MALTA, NY — Recap by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Clint Miller — Bill McGaffin photo — Picture yourself as a 21-year-old phenom dirt crate sportsman racer. How sweet would it be to wake up in Melbourne, Florida, fly back to New York, and win the 602 Crate Nationals?
Friday night at the “Great Race Place”, Tim Hartman Jr. did just that.
With 62 crate sportsman cars signed in at Albany-Saratoga Speedway it was anyone’s guess who was gonna walk out this year’s champion. Group time trials would prove very important as no one who started deep in their respective heat would make it to a qualifying position. Heat winners and first to redraw were Ricky Quick, Jeremy Pitts, Connor Cleveland, Chris Johnson, Joe Orlando, and Dave Constantino.
There was a certain buzz in the air as Tim Hartman Jr. drew the pole, as everyone knew he would be tough to beat. Scott Duell would join him on the front row and show everyone he had a say in it.
As the heat races would show, the bottom would be the place to be as the track was very slick on top. Caution laps would count up until lap 75. The use of a hot pit just off turn 1 was implemented, allowing drivers the opportunity to pull into the hot pit and get a few minutes to work on the car without penalty.
Hartman Jr. and Duell lead the 30 car starting field to the drop of the green on a chilly Sept evening. It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, however, as Joe Orlando spun in turn 1 collecting Andy Durie, Cody Bleau, and Corey Barker — effectively ending their evenings early.
The green would come out on lap 7 but the caution would again fly on lap 10 as Don Scarborough spun and took the 84 of Ricky Quick with him. The restart at lap 13 was again short-lived as the sportsman guys are having trouble getting going at this point. Brett Hearn protege Matt Pappa was hit from behind on a jumble up in turn 4 and spun, but was able to continue.
On the lap 15 restart Hartman would show his strength as he would start to pull away. The battle was for 2nd as Duell, Constantino and Davis rounded out the top 4 scramble behind the leader. On lap 28 Ron Dwyer looped it and collected Pappa, ending his night.
On lap 31 the green would fly again and allowed for the longest run of the evening, letting several different cars start to show their strength.
It wouldn’t be long before leader Hartman would get into lap traffic. With the bottom being the place to be, lap cars would prove tough to pass. Hartman was able to go to the high side and hold his own. A new runner into the top 3 was Jeremy Pitts, who started to show his hand. However, the field was slowed for a caution on lap 73 as Kevin Chaffee broke in the middle of turns 3 and 4.
On the restart, Hartman had a new dancing partner on the front row as Pitts had just gotten into 2nd.
The green came back out on lap 75, but Vigillio spun in turn 1 to set up the final restart of the event. On the pivotal restart Hartman again jumped out front and steadily pulled away to a half a straightaway lead. When the field got to lap traffic Hartman again went to the top, allowing Pitts to start reeling Hartman back in.
While all this was going on up front, Constantino was able to get around Scott Duell for 3rd. Meanwhile, Pitts was able to close the gap to about 4 car lengths, but could get no closer at the finish as Hartman led all 100 laps for the impressive win. Pitts came home 2nd with Constantino, Duell and Connor Cleveland rounding out the top 5.
A great run for Derrick McGrew saw him finish sixth, Chris Johnson crossed seventh, Robert Bublak charged from 25th to finish eighth, Mike Tholin was scored ninth and LJ Lombardo capped off the top 10.
Albany-Saratoga is now done for 2014 and looks ahead to another great season in 2015.