The 4th Turn: September 16, 2021

~ By Tom Boggie

Just when I think I’ve seen everything at a dirt track, something comes up that leaves me dumbfounded, and asking, “How the hell did that happen?”

That’s the way I (and I’m sure a lot of other people) felt last Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

Dylan Madsen went into the night with a 29-point lead over Bryce Breault in the limited sportsman division, and just had to have a decent finish to win the track championship.

And that’s where he seemed to be headed, until the final lap of the feature. While Breault was closing in on his second win of the season, Madsen was still running in the top five, which would have been more than enough to secure the title.

But on the final lap, Madsen lost control of his car coming through the third turn, appeared to clip the inside barrier and spun out between three and four, just sitting there as the remainder of the field went by. He was officially credited with a 19th-place finish and when the points were tabulated, Breault had a seven-point advantage and his second straight title.

On Facebook Saturday, Breault posted, “Man, I’m speechless. We had one plan last night and that was to win … Not only did we win, but we won the championship.”

After wisely opting to remain in the limited sportsman division and get more experience this season, repeating as the track champion was always on Breault’s mind. After his first win of the season on June 4, he said, “I wanted to race in this division again this year because we only ran nine races last year (the limited sportsman actually ran 12 races during the pandemic-shortened season.) Hopefully, we can get back-to-back championships.”

When Breault brings his Advance Auto Parts-sponsored car back to Albany-Saratoga Speedway next season, he’ll be running against the regular sportsman drivers, but he’ll be the only graduate with two championships under his belt.

Last Friday was full of strange occurrences. Chad Edwards appeared to be cruising to a victory in the 50-lap DIRTcar Eastern Region Sportsman Series feature when he blew the transmission on lap 39, handing the lead to Andrew Buff, who led the rest of the way. And Al Relyea never got a chance to battle with Jeff Meltz Sr. for the street stock title, as Relyea got into the rear of Dan Madigan’s car in turn four on the first lap, spun around and was hit by Cordell Younger. Relyea went off on the hook, and Meltz Sr. walked off with his second straight title.


Can there actually be such a thing as too much of a good thing? After Marc Johnson picked up his third modified win of the year at Malta, he reflected on the season and in a roundabout way, came to that conclusion.

“We won a couple at the beginning, and when you’re winning early like that, you just go back to what you’re doing every week,” he said. “But I kept telling everyone it just didn’t feel good.”

After picking up sponsorship from S&S Asphalt/Paving during the offseason, Johnson took out the Scott Hamlin Racing Bicknell on opening day at Malta and won the “Hell or High Water” feature, which paid $5,600 to win, which I think was his biggest payday ever.

He picked up another win at Malta on May 14, and then reached a milestone at Lebanon Valley on June 5, recording his first career win on the high banks in Hamlin’s big block.

But like he said, his cars just didn’t seem right.
“It took us half of the season to figure it out,” he said. “Joe, our shock guy, was a big help, and Apples (crew chief John Albanese) and Scott kept coming up with things to try.”

Since mid-July, Johnson has finished in the top five six times in eight starts at Albany-Saratoga, despite starting deep in the field every week. That consistency allowed Johnson to finish tied for the No. 2 spot in the modified points race, with Mike Mahaney.

“It’s a tough thing, starting so deep every week, especially against these guys,” he said.

He drew the pole for last Friday’s modified feature, and picked up his third win of the year and a $3,500 payday.

“I hate starting on the pole,” he said in victory lane.
Let’s see. You don’t like starting deep in the field, and you hate starting on the pole. OK, where would you like to start?

“Fourth, fifth … that would be good,” he said with a grin.


I was checking out some statistics earlier this week, and came up with some interesting numbers.

Do you know Stewart Friesen has won 46 percent of his dirt track races this season? According to Race Stat Central, he’s 29-for-63. According to my stats, he’s 28-for-62 (I think Race Stat is counting his qualifying win at Devil’s Bowl in “The Battle at the Bowl”, which paid $1,500 to win. I still consider that a heat race, regardless of the payoff).

Matt Sheppard is clicking along at 32.4 percent (24-for-74) and Mat Williamson is 16-for-62 (22.5 percent).
Lebanon Valley champion Andy Bachetti has the best win percentage among area drivers, going 11-for-61 (18 percent), with eight of those wins coming at the Valley.


Devil’s Bowl Speedway has added another week of racing to its schedule. The season was supposed to end on Sunday, Sept 26, but promoter Mike Bruno announced earlier this week that the finale, and the last points race, will be held on Oct. 2.

The Bowl is scheduled to run the Slate Valley 100 Big Block/Small Block Challenge, which will pay $10,000 to win, on Sept. 26, but that day is also the rain date for Albany-Saratoga’s Malta Massive Weekend.

“We added Oct. 2 because of Malta’s rain date for its Super DIRT Series race on Sept. 25,” Bruno said in a press release this week. “If they have bad weather, we would cancel our event rather than try to fight for the same group of cars and run head-to-head.”

So, if the Slate Valley 100 goes off as scheduled, the Devil’s Bowl regulars will all receive show-up points on Sept. 26, and the final race for points will be on Oct. 2.

With Demetrios Drellos skipping last week’s race at the Bowl to compete in the Super DIRT Series race at Weedsport, Justin Comes moved ahead of Drellos in the point race by nine points, with Tim Laduc, last Saturday’s winner at the Bowl, now just 11 points out of the lead.

Drellos was also a no-show at Malta last Friday, opting to run a DIRTcar 358 Series race at Can-Am. He finished 15th at Can-Am.

There was also a DIRTcar Pro Stock Series race at Can-Am last Friday, which severely hurt the car count at Malta. There were only seven pro stocks in the feature at Malta, while eight Malta regulars were competing at Can-Am. Albany-Saratoga champion Chad Jeseo finished second at Can-Am, with Josh Coonradt was third.

Sheppard won last Saturday’s 60-lap Super DIRT Series race at Weedsport, which paid $7,500 to win. Friesen was fourth in that one. The second half of the show, the $10,000-to-win 100-lapper on Sunday, was rained out.

The Buff family added two more trophies to its case this season. Andrew Buff won the crate sportsman championship at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, while his younger brother, Zach, won the limited sportsman crown.

I want to bid a fond farewell to my good friend, Andy Hickok, who is leaving (or has already left) the Northeast to take up residence in Florida. Hickok has been a familiar face in the pits at Albany-Saratoga Speedway for decades and is the speedway’s unofficial record-keeper. He and I have worked together on the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame selection committee for a number of years and we’ve gotten into some good arguments with other committee members about what constitutes a Hall of Famer. He’ll be missed..

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