2013 Albany-Saratoga DIRTcar Modified Season Review

MALTA, NY – Just under three months ago the Albany-Saratoga Speedway completed their 2013 racing season. The successful season was the second under the leadership of Lyle Devore and his staff. The DIRTcar Modified division finished their season on Labor Day Weekend and when the final checkered flag waved New Jersey’s Brett Hearn was crowned track champion for the second consecutive season and sixth time overall. Only Kenny Tremont, Jr. has more Dirt Modified titles at the Route 9 facility. The West Sand Lake, New York driver has 12 track titles.

“We have had good teamwork,” Hearn said. “Another championship is a good thing to have. I didn’t have any idea where he (Tremont) was. I was just trying to win the race. It was a team effort.”

The season opened on April 26th with Hearn bringing home his 104th career win at the track. Hearn’s win came over Stewart Friesen on what was a new configuration of the fast Malta oval. During the off season Devore and team reconfigured the track making it wider in the turns and also added new clay. Devore also added new clay to the track following the final event of the 2013 season.

Opening night was a break out party for the Capital Districts newest DIRTcar Modified regular, Peter Britten. Britten took the lead on lap one and held it until a lap 11 restart which saw him give way to Hearn. Friesen would get past for second on lap 17 forcing the Australian driver to third, where he would finish. Ronnie Johnson and Matt Delorenzo would complete the top five.

“It was a good start,” Britten said of his third career Malta start. “I kind of got schooled in the heat race by Matty D (Delorenzo) when I messed up in the last corner and he got by me, so I sort of learned something from that. We were pretty good out there in the feature, to come home third and to get beaten by Brett and Stewie is not really that bad of a deal. We would definitely like to have beaten them.”

The month of May kicked off with the second event of the season taking the green and when the checkered flags waved at nights end a familiar face stood in victory lane for the 300th time – Kenny Tremont, Jr.

The Sand Lake Slingshot started the event from the 11th position and quickly moved forward. When the second caution flag waved on lap five, Tremont had made his way into the sixth position and three laps after the restart moved into the top five. He would take second from Neal Stratton on lap 15 and the lead from Jeff Trombley on lap 24. Trombley would finish second with Delorenzo, Jeremy Wilder and Friesen completing the top five.

“This is a new car that we built over the winter,” Tremont said of his winning mount. “We actually were going to start the season with last year’s car but we had some troubles with it so we brought the new car out last week. We started last and got to seventh, so it really wasn’t a bad run. We made few changes for tonight and it really seemed to work well.”

The second and third events of May would see a pair of unrelated Johnsons pull into victory lane. Marc Johnson won the May 10th event over Delorenzo, Hearn, Mike Perrotte and Wilder. Johnson would take the lead from Perrotte on lap 15 and hold off Delorenzo on a late race restart to take his first of what would be two wins during the season.

Third generation driver Ronnie Johnson would bring the Alton and Carole Palmer owned Teo Pro Car home for the win on May 17th. Friesen would finish second with Delorenzo third, Mark Kislowski fourth and Marc Johnson fifth.

“We had a rough week,” Johnson said while surrounded by well-wishers. “We demolished that car last week and thanks to Carole and Alton Palmer, Garry Mickle, Mike from B-Dry and all of our sponsors we put a new car together. It’s a new engine and whole new car; we worked the past six days and nights. I have to thank my pit crew, wife Shelley and Nikki for putting up with all of this. It was very satisfying to come here and win the first night out with this new car.”

Johnson’s win was his 18th career Dirt Modified feature win and 25th overall at the four tenths mile oval. It also came one day shy of the sixth anniversary of his father – the legendary Jack Johnson’s, 90th and final feature win at the track. Jumpin’ Jack’s last win came on May 18th, 2007.

Hearn would return to victory lane on May 31st with career win number 105. He was followed by Matt Depew, Trombley, Marc Johnson and Ray Hoard.

“We rethought the set-up a little bit and did some other things,” Hearn said of his second win of the season. “We came out tonight with a pretty good handling car. I think that is really the story of the race.”

Tremont would become the second repeat winner of the season on June 14th. His 301st win came in a very special event – the 37 lap Mike Ronca Memorial event. The win came over Hearn, Rich Scagliotta, Ronnie Johnson and Britten.

“I see him stick his nose in there,” Tremont said in reference to Hearn.  “I was having a little bit of trouble with that hole up in three — how to hit that exactly  because every time you hit it, it kind of threw the car for a little bit of a loop —  but thankfully we got through it and got it done.”

Peter Britten would put his name in the Albany-Saratoga Speedway record books on June 21st as not only a new feature winner but the first driver from outside North America to win a feature event at the track. Britten’s win came over Don Ronca, Tremont, Trombley and Depew.

“I am just so happy for Jerry Darrah,” Britten said of his car owner. “He has spent a lot of money on this deal trying to get going. We had our issues and we have worked through them now and hopefully it’s just clear sailing ahead.”

The next two weeks of racing would see two more first time winners bring home the checkered flag. JaMike Sowle and Bodie Bellinger each would follow Britten’s lead in putting their names on the all-time feature winners list.

On June 28th Sowle win bring home that first win over Hearn, Ronnie Johnson, Marc Johnson and Delorenzo.

