Stock car racing: Marc Johnson beats the odds again
Billy Dunn won the fuel-mileage game to come away with the biggest victory of his career last Sunday in the Syracuse 200 that put the icing on Super DIRT Week. but one of the most impressive performances of the weekend had to be Marc Johnson’s victory in one of the 358-modified qualifying races.
The Guilderland resident, who picked up two wins at Albany-Saratoga Speedway this season, went to Syracuse with a car that was almost as white as a newly fallen snow — it had virtually no sponsorship. In addition, he was using a home-build motor.
But he got a huge break in his Friday qualifier, inheriting the lead when Chris Raabe slowed with mechanical problems with two laps to go in the 20-lap qualifier.
“I was on the hammer, but I was a little down on gear,” saids Johnson after the race. “They were handling me pretty good on the restarts, but we caught a break, and were able to get a win.
“We put everything into this. We work really hard, and we’ve run well here, so we’re really excited,” he added, about his first victory during Super DIRT Week. “The first year we were here , we finished ninth, won Rookie of the Race and won the Hard Charger Award. The next year, we finished sixth and led some laps, and last year, we were good, but overheated.”
Johnson finished eighth in the “Salute to the Troops 150” last Saturday.
While all the attention last week was focused on Syracuse, former Glen Ridge Motorsports Park track champion Craig Hanson was recording the most lucrative victory of his career at Five Mile Point in Kirkwood.
Making his first visit ever to the track last Saturday, Hanson pulled off a huge upset, winning the Short Track Nationals over a star-studded field that included a couple of drivers who were going to compete in the Syracuse 200 on Sunday, as well as short-track legend Billy Pauch.
Hanson earned $3,500 for the win, and also picked up the $1,500 “Roll the Dice” bonus.
Even though Super DIRT Week in over, the racing season is still going strong.
Glen Ridge will return to action Saturday night with the 602 Nationals for budget sportsman. The 125-lap race will be run in three segments — 30, 50 and 45 laps. The winner will receive $2,177, and there’s also about $1,500 available in lap money.
In addition to the 602 nationals, there will be a modified feature for non-winners only, rookie sportsman and cruisers. Although warmups aren’t scheduled to begin until 7 p.m., there will be a pre-race party, featuring live music, beginning at 3.
Adult admission for the 602 Nationals is $12.
A number of area drivers will be heading to New Hampshire to take part in the final leg of the Northern Modified Challenge Series on Saturday at Canaan Dirt Speedway.
The Northern Modified Chllenge Series, sponsored by Devil’s Bowl Speedway, featured asphalt races at Devil’s Bowl, Thunder Road and Canaan Fair Speedway, and the finale will be run on the flat quarter-mile clay oval that sits adjecent to the asphalt track in Cannan.
Vince Quenneville Jr. has a one-point lead over 18-year-old Jessey Mueller going into the final race, but Joe Williams of Scotia is only three points out of the lead, aided by podium finishes in both halves of the recent Twin 50s at the Bowl.
Also competing will be Ron Proctor and Ken Tremont Jr. Tremont recorded a win on the Canaan asphalt.
In case you missed it
It wasn’t really lost in the Syracuse shuffle, but Lebanon Valley promoter Howie Commander recently announced that he has received a five-year extension to his lease at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
“We just want to squash all of the rumors out there,” said Albany-Saratoga general manager Lyle DeVore on the track’s website. “Nobody has bought the property, it is not going to be a Shop Rite. Bruce [property owner Bruce Richards] has been great to work with, he’s been a great landlord and I’m thrilled that we are able to continue this adventure.”
DeVore, who grew up watching races and working at the Richards family-owned oval, was put in charge when Commander put the clay back down on the speedway and opened the doors.
“It’s pretty cool for me, when you grew up here — and now to be able to run races here — it’s a pretty remarkable thing for me. I think we are doing a good job but we could do better and we are working on that,” said DeVore. “Next season, we will run the same divisions and we’re looking to improve on our end as far as running the races out, we’re committed to providing good quality racing.”
More from Syracuse
All the news out of Syracuse wasn’t good.
Lebanon Valley pro stock driver Milo Campbell was injured in an accident during the pro stock
feature at the Moody Mile last Saturday. His injuries included a badly broken arm, which required surgery, and multiple fractured ribs. The North Bennington, Vt., driver was released from the hospital Wednesday and is now recovering at home.
Diane Martin, the wife of Fonda and Albany-Saratoga pro stock driver Kenny Martin, suffered a brain aneurysm on her way home from the speedway, and is still hospitalized in Albany. Take a minute to say a prayer for her.