The 4th Turn: 5/13/2021

~ By Tom Boggie

In the last couple of seasons, although the racing has been great at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, the results were fairly predictable.

When Stewart Friesen didn’t have a scheduling conflict with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he’d show up at Malta, make a couple of jaw-dropping moves and pick up another modified win.

Tim Hartman Jr. would work his way from a deep starting position and battle with either Connor Cleveland or Andrew Buff in the sportsman division.

Josh Coonradt, Luke Horning and Nick Stone wound up in victory lane after the pro stock feature on what seemed like a rotating basis.

So far this year, it’s been totally different. You never know what to expect on a Friday night.

Last Friday was no exception, when Jim Nagle recorded his first career sportsman win.

A former crew member on Jack Johnson’s race team, Nagle began racing sportsman in 2007 and won three features at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park during his first two seasons behind the wheel.

Like so many other drivers, he had the urge to move up to modifieds, and in 2014, began running his own team. But in the high-priced world of dirt track modified racing, Nagle could only be a minor player.

He was always optimistic and always began a season with high expectations, but he didn’t run a full campaign until 2018, when he was at Albany-Saratoga Speedway every Friday night, picking up a pair of top-10 finishes before the year was over.

He made 12 starts in the 2019 season, with a best finish of 13th, but had decided he was going to pack it in in 2020, hanging up his helmet and going back to his roots, working on Ronnie Johnson’s race team.

Nagle’s racing career was revived when he landed a ride in Tom Spencer’s sportsman for 2020, and although Nagle finished 10th in points last year, he never had a top-five finish. Nagle and Spencer parted ways during the offseason and this year, Nagle was able to put together a deal for his own team.

So there he was Friday night, just four races into the 2021 season, standing in victory lane for the first time since 2008 in his new Bicknell chassis, sponsored by Mickle Automotive.

“I’ve got great backing,” said Nagle after his win. “Ronnie helped put this deal together for me. Ronnie and Gary Mickle believed in me even when I didn’t have a lot of good results. They knew I had the drive and the determination and they backed me to get here.”

Although I admitted I was surprised that it only took Nagle four races to get to victory lane this year, he certainly wasn’t.

“On opening night, we were just average,” he said. “We went back and worked on some things and I felt I had a car that could win the last three weeks. Tonight, everything worked out.”

Lessons that he learned from Jack Johnson helped him end that long winless streak.

“Jumpin’ Jack always preached, take one corner at a time, take one lap at a time,” Nagle said. “I was lucky that holes opened up for me and I could capitalize on the opportunities to get the win.”

I’ve got a feeling it’s not going to take Nagle 13 years to get his next win.

It was also a surprise to see Keith Flach back in victory late for the first time since 2018. After testing positive for COVID-19 in April, and then struggling to get a handle on the coil setup in his chassis, Flach has been behind the 8-ball since the season started.

But that all changed last Friday.

“We had a good run in our heat and that put us up front, which was a big help,” he said.

“We threw a ton of changes into the car this week,” he added. “Andrew, my crew chief, and my dad have been in the shop a ton this week. We’re so far behind on this rear suspension deal. We’re still playing catch-up. Tonight, the car felt a lot better, but who knows. We could come back next week and be right back where we were before. We have a long way to go to become more consistent.”

The fact that the outside groove held together for most of the feature also helped Flach hold off Anthony Perrego.

“I felt more comfortable on the top, so I stayed there,” said Flach.

Perrego, who has finished in the top four in three of his four starts at Malta this year, was super-quick last Friday. He and Elmo Reckner put on a show in their heat race, with Perrego charging from ninth and passing Reckner on the last lap to get the win. Reckner was sporting some new sheet metal and a predominantly blue color scheme on his modified.

Ken Tremont Jr. was in the wrong place at the wrong time again. In the second modified heat, he and James Meehan banged wheels on lap five, resulting in Tremont getting a right front flat. He completed the heat, but wasn’t in a qualifying spot. He had to run the consy, which put him 29th in the feature field, and he could only work his way back up to 13th.

It was also a rough night for former track champion Marc Johnson and Billy Decker. On lap 11 of the feature, they made hard contact coming through the fourth turn. Decker only lasted a couple more laps, finishing 27th, while Johnson, who had a lot of front end damage, pulled into the pits for good on lap 26 and finished 25th.

A rut that developed near the first turn wreaked havoc on the modifieds all night, despite the efforts of Lyle DeVore and his grader to remedy the situation. Among the drivers who were victimized by the rut were Bobby Hackel IV (consy), Tremont (consy), Jack Speshock (feature) and Michael Maresca, who only completed one lap of the feature before sailing off the first turn.

Anyone who had the Pick-4 ticket of Joe Williams, Pat Jones, Justin Stone and Nagle winning the first four sportsman features at Malta, let me know who you like in the Preakness Saturday.

The quote of the week came from Josh Bussino after his win in the FantaSStick 4 street stock series feature in a car that had been heavily damaged during his heat race. “Pretty cars don’t win races,” he told track announcer Mia Mangino.

When was the last time you saw a DNQ next to Stewart Friesen’s name at a modified race? That happened Tuesday night in the “Battle of the Bullring” at Accord. Friesen was involved in a wreck in the first turn on the first lap of his heat race, and the damage to the Halmar 44 was too extensive to fix.

That came on the heels of a disappointing end at Darlington last Friday in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Friesen was running in the lead pack with 17 laps to go when Parker Klingerman, who was on the inside of Friesen’s truck, cut a tire, swerved to the right and put Friesen right into the wall.

Perrego won the “Battle of the Bullring” and earned $5,440. The race was in memory of Perrego’s father Tom, who died last fall.

Mike Mahaney had another strong performance, finishing third.
One of the better stories at Accord came when Matt Sheppard pulled in from his heat and his crew found a broken rocker arm in his motor. Derrick McGrew Jr. offered his car to Sheppard, and Sheppard came from a 27th starting position to finish eighth.

Hopefully, if Sheppard wins the point championship, the McGrew team will get a little reward for their generosity.

David Boisclair won the sportsman/modified feature last Saturday in the season opener at Airborne Speedway. That was his first career win at the Plattsburgh track. Also on Saturday, Demetrious Drellos picked up his second straight win at Devil’s Bowl.
Lebanon Valley announced this week that the pro stocks will be racing for $1,000 to win every week.

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