Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – Mike Mahaney will be trying to make history this weekend when Albany-Saratoga Speedway hosts its season-ending Malta Massive Weekend.
Mahaney, the 2020 modified champion, will be attempting to become the first driver ever to win three consecutive Super DIRTcar Series races at the historic Malta track.
Mahaney, who drives the iconic No. 35 for veteran car owner George Huttig, won the first Super DIRTcar Series race of his career on Malta Massive Weekend in 2021, and followed that up with a victory in the 71-lap SDS race on June 24.
Hall of Famer Kenny Brightbill was the first driver to win back-to-back SDS races (then called Schaefer Qualifiers) at Albany-Saratoga, in 1979 and 1980, and Stewart Friesen matched that record in 2018 and 2019. But the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the Series in 2020, and Mahaney broke Friesen’s streak in 2021.
Friesen wasn’t around to witness Mahaney’s win in June because he was competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Nashville, Tenn. But according to Friesen’s Facebook page, he’ll be at Albany-Saratoga this weekend.
Matt Sheppard, who chalked up his 34th win of the season and picked up the top prize of $53,000 in last weekend’s Fonda 200, will headline the list of invading drivers, but Mahaney likes the fact that he’ll have the home-track advantage.
“I think racing weekly at Malta gives our regulars an advantage,” said Mahaney. “You can see it from the results of the last series race there.”
Malta regulars filled the podium after the June 24 Series race, with Marc Johnson finishing second and Jessey Mueller a surprising third, his best finish ever in the Series. Even fourth-place finisher Anthony Perrego had a good list of notes to work from, as he was the 2021 modified champion at Albany-Saratoga. The highest-finishing invader was Tim Sears Jr., who finished fifth. The only other invading driver to break into the top 10 was Billy Decker, who finished seventh.
Mahaney won that race despite running most of the feature with a flat left front tire, the results of hitting the inside concrete barrier in the fourth turn early in the 71-lap race.
The car that Mahaney ran that night is a car that the Hutting team saves for the big shows, and that’s the one he’ll be driving again Saturday night.
“Yes, Jenny will be back again,” he said, using the pet name the team has given to the Bicknell chassis.
The two-day Malta Massive Weekend will kick off on Friday, highlighted by a 40-lap big block modified race, which will pay $4,000 to win. In addition, the winner will be guaranteed to start no deeper than 13th in the field in Saturday night’s 100-lap SDS race. Promoter Lyle DeVore has stipulated that Malta-legal small blocks can compete with the big blocks on Friday.
The Friday card will also include a 40-lap DIRTcar Fall Sportsman Championship, which will pay $2,000 to win through sponsorship from Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, and a street stock race that will pay $1,000 to win, and $500 for second, with Meltz Lumber putting up the extra money for the purse. The four-cylinder division will also be competing Friday.
The 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series feature on Saturday will pay $10,500 to win, with the extra money on top compliments of Native Pride, and also offers a guaranteed starting spot in next month’s Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway.
The DIRTcar Pro Stock Series will also be in action on Saturday, racing for $1,500 to win, thanks to additional sponsorship from Meltz Lumber. The limited sportsman division will also be in competition.