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Thursday, 23 May 2013 13:57

Saratoga Raceway News

By Staff Report | News

Ronnie Johnson Puts New Automobile in Victory Lane; McGrew Picks Up His Second Sportsman Victory

MALTA — What a difference a week makes—last Friday night Ronnie Johnson vacated the Albany Saratoga Speedway with a severely wrecked race car in the back of his car carrier. But when the Palmer’s Service Center sponsored 35-lap Modified feature event ended this time around, Johnson was celebrating in victory lane. It was an emotional win for Johnson and team.

Johnson’s brand new automobile was fast from early on—he picked up the win in the third qualifying event and at feature time he started from outside the third row. And on only the second time around the 4/10th mile oval he was already the race leader.

“We worked the last six days and nights on this new race car and the thing ran pretty good the first night out,” said a very happy and emotional Johnson. “We’re happy with it.”

The Modified finale met with lap traffic during the latter stages and behind Johnson was a fantastic show being put on by Stewart Friesen, Matt Delorenzo, Mark Kislowski and last week’s victor, Marc Johnson, who despite continuous swapping of positions, finished in that order.

Despite a back-marker starting position (15th) Derrick McGrew wasted little time getting to the front of the field for the 25-lap Sportsman feature event. On a lap five restart McGrew was already taking third place honors away from Adam McAuliffe. And with only 10 circuits remaining McGrew took the lead from Brett Wright. McGrew’s win was his 19th career and second victory of the 2013 race season.

Wright held on for second place while McAuliffe, Jeremy Pitts and Cody Bleau rounded out the top five. Pitts and Bleau were impressive during their long rides to the front—Pitts riding from the 17th starting spot while Bleau came from further back in 21st.

Connor Cleveland was back in victory lane for the second week running after securing the 12 lap Novice Sportsman feature event. Cleveland has dominated the new division since the start of the season and will now be forced to move up to the Sportsman class after his third trip to victory lane.

A penalty during the 25-lap Pro Stock feature event wasn’t about to hinder Rob Yetman’s bid to the front of the field — it only delayed his arrival. Yetman was headed there when he made contact with Byron Wescott and that got Yetman sent to the rear of the field on lap 9. It was only nine laps later when Yetman was taking the lead away from Brandon Emigh to pick up his third win at the ‘Great Race Place.’

“That was my mistake I bumped him and it doesn’t take much—it’s so slippery right now,” said Yetman who has won three of four events so far. “He started going around and I was like ‘oh no’, I took my penalty but the car was just phenomenal. We made a bunch of changes and man it was working.”

Another good run was put in by Cale Kneer for a second place finish. Kneer was followed by last week’s winner, Ken Martin, Dave DePaulo and Brandon Emigh—the four putting on a continuous battle swapping positions back and forth.

Ken Conroy didn’t let an 11th place starting spot stand in his way either. An immediate caution in the Street Stock feature event played havoc on the field but worked for Conroy who took the lead with only one lap showing in the record books. It was Conroy’s first win of the season.

It was a pretty amazing night for Matthew Sleight at Albany Saratoga Speedway. Sleight was involved in a tragic car accident back in March which took the lives of family members and injured Matthew and his sister. Matthew’s wish was to attend the races again so with the efforts of many—promoter Lyle DeVore and team, the New York State Stock Car Association—Sleight arrived at the oval in a black stretch limousine and he met many of the drivers who offered up t-shirts and hats to the youngster. Sleight also got to ride in the pace vehicle and also started the Modified feature event from on-top of the flag stand. It was truly a night that Sleight will remember for the rest of his life. Local marine reservist, Taylor Janis, was also honored for his help. Janis came upon the accident scene and tended to Matthew.

“That was a rough ride last week—that was the first time I really ever flipped in my racing career and it wasn’t fun,” joked Ronnie Johnson regarding his violent display of barrel rolls down the backstretch the week before. Johnson’s dad, legend Jack Johnson, stopped in victory lane to congratulate Ronnie on his run.

The 2013 point leaders to date are: Matt Delorenzo (Modified), Derrick McGrew (Sportsman), Cleveland Connor (Novice Sportsman), Rob Yetman (Pro Stocks) and Bill Duprey (Street Stocks).

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