Perrego Pounces; Last Lap Decides First OktoberFAST Feature At Albany-Saratoga
Story By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – MALTA, NY – The Super DIRTcar Series roared to life once again at Albany-Saratoga Speedway launching a week’s worth of Big Block Modified action all across New York State.
Anthony Perrego, the 26-year-old driver from Montgomery, NY, made every lap count and picked up the $7,500 payday with a last-lap pass on local hero Ronnie Johnson. Meanwhile, Mike Mahaney was within striking distance of the leaders after starting 11th but had to settle for a strong 3rd place finish.
Ronnie Johnson, from Duanesburg, NY, rocketed from the VP Race Fuels Making Power Point to lead the field to start the 60-lap Billy Whittaker Cars Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar OktoberFAST presented by DIRTVision Feature into turn one.
Early in the race Albany favorite Matt DeLorenzo and 2019 Super DIRTcar Series champion Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, ON, made strong charges for the lead but Johnson kept them at bay by riding the cushion up top. On lap 18, Johnson caught the tail of the field and had to start working through traffic. Pennsylvania’s Rex King Jr. was the first to fall to the No. 2RJ but he wouldn’t be the last.
By lap 20 Anthony Perrego, in the No. 44, began to show his nose to Johnson on the bottom part of the track. Perrego actually got alongside Johnson just as the caution flag flew for the first time in the Feature.
A succession of cautions claimed the likes of Pat Ward who slowed with an engine issue and front-runner Matt DeLorenzo who clipped the front stretch wall on the restart and suffered a flat tire. Luckily, the driver of the No. 3D was able to clear the track in turn four as the entire field was on the gas right behind him.
The race ended on a long green-flag run and that played directly into the hands of Anthony Perrego.
“The top was really dominant throughout the race but it got a little dirty and he [Ronnie Johnson] started to back up to me. I’ve run a lot of races here and when you rip around the top like that, the tire overheats,” Perrego said. “I’ve had it happen to me where I got passed.”
Although he’s a young racer, that’s the type of decision making and knowledge that a veteran driver might have. Catching Johnson was one thing but passing him is another story.
“In traffic, most of the guys were blazing around the top side and I knew he could get a few cars between us. He was looking for the bottom but every time he moved down he’d lose traction,” noted Perrego. “I think that’s really where we got him at the end. He probably kept seeing my nose and number and started moving down.
Perrego was amped to get his first career Super DIRTcar Series win.
“I am really happy for the team. We’ve really turned things around here and we’re glad to get a big one!”
There are, of course, two sides to a last-lap thriller. Ronnie Johnson may lose some sleep over this one but it was a very strong run for the No. 2RJ. He led 59/60 laps, which thanks to Bart Contracting, earned him another $250 for leading the most laps without winning. A bittersweet award to say the least.
Here’s how Johnson broke it down:
“Anthony was working the bottom and I was getting freer and freer as the race went on and I really couldn’t move my line. I led 58 laps up there. But that’s just the way it goes. I don’t know what I could have done differently there,” said Johnson. “I’ll probably lay awake tonight thinking about it. It’s disappointing but it was a sold run.
Mike Mahaney was crowned the Albany-Saratoga Speedway DIRTcar Big Block Modified track champion in September. He used that expertise to drive up from 11th, passing many of the best Big Block Modified drivers there are to capture the final step on the podium.
At the green flag, it was go time for the No. 35 Adirondack Auto machine and the car just worked.
“Starting from 11th, especially earlier on, I was very aggressive moving around, going top, bottom, wherever it took to get the spots,” Mahaney said. “Everybody was on the top but once they started to go in different lanes, I could go where they weren’t. I had a great race car in either lane. That got us some spots early and got us to the front.”
Mahaney’s drive thrilled race fans everywhere watching at home on DIRTVision.
Super DIRT Week is known for brand new wraps and paint jobs on cars. Mahaney’s team continued that tradition and with good reason.
“Tony Monaco, from Tony Monaco Landscaping, his daughter is fighting breast cancer. We wrapped the car with pink and put “Keep fighting Maryann” on the car because we want to raise awareness about it. We want to remind everyone fighting cancer to stay strong and to know we got their backs. Plus, it’s a great paint scheme that we get to support them with.”
Matt Sheppard, to the surprise of many, had to transfer out of the Last Chance Showdown to make the field. He won that race and continued his campaign in the 60-lap Feature by passing another 11 cars to pick up the $250 Bart Contracting Hard Charger Award.
Race fans will be eager to see if “Super” Matt Sheppard returns to form at Utica-Rome Speedway tomorrow live on DIRTVision.
Gypsum Racing’s Billy Decker set the fast time of the night and grabbed an extra $500 from Bart Contracting for his trouble.
Join us tomorrow where the Billy Whittaker Cars Super DIRTcar Series, Bicknell Racing Products DIRTcar 358 Modified Series, and COMP Cams DIRTcar Pro Stock Series will be in action beginning with Hot laps at 5PM exclusively on DIRTVision at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Feature (60 Laps)
1. 44P-Anthony Perrego [$7,500]; 2. 35-Mike Mahaney [$4,000]; 3. RJ2-Ronnie Johnson [$2,500]; 4. 115-Ken Tremont [$1,800]; 5. 99L-Larry Wight [$1,600]; 6. 91-Billy Decker [$1,400]; 7. 88-Mat Williamson [$1,300]; 8. 3J-Marc Johnson [$1,200]; 9. 9S-Matt Sheppard [$1,100]; 10. 5H-Chris Hile [$1,000]; 11. 25-Erick Rudolph [$800]; 12. 44-Stewart Friesen [$700]; 13. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [$600]; 14. 98-Rocky Warner [$575]; 15. 19-Tim Fuller [$550]; 16. 21A-Peter Britten [$525]; 17. 32C-Max Mclaughlin [$500]; 18. 2-Jack Lehner [$500]; 19. 19M-Jessey Mueller [$500]; 20. 20-Brett Hearn [$500]; 21. M1-David Marcuccilli [$500]; 22. 165-Rex King [$500]; 23. 97-Bobby Hackel [$500]; 24. 3D-Matt Delorenzo [$500]; 25. 42P-Pat Ward [$500]; 26. 111-Demetrios Drellos [$500]