The Fourth Turn: August 26,2021

~ By Tom Boggie

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough.

It’s time to have THE TALK.

No, not that talk. Did you really think we were going to do the birds and the bees stuff?

Every year, I dread having THE TALK, but there’s just no getting around it. So here goes.

It’s time to talk about points.

There are two nights of racing for points for modifieds remaining at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, and just one at Lebanon Valley, because the Super DIRT Series Mr. Dirt Track USA race on Saturday, Sept. 4 will just offer show-up points (at least I assume it will), with all the modified drivers getting the same total.

Some championships have already been decided. Tim Hartman Jr. is the sportsman champion at Albany-Saratoga and Chad Jeseo has already wrapped up the pro stock titles at both Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley. Hartman Jr. has a 148-point lead over Chris Johnson at Albany-Saratoga while Jeseo has a 126-point advantage over Jason Casey. They could both skip the final two points races at Malta and still come out on top, but, of course, they won’t, because they’re racers and racers don’t take nights off.

Hartman Jr.’s title at Albany-Saratoga is the third of his career and puts him in an elite category of three-time champions. That list includes his father, Tim Sr., who won titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Also on the list are Don Ackner (1977, 1978, 1979), Mike Ballestero (1998, 2001, 2002) and Jeremy Pitts (2013, 2014, 2016).

Hartman Jr.’s goal at the beginning of the year was to break Ballestero’s record of 32 career wins. With four victories so far this year, he has tied the record, and has a couple of more chances to break it.

Jeseo’s championship at Albany-Saratoga is his second. He won his first title in 2012.

Which brings us to the modifieds.

Just when you think that you have a handle on what’s going on, something unexpected happens.

Last Friday, points leader Anthony Perrego seemed on his way to his usual finishing spot in the top 10, but with four laps left in the modified feature, he suffered a flat tire. He quickly changed the tire, but could only get back to 17th.

As a result, with two points races left, Perrego’s lead over defending champion Mike Mahaney has been cut to 19 points.

Mahaney finished sixth last week, but wasn’t really happy with his performance. “I wish we had been a little quicker,” he said as his crew loaded up the George Huttig-owned Bicknell at the end of the night. “We’ve been consistent enough, but we just haven’t been quick enough.”

Mahaney’s fans got a scare when he abruptly pulled into the infield during hot laps before the features, but he later explained that he just had a shock problem, which was quickly remedied.

Mahaney is probably experiencing déjà vu. Last year, he won just one feature in 49 starts in the abbreviated season. This year, he’s 3-for-68.

But after last Friday, he’s ready to keep battling. “We’ve got two weeks left. Anything can happen,” he said.

You can put Marc Johnson into the anything-can-happen category. Johnson, the 2019 champion, finished 12th Friday night and now finds himself third in the points race, 27 behind Perrego.

During the third modified heat race, Johnson and Jack Lehner were running side-by-side down the front straightaway. Johnson ran out of room on the inside and wound up hitting the barrier, damaging the left front of his car. As the cars came around under caution, Johnson got out of his disabled car and gave Lehner a sarcastic round of applause. The 3J crew made the necessary repairs, but that incident put Johnson 25th in the starting field for the modified feature.

While Jeseo has locked up the pro stock title at Lebanon Valley, Andy Bachetti is in position to pull off the big block-small block double. Bachetti has a 12-point over Marc Johnson in the big block points races and leads Ryan Charland by 53 in the small block standings.

Bachetti also got a big scare Saturday at the Valley. On a lap 12 restart, he was bumped by Kyle Sheldon, which spun Bachetti around. Brian Berger had nowhere to go and slammed into the side of Bachetti’s car. But after his crew stripped off all the damaged tin and braces, he rejoined the modified field and finished 10th to retain the point lead.

MORE FROM MALTA

All kinds of weird things happened last Friday, including Perrego getting a flat tire.

One of the incidents involved former street stock champion Jimmy Duncan. Three weeks ago, Duncan was involved in a bad wreck with Mike Arnold, with Duncan slamming into the rear of Arnold’s car.

After sitting out a week, Duncan returned to action last Friday, this time behind the wheel of a limited sportsman. Duncan qualified through the consolation race but on the third lap of the feature, made contact with another car and barrel-rolled down the backstretch, coming to rest on the driver’s side. He wasn’t hurt in the crash, but he had another race car to repair.

Rob Yetman and Kim Duell, who both have 25 career wins and need one more to share the top spot on the all-time win list with Joe Santoro, both won their heat races last Friday. Yetman was smoking heavily when he took the checkered flag in the first heat and Duell won the second after doing some nifty driving to avoid an incident in front of him when Pete Vila got into the car of Jay Casey. But neither one could parlay their heat-race luck into their 26th win, as Duell finished seventh in the feature and Yetman was 13th.

Peter Britten had a good weekend, finishing second at Albany-Saratoga on Friday and then recording his second win of the season Saturday at Canandaigua. Britten had been stuck behind Bobby Hackel IV for the final 10 laps at Malta, as both were running on the bottom, but he finally caught Hackel coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap for the No. 2 spot.
“I wasn’t going to get by Hackel if I stayed behind him,” said Britten. “He wasn’t going to make a mistake, at least not anything serious enough to let me get by him. So I went back to the top again.”

After winning his second modified feature of the season last Friday, Ronnie Johnson admitted that starting 10th was a big help.

“This is one of the toughest fields I’ve ever run against,” he said after the race. “It’s a race to the front every night. There are at least 10 guys who you can’t get past here if they get to the front first.”

AROUND THE TRACKS

Add Eddie Marshall to the list of “old-timers” who are still going strong, as Marshall, who is still campaigning a TEO Pro car, recorded his 32nd modified win at Lebanon Valley last Saturday, just two weeks after his 63rd birthday.

So far this year, Elmo Reckner, who is 60, has two wins at Devil’s Bowl, 64-year-old Jeff Sheely won at Thunder Mountain, and also on Saturday, Hall of Famer Pat Ward, who is also 64, picked up his first win of the year at Fulton. I thought it was a big deal two years ago when Brett Hearn, who was 60 at the time, won his final modified feature at Albany-Saratoga.

Getting back to Hartman Jr. Rather than take a Saturday night off, the team spent a week “throwing together” (their words, not mine) a car to run at Lebanon Valley last weekend. After starting 15th, Hartman finished fifth in the sportsman feature.

Why not just take a night off? “Mike wants to go there,” said Hartman Jr., referring to car owner Mike Parillo.

Stewart Friesen is having a good week. Last Friday, he came away with an impressive fourth in the first playoff race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in St. Louis. That was Friesen’s fourth top-five finish of the year, and matched his season’s best, as he previously finished fourth at Las Vegas, Charlotte and Darlington. He came back to the Northeast and won Saturday’s modified feature at Orange County Speedway in Middletown, and finished third, behind Billy Pauch Jr. and Tyler Dippel, at the “Bash at the Beach” modified race Tuesday at Georgetown Speedway in Delaware.

The post The Fourth Turn: August 26,2021 appeared first on Albany-Saratoga Speedway.

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