Ronnie Johnson has Perfect Night at Albany-Saratoga

MALTA, NY – Ronnie Johnson was perfect Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

After winning his heat race, pocketing a $200 bonus for winning the Four States Enterprises Dash for Cash and then setting the best time during hot laps later in the night, Johnson outdueled Marc Johnson to win the 35-lap NAPA Modified feature at the historic Malta track.

That victory made Ronnie Johnson the first repeat modified winner in seven weeks of racing in 2023.

But this one certainly didn’t come easy, especially when Marc Johnson, who suffered through a horrible month of May, started third in the feature lineup and ducked under polesitter Kris Vernold in turn one to take the lead on lap five.

From there, Marc Johnson was on cruise control, opening up a full straightaway lead and catching the rear of the field after just 12 laps.

But Ronnie Johnson, who started fifth, just kept running his own race, and eventually it paid off.

On lap 14, Jeremy Pitts worked his way by Vernold for second, and Ronnie Johnson followed Pitts’ path to move into third.

Five laps later, Ronnie Johnson went by Pitts to take over second, but Marc Johnson was already in another zip code.

The first yellow flag of the race came out on lap 24, when Jack Lehner limped into the pits with a right rear suspension problem, setting up the first restart between the Johnsons.

Marc Johnson chose the inside lane, but Ronnie Johnson quickly built up momentum on the outside and grabbed the lead on lap 25.

Three more cautions put the Johnsons side-by-side, but each time, Ronnie Johnson came off the inside, broke Marc Johnson’s momentum coming out of the second turn and maintained the lead until starter Rich Peterson threw the checkered flag.

Ronnie Johnson admitted after the race that if the feature had gone all green, he probably didn’t have a chance.

“I need to use a lot of the track,” he said after the win. “When I’m in a tight pack, the car seems to get tight. But the track seemed to come to us tonight. I knew Marc was leading, and I knew I probably needed a caution to help us.”

Ironically, when Ronnie Johnson won for the first time in 2023, on April 28, Marc Johnson was also second in that race.

But finishing second, especially after starting third, didn’t sit well with the former modified track champion.

“We’ve been struggling with this motor all year,” Marc Johnson said as his crew loaded up his car. “It just doesn’t go. We’ve had it back to the shop four times, and now, it’s going back again tomorrow.

“I don’t want it to sound like I’m making excuses,” he added. “Ronnie was good. I don’t want to take anything away from him.”

Pitts crossed the finish line third, followed by Peter Britten, who started 14th, and defending modified champion Matt DeLorenzo, who started 22nd in the 27-car field.

The sportsman field was again split into two divisions, with Derrick McGrew Jr., and Daryl Nutting coming away with victories in the 20-lap features.

McGrew’s victory was his first ever in the sportsman division, and his first victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway since Sept. 17, 2018, when he was competing in the limited sportsman division as an 11-year-old. McGrew started on the outside pole and led flag-to-flag, with Pat Jones right in his rear bumper when he took the checkered flag.

By winning the second feature, Nutting became the first repeat winner in the sportsman division this season.

Jay Corbin also broke a long drought by winning the 25-lap pro stock feature, which paid $1,000 to win through sponsorship from Crane Outdoor Power Equipment. The last time Corbin put a car into victory lane was in August of 2019.

Corbin held off Kim Duell by .292 seconds to get the victory and deny Duell the Glove City Transportation Back-to-Back bonus, which is worth $250. “I knew I had to stay on the bottom,” said Corbin after his fourth career win. “There wasn’t much on top for our cars tonight.”

The limited sportsman class was also split into two 15-lap features, with Mike Parodi winning the first feature, and Chad Gregory coming away with the first win of his career in the second event. Parodi started third in the first 15-lapper and got the lead on a restart on lap five. Mike Arnold put pressure on Parodi in the closing laps, and even tried to make an inside move coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap, but Parodi hung on for his first win of the year.

Gregory won a spirited battle with Scott Towslee in the second 15-lapper. They were never far apart after starting side-by-side on the front row, and Towslee even got into the rear end of Gregory’s car coming out of the fourth turn on lap 10. But Gregory never bobbled and put his Next Generation Roofing-sponsored car into victory lane.

Chris Stalker dominated the 20-lap street stock feature, recording his first in of the season by a 3.858-second margin over Jason Meltz, who nipped Josh Bussino for second.

NAPA MODIFIEDS: RONNIE JOHNSON, Marc Johnson, Jeremy Pitts, Peter Britten, Matt DeLorenzo, Demetrios Drellos, Mike Mahaney, Jack Speshock, Kris Vernold, Don Ronca, CG Morey, Ryan McCartney, Jack Lehner, Rich Ronca, Ken Tremont Jr., Justin Stone, Vinnie Visconti, Matt Depew, Brian Calabrese, Adam Pierson, Jessey Mueller, LJ Lombardo, Mike Kolka, Neil Stratton, Keith Flach, Derek Bornt, Robert Bublak Jr.

NORTHEAST PAVING & SEALCOATING SPORTSMAN (first feature, 20 laps): DERRICK MCGREW JR., Pat Jones, Andrew Buff, David Boisclair, Mike Benson, Tim Hartman Jr., Chris Crane Jr., Bryce Breault, Jon Miller, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Zach Buff, Mike Jeske, Mike Ballestero, Taylor Wasson, Tyler Rapp, Nick Lussier, Justin Barber, Jeff Washburn, Brandon Darrah, Floyd Billington.

NORTHEAST PAVING & SEALCOATING SPORTSMAN (second feature, 20 laps): DARYL NUTTING, Joey Scarborough, Mike Coffey Jr., Dan Grignon, Travis Witbeck, Drew Cormie, Eric Mack, Chris Jakubiak, Taylor LaPlante, Cody Ochs, Tommy D’Angelo, Marty Kelly III, Dave Baranowski Jr., Travis Billington, Dylan Madsen, Chad Edwards, Jim Osgood, Scott Bennett, Ron Proctor, Scott Duell.

SARATOGA MASONRY SUPPLY PRO STOCKS: JAY CORBIN, Kim Duell, Jason Casey, Luke Horning, Jaxson Ryan, Shane Henderson, Chucky Dumblewski, Kyle Hoard, Jay Casey, Jordan Modiano, Pete Vila, Jimmy Eaton, Rich Crane, Phil Defiglio.

HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (first feature, 15 laps): MIKE PARODI, Mike Arnold, Kyle Swart, Ron Delease Jr., Nick Arnold, John Santolin, Nick Auspelmyer, Dan Sequin, Damian Anderson, Joe Venditti, Walter Cook, Kameron McConchie, Alex Palmer-Sawyer, David Zelker.

HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (second feature, 15 laps): CHAD GREGORY, Scott Towslee, Connor Crane Jr., Dylan Grogan, Dakota Green, Chase Zimmer, Phil Arnold, James Galarneau, Mike Baker, Tanner Coon, Sara Arnold, Brent Bouplon.

LAKE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS: CHRIS STALKER, Jason Meltz, Josh Bussino, Pat Cram Jr., Mike Bussino, Jeff Meltz Sr., Al Relyea, Jimmy Duncan, Josh Hemming, Mark Burch, Matt Mosher, Nick Napoli, Fred Shippee, Ray Pierre Jr., Dan Buell, Milo Campbell, Tim McFarland.