By Mark Kane
It was great to get back to the racing action at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga Speedway. What a great night it was with a huge field of more than 170 cars in the pits and a track that was smooth and super-fast, producing some great three-wide racing in all divisions that was paying extra money in all classes thanks to some great sponsors. With the upcoming DIRTcar OktoberFAST race that is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6 some of the very best Modifieds from the Northeast were on hand to get in some track time and if fans were allowed in the stands they would have sure been on the edge of their seats if they were even sitting.
At the end of the article I will get into this special six straight nights of racing at six different tracks across New York State that is taking the place as SUPER DIRT Week. Like many other races Super DIRT Week has been canceled until 2021. Making his return to the driver’s seat was Brett Hearn who retired at the end of the 2019 racing season as a full time driver. The night was not good for the winner of 919 feature wins over his storied career as he came to a stop during warm ups coming out of turn two then in his heat pulled to the infield with engine problems with his familiar #20 and was done for the night. I must say for the few laps he did run he sure did not forget how to stand on the gas and turn left.
With 34 cars making their way to the track for the DIRTcar 602 Sportsman feature was an action packed, caution filled event that found the leaders putting on a great show upfront as back in the pack it was like rush hour on the Northway on a holiday weekend. The caution flew early and often, but in between the leaders were racing nerf bar to nerf bar and running each other clean. At the drop of the green it was Daryl Nutting grabbing the lead and a lead he would hold on to each restart holding back some stiff competition.
First it was Jeff Washburn as Robbie Knipe, Connor Cleveland, Zach Sabotka and Andrew Buff held down the top five. On the move was the 2020 Outlaw Speedway Champion who made the long haul from the Syracuse area and was making his first ever start at Malta, but sure looked right at home working his way to 2nd. The 2020 Albany Saratoga Champion Tim Hartman would bring out a caution while running in the top 10 with a left front flat and then returned to the racing wars.
Once back to racing it was Pat Jones now in the top five as Nutting was getting heavy pressure from Sabotka. Now it was Andrew Buff who was showing speed as he was third as was Jack Speshock who had moved into the top five. With Nutting still out front Sabotka and Buff would race side by side for second with Sabotka holding the spot. As the laps clicked away the top five could have had a blanket thrown over them as they were putting on a show with Speshock now sitting third.
Quickly the battle for the lead heated up even more as Nutting, Sabotka, and Speshock were three-wide for the lead with Buff having the best seat in the house watching the race up front. A late race restart found Sabotka the new race leader as Buff found the high side and quickly made up ground and would be the new leader as Sabotka seemed to slow. At the checker it was Buff in for the win over Nutting, Speshock, and Sabotka who held on for fourth after his impressive run, and Pat Jones held on for fifth.
Just one night after parking his Halmar International Toyota Truck into a top ten finish on the Gander RV Truck Series Stewart Friesen was back home on the dirt. Not having the same season he had last year in the NASCAR Truck series he sure is making up for it back home on the dirt. In the shortened season here in the Northeast Friesen has 25 wins and 41 top-five finishes in 46 starts and will be looking to add to that total with some big season ending events yet to come. Win 25 came at the Albany Saratoga Speedway where he parked his Halmar International 44 in victory lane for the fifth time this season in the Never Forget 50 lap feature that not only did he have to take on the strong field of weekly contenders, but also had to deal with most of the top runners on the SUPER DIRTcar Series that made their way to the Malta facility.
At the drop of the green it was 2019 DIRTcar Series Champion Mat Williamson taking the early lead with Peter Britten and Friesen all over his rear deck as the caution was out early for Rocky Warner who slowed in the 98T for the night. Once back to green the top three remained the same as Matt DeLorenzo was on the move and coming to the front after starting in the fifth row as was the 44 of Anthony Perrago and Billy Decker. The caution again was out this time for Ricky Davis who slowed on the front stretch. On the ensuing restart Friesen using the high side was the new leader as DeLorenzo would work his way into second dropping Williamson to third as Perrago powered his way into fourth with Marc Johnson holding down fifth in the white 3J, he usually campaigns at Lebanon Valley, as the two wheelmen started to battle with Johnson getting the spot. The caution again was out as Don Ronca, who picked up a feature win a few weeks back, slid off the back stretch to tighten up the field. Back to green and again Friesen was the leader as Marc Johnson and DeLorenzo were now in a dog fight for second as they ran side by side with Johnson on the bottom and DeLorenzo using the high side as the leaders were now in heavy traffic. Again the Caution flew this time for Tyler Dipple who had slowed in 3-4.
Back to green, again it was Friesen with DeLorenzo, Johnson, Perrago, and Williamson rounding out the top five. The fine run for Williamson in the top five would come to an end when contact was made with Larry Wight as Wight was now on the move. The contact sent Williamson over the bank between turns 3-4 as the caution came out. Once back on the track Williamson drove up to the door of Wight and I am sure he was not inviting him over for Christmas dinner or telling him he was #1. Back to racing and again Friesen was the class of the field as DeLorenzo and Johnson battled with the 99 of Wight putting on a charge. As the laps clicked away Johnson would retake the second spot and Wight would take over the third spot. As the checker fell on an outstanding modified feature it was Stewart Friesen, Marc Johnson, Larry Wight, Matt DeLorenzo, and Anthony Perrago rounding out the top 5.
The full fender Pro Stocks found a tight battle up front as Kin Duell and Josh Coonradt put on a show of talent and respect as they raced hard and clean the entire feature with Duell out front and Coonradt waiting for the veteran to make a mistake that he would never make so it was Coonradt who had to take to the high side and push the limit and would cross the line first by a nose. As good as the race was, it took away from the great race that was going on behind the leaders as Chad Jeseo, Rich Crane, and Jason Casey were having a war of their own.
Other winners of the night were Ron Delease Limited Sportsman, Hunter Sanchez Street Stocks, and Danial Joubert 4 Cylinder.
As I spoke of earlier DIRTcar has come up with something that is going to be very exciting. Six days of racing at six different DIRTcar sanctioned tracks across New York State for the four premier DIRTcar Divisions that will consist of the Mighty Big Block Modifieds, 358 Modifieds, Sportsman, and the full fender Pro Stocks. Now for the bad news there will be no fans in attendance, but the good news is it will be broadcast live on DIRTVision. OktoberFAST, as it is being called, will have a purse and prizes of more than $300,000 to the drivers. The OktoberFAST events will kick off right here in the Capital District at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga Speedway on Oct. 6 with the Big Block Modifieds, Sportsman, and Pro Stocks. From there teams will make their way out West on the Thruway to the Utica Rome Speedway on Oct. 7 for an action-packed night of Big Blocks, 358 Modifieds and Pro Stocks. Then on Thursday Oct. 8 racing returns to the Fulton Speedway that has only had a few practice nights on a brand new racing surface throughout the summer and will feature the Big Block Modifieds, 358 Modifieds and Sportsman.
From that point it will be off to the Can Am Speedway also with a new surface as well as a new configuration will have the Big Blocks, 358 Mods, and Sportsman. Then on Saturday Oct. 10 the Big Blocks and Sportsman will make their way to the Land of Legends Speedway. Then the grand OktoberFAST finale will be at the Famed Weedsport Speedway for a 75 lap Modified show along with the Sportsman and Pro Stocks. For more information on the exciting OktoberFAST week, you can go to the SuperDIRTcarSeries.com web site and to order the week-long event contact DIRTVision.