MALTA, N.Y. – Ronnie Johnson bested Marc Johnson after a stirring battle through the late stages of the 35-lap DIRTcar modified feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday evening.
All-time leading winner Brett Hearn was a surprising third, as he’d gotten to the front row on a restart after starting eighth, then backed up before mounting a charge again.
Keith Flach and Matt DeLorenzo rounded out the top five, with Kenny Tremont Jr. clawing his way back to sixth after pitting early on. Rocky Warner was seventh ahead of Mike Mahaney, Brian Berger and Kris Vernold.
Outside front row starter Bobby Hackel looked strong at the start, running out to a straightaway lead over fourth starting Don Ronca by lap 10. Two laps later he’d caught the back of the field and started working his way through traffic as Ronca and Flach dueled behind him. A lap 14 yellow brought Hackel back to the field and the fourth running Hearn vaulted to second on the restart.
Another caution a lap later then changed the tenor of the race, with Hearn getting tagged on the restart and falling to fourth while Hackel got caught up as well and went pitside. By then the sixth starting Ronnie Johnson, in a brand new car, was in the mix and at halfway he was leading over Flach, a rebounding Hearn and Marc Johnson.
Flach managed to get even with the leader a few times but could never put him away and finally Hearn slipped by him to regain second with nine to go. Then the race got even better, as Marc Johnson joined the battle using his favored bottom groove.
A restart with four to go let him shoot under Hearn in turn one and two laps later Marc was even with Ronnie for the lead. But the veteran knew what to do, turning up the wick a little, then diving for the bottom on the last lap, blocking Marc’s lane to score his second win of the season and 29th overall.
“Marc is really good here with that small block,” said Ronnie Johnson. “I knew I had to block the bottom. This is one of the toughest tracks on the East Coast and to beat Marc, Hearn, Tremont and all the others with a new car is a great feeling. I’m really proud of my guys, who put it together in the last few days.”
In supporting class action, Josh Coonradt prevailed over Chucky Dumblewski, Scott Towslee and Dan Madigan in the hard fought Pro Stock feature.