“I am really happy to be here,” Sowle said. “The car felt great. I just tried to hit my marks and it worked out for us. I would like to thank my dad Mike Sowle, my crew and all of my sponsors.”

Bellinger’s win came on July 12th and was worth $2,700 thanks to Mike Sowle of Sowle Trailer Repair. The Johnstown, New York former Sportsman campaigner took the win over Wilder, Friesen, Marc Johnson and Tremont.

“The first thing I need to do is thank the lord,” an excited Bellinger said. “Without him none of us would be here. I also have to thank my dad, he does the setup, he is great at what he is doing.”

In between Sowle’s and Bellinger’s inaugural victory lane visits, Brett Hearn presented his annual Big Show event. The fifth version of the Big Show was held on July 9th and once again was a part of the Super DIRTcar Series. It drew a star studded 43 car field.

When all was said and done Hearn stood in victory lane for his third win of the season at the Great Race Place. This win helped propel him to the 2013 Mr. DIRTcar title.

“Wow, the Big Show is finally mine, this is awesome,” Hearn said of his $9,711 Super DIRTcar Series event pay day. “I was pretty close last year and I was fairly close at Middletown once but there is nothing like setting up a big race and taking the money.”

While Hearn promoted the successful event, weekly track promoter Lyle Devore prepared the race track for the night’s action. Hearn was quick to give Devore and crew a Big Show worthy pat on the back.

“This is a testament to Lyle giving us a track where would could run high and low,” Hearn said. “We had a choice and that is what makes great dirt racing. Everyone was able to go to the bottom, the top, the middle, slide through the middle and slide from the top down. That is everything a dirt track race should be.”

Hearn was followed by Billy Dunn, Gary Tomkins, Billy Decker and Dale Planck. Marc Johnson finished sixth with Bobby Varin, Justin Haers, Matt Sheppard and Jimmy Phelps completing the top ten.

Delorenzo would break through for his first feature win of the 2013 season on July 19th. Delorenzo’s eighth career feature win came over Marc Johnson, Tremont, Trombley and Hearn.

“Marc was real good and he runs on the low side,” said Delorenzo.  “I thought I was a little faster through three and four but I saw his nose and I figured I got to go to the bottom and he’s going to have to go around me.”

Hearn would win his third points paying feature (fourth overall) event of the season on July 26th. This time the Jersey Jet bested Kislowski, Trombley, Tremont and Friesen.

“It’s a fight,” Hearn said regarding the fierce intense ride to the front of the field each week.  “Everybody is running real good.  I tried to run the top there — running on the ragged edge because that’s how you get the wins.”

Ronnie Johnson would bring home his second win of the season to kick off the final month of the season. Johnson’s 19th career win came over Keith Flach, Kislowski, Tremont and Don Ronca.

“Early on I got trapped on the bottom and these guys got away from me,” Johnson said. “I was able to search around and find something on the bottom to make it work. It’s no secret that we have been going through a rough time with my dad, he is home watching this on the race monitor. We are bringing the trophy home to him.”

On August 16th Mark Kislowski became the fourth first time DIRTcar Modified feature winner to pull into victory lane during the 2013 season. Kislowski’s win came over Tremont, Marc Johnson, Britten and Scagliotta.

On August 23rd Mike Sowle would bring a very special event to the Albany-Saratoga Speedway – triple 20 lap feature events. Each event paid $2,000 to win. Taking the wins were Sowle, Flach and Friesen.

In the first event Sowle would take the win over Jimmy Cottrell, Brian Gleason, Wilder and Bellinger.

“Yeah, this is nice, the car was running great tonight,” Sowle said regarding picking up some of dad’s cash.  “I would like to thank all of my sponsors and crew for helping me get here.”

The second feature would see Flach take the win over Marc Johnson, Tremont, Delorenzo and Ronca.

“I want to thank all of the guys on the crew,” Flach said.  “We had a little bit of a hard year and they keep coming back and working hard.”

The third event would see Friesen take the checkers over Cottrell, Ronnie Johnson, Marc Johnson and Stratton.

“I like the format tonight,” said Friesen.  “We’re not right up there in the point’s battle for the title so we were able to try some things out tonight.”

All three runs were combined to do the points for the night.  Jimmy Cottrell’s successful evening placed him on top of the combined totals with his second, 14th, and second place runs.

Marc Johnson would finish out the DIRTcar Modified season by claiming the $2,500 to win season finale on August 30th. Johnson’s second win of the season came over Hearn, Tremont, Wilder and Ronnie Johnson.

“This was a lot of hard work,” Johnson said. “I have to thank my family, my crew and everyone who helped on the car. I worked my but off; this has been my best year yet with hopefully more to come.”

A look at the final points would see Hearn take the title by 32 points over Tremont. Marc Johnson would bring his Troyer chassis machine home third, ten points behind Tremont. Delorenzo and Ronnie Johnson would complete the top five in points. Peter Britten would finish sixth with Friesen, Trombley, Wilder and Flach completing the top ten.

There were 11 different feature winners at Albany-Saratoga in 2013 in 18 events. Hearn led the way with four feature wins with Tremont, Ronnie Johnson, Marc Johnson and Sowle following with two wins each. Britten, Bellinger, Delorenzo, Kislowski, Flach and Friesen would each earn one win a piece. The average DIRTcar Modified car count stood at 29.25 which was the best in the Capital District.

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