Story By: TOM BOGGIE / ALBANY-SARATOGA SPEEDWAY – MALTA, NY – One week after being too sick to even get into his race car, Jeremy Pitts was feeling on top of the world.
Pitts chalked up his first win of the season Friday night in the 35-lap NAPA modified feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, becoming the 11th different modified winner in 2023 at the historic Malta track.
Pitts started in the second row, jumped right into a battle with CG Morey, and took the lead for good on lap 19 to come away with his third career victory.
Friday night’s entire card was just a couple of raindrops away from getting canceled. A hard overnight rain, and even more rain that lingered into the afternoon on Friday, left the track so saturated that track crews had to work until 7 p.m. to get the track in racing shape. Because of the delay, promoter Lyle DeVore canceled heat races for his support divisions and on-track victory lane ceremonies in order to beat his curfew.
But you won’t hear any of the winners complaining.
Last week, Pitts was in his usual spot in the pits at Albany-Saratoga, but before warmups even started, his hauler was headed back out of the gate.
“I was puking all over the place, and had no energy,” said Pitts in victory lane Friday night, discussing his reason for leaving the previous week. “When I left here, I went right to the emergency room and they gave me an IV. I just had a bad virus.”
The modifieds that started in the first two rows put on a heck of a show Friday night. Vinnie Visconti came off the inside pole and led the first nine laps, but was constantly hounded by Don Ronca, who started on the pole, and Morey, who was fourth on the starting grid.
The first caution came out on lap 10, when Jack Speshock, who was battling for a top five position, dropped off the backstretch with mechanical problems, forcing him to shut down and get towed to the pits.
Morey used that restart to get the lead coming out of the fourth turn, and Pitts followed him into the No. 2 spot.
For the next 10 laps, Morey kept running the high line, with Pitts hugging the inside and Josh Hohenforst lurking in third place, waiting for the leaders to make a mistake.
Morey and Pitts were side-by-side and inches apart as they passed starter Rich Peterson to complete both the 17th and 18th laps, but the next time around, Pitts got a good launch coming out of the second turn and snatched the lead away from Morey.
Hohenforst got around Morey for second on lap 26, but the top three soon separated into a single-file parade and Pitts hit the finish line with a 1.455 second cushion over Hohenforst, who had the best finish of his career at Albany-Saratoga.
“This wasn’t easy,” Pitts said as sweat ran down his face. “The track had a lot of bumps in it tonight and I kept hitting them harder and harder. But I knew I was good on the bottom at the beginning, so I stayed there.”
Morey finished third, with Mike Mahaney fourth and Demetrios Drellos fifth. Finishing two spots ahead of defending modified champion Matt DeLorenzo moved Drellos closer to his first modified crown at Malta.
Eric Mack and Cody Ochs triumphed in the dual 20-lap sportsman features, with each driver earning $1,000 through sponsorship from Emerick Associates.
Mack, who started fifth, used a restart on lap five to get the lead and cruised to his second win of the season. Chad Edwards and Dave Baranowski Jr. battled for the No. 2 spot, with Edwards getting the runner-up position going down the backstretch on the final lap.
Ochs led all 20 laps to win the second 20-lapper, also chalking up his second win of the year. Dan Grignon finished second, with Taylor Wason third.
Two was the magic number Friday night, as Jay Corbin also picked up his second win of the year in the 25-lap pro stock feature, taking home the top prize of $1,000, provided by sponsorship from Crane Outdoor Power Equipment.
Corbin, who started sixth, was hooked up from the drop of the green flag and only needed seven laps to get to the front while working the inside.
A long green flag run allowed the field to get strung out, but Corbin’s comfortable lead went away when Jordan Modiano went off the backstretch to bring out a yellow flag on lap 22.
Corbin took the outside for the restart, giving the inside to Chucky Dumblewski. But Corbin made the right move, getting a good jump on the restart to keep the lead, while Rich Crane grabbed the No. 2 spot away from Dumblewski coming out of turn two on lap 24.
Walter Cook and Phil Arnold both recorded their first wins of the season in the two 15-lap limited sportsman features, while Jason Meltz held off his father Jeff to win the 20-lap street stock feature. That win was also Jason Meltz’s second of the year.
