I’m Elmer. We switched cars tonight.”
So the win went to Elmer Montville, with David Frame second and Adam Montville, driving Elmer’s No. 11, third. Tim Meltz finished fourth overall and had the first single-cam car across the finish line.
NAPA MODIFIEDS: MARC JOHNSON, Jack Lehner, Ken Tremont Jr., Mike Mahaney, Peter Britten, Matt DeLorenzo, Adam Pierson, Rich Ronca, Jack Speshock, Jessey Mueller, Jeremy Pitts, CG Morey, Neil Stratton, Scott Huber, Ryan McCartney, Todd Morey, Brian Calabrese, Keith Flach.
NORTHEAST PAVING & SEALCOAT SPORTSMAN (HELD OVER FROM JULY 1): TRAVIS WITBECK, Daryl Nutting, Andrew Buff, Mike Coffey Jr., Zach Buff, Tyler Rapp, Dylan Madsen, Drew Cormie, Jeff Washburn, Ron Proctor, Dave Baranowski Jr., Chris Jakubiak, Tim Hartman Jr., Elliot Lussier, Brendan Gibbons, Scott Bennett, Nikki Ouellette, Jim Osgood, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Travis Billington, Dan Grignon, Davis Boisclair, Tommy D’Angelo, Chris Johnson, Brock Pinkerous, Cody Ochs, Jon Miller, Mike Jeske, Mike Ballestero, Gerard LeClair.
NORTHEAST PAVING & SEALCOAT SPORTSMAN (REGULAR FEATURE): ZACH BUFF, Mike Ballestero, Travis Witbeck, Chris Jakubiak, Cody Ochs, Tim Hartman Jr., Dylan Madsen, Brendan Gibbons, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Daryl Nutting, Brock Pinkerous, Elliot Lussier, Bryce Breault, Jon Miller, David Boisclair, Jim Osgood, Tommy D’Angelo, Mike Coffey Jr., Travis Billington, Scott Bennett, Taylor LaPlante, Derrick McGrew Jr., Tyler Rapp, Chris Johnson, Jeff Washburn, Andrew Buff, Ron Proctor, Drew Cormie, Dave Baranowski Jr.
EASTWOOD DETAILING PRO STOCKS: CHUCKY DUMBLEWSKI, Kim Duell, Luke Horning, Jason Casey, Shane Henderson, Kyle Hoard, Scott Towslee, Jordan Modiano, Jay Casey, Jaxson Ryan, Mike Baker, Phil Defiglio, Pete Vila, Brandon Emigh, Chad Jeseo, Rich Crane.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN: ALEX PALMER-SAWYER, Taylor Wason, Steve Burch, Chris Crane Jr., Ashton Pierson, Mike Parodi, Mike Arnold, Craig Wholey, Wesley Sutliff, Kyle Swartz, Nick Arnold, Anthony Maxon, Ron Delease, Dylan Grogan, Dakota Green, Phil Arnold, John Santolin, Chris Kugler, Joey Miller, David Zelker, Jim Duncan, Joe Smith, Kamden Duffy, Tanner Coon.
LAKE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS: AL RELYEA, Matt Mosher, Dan Madigan, Josh Samrov, Jason Samrov, Jeff Meltz, Nick Napoli, Mark Burch, Ray Pierre Jr., Mike Bussino, John Filarecki, Fred Shippee, Jason Barrett, Damian Ward, Jimmy Duncan, Tim McFarland, Patrick Cram Jr.
FOUR–CYLINDERS: ELMER MONTVILLE, David Frame, Adam Montville, Tim Meltz, Allana Jordan, John Mason, Travis King, Robert Carney, Chris Duffney Jr., Olivia Swinton, Brittany Ladd, Brendan Lauzon, Matt Tedrow, Chyanne Garney, Justin Ramsey, Kyle Lamfear, Micah Grant, Josh Reome, Josh Ramsey.