Column: One For The Ages: Mahaney Has Luck & Muscle On His Side During Malta’s Massive Weekend

Column By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to properly describe the 100-lap Super DIRT Series race that highlighted Day 2 of Malta Massive Weekend Saturday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

So let’s just stick to the facts. Mike Mahaney recorded the first Super Dirt Series win of his career, pocketing a sponsored-inflated payday of $13,000.

On his way to the checkered flag, he waged an incredible, mind-blowing, intense, jaw-dropping…maybe there are enough adjectives.

All Mahaney did was hold off a (insert your own adjective) comeback from Stewart Friesen, who raced in the Camping World Truck Series race in Las Vegas on Friday night, caught a redeye flight back to the East and wound up at Malta in plenty of time to put on a show that fans will be talking about for years to come.

“Whoo, finally,” declared Mahaney in victory lane. “I finally got a good draw tonight. I’m so proud of my team. They’ve worked so hard for the last three years to get me here.”

Mahaney sat on the outside pole following the redraw. But this was no flag-to-flag win.

Hardly.

Yes, Mahaney get the lead on lap two, after polesitter Tom Sears Jr. led lap one. But the focus wasn’t on Mahaney. After the first caution flew on lap 10, when James Meehan spun around in the fourth turn, all eyes were on Sears, Anthony Perrego and Ronnie Johnson, who were fighting tooth and nail for second.

Little did anyone realize at the time that the feature would then run off 70 straight green flag laps.

The leaders caught the tail end of the field by lap 25, and three laps later, Perrego moved into second and began to catch Mahaney.

With Mahaney sticking to the low line and Perrego running the top, they continued to run side-by-side, but were also pulling away from the rest of the field.

Perrego snatched the lead on lap 39, diving low out of the fourth turn, and then moving high between one and two to slam the door of Mahaney.

Fans who were watching the action up front were missing a show by Friesen. After time trialing fifth in his group, Friesen failed to get a qualifying spot in his heat and then went on to win one of the last-chance showdowns, which put him 21st in the starting grid.

But by lap 47, he was up to fifth, and everyone in the grandstands knew what was coming.

Perrego survived a close call on lap 60, when he narrowly missed Bobby Hackel IV, who was slowing to enter the pits, and two laps later, Friesen got past Sears for fourth.

Perrego, the 2021 modified champion at Albany-Saratoga, had his shot at a Super DIRT Series win go out the window on lap 69, when he suddenly pulled into the infield, the victim of rear end problems.

Guess what? That gave the lead back to Mahaney.

By the time Friesen got around Johnson for second with 30 to go, Mahaney had a full straightaway lead.

Then, after 70 green flag laps, the final caution came out on lap 73, when Sears suffered a flat tire.

Then, to put it simply, things got squirrelly.

On the restart, Mahaney got a good jump off the inside, but when he drifted to the top going into the first turn, Friesen dove to the inside and pulled a slide job, moving up in front of Mahaney in the second turn. But Mahaney just eased back to the inside and had the lead again going into three.

For 17 laps, they continued to run side by side, or nose to tail, or anyway they could, as Friesen tried to find a way to get around Mahaney’s Adirondack Auto-sponsored Bicknell.

On the final lap, Friesen gave it one last shot, and tried another slide job, this time between three and four. He again got in front of Mahaney in the short chute, but Mahaney again pulled to the inside and had Friesen clinging to his rear bumper as they took the checkered flag.

Phew!

“That was a fun race. I thought I had him the last time, but I just got into the fluff and couldn’t hold it,” said Friesen after the race.

“Every time he threw something at me, I threw it right back,” said Mahaney after chalking up his fourth career win at Albany-Saratoga. “To put on a battle like that with Stewart on my home track, it’s unreal.”

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