Story BY: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – While all of the focus was supposed to be on the champions Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Jeremy Pitts struck a blow for the underdogs.
Pitts, a former three-time sportsman champion at the Malta track, ended a 17-month winless drought by winning the 35-lap NAPA Modifieds feature.
His first career win came on April 23, 2021, but came with an asterisk. On that weekend, many of the top drivers at Malta were in Bristol, Tenn., to compete in the DIRTcar series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But there won’t be any asterisk next to Friday night’s win, as Pitts held off Matt DeLorenzo, who had locked up his first modified championship ever at Albany-Saratoga earlier in the night.
“This one is better,” said Pitts with a huge smile in victory lane after his win. “With Matty D on my inside, I knew I had to really go the last six or eight laps to get this one, and it worked out.”
When the modifieds came out for hot laps earlier in the night, it looked like Pitts’ night might end prematurely, as he had to be pushed back into the pits.
“I had ignition problems,” Pitts explained later. “But Derrick McGrew’s guys and (Tim) Hartman’s crew all chipped in and got us going again.”
Pitts started third and followed CG Morey right to the front. When Don Ronca brought out the first caution of lap six, Pitts used the restart to grab the lead, and that’s where he stayed.
But by being out front, he missed a heck of a battle behind him. Morey remained in second, but he soon has his hands full with DeLorenzo, who started ninth, Rich Ronca and Peter Britten, who lost any chance he had at winning the title when DeLorenzo started the feature.
When Rich Ronca finally got around Morey for second on lap 16, Pitts already had a full straightaway lead.
DeLorenzo took over the No. 3 spot on lap 18, and went back to the outside line to chase down Ronca. Once DeLorenzo took the runner-up position, he went back to the bottom and slowly began to gain ground on Pitts.
At about the same time, Pitts got into lapped traffic and although he had no trouble clearing first Matt Depew and then Rob Pitcher, DeLorenzo was able to inch closer.
Ryan McCartney went off the backstretch and rolled to a stop to bring out another caution on lap 28, and on the restart, DeLorenzo went to the inside to try to get a run at Pitts, but instead, left the top open, allowing Jack Lehner to grab the No. 2 position.
It only took DeLorenzo one lap to get back in front of Lehner, but Pitts was flying around the top and all DeLorenzo could do was chase him across the finish line.
“It got a little too tight on the bottom,” DeLorenzo said after the race. “I thought I had him (Pitts) once, but then I had to battle with Jack and that hurt me.”
Britten finished third, followed by Lehner and Jack Speshock.
Pitts said he made a lot of changes to his Bicknell chassis earlier in the week.
“Last Sunday, I unloaded the car and we made a lot of changes, springs and stuff, to try something before the Massive weekend (the Malta Massive Super DIRTcar Series weekend on Sept. 23-24).” said Pitts, who earned $3,000 for the win. “I guess it paid off.”
Andrew Buff picked up his second win of the season in the 25-lap Northeast Paving & Sealcoat Sportsman feature, making a late charge to pick up the winner’s payday of $1,000, courtesy of sponsorship from West End Towing.
Jon Miller appeared to be on his way to his first win of the year, until a yellow flag on lap 21 put Buff on the outside of Miller for the restart. Miller and Buff were side by side after the restart, but Miller bobbled in the second turn on lap 22, allowing Buff to grab the lead. Miller then spun and went off the track in the first turn the next time around, bringing out another caution and forcing Buff to hold off Chris Johnson for the victory.
Chris Jakubiak made a very late run and got up for third, with Travis Witbeck fourth and Tim Hartman Jr., who had locked up his fourth track championship two weeks ago, fifth. Jakubiak also earned a $200 bonus by winning the Four States Enterprises Dash for Cash.
“The last couple of cautions got us stacked up there,” said Buff, who finished a distant second to Hartman in the battle for the championship. “It was a great race. West End Towing gave us everything we needed this year. We struggled in the middle of the year and got our ass kicked by Tim for the third year in a row.”
Chad Jeseo went into the night trailing Jason Casey by two points in the Eastwood Detailing Pro Stock division, but when the checkered flag flew, Jeseo had his second straight crown.
This 25-lap feature went down to the wire, but the title was decided midway through the race. When pole-sitter Pete Vila got out of shape going down the backstretch on lap 10, Casey had to get out of the gas going into turn three, trying to avoid contact. But Phil Defiglio came flying into the third turn and made hard contact with the rear of Casey’s car, spinning him and sending him to the rear of the field.
Jeseo, who had started sixth, took the lead on lap eight but following the restart for Casey, had Luke Horning making his life miserable. Running the low line, Horning kept his right front inches away from Jeseo’s left rear, and inches away from disaster for both drivers. Bu Horning then switched lanes, going to the top and taking the lead away from Jeseo on lap 14 coming out of the fourth turn.
Jeseo kept battling right to the checkered flag and finished second to Horning, while Casey came across the finish line eighth and lost his bid for his first track championship.
“I thought once I got the lead, Chad would just let me have it easy and ride around,” said Horning, who picked up the winner’s payday of $1,000 through sponsorship from Classic Muscle Parts. “But he raced me hard every lap.”
