By RON SZCZERBA
FONDA, NY – This Saturday, June 23 at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway will feature a regular show with all regular divisions in action starting at 7:00 p.m. highlighted by a tribute to Doc Blanchard.
According to the book FONDA!, Blanchard was a steady campaigner at the Fonda Speedway and would field an array of unusual cars well into the 1970’s. A picture of one such car is in the book, which almost looks as though a hole was drilled into the side of the racecar to hold the checkered flag.
Blanchard was a part of an event on August 18, 1959 at Fonda, which was named the “George Welch Memorial”. That event was held to benefit Welch’s wife Bertha after Welch, who moonlighted as Empire Speedway’s flagger, was struck by a stock car while flagging at the track on July 8, 1959, and passed away two days later on July 10.
That night at Fonda for the “Welch Memorial” event, the drivers drove for free, the officials volunteered their services, and the promoters paid all of the overhead out of their pockets so 100% of the proceeds from the event went to Welch’s widow Bertha.
The Welch benefit at Fonda was intended to consist of five feature events: one for Whites Beach Speedway cars, one for Lebanon Valley Speedway cars, one for Fonda cars, one for Empire Speedway stock cars, and one for Empire Speedway MARC Midgets. When no Empire Midgets or stock cars showed up it became a triple feature show, all three events 15-laps in length.
The Whites Beach 15-lap event was the first main event with 12 cars taking the green flag at the start, including a handful of teams from the Hollywood Bowl (a/k/a/ Route 66 Speedway near Troy, NY) had shown up and were put in with the guys from Whites Beach. Blanchard, in car #49, held the lead until Earl Spellburg, a Route 66er, passed him on lap nine and went on to the win with Blanchard finishing in the second position.
According to the book FONDA!, Blanchard also attended the daily card games at Andy’s Service in Johnstown, NY where time honored names such as Jerry Jerome, Rebel Ross (whose real name was Dale Horton according to the book), and Daytona Dave Ball would participate in the noontime card game.
So far, the 2018 racing season at Fonda has been very competitive, and one for the record books as well, as last Saturday evening June 16 Demetrious Drellos (modified) and Josh Coonradt (pro stock) became first time winners in their respective divisions. With that feat, they joined Brian Borst (crate sportsman), Derrick McGrew Jr. (limited sportsman), Cassidy Wilson, and Randy Cosselman (pro stock) as first time winners this season.
A look ahead to the June 30 racing program at Fonda, which will feature a Bike Giveaway for the Fonda Kid’s Club. Drivers, fans, or anyone at all are welcome to donate a bicycle and if you would like to do so you can contact Ashley Abeling via the Fonda Kid’s Club Facebook page or just bring the bicycles to the track on June 30 where Ashley is set up under the grandstands at gate two.
Please also visit the Fonda Speedway Museum before the racing action starts to see some of the history of the “Track of Champions” under one roof in one of the buildings on the Montgomery County Fairground property where there are weekly special attractions and events set up by the museum staff.
For more information about the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway, you can go to their website www.newfondaspeedway.com and you can also like them on Facebook. Please also like the Fonda Kid’s Club page as well as Ashley has weekly events at the track for the kids to enjoy.