Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – In a season that has seen last-lap passes and photo finishes, dominance hasn’t been a word often used to describe the action in the Modified division at Albany-Saratoga Speedway this season.
That changed Friday night, when Ronnie Johnson dominated the 35-lap modified feature to post his second win of the season.
Johnson started 10th in the starting field, made an incredible lead to get the lead following a restart on lap eight and then left everyone else to battle for second.
In addition to the winner’s Share of the purse, Johnson also picked up a $500 bonus from Mangino Chevrolet-GMC, the night’s sponsor.
The move that had everyone stunned came after a restart on lap nine, after Matt DeLorenzo stopped on the front straightaway with damage to the right front of his race car.
At that time, Johnson was sitting fourth, behind leader Bobby Hackel IV, Jessey Mueller and Kris Vernold. But both Johnson and Mueller got big jumps on the restart, and when the lead trio came out of the second turn, Johnson squeezed between Mueller, who opted for the high groove, and Hackel to stick his nose in front. But he was dead-even with Mueller as they charged to the flagstand to complete lap nine.
When Mueller moved back to the bottom the next time around, Johnson went around the outside in the fourth turn to get the lead for good on lap 10.
From there, the Mickle’s Automotive Bicknell was on rails.
“The car felt good,” said Johnson in victory lane, after posing for countless pictures with members of his dedicated legion of fans. “When the car is handling, you can make moves like that and it makes you look like a hero.”
But the suspense was far from over.
On lap 11, Peter Britten, who had started 11th, joined the three-car battle for second. With Mueller still running the top, Hackel took the inside lane and regained the No. 2 position on lap 16.
Britten, who had tried following Mueller, switched to the bottom to follow Hackel and then worked his way around Mueller for third on lap 21.
Another yellow on lap 24 negated Johnson’s big lead, but it really didn’t matter, because as soon as the green fell again, he easily again to pull away.
A final yellow came out on lap 31, when points leader Anthony Perrego suffered a flat tire and had to duck into the hot pit for new rubber. When racing resumed, Britten moved back to the top and charged past Hackel coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap to finish second, while Hackel IV matched his best finish of the year with a third. Mueller hung on for fourth, with Jack Lehner fifth.
After starting 10th, Johnson knew he couldn’t waste any time getting to the front.
“I knew who was on my tail,” he said. “I needed to get away from them. I knew if they passed me, I probably wasn’t going to get them back.”
Daryl Nutting picked a perfect time to record his first win of the season in the 25-lap sportsman feature. The race paid $1,000 to win through sponsorship by DCS Contracting, and Mangino Chevrolet-GMC also kicked in a $500 bonus for the winner.
Nutting started on the pole in his ONYX Industries-sponsored car and led every lap, missing all the action that was going on behind him.
Twelve-year-old Brock Pinkerous and veteran Dick Bisson were never far apart and got locked into a whale of a battle for second with five laps to go. Bisson, who was running the top, got a huge run out of the fourth turn to grab the runner-up spot on lap 20, but Pinkerous got the spot back to complete lap 21.
The next time around, Bisson took over the No. 2 position for good, and Pinkerous lost the final podium spot on the last lap to a late charge from Pat Jones.
Nutting’s win was the third of his career at Albany-Saratoga, and first since Aug. 30, 2019.
Pinkerous had a lucrative night, as he won the $200 bonus in the Service Tire Truck Centers Dash for Cash, and also picked up a $100 bonus from handicapper John Casterella Jr. for winning his heat race. Also getting Casterella’s bonus money were Elliott Lussier and Bisson.
It was a good night all around for the Bisson Excavating Team, as Chris Bisson recorded his first career win in the 20-lap Haun Welding limited sportsman feature. That race got off to a sloppy start, with two quick yellows and then a red, when Jimmy Duncan, who had just moved up from the street stock ranks, barrel-rolled his car down the backstretch, coming to rest on the driver’s side.
When the field finally got down to business, Bisson, who started fourth, moved out on the point on lap four and that’s where he stayed. Chris Crane Jr. finished second, with Dakota Green third.
