Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – Kris Vernold added another milestone to his racing career Friday night by winning the 35-lap NAPA Modified feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
The win was Vernold’s first career victory on the dirt surface at the historic Malta track and ended a winless drought that lasted for nearly 13 seasons. His only other modified victory at Albany-Saratoga came on Aug. 20, 2010, which was the first season that former promoter Bruce Richards switched the track to an asphalt surface.
The victory was an emotional one for Vernold, as his voice was cracking in victory lane as he thanked all the people who have stuck with him over the years and all the drivers who have helped him along the way.
Vernold started on the pole, but was playing catch-up from the drop of the green flag as modified rookie Justin Stone, debuting a new chassis, jumped from his third starting position right into the lead.
Stone was flying, and quickly opened up a big lead. He caught the tail end of the field by lap 11, but because he was running the outside line, he had little trouble getting through traffic.
Once the traffic got a little thicker, Vernold was able to close in on Stone, and then got the break he needed on lap 20 when James Meehan slowed with mechanical problems, bringing out the first caution and bunching the field.
Stone picked the outside for the restart, giving Vernold the bottom. Vernold got a good launch, quickly went to the top, and snatched the lead on lap 23.
And that’s where he stayed, leaving the rest of the field in his wake. Jack Lehner, who started 10th, made a late charge to finish to grab the runner-up spot, his best finish of the season, while 18-year-old Ryan McCartney came across the finish line with his second straight third-place run. Ken Tremont Jr. and new modified points leader Demetrios Drellos completed the top five.
“I just love this place,” said Vernold after his win. “People like Ken Tremont, Peter Britten, Jack Lehner have helped me so much, and the fans have been great. Thank God for that caution.”
Mike Mahaney earned $200 by winning the Four States Enterprises Dash for Cash, but that was the highlight of his night. Despite starting fifth in the feature, he pulled out with motor problems after just four laps.
The undercard to the modified event featured some of the closest finishes in the history of the speedway, as both of the sportsman features ended in photo-finishes.
Jim Osgood and Andrew Buff both recorded their first wins of the season in the 20-lap sportsman features, which each paid $1,000 to win through sponsorship by Killer Crate Motors.
In the first sportsman feature, Jeff Washburn started on the outside of the front row and had the lead after two laps. Osgood, who started third, moved into the No. 2 spot on lap 12 and caught Washburn with five laps to go. For three laps, Osgood made Washburn’s life miserable, but the two leaders got a little breather when Alex Bell brought out a yellow on lap 18.
Then Osgood and Washburn really went at it. They bounced off each other coming out of the fourth turn to complete lap 18, and again swapped paint on lap 19. Heading into the fourth turn for the final time, they bounced off each other one more time, with Washburn going high and Osgood trying to hold the middle. They allowed Zach Buff to duck through on the inside, but Osgood held his line and beat Buff to the finish line by .004 seconds for his first career sportsman win. Washburn held on for third.
Andrew Buff, Zach’s older brother, made a last lap pass on Michael Wagner Fitzgerald to notch his first win of the year in the second 20-lapper. Buff started fourth and got right into the action early, forging a three-way battle for the lead with Tommy D’Angelo and Wagner Fitzgerald.
D’Angelo led the first six laps before giving up the top spot to Wagner Fitzgerald. Buff searched all over the track to find a way around D’Angelo, finally coming away with the No. 2 spot on lap 13.
Buff slowed reeled Wagner Fitzgerald in and made his move coming out of the fourth turn for the final time, with the two rubbing side rails heading to starter Rich Peterson’s checkered flag. Computer scoring had Buff winning by .012 seconds, even though it was Wagner Fitzgerald who originally pulled up on the front straightaway for victory lane photos.
Judging from the sportsman finishes, Jason’s Casey’s .347 seconds victory over Rich Crane in the 25-lap sportsman feature was a comfortable margin of victory. Casey, whose hood was flapping in the closing laps of the race, and Crane were locked into a blow-for-blow battle for the lead when the caution flew on lap 24. But Casey got a good restart and was able to come away with his first won of the year, which paid $1,000 through sponsorship from A-Z Landscaping
Connor Crane and Dakota Green won the two 15-lap limited sportsman features, with each one earning $500 through sponsorship from Gary and Patricia Van Alstyne. But Crane’s victory was his second in a row, which also gave him the Doug Wholey’s Ideal Excavating Back-to-Back Bonus of $250.