Dalton Herrick, the 2022 CRSA Sprint Series champion, took advantage of a miscue by Tommy Moreau on lap five and went on to win the 20-lap feature as the CRSA Series made its only appearance of the season at Albany-Saratoga.
The feature was marred by two consecutive yellow flags, followed by a red, on lap four. The red occurred when Kyle Pierce made hard contact with the car driven by Mike Kiser in the second turn, with both cars winding up on their sides.
Moreau was the leader when racing resumed, but when Moreau went too high in the fourth turn on lap five, Hderrick pounced and went out on the point for good. He finished with a 0.835 advantage over Moreau, with John Cunningham a distant third.
NAPA MODIFIEDS: JEREMY PITTS, Josh Hohenforst, CG Morey, Mike Mahaney, Demetrios Drellos, Adam Pierson, Matt DeLorenzo, Jack Lehner, Vinnie Visconti, Marc Johnson, Brian Calabrese, Rob Pitcher, James Meehan, Robert Bublak Jr., Ken Tremont Jr., Justin Stone, Ryan McCartney, Derek Bornt, Bob Hentschel, Garrett Poland, Keith Flach, Neil Stratton, Don Ronca, Jack Speshock, Rich Ronca, Matt Depew. DNS: Ronnie Johnson.
NORTHEAST PAVING AND SEALCOATING SPORTSMAN (first feature): ERIC MACK, Chad Edwards, Dave Baranowski Jr., Tim Hartman Jr., David Boisclair, Andrew Buff, Ron Proctor, Scott Duell, Taylor LaPlante, Marty Kelly III, Chris Jakubiak, Nick Giardini, Zach Buff, Elliot Lussier, Jim Osgood, Tyler Rapp, Ashton Pierson, Justin Barber, Alex Bell, Mike Benson, Jeff Washburn, Travis Witbeck, Tommy D’Angelo.
NORTHEAST PAVING AND SEALCOATING SPORTSMAN (second feature): CODY OCHS, Dan Grignon, Taylor Wason, Bryce Breault, Dylan Madsen, Joey Scarborough, Floyd Billington, Mike Coffey Jr., Chris Crane Jr., Branden Darrah, Jon Miller, Dan Ferguson, Michael Wagner Fitzgerald, Derrick McGrew Jr., Daryl Nutting, Mike Jeske, John Dumond, Jeff Higham, Scott Bennett, Drew Cormie, Mike Ballestero, Pat Jones.
SARATOGA MASONRY SUPPLY PRO STOCKS: JAY CORBIN, Rich Crane, Chucky Dumblewski, Brandon Emigh, Luke Horning, Jason Casey, Josh Coonradt, Shane Henderson, Kyle Hoard, Slater Baker, Josh Bussino, Jaxson Ryan, Jay Casey, Pete Vila, Kim Duell, Jordan Modiano, Phil Defiglio.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (first feature): PHIL ARNOLD, Chase Zimmer, Mike Arnold, John Santolin, Tanner Coon, Dakota Green, Dan Seguin, Mike Parodi, Kyle Swart, Steve Burch, Pat Miner, Mike Engwer, Randy Ryan, Sara Arnold.
HAUN WELDING LIMITED SPORTSMAN (second feature): WALTER COOK, Ron Delease, Nick Arnold, Nick Auspelmyer, Steve Miller, Connor Crane, Dylan Grogan, Chad Gregory, Tyler Bobar, Mike Baker, Zachary Graham, Jordan Hill.
LAKE AUTO PARTS STREET STOCKS: JASON MELTZ, Jeff Meltz Sr., Chris Stalker, Jimmy Duncan, Josh Hemming, Andrew Fitzgerald, Jason Samrov, Josh Samrov, Jason Barrett, Dana Van Veghten, Mike Bussino, Nick Napoli, Chris Murray, Dan Madigan, Pat Cram Jr., Mark Burch, Matt Mosher.
CRSA SPRINTS: DALTON HERRICK, Tommy Moreau, John Cunningham, Jordan Hutton, Billy VanInwegen, Jeremiah Munson, Mark Taylor, Ray Preston, Fred Proctor, Blake Warner, Gerald Sehn, Kiersten Dombrowski, Dustin Sehn, Car No. 19, Michael Smith, Link Pettit, Jacob Newell, Kyle Pierce, Matt Prescott, Tyler Chartrand, Mike Kiser.