“I hated what happened to Casey, but my car was awesome tonight,” said Jeseo.
Taylor Wason chalked up his second win of the season in the 25-lap Haun Welding Limited Sportsman feature. The race had to be red-flagged for a multi-car pileup in the first turn on lap three. It started when two cars made contact in the front stretch, setting off a chain reaction. The cars of Alex Palmer-Swayer and Nick Arnold would up against the outside wall and Dan Sequin bounced off Palmer-Sawyer, back toward the middle of the track. Wesley Sutliff had nowhere to go, slammed into the front of Sequin’s car and went up and over, with his car coming to rest of its side. Joe Smith also got involved, banging into Sequin’s car.
No one was injured, although Sutliff limped away from the wreckage.
Once racing began again, Mike Parodi, who had started eight, took the lead away from David Zelker on lap 10, but Wason, who started 14th, used another restart on lap 16 to move into the top spot coming out of the fourth turn, as Parodi had handling problems in the closing laps, battling his car through the turns.
Wason put his Lenihan Pacing-sponsored car into victory lane for the first time since April 22, easily outrunning Craig Wholey and Mike Arnold, and took home $1,000 courtesy of Patricia and Gary Van Alstyne and Maxon Industries.
Dan Madigan recorded his second consecutive victory in the 15-lap Lake Auto Parts Street Stock feature. Madigan started 11th, and slowly worked his way to the front, taking over the No. 2 spot from Matt Mosher on lap eight. He stayed in the low lane in his pursuit of leader Jimmy Duncan, and got a good jump on a restart on lap 13 to get the lead.
Duncan had to settle for second, with Matt Mosher third, Jason Samrov fourth and Nick Napoli fifth.
Defending champion Jeff Meltz Sr. saw his hopes for another championship go up in smoke when he was involved in an incident with Napoli in the third turn on lap five, flipping over and landing on his wheels before he was hit by Ray Pierre Jr. Meltz Sr. was credited with a 16th-place finish. Earlier in the night, Meltz Sr. had won a $200 bonus in a special street stock dash for cash, sponsored by Croteau’s Service.
Elmer Montville notched his third straight victory in the 15-lap four-cylinder feature, holding off a late charge from David Frame, who was less than a car length behind at the finish. Robert Garney was third overall and had the first single-came car to cross the finish line.
MODIFIEDS: JEREMY PITTS, Matt DeLorenzo, Peter Britten, Jack Lehner, Jack Speshock, Rich Ronca, Keith Flach, Mike Mahaney, Ken Tremont Jr., CG Morey, Jessey Mueller, Brian Calabrese, Marc Johnson, Adam Pierson, Brian Gleason, Scott Huber, Matt Depew, Rob Pitcher, Ryan McCartney, Brandon Daley, Kenny Aanonsen Jr., Don Ronca, Todd Morey.
SPORTSMAN: ANDREW BUFF, Chris Johnson, Chris Jakubiak, Travis Witbeck, Tim Hartman Jr., David Boisclair, Cody Ochs, Jim Osgood, Dylan Madsen, Derrick McGrew Jr., Mike Ballestero, Dave Baranowski Jr., Michael Wagner-Fitzgerald, Mike Coffey Jr., Scott Bennett, Drew Boniface, Elliot Lussier, Taylor LaPlante, Daryl Nutting, Brendan Gibbons, Tommy D’Angelo, Tyler Rapp, Jon Miller, Zach Buff, Mike Benson, Dan Grignon, Jeff Washburn, Travis Billington, Ron Proctor, Gerald LeClair.
PRO STOCKS: LUKE HORNING, Chad Jeseo, Shane Henderson, Rich Crane, Nick Stone, Jaxson Ryan, Brandon Emigh, Jason Casey, Chucky Dumblewski, Jordan Modiano, Jay Casey, Phil Defiglio, Pete Vila, Mike Baker, Caden Dumblewski, Kim Duell, Kyle Hoard.
LIMITED SPORTSMAN; TAYLOR WASON, Craig Wholey, Mike Arnold, Ron Delease, Kyle Swartz, Chris Crane Jr., Dakota Green, Ashton Pierson, Josh Paige, James Galarneau, Kyle Dingman, David Zelker, Nick Arnold, Mike Parodi, John Gosselin, John Santolin, Nick Auspelmyer, Joey Miller, Phil Arnold, Dylan Grogan, Alex Palmer-Sawyer, Dan Seguin, Wesley Sutliff, Steve Burch, Joe Smith.
STREET STOCKS: DAN MADIGAN, Jimmy Duncan, Matt Mosher, Jason Samrov, Nick Napoli, Josh Samrov, Mike Bussino, Mark Burch, Cordell Younger, John Filarecki, Mike Arnold, Dana Van Veghten, Ray Pierre Jr., Josh Hemming, Fred Shippee, Jeff Meltz Sr., Tim McFarland, Damian Ward.
FOUR-CYLINDERS: ELMER MONTVILLE, David Frame, Robert Garney (first single cam finisher), Adam Montville, John Mason, Justin Ramsey, Josh Ramsey, Alanna Jordan, Olivia Swinton, Matt Tedrow, Brittany Ladd, Kyle Lamfear.