MALTA, N.Y. – Stewart Friesen only led one lap Friday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but it’s a lap that anyone who witnessed it will be talking about for a long time to come.
Friesen pulled a classic slide job on defending modified champion Marc Johnson on the final lap, and came away with his third victory of the season to highlight “Stan Da Man Night,” a tribute to the late father of promoter Lyle DeVore at the historic Malta track.
Because Stan DeVore loved his fleet of 1932 Ford coupes, the theme of the night was 32, meaning Friesen took home $3,200 for his win in the 32-lap feature.
Friesen, who was back at Albany-Saratoga after a one-week absence to compete on the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, started 16th in the 30-car field and moved into third on a restart on lap 17.
At that point, he trailed just Johnson, who only needed six laps to go from 10th to first, and Anthony Perrego, who debuted a new Bicknell chassis.
The feature became a game of cat-and-mouse, with Johnson and Perrego running the top, while Friesen stubbornly tried to make the bottom work. Friesen’s persistence paid off, as he finally got by Perrego for second on lap 22.
Three laps later, a yellow flag came out for Danny Varin, putting Friesen right alongside Johnson.
But Johnson, who was in a week-old Bicknell, kept his big block wound up on the top groove and as hard as Friesen tried, he wasn’t making up any ground.
But with two laps left, Drew Cormie lost power going down the front straightaway, bringing out a final caution and giving Friesen the break he needed.
After taking the white flag, Friesen used the low line to pull alongside Johnson coming out of the second turn and the two headed for the third turn. Johnson still had the outside line, but Friesen slid right through Johnson’s path, gathered the Halmar Bicknell in as he exited the fourth turn and beat Johnson to the finish line by .088 seconds.
Friesen admitted he needed that final caution.
“I wanted to stay on the bottom, but we were just making up fractions of a second, not car lengths,” he said of the caution on lap 25. “On the last lap, I knew I was either going to hit the inside barrier in one or slide up in front of him. Then (in four), there was just enough of a berm for me to catch it.”
Johnson knew Friesen was going to make a big move, but just wasn’t sure when.
“I knew he was inside me, so I expected him to make a run,” he said.
Lost in the wild finish by Friesen and Johnson was a third-place run by Jessey Mueller, his second consecutive third-place finish. Perrego and Mike Mahaney, who inherited the point lead when Friesen was a no-show the previous week, completed the top five.
Stewart Friesen, Marc Johnson, Jessey Mueller, Anthony Perrego, Mike Mahaney, Ronnie Johnson, Don Ronca, Peter Britten, Jack Lehner, Keith Flach, Ricky Davis, Bobby Hackel IV, Matt DeLorenzo, Ken Tremont Jr., Jackie Brown Jr., Rocky Warner, Matt Depew, CG Morey, Matt Pupello, Elmo Reckner, Jeremy Pitts, Chip Meehan, Don Mattison, Neil Stratton, Drew Cormie, Danny Varin, Todd Stone, David Schilling, Rich Ronca, Brian Berger.