Pat Ward Returns to Fonda Victory Lane After 8 Year Hiatus

By RON SZCZERBA

FONDA, NY – The “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway was back in action on Saturday evening after a break for the annual Fonda Fair with a six division racing program featuring something for everyone with all the different divisions in competition.

The 13th Annual Hondo Classic, held in memory of the late Hondo Carpenter, took top billing on the racing program, and when the checkered flag was thrown it was 2018 Track Champion Kenny Gates in victory lane with his third win in the prestigious event after also winning it back in 2009 and 2015.

For Gates, who is the all-time win leader in the pro stock division at Fonda, it was his seventh win of the 2018 season and the 79th win of his career at Fonda.

In the modified division, Pat Ward came to town as an “invader” and took home the modified feature win, the 23rd of his career at Fonda and his first win at the “Track of Champions” since 8/21/2010!

Back in the day, when the pit area used to be in the infield, Pat Ward was a weekly competitor at Fonda, a place that he always said was a track he loved to race at. He and his father and crew would be in the pit area every week, traveling quite a distance from his home in Genoa, NY.

Nicknamed the “Genoa Giant”, Ward looked like he was still a Fonda regular the way he ran on Saturday evening, taking the victory in the 30-lap event in the John Wight owned, Gypsum Express sponsored #42P after a great battle with Jeremy Wilder.

Other winners on Benjamin Moore Paints Night at Fonda were Mark Mortensen (sportsman), Michael Arnold (street stock), Josh Pieniazek (CRSA Sprints), Rob Sanford (MVVDMS modified), Doug Mathewson (MVVDMS sportsman), and Bill Liese (MVVDMS late model).

The caution plagued Hondo Classic began with Nick Stone leading the first two laps after starting on the outside of the front row. The first caution of the event flew on lap two and on the restart, sixth place starter Luke Horning took over the race lead with Ivan Joslin now in the third position and Chuck Dumblewski fourth after starting ninth and 11th respectively.

With only a few laps between cautions, it was hard for drivers to get into a rhythm and it turned out that the lead only changed hands on restarts because of it with Dumblewski the next to lead after a lap 13 restart with 13th place starter Jason Casey now in the second position. Casey got the lead away from Dumblewski on lap 16 and after that they swapped the lead back and forth three times over the next nine laps.

With only three laps to go, Dumblewski slowed under caution, handing over the lead to 23rd place starter Kenny Gates who through all of the cautions managed to methodically work his way to the front. Gates led the final two laps to take the win, an event that he said in the last race of the regular season back in August he said that he was hoping to win.

“This is our biggest race of the year,” Gates told Dan Haslun in victory lane. “Hondo was a fantastic guy and was the face of our sport.”

Jeremy Wilder and Pat Ward started the 30-lap modified feature on the front row with Wilder the early race leader. On the outside of turn two on lap two, Ward took over the race lead and immediately stretched out his advantage over the second place car of Wilder. Ward was in lap traffic by lap seven and at the halfway point in the race the top five consisted of Ward, Wilder, Willy Decker, Rocky Warner, and Cody Bleau.

Ninth place starter Dave Constantino took over the fifth position from Cody Bleau on lap 18 with the caution out one lap later for a car stopped in turn three. On the restart, Wilder got by Ward for the lead with Decker and Warner swapping the third position a couple of times during the next couple of laps. The final caution of the event was out on lap 24 for Constantino who pitted with a right rear flat. He would pit to get the tire changed and return to the rear of the field.

On this restart, Ward took the lead away from Wilder with the two swapping the lead a couple of times on lap 25 before Ward took command of the event. Ward pulled away over the next five laps to take the checkered flag and was followed in the top five by Wilder, Warner, Decker, and Ryan Odasz who was in the Bill & Erik Nelson owned #85 car for the evening’s event.

“Every win is good,” Ward said in victory lane. “Jeremy (Wilder) gave me a whale of a race. I lost the front end in turn two and handed him the lead but then he did the same thing in turns three and four and I was able to get it back. I have the best crew in the business and I have to thank them along with John & Larry Wight, and Kevlar Racing Engines.”

The 25-lap sportsman feature began with AJ Filbeck and Brian Calabrese on the front row with Filbeck the early race leader. Third place starter Mark Mortensen was the second place car on the opening lap and immediately began to pressure Filbeck for the race lead. Coming out of turn four on lap three, Mortensen was able to get around Filbeck for the lead on the outside groove with the red flag out shortly afterwards.

The red flag was for Nick Stone who had something break on the right front of his car resulting in him hitting the wall in turn one and flipping his car many times. Fortunately Stone got out of the car under his own power and was not injured. Under yellow, Calabrese was also warned by the race director about rough riding after he made contact with Filbeck in turn two just before the red flag came out for Stone. Filbeck was able to continue on in the event but Calabrese was done for the night with too much damage to his car to continue.

Fifth place starter Jeremiah Munson was moving to the front quickly during the first few laps of the event, taking the second position away from Filbeck on lap nine with Mortensen now out to a straightaway advantage in the Mortensen Motorsports #1M. Without the benefit of another caution, Munson closed in slightly on Mortensen when the leader was slowed by lap traffic but never got close enough to mount a challenge with Mortensen going on to his third win of the season and the 21st of his career in the division, which is second on the all-time win list.

Following the 2011 Fonda Speedway 602 Sportsman Track Champion to the checkered flag were Munson, 15th place starter Cody Clark, Filbeck, and sixth place starter Jason Greco. In post-race inspection, Clark was disqualified for a rev box infraction moving Filbeck, Greco, and Aaron Burton up one position in the top five.

Ironically Mortensen was the winner of the event on Benjamin Moore Paints Night, who have been a sponsor on Mortensen’s car for many years.

“The car was on rails tonight,” Mortensen said in victory lane. “We tried some new stuff on it tonight and spent some extra time in the garage scaling the car, setting it up this week, and going over it thoroughly. I need to thank my crew, my family, all of my sponsors, Dