Malta, NY – On Friday evening the Albany-Saratoga Speedway presented a very special event for the Sportsman division. The Mark K. Hughes Memorial 26 lap event was contested in front of a packed grandstand and run in honor of its namesake.
Hughes was a competitor in the Sportsman division at the Great Race Place until his untimely and tragic death on January 20th. The 38 year old passed away following a workplace incident in the Bronx, NY. The event was put on largely due to the efforts of his best friend – fellow competitor Derrick McGrew, friends and family.
“We ran this race in memory of Mark,” McGrew said after the night’s racing was completed. “We had a lot of donations and when we were all done we added $3,600 to the normal pay out and gave $100 to each heat race winner.”
A total of 35 drivers entered the event with the $100 to win heat races being won by Joey Scarborough, Jack Swinton and Jon Miller. The consolation event was claimed by Dave Constantino.
“Tonight we will go one extra lap in honor of one special person,” track announcer Danny Martin said. “Tonight we honor the memory of a great racer and a great friend.”
Nick Lussier and Jack Swinton led the field to the green with Lussier taking the early lead. Nick Anatriello spun on the front stretch to bring out the first caution flag of the race. On the restart Lussier would get a great jump on second place runner Dave Baranowski to open a small lead. Swinton would follow in third with Mike Ostrander and Jack Gentile following. Swinton would move to second on lap four while Gentile moved to fourth.
The second caution flag of the event would bunch the field back up on lap four when Robert Bublak, Jr. spun in turn one. On the restart Lussier would remain the leader with regaining the second position and Scarborough taking over fifth.
Defending track champion and current point leader Jeremy Pitts came to a stop in turn four on lap six to bring out the third caution period. Lussier would continue to hold the lead on the restart with Baranowski, Gentile, Swinton and Scarborough following.
Meanwhile 11th place starter Rocky Warner was on the charge. Warner was up to sixth by lap six and on lap seven followed Scarborough past Swinton for fifth. Scott Duell would hit the front stretch wall on lap eight and in the process collect Bert Film and Jeff Watson to bring out another caution period. On the restart Lussier would hold the lead over Baranowski, Scarborough, Gentile and Connor Cleveland. Warner was forced back to sixth.
Baranowski would take a look under Lussier on lap ten to take the lead while Warner regained the fifth position from Cleveland. Warner had now found the fast line around the Great Race Place. He moved into fourth on lap 11 while Scarborough took a look under Lussier. Scarborough would make the pass on lap 12 with Warner and Cleveland following to third and fourth.
Warner sized up the leaders and on lap 18 past both Baranowski and Scarborough on the top side to take the lead. By lap 21 Scarborough and Baranowski were locked into a heated battle for the runner up position, a battle that would last until the checkers.
In the end Warner pulled away to the extra special win. Baranowski beat Scarborough to the line for second with the Vermont teenager settling for third, Cleveland finished fourth and McGrew fifth.
“To be honest I watched about half of the Modified race and I thought that the outside was going away,” Warner said. “I talked to the guys and told them I think that we have to roll the middle over in turns one and two and then try and get the top to work over in three and four. I rolled the middle to get a few spots and then I tried the top and it was ten times faster.”
The win was worth $1,100 for the Johnstown driver. Above and beyond the financial aspect the event was extra special to Warner and all of those involved.
“It definitely is a big win,” Warner said. “Mark was a great guy and I saw him race RC cars a few days before the whole deal went down. I tell you what; he was a super guy, a great sport and an awesome racer. It’s great that Derrick did something for him. It’s a heck of a win.”
As an added bonus laps were sold for the Mark K. Hughes Memorial race. Lap one was sponsored by Medbury Inn and Spa while lap two and three were sponsored by Durie Family Racing. Marc Johnson Racing and Tacallion Contracting purchased laps three and four respectfully while Next Generation Roofing purchased laps five through seven. Shannon Donnelly and Jack Swinton purchased laps two and seven while Cottrell Racing put their name on lap eight. Emigh Racing purchased laps two and twelve while Grennon Project Services and Miller Motorsports also put their names on lap 12. Jeremy Pitts Racing purchased lap 13 while Tim Hartman Racing did the same with lap 22. Subway of Ballston Spa and Northway Estates sponsored lap 23 while lap 26 belonged to www.derrickmcgrewjr.com.
“It was a good night,” McGrew said. “We added the money to all positions and all of the drivers liked it. Next year we can hopefully make it bigger. I want to say thank you to Lyle (DeVore) for helping out, he gave the Hughes family access to the new V.I.P booth.”