The 12-year-old Crane needed a last-lap pass to beat Steve Burch in the first feature. Burch led the first 14 laps, but drifted too high in the fourth turn on the final time around to give Crane an opening on the inside, which led to his fourth win of the season.
Green, who started seventh in the second feature, used a restart on lap 11 and outran James Galarneau and points leader Dylan Grogan for the win.
Chris Stalker ended PJ Cram’s two-race win streak in the 20-lap street stock feature. Cram, who started eighth, had moved out in front by lap five and Stalker, who had started right behind Cram, followed him to the front.
Cram managed to hold off Stalker until lap 19, when Stalker elbowed his way by Cram in the third turn and went on to record his second win of the year.
David Frame chalked up his second straight win in the 15-lap four-cylinder feature. Kyle Lanfear finished second overall and extended his win streak in the single-cam division to six.
NAPA MODIFIEDS: KRIS VERNOLD, Jack Lehner, Ryan McCartney, Ken Tremont Jr., Demetrios Drellos, Marc Johnson, Justin Stone, Adam Pierson, Peter Britten, Anthony Perrego (subbing for Matt DeLorenzo), Brian Calabrese, Ronnie Johnson, Keith Flach, Neil Stratton, Josh Hohenforst, Jack Speshock, Jeremy Pitts, Matt Depew, CG Morey, Vinnie Visconti, Derek Bornt, Ryan Stortini, Rich Ronca, Robert Bublak Jr., James Meehan, Garrett Poland, Brandon Daley. Mike Mahaney. DNS: Brett Graham, Don Ronca, Jessey Mueller.
NORTHEAST PAVING AND SEALCOAT SPORTSMAN (first feature): JIM OSGOOD, Zach Buff, Jeff Washburn, Daryl Nutting, Chad Edwards, Dylan Madsen, Taylor LaPlante, Mike Coffey Jr., Joey Scarborough, Chris Crane Jr., Scott Duell, Drew Cormie, Craig Wholey, Mike Jeske, Scott Bennett, Zachary Graham, Alex Bell (subbing for Jon Miller), Mike Benson, Dave Baranowski Jr.
NORTHEAST PAVING AND SEALCOAT SPORTSMAN (second feature): ANDREW BUFF, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Tim Hartman Jr., Travis Billington, Mike Ballestero, Tommy D’Angelo, Tyler Rapp, Ron Proctor, Travis Witbeck, Eric Mack, David Boisclair, Taylor Wason, Marty Kelly III, Elliot Lussier, Dan Grignon, Bryce Breault, Brandon Darrah, Justin Barber.
SARATOGA MASONRY PRO STOCKS: JASON CASEY, Rich Crane, Kim Duell, Jay Casey, Jay Corbin, Brandon Emigh, Jordan Modiano, Chucky Dumblewski, Josh Bussino, Dean Charbonneau, Phil Difiglio, Shane Henderson, Dave Stickles, Jaxson Ryan, Pete Vila, Chad Jeseo, Kyle Hoard, Jimmy Eaton.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (first feature): CONNOR CRANE, Steve Burch, Chad Gregory, Steve Miller, Chase Zimmer, Tanner Coon, Mike Parodi, Mike Baker, Alex Palmer-Sawyer, Walter Cook, John Santolin, Jordan Hill, Sara Arnold, Kyle Swart.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (second feature): DAKOTA GREEN, James Galarneau, Dylan Grogan, Ron Delease, Dan Seguin, Scott Towslee, Kamden Duffy, Pat Miner, Phil Arnold, Nick Arnold, Mike Arnold, David Zelker, Damian Amderson.
LAKE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS: CHRIS STALKER, PJ Cram Jr., Jimmy Duncan, Dan Madigan, Jason Samrov, Jeff Meltz Sr., Matt Mosher, Nick Napoli, Mark Lester, Dana Van Veghten, Mark Burch, Ray Pierre Jr., Josh Hemming, Dan Buell, Josh Samrov, Damien Ward, Joey Morey.
GREG’S TOWING FOUR CYLINDERS: DAVID FRAME, Kyle Lanfear (first single-cam finisher), Josh Mason, Robert Garney, Daniel Joubert, Josh Sullivan, Olivia Swinton, Dave LaBarge, Chris Danylieko, Andrew Palmer, Josh Rheome, Brittany Ladd, Tom Hill, Ashlynn Ramsey, John Ramsey. DQ: Adam Montville.