MALTA, NY – It was only a matter of time.
After weeks of tinkering with setups, have some bad luck and on some nights, being just being plain awful, Ken Tremont Jr. finally got the monkey off his back Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
The Sand Lake Slingshot again looked like the driver who has won 13 modified championships at the historic Malta track, overpowering the field to record his first win of the season in the 35-lap modified feature.
The feature was a tribute to Wayne Podbielski, a former car owner who lived right across Route 9 from the speedway. Among the drivers who wheeled the Chet’s Flooring No. 14 were Todd Ryan and Ryan Odasz.
Tremont has survived slow starts before. But the July 12 date for his first win of 2019 is the longest he’s waited to get into victory lane since 2008, when he didn’t win a feature (not counting 2011, when he didn’t run during Albany-Saratoga’s NASCAR-sanctioned season on asphalt)
Friday night’s win was made a little easier when two of his biggest rivals, Brett Hearn and Ronnie Johnson, took themselves out of contention on the fourth lap of the feature.
Coming out of the second turn, they made hard side-to-side contact going down the backstretch, and Hearn brought out the yellow when he stopped at the pit entrance. Hearn then ducked into the pits, and Johnson followed him in. Their crews scrambled around their cars, with Johnson rejoining the field. But Hearn sat in the pits for six laps before finally returning to the track.
Tremont, who started 13th, was easily sliding through gaps on the inside of the speedway, and quickly ate up ground. After just seven laps, he was up to seventh, while Rich Ronca set the pace.
When a three-car tangle in the fourth turn brought out another yellow, Tremont capitalized. First, he blew by Don Ronca for fourth. Three laps later, he went by Bobby Hackel IV for third and then began to work on the second-place car of Matt Depew. On lap 17, Tremont got under Depew in the second turn, and just two laps later, he ducked under Rich Ronca coming out of the fourth turn to get the lead.
The top five began to string out, and all of a sudden, the car to watch was Marc Johnson. Johnson started 16th, but like he usually does, he appeared to get hooked up late in the race, using another restart on lap 28 to make a final charge.
He passed both Rich Ronca and Jackie Brown on lap 32 to move into the runner-up spot, but by then, he was out of time and Tremont had his 73rd career win at Albany-Saratoga, third all-time to only Hearn (135) and Jack Johnson (90).
“You know, I was starting to wonder,” he said with a laugh when asked ending his slump. “The car felt better last, week, when I finished third, and we made a couple of minor changes again this week and they seemed to really help.”
Although Tremont stuck to the bottom to make progress early in the race, he said he switched to the middle once he got into the lead.
“I was afraid I was going to go too slow on the bottom,” he said.
Following Tremont and Johnson across the finish line were Brown, Rich Ronca and Depew.
Five modified drivers also received bonuses through the Andy’s Speed Shop Pick 5. Five numbers were drawn at random prior to the feature and the drivers who finished in those spots received a $100 bonus. The bonuses went to Hackel (seventh), Peter Britten (ninth), Rocky Warner (14th), Justin Barber (18th) and Mike Mahaney (22nd).
Mike Coffey Jr. drove to his first career win in the 25-lap sportsman feature, which was the 5th annual Mark Hughes Remembrance Race. Coffey started third and led most of the feature, but had his hands full with defending champion Tim Hartman Jr., who was looking for his second straight win, in the closing laps of the race.
Hartman Jr. appeared to get the lead on a restart on lap 23, but before the lap was completed, Chris Ronca went around in the second turn, bringing out a yellow and keeping Coffey in the lead. Even better for Coffey, it created a single-file restart.
Hartman Jr. took one last shot at Coffey, pulling even going down the backstretch on the last lap, but going into the fourth turn, Hartman Jr., running the top, drifted just high enough to allow Coffey to beat him by a car length.
“It was good not to see Timmy on the outside of me on the last restart,” said Coffey.
Josh Coonradt made a late run to win the 25-lap pro stock feature. Nick Arnold, who started on the pole, was cruising for the first half of the feature, but once Coonradt moved to the top, he was on rails and on lap 22, went around Arnold coming out of the fourth turn to take the lead for good. He then went on to his second straight win and third win of the season.
“We’ve had some good luck this year,” said Coonradt. “When I got into second, I saw (Arnold) out there, but I didn’t know if I would get to him. The car seems to get better the farther we go.”
Chucky Dumblewski passed Arnold on the last lap for second.
Another first-time winner emerged in the 20-lap Haun Welding limited sportsman feature, as Johnny Bruno took his first checkered flag ever at Albany-Saratoga. Bruno is a third generation driver whose father, Mike, was a consistent winner in both the late model and modified classes.
Bruno and Jared Powell put on a battle that wasn’t decided until the final lap. Powell survived two restarts late in the race, but when Craig Wholey spun on the final lap, it set up a one-lap shootout between Powell and Bruno, and Bruno got the lead coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap.
Al Relyea picked up his second win of the year in the Lake Auto Parts 15-lap street stock feature, holding off a late challenge from Jimmy Duncan, and David Frame chalked up his fourth win of the year in the Greg’s Towing four-cylinder feature. Frame, who had started fifth, took the lead away from Steve Ryan on lap 9. Robert Garney finished third overall, and was the first single-cam car across the finish line.
MODIFIEDS: Ken Tremont Jr., Marc Johnson, Jackie Brown Jr., Rich Ronca, Matt Depew, Matt DeLorenzo, Bobby Hackel IV, Keith Flach, Peter Britten, Jessey Mueller, Jack Lehner, Ronnie Johnson, Neil Stratton, Rocky Warner, Don Ronca, Brian Berger, Kris Vernold, Justin Barber, Don Mattison, C.G. Morey, Reggie Bonner, Mike Mahaney, Brett Hearn, Elmo Reckner, Olden Dwyer.
SPORTSMAN: Mike Coffey Jr., Tim Hartman Jr., Daryl Nutting, Jack Speshock, Mike Ostrander, Derek Bornt, Jeremy Pitts, Tony Ballestero, Justin Buff, Brian Calabrese, Jason Gray, Stephen Kneer, Fred Proctor, Kale Groff, Connor Cleveland, James Meehan, Nick Lussier, Jon Miller, Derrick McGrew Jr., Andrew Buff, Joey Scarborough, Eliot Lussier, KC McCoy, Chris Ronca, Colin Clow, Scott Duell, Robert Bublak Jr., Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Pat Jones, Jim Osgood, Matt Westcott, Marty Kelly III.
PRO STOCKS: Josh Coonradt, Chuck Dumblewski, Brandon Gray, Brandon Emigh, Jason Corbin, Kim Duell, Scott Towslee, Ed Thompson, Dan Older, Darrell Older, Roy Fifleld, Nick Arnold, Mike Baker, Doug Sheely, Yates Lansing.
LIMITED SPORTSMAN: Johnny Bruno, Jared Powell, Dave Richer, Tucker O’Connor, Gerard LeClair, Thomas Van Vorst Sr., Shane Larman, Bill August, Scott Bennett, James Hinman, Ron George Jr., Montgomery Tremont, Tyler Rapp, Yule Cook, Craig Wholey, Dave Labarge, Travis Witbeck, James Venditti Jr., Dan Grignon, Bryan Jones Jr., Dylan Bokus, Mark Robideau, David Boisclair.
STREET STOCKS: Al Relyea, Jimmy Duncan, John Filarecki, Mark Burch, Pete Vila, Matt Mosher, John Hayes, Josh Hemming, Tim McFarland.