Nine months after jumping atop the roof of his #35 Big Block Modified at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Mike Mahaney found himself doing so again Friday night.
He’d conquered the Massive Malta Weekend at Albany-Saratoga Speedway last September, earning his first career Super DIRTcar Series victory. Fast forward to now, in his first return back to the track with the Series since then, he proved he’s a legitimate contender, winning the 71-lap, $7,500-to-win event.
The King Ferry, NY driver earned his second career Series win, holding off several challenges from Marc Johnson and besting a stout field of competitors including eight-time Series champion Matt Sheppard, 2019 Series champion Mat Williamson, 13-time track champion Kenny Tremont Jr. and current Albany-Saratoga Speedway points leader Matt DeLorenzo.
Even with having to face a plethora of strong competition throughout the night, Mahaney committed to running his own race, not deviating in doing what would work for him, and it paid off. In more ways than one.
Mahaney ran solid in Qualifying and his Heat Race, narrowly finishing second both times behind Tremont. If there was anywhere Mahaney received a slight boost, it was during the night’s redraw when he drew the inside pole position, placing him in the most coveted spot on the grid for the night’s Feature.
After two quick cautions thrown in Lap 1 and Lap 4, resulting in several cars exiting the track and posting DNFs, Mahaney took over the lead from Johnson on Lap 9 and stayed there the rest of the race. He ran the corners extremely tight on the inside, not giving his competition any opportunity to pass him on the bottom.
“Marc shot out of the gate on the start and just wanted to start throwing sliders,” Mahaney said. “We started going back and forth a few times and I went, this isn’t going to last a whole 71 laps. We gotta calm down here. So, I figured I’d hop down on the bottom and save my right rear a little bit and roll it. I think that went to my advantage.”
Mahaney’s smart decision making not only enabled him to keep his lead, but also potentially helped him overcome another mechanical issue when his left front tire went flat after hitting the wall around Lap 10.
“I knew I hit the wall like, Lap 10, and I’m going, this is going to ruin my whole race,” Mahaney said.
“I knew I had a car to win if I didn’t do that. I was feeling this pressure…my crew works so hard, my whole team, and my car owner, my sponsors, they give me everything. And then I go and run the left front into the wall…I just worked that much harder, and I had nothing to lose the rest of the race.”
Johnson, who ended up second, also recognized the significance of Mahaney’s tight inside driving around the turns attributing to his win.
“I wanted to be there,” Johnson said. “He found it before I did. I should have known better. Once he was out, I filed in behind him and I felt like we were putting down some good times. It was just too late.”
Johnson held the lead for a total of nine laps at the beginning of the race, while Mahaney held it for the remaining 61 laps.