Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – Stewart Friesen only led one lap Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but it’s a lap that anyone who witnessed it will be talking about for a long time to come.
Friesen pulled a classic slide job on defending modified champion Marc Johnson on the final lap, and came away with his third victory of the season to highlight “Stan Da Man Night,” a tribute to the late father of promoter Lyle DeVore, at the historic Malta track.
Because Stan DeVore loved his fleet of 1932 Ford coupes, the theme of the night was 32, meaning Friesen took home $3,200 for his win in the 32-lap feature.
Friesen, who was back at Albany-Saratoga after a one-week absence to compete on the NASCAR Gander World Truck Series, started 16th in the 30-car field and moved into third on a restart on lap 17, trailing just Johnson, who only needed six laps to go from 10th to first and Anthony Perrego, who debuted a new Bicknell chassis.
The feature became a game of cat-and-mouse, with Johnson and Perrego running the top, while Friesen stubbornly tried to make the bottom work. Friesen’s persistence paid off, as he finally got by Perrego for second on lap 22.
Three laps later, a yellow flag came out for Danny Varin, putting Friesen right alongside Johnson.
But Johnson, who was in a week-old Bicknell, kept his big block wound up on the top groove and as hard as Friesen tried, he wasn’t making up any ground.
But with two laps left, Drew Cormie lost power going down the front straightaway, bringing out a final caution and giving Friesen the break he needed.
After taking the white flag, Friesen used the low line to pull alongside Johnson coming out of the second turn and the two headed for the third turn. Johnson still had the outside line, but Friesen slid right through Johnson’s path, gathered the Halmar Bicknell in as he exited the fourth turn and beat Johnson to the finish line by .088 seconds.
Friesen admitted he needed that final caution.
“I wanted to stay on the bottom, but we were just making up fractions of a second, not car lengths,” he said of the caution on lap 25. “On the last lap, I knew I was either going to hit the inside barrier in one or slide up in front of him. Then (in four), there was just enough of a berm for me to catch it.”
Johnson knew Friesen was going to make a big move, but just wasn’t sure when.
“I knew he was inside me, so I expected him to make a run,” he said.
Lost in the wild finish by Friesen and Johnson was a third-place run by Jessey Mueller, his second consecutive third-place finish. Perrego and Mike Mahaney, who inherited the point lead when Friesen was a no-show the previous week, completed the top five.
Heat winners each received a $320 bonus from John Grady Racing Photos. Those bonuses went to Matt Depew, Chip Meehan, Don Ronca and Brian Berger. Depew also won the Service Truck Tire Center Dash for Dash, pocketing another $200.
Jack Speshock recorded his first win of the season in the 25-lap sportsman feature, a race that had a closer finish than the modifieds. Travis Bruno started in the front row and took control of the race, but when Bruno got into traffic, Speshock, who started seventh, made his move.
Using the low line, Speshock closed in on Bruno and the two were running side by side with two to go. Speshock then snatched the lead coming out of the second turn and held off Bruno by .079 seconds. Joey Scarborough was third, and was followed by Thomas Van Vorst Jr. and Tim Hartman Jr.
Speshock earned $1,000 for the win, with the extra cash coming from race sponsor John Ray & Sons.
Luke Horning bounced back from an early spin and posted his second win of the year in the 25-lap sportsman feature. Horning started 14th in the feature, but on the first lap, spun around on the first turn and collected Chuck Dumblewski.
That caution flag proved to be an omen, as the race was slowed by seven yellow flags, each one helping Horning make up ground.
On the seventh restart, which came on lap seven, Horning moved by leader Brandon Emigh, but Emigh wouldn’t back off and was back out in front two laps later.
But this one was far from over, especially when the field started to click off green flag laps. Horning moved back out on the point on lap 11, but soon had Josh Coonradt to contend with, as Coonradt took over the No. 2 spot on lap 15.
The two were dead even as they passed under starter Rich Peterson on lap 21, but Horning then gained a slight advantage the next time around, and this time, he stayed out front, getting a little breathing room in the closing laps.
Following Horning and Coonradt across the finish line were Emigh, Kim Duell and Dean Charbonneau.
Travis Witbeck walked off with his third win of the year in the 20-lap Haun Welding limited sportsman feature, taking the lead away from Scott Bennett on lap 16. Josh Bussino was third.
Hunter Sanchez worked his way around Jeff Meltz Sr. coming out of the fourth turn to take the white flag and came away with his first win of the year in the 15-lap street stock feature. Defending track champion Al Relyea had taken the lead on lap five, but Meltz used a restart on lap 10 to move out in front. When Relyea blew a tire with two go, Sanchez was in position to make his move on Meltz in the final two laps.
Steve Ryan, driving a single-cam car, picked up the victory in the 15-lap four-cylinder division, while David Frame was second overall and had the first dual-cam car across the finish line. The top two were followed by Damian Ward, Wayne Russell and Bradley Batho.
MODIFIEDS: Stewart Friesen, Marc Johnson, Jessey Mueller, Anthony Perrego, Mike Mahaney, Ronnie Johnson, Don Ronca, Peter Britten, Jack Lehner, Keith Flach, Ricky Davis, Bobby Hackel IV, Matt DeLorenzo, Ken Tremont Jr., Jackie Brown Jr., Rocky Warner, Matt Depew, CG Morey, Matt Pupello, Elmo Reckner, Jeremy Pitts, Chip Meehan, Don Mattison, Neil Stratton, Drew Cormie, Danny Varin, Todd Stone, David Schilling, Rich Ronca, Brian Berger.
SPORTSMAN: Jack Speshock, Travis Bruno, Joey Scarborough, Thomas Van Vorst Jr., Tim Hartman Jr., Daryl Nutting, Brian Calabrese, Andrew Buff, Nick Lussier, Connor Cleveland, Pat Jones, Mike Coffey Jr., Jeff Washburn, Justin Buff, Dick Bisson, Jim Nagle, Scott Duell, Dan Grignon, Dave Baranowski Jr., Nick Scavia, Bucko Branham, Jon Miller, Marty Kelly III, Stephen Kneer, Cody Ochs, Justin Stone, Larry Niemiec, Robert Bublak, Mike Ballestero, Derek Bornt.,
PRO STOCKS: Luke Horning, Josh Coonradt, Brandon Emigh, Kim Duell, Dean Charbonneau, Scott Towslee, Tony Markou, Jay Fitzgerald, Dan Madigan, Phil Arnold, Nick Arnold, Brian Keough, Mike Baker, Rob Yetman, Jordan Modiano, Jason Meltz, Dan Older, David Cook, Chad Jeseo, Chuck Dumblewski, Mike Ostrander.
LIMITED SPORTSMAN: Travis Witbeck, Scott Bennett, Josh Bussino, Craig Wholey, Dylan Madsen, Ron Delease Jr., Tommy D’Angelo, Garrett Poland, Kevin Groff, Shane Larman, Chris Bisson, David Zelker, Yule Cook, James Hinman Jr., Brandon Jacobsen, Jared Powell, Taylor Wason, Bryce Breault, John Santolin, Tyler Rapp.
STREET STOCKS: Hunter Sanchez, Jeff Meltz Sr., Kaleb Shepard, John Filarecki, Paul Braymer, Josh Hemming, Matt Mosher, Mark Burch, PJ Cram Jr., John Hayes, Ken Allen, Jason Barrett, Jacob Zennaiter, Al Relyea, John Willams, Tyler Irwin, Josh Burst.