The 4th Turn: August 5, 2021

~ By Tom Boggie

If you thought you were going to open up today’s 4th Turn and get my opinion on the fiasco last Saturday night at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Vermont, you’re going to be disappointed.

I’m staying as far away from this thing as possible. If you want details on what happened and the subsequent penalties and suspensions, all the information you need is on the Devil’s Bowl web site. I could go there myself and cut and paste everything available and reproduce it word for word, but somehow, someone would think I was taking sides. Trust me, I’ve been there before.

So I’m taking the television broadcast approach. When fans run out on the field and disrupt a game, the producers show something else; sideline shots, crowd shots; announcers in the booth shots; anything but the clown on the field. No publicity for bad deeds, period.

Let’s move on.

During the offseason, I talked with Tim Hartman Jr. about his goals for 2021. Usually, drivers don’t like to divulge that they actually have goals. They like to take that one-week-at-a-time approach.

But Hartman was different. He made it very clear that he wanted to become the winningest sportsman driver in the history of Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

He finished his quest last Friday, sort of. By chalking up his fourth win of the season, Hartman Jr. pulled into a tie with Mike Ballestero at the top of the all-time win list with 32 victories.

Last Friday’s feature was the “Flying Trowel 32,” part of the continuing theme of the No. 32 on Stan Da’ Man Night, which honors the father of promoter Lyle DeVore. But Hartman Jr. didn’t need all 32 laps to get this one locked up. After starting 16th, he was up to third after 10 laps, and then took the lead away from Joey Scarborough coming out of the second turn on lap 19.

All the time, Hartman had just been cruising around on the inside, taking the shortest route around the speedway.

“On the restart (on lap eight), I was hugging the bottom and figured if I was going to make up ground, I had to go where they (leaders Scarborough and Marty Kelly III) weren’t,” said Hartman Jr. “Luckily, the race was long enough for me to catch him.”

Hartman Jr. was also excited about the fact that his car owner, Mike Parillo, was in the pits for the historic occasion. “To get this win, with him here, is awesome,” Hartman Jr. said.

Normally, when a driver reaches the top of an all-time win list, the driver who has (or had) the top spot is usually someone from a past era. But that’s not the case here. Ballestero is still at the track every week, is having a great season and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him add another win to his total.

Ballestero finished third last Friday, nipping Kelly III by .006 seconds for the podium finish. That was his fourth top-five finish this season and he sits fifth in points.

MORE FROM MALTA

As he was savoring his first modified win of the season last Friday, Matt DeLorenzo was also being honest about how tough it is to win at Malta this year.
“The starting spot really helped,” he admitted, after starting fourth. “With these coil cars, everyone is just fast enough that it’s hard to get by them. It’s really tough to pass. And now, I’ll be starting in Clifton Park next week.”

Can one driver have more things go wrong than James Meehan did last week? After starting on the pole, Meehan led the first 20 laps of the modified feature, but blew the corner going into turn one on lap 21, giving the lead to DeLorenzo.

Meehan only lost a couple of spots because of his off-road excursion, but on a restart on lap 28, he broke an oil line in the Hico Fabrication-sponsored modified and was done for the night, going from a potential top-five finish to 23rd.

Meehan has made steady progress since recording his first limited sportsman win at Albany-Saratoga in 2016. He won three races in 2017, which earned him a promotion to the regular sportsman division in 2018 and although he never won a sportsman feature, he did have a couple of memorable runs, including a second-place finish to Hartman Jr. on July 5, 2019. He began running with the modifieds last year and had his best career finish (a third) on May 14 this year.

This Friday will be John Grady Memorial Nostalgia Night at Albany-Saratoga. The increased purses will include $3,000 to win for modifieds and $1,000 to win for both sportsman and pro stocks. The Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modifieds will also be making their second appearance of the season at the speedway.

AROUND THE TRACKS

Who says you need a good motor to be competitive at Lebanon Valley? JR Heffner recorded his first big block win of the season last Saturday after losing a cylinder midway through the feature.

Peter Britten, who received a special honor last Friday at Albany-Saratoga for his dedication to modified racing, recorded his first Super DIRT Series win since 2018 Wednesday night at Canandaigua. The win was worth $7,500. Britten’s last SDS win came at Sharon Speedway in Ohio.

Because of an earlier rainout, DIRTcar ran a double-header Wednesday, with Stewart Friesen winning the second 60-lapper, also taking home $7,500. Friesen had finished seventh in the first feature, after having to pit because of a flat tire.

Jack Lehner had been forced to skip the initial SDS race at Canandaigua because he had totaled his car the previous Friday night at Albany-Saratoga, but he was back at the track Wednesday for the double-header. After taking a provisional to get in the first feature, he charged from 26th to fifth to earn the Hard Charger award. He then finished 10th in the second feature.

The weekend wasn’t all fun and games for Lehner. On Saturday, he blew the motor in the Nelson Racing Team No. 85 at Fonda, which knocked him out of the lead in the points race. With two points shows remaining, he now sits fifth.

Ronnie Johnson debuted a new Bicknell chassis and had his good small block back under the hood Saturday, and picked up his first modified win in five years at Fonda.

Speaking of new cars, Rocky Warner debuted a new Bicknell for car owner Jake Spraker, who had the car wrapped in a retro blue-and-white No. 97 graphics scheme that fans will remember from the days when Mike Romano drove for Spraker. Warner finished second, meaning two cars actually beat Friesen in a feature at Fonda. Time for a new chassis, Stewart?

I didn’t even realize that the Stone Racing Team cars weren’t at Albany-Saratoga last Friday until I started double-checking results earlier this week. The Stones were at Mohawk International Speedway in Hogansburg, where Justin won the 35-lap sportsman feature.

Speaking of the Stones, they have a scheduling conflict with Sunday’s “Battle at the Bowl,” so Ken Tremont Jr. will be driving Justin’s car in the sportsman portion of the “Battle.” Tremont will also be driving his own No. 115 in the 50-lap modified feature, which pays $10,000 to win.

By the way, have they found the Fountain of Youth in West Haven? Jim Ryan, who is 59, recorded his first sportsman/modified win in two years at the Bowl last Saturday and Mark Norris, who is 63, picked up his second street stock win of the season. But they have nothing on Ryan Laduc, who is still campaigning a mini-sprint at the age of 65.

The Empire Super Sprints will be at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park Sunday, making their first appearance up on the hill since 2010, when the place was packed to watch Tony Stewart. Demitraszek Enterprises will be putting up $500 for a Dash for Cash and will also be paying $150 to the ESS heat winners.

Former NASCAR star Geoff Bodine will be at Lebanon Valley Saturday for a photo/autograph session as part of the Butch Jelley “Old Buzzard” Memorial Night.

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