RPW Column: It’s Mueller Time! Jessey Mueller Wins “Edge Of Your Seat Mod Main At Malta

Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – MALTA, NY – For the first time since 2019, Jessey Mueller took the checkers from row six at Albany-Saratoga to score his first win of 2021.

The 35 lap feature saw Brian Berger and CG Morey bring the field to green and Berger would get the advantage on the low line. Morey and 14-year-old Derrick McGrew Jr. would go to war for 2nd with McGrew running the bottom, but Morey had the advantage off of turn 4 on lap 3. Marc Johnson would start to make some moves, using a wide line to get from 10th to the top five, six laps in.

Many grooves could be used at the 4/10 mile circuit from high to low, drivers having stalemates over others when side-by-side for position. You could tell that was the case in the battle for fourth between Derek Bornt and Kris Vernold for at least three laps.

Berger continued to lead the first 12 laps and as McGrew Jr. was setting up a pass on Morey for the runner-up, the first yellow came out for Adam Pierson going over the banking in turn two.

A chaotic restart would break out as Berger selected the high side. Morey would wash Berger up the track and then McGrew Jr. would get a tap from Bornt causing a chain reaction and a multi-car accident. Notables involved included Anthony Perrego, Kenny Tremont Jr., and Matt DeLorenzo, and Jack Speschock.

A single file restart would endour next as Berger checked out, but another yellow would fly as Demetrios Drellos and Todd Stone tangled in turn 1. The follow-up, Berger had a good restart as Morey got tight in 1 and 2, then going off the banking down the back chute and coming back on.

Three-wide for second and Verhold would get the advantage, but Marc Johnson would challenge down low for second after the restart lap was complete. Johnson took the spot and immediately was on Berger’s heels for the lead on lap 16. On the exit of turn two, Johnson found a lot of grip on the exit to snag the first lead change of the race.

Jessey Mueller would make a charge to take 3rd from Vernold, then 2nd from Berger by lap 18 with passes downstairs in the first set of corners, gathering more power entering the straights. The pass wouldn’t count as the yellow lights came on for a slow McGrew Jr.

Johnson would pull away on the restart and Mueller would make the pass stick this time. Peter Britten would have a great restart as well with a 2 for 1 discount from 5th to 3rd on the inside. The lap would count as Johnson crossed the line before another yellow as Keith Flach kissed the turn 4 wall, bending the right front suspension.

Johnson held serve, but Mueller was all over and with 15 to go, it was a three man dash for the lead between Johnson, Mueller, and Britten. Mueller went to the inside of one and two as strong as he was all night, and put a slidejob on Johnson to take the lead, for a few seconds as he overshot it and Johnson fought tough underneath. Mueller then tried the outside of Johnson, but the door was shut up top to the bedroom, leaving the bottom open for Britten to take second. Johnson would try to pull away, as Mike Mahaney started breathing down the necks of Mueller and the “Batman”.

Coming to 12 to go, Mueller would get a run on the top side of 3 and 4 as Britten attempted to slide up, and Mueller had to get off the gas to avoid mayhem. Mahaney would look to the inside of one and two for P3, but couldn’t get it to work. In a four horse shootout with ten to go, Britten would look inside of Johnson for the lead and had the run working coming to the back chute, however, Mueller had an amazing run on the high taking a page out of Larry Wight’s playbook.

The top three were nearly even at the stripe as Britten and Mueller touched side panels. Mueller would have 2nd and tried top shelf once again for the entirety of lap 27, and would beat Johnson to the line and have him clear with 8 to go to not look back.

Mueller would pull away and missed an incredible race behind him, with not just Johnson, Mahaney, and Britten, but also Anthony Perrego coming through the field. Britten would try the inside of three and four, but nothing came to fruition until the other end of the track, he powered off better than Johnson and clear the 3j by sending it into the same sector. As Johnson decided to try the low groove in turns three and four, Mahaney would get a run with five to go.

Diamonding the first set of turns, Mahaney had the edge, but a crossover by Johnson set up a side by side duel in the final laps with Mahaney taking the final podium spot.

Still, it was Jessey Mueller taking the Modified feature leading the final eight laps in a hard-fought battle.

“That was a lot of fun racing,” Mueller said. “What a race! We’ve had a tough stretch. Just keep digging. Feels great to be back (in victory lane).”

Jack Lehner took a wild ride in heat two tonight as he took a nasty barrel roll in turn three as he hit a hole, digging the right front in. Lehner walked away unharmed, but posted on Facebook he is unsure when the team would return as it was the only race ready car.

Next week in Malta, the Empire Super Sprints come to town.

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