By Mark Kane
For Capital Region Independent Media
There is one thing for sure — you could not have asked for a better day for the start of the 2023 racing season at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga Speedway for the standing-room-only crowd.
Not only was the parking lot full to capacity, but fans were parking on Route 9 in both directions. The fans came early to enjoy the great weather as the cars also started to make their way to the Malta facility and both just kept coming.
The National Promoter of the Year, as named by Racing Promotions Monthly, Lyle DeVore’s early season start to the 58th racing season was a big hit, with many invaders in all divisions over 170 cars, including a strong contingent from north of the border and their fans were a welcomed addition.
As tough as the weekly NAPA Modified field is at the “Great Race Place,” on this night with $5,800-to-win on the line it was going to be a whole lot tougher. The NAPA Modified field was a “who’s who” with the weekly competitors and the strong contingent of outsiders looking to steal the $5,800.
With the number of cars in the pits the fans sure got their money’s worth. In fact, the NAPA Modified feature alone was worth the price of admission, the rest was an added bonus.
Even with all the heats and consi’s to set the field for the features, the track remained smooth and racy throughout the night, producing some great wheel-to-wheel racing action that Albany Saratoga Speedway is known for weekly.
The NAPA Modifieds made their way to the track 31 strong, with Peter Britten and Demetrios Drellos bringing the Mighty Modifieds to the green.
It was Britten leading the first two laps with Drellos holding down second place when the caution flew for Steve Bernard’s 54, who slowed on the high side of turn 2. Back to green, Britten worked his way back to the front as Decker worked to third place behind Drellos.
By lap 5 it was still Britten, Drellos, Decker, Jeremy Pitts and Marc Johnson, who had won the event in 2014 and 2021, and Jessey Mueller battling for fifth. A lap 7 caution found Don Ronca’s ride sitting on top of the implement tire in turn one.
Back to green, again it was Britten with the lead through 1 and 2 as Drellos was on the high side down the back chute, racing nerf bar to nerf bar through 3 and 4 with Drellos becoming the new leader. Once again the yellow was out, this time for Mat Williamson, who went pit side to replace a tire and returned to bring up the rear. Back to green, Drellos remained out front with Britten and Decker battling for second as Johnson, Mueller and the ONE of Canadian David Herbert had moved to just outside the top 5 battled hard.
Behind the leaders it was some great close racing as again the caution was out for Larry Wight, who slowed in the 99 ride. Once back to green Marc Johnson quickly worked his way to third, dropping Decker to fourth as Drellos and Britten continued the battle at the front.
As the leaders started to work their way through lap traffic, Drellos was holding his line lap after lap and using the top side with perfection as Britten was looking for the fast groove using the entire 4/10th of a mile oval.
As the laps clicked away Britten continued to chase the leader as Drellos was never able to open any kind of lead. Behind the leaders the racing was still tight as last year’s Albany Saratoga and Fonda Speedway champion, Matt DeLorenzo, worked his way into the battle with Decker, Johnson and Mueller as Matt Williamson, who had to pit earlier, was on a charge and inside the top 10 and would not be done yet.
With the white flag out Britten was now all over the rear deck of Drellos, going down the back chute diving to the bottom with Drellos up high and slowed by the lap car of Ryan McCartney. Britten did the slide job and would end up the new leader down the front stretch with the crowd on their feet.
Going into turn one it was Britten using his power as he held on to pick up the popular win, his second opening night win in a row.
Following Britten to the finish line were Drellos, Decker, DeLorenzo and Marc Johnson, who held on for fifth.Williamson made it back to sixth, with Jeremy Pitts having a strong seventh and David Herbert finishing eighth.
A strong showing for the Albany Saratoga regulars who are always tough to beat on their home Malta Dirt.
Due to the fact there were 55 Sportsman they split the field in half after qualifying and ran two 20 lap features that were won by Daryl Nutting over Chad Edwards and Tim Hartman as Drew Cormie picked up the second feature over Dan Grignon and Dylan Madsen.
The Pro Stocks as usual did not disappoint, with some tight fender-to-fender racing action. For most of the race it was all Jay Corbin out front but all eyes were on the 19th place starter Luke Horning as the 2H was on the move.
Up front Corbin and Jason Casey were in command as a great battle was developing within the top 5 with Chucky Dumblewski, Shane Henderson and Josh Coonradt. Horning was knocking on the door of the top 5 when back-to-back cautions found Horning heading to the pits for a tire change and returned to the track to bring up the rear.
Back to green flag racing, the Corbin and Casey battle heated up and again Horning was on a charge, working his way back into the top 10 and with the battle up front Horning was soon working on Coonradt and then worked his way around Dumblewski to sit in third place.
As the battle for the lead once again heated up with 20 down and five to go, Corbin and Casey were door to door as Horning was closing in and had the best seat in the house. Now a blanket could be thrown over the top 3 as the leaders were side by side as Corbin remained the leader, working his way out of turn 4 and down the front chute.
Going into turn one Casey was still right there, but it was Horning who was wound up down the back stretch, making his move for the bottom getting Casey for second.He slid up in front of Corbin making contact out of turn 4 and becoming the new leader, and would go on for the win and the $1,000 paycheck in front of a rather unhappy crowd and Corbin.
Following Horning to the line were Casey, Dumblewski, Corbin and Coonradt rounding out the top 5.
In the Limited Sportsman it was local driver Mike Arnold in for the win.
Wow, what a great night of racing action at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga Speedway. Racing was run off in a timely manner considering the number of cars in the pits.
For an opening night in the early spring, Lyle and his team had the place in mid-season form. Looks like Ronnie Johnson will be doing all his racing in the Capital District, returning to Albany Saratoga and once again calling Fonda his Saturday night home.
Well, that was just week one of a busy weekly schedule at the Albany Saratoga Speedway. Coming up April 28, there will be $3,000-to-win Modifieds and a regular show.
Along with some other high dollar shows for all divisions there will be some other special events as the USAC Bear Ridge Midgets will be at the track on May 6. April kicks off with the ESS Winged Sprint Cars on the second, then on Tuesday the 13th, the SUPER DIRT Car Tour makes it way to the Malta facility and that is all in the first two months and there is plenty more where that came from.
It looks like we are off to a great start for this racing season. Please remember to support the sponsors that contribute so much to our local racing.