Scott Towslee came away with his second win of the season in the 25-lap pro-stock feature, which paid $1,000 to the winner through sponsorship by Crane’s Outdoor Products. Jordan Modiano had his best run of the season, finishing second, while Jason Casey was third.
Mike Arnold won the 20-lap Lake Auto Parts street stock feature, after it looked like he was doomed in the final laps.
Arnold inherited the lead on lap 14 when leader PJ Cram Jr. got into the wall in the fourth turn, but Arnold had defending champion Jeff Meltz and Kaleb Shepard breathing down his neck.
With two laps left, Meltz took the low line out of the second turn to move by Arnold, and Shepard switched lanes and was dead-even with Arnold for second as the top three took the white flag a few feet apart.
But Arnold wasn’t going to be denied, and poked his nose in front on the final lap, beating Meltz to the finish line by 0.143 seconds, with Shepard having to settle for third.
Jaxson Ryan drove to his seventh win of the year in the 15-lap four-cylinder feature, leading David Frame and Damian Ward across the finish line. Robert Garney was fourth overall and had the first single-cam car across the finish line.
MODIFIEDS: RONNIE JOHNSON, Peter Britten, Bobby Hackel IV, Jessey Mueller, Jack Lehner, Mike Mahaney, Keith Flach, Ken Tremont Jr., Tyler Dippel, Jeremy Pitts, Matt Depew, Marc Johnson, James Meehan, Demetrios Drellos, Neil Stratton, Don Ronca, Adam Pierson, Anthony Perrego, Derek Bornt, John Lutes Jr., Jack Speshock, Brandon Daley, Rich Ronca, Bob Schmitz, CG Morey, Brandon Walters, Kris Vernold, Derrick McGrew Jr., Matt DeLorenzo.
SPORTSMAN: DARYL NUTTING, Dick Bisson, Pat Jones, Brock Pinkerous, Elliot Lussier, Scott Duell, Tim Hartman Jr., Ron Proctor, Mike Coffey Jr., Connor Cleveland, Travis Witbeck, Jim Nagle, Chris Johnson, Marty Kelly III, Robert Bublak, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Dan Grignon, Justin Buff, Jim Osgood, Andrew Buff, Alex Bell, David Boisclair, Drew Cormie, Jeff Washburn, Brandon Gibbons, Cody Ochs, Justin Barber, Nikki Ouellette, Tyler Rapp, Gerard LeClair.
PRO STOCKS: SCOTT TOWSLEE, Jordan Modiano, Jason Casey, Shane Henderson, Chad Jeseo, Rich Crane, Kim Duell, Justin White, Luke Horning, Dan Older, Jay Casey, Josh Coonradt, Rob Yetman, Chucky Dumblewski, Kyle Hoard, Ian Bressett, Mike Baker, Dean Charbonneau.
LIMITED SPORTSMAN: CHRIS BISSON, Chris Crane Jr., Dakota Green, Scott Bennett, Bryce Breault, Joe Venditti, Wesley Sutliff, Phil Arnold, Taylor Laplante, Walter Cook, Dylan Madsen, Mike Parodi, Dan Seguin, Shane Powell, Craig Wholey, Jon Coon, Taylor Wason, Chris Jakubiak, Tommy D’Angelo, John Santolin, Brandon Jacobsen, Zach Buff, Matt Jordan, Nick Arnold, Alex Layn, Jimmy Duncan, Nick Auspelmyer, Dylan Grogan.
STREET STOCKS: MIKE ARNOLD, Jeff Meltz, Kaleb Shepard, Al Relyea, Matt Mosher, John Filarecki, Josh Hemming, Josh Bussino, Dan Madigan, Josh Samrov, Slater Baker, Dana Van Veghten, John Hayes, Harold Chadderton, Jason Samrov, PJ Cram Jr., Tim McFarland.
FOUR-CYLINDERS: JAXSON RYAN, David Frame, Damian Ward, Robert Garney, Jon Sheppard, Scott Chandler, Jason Mason, Mark Mahoney, Chris Duffney Jr., Chyanne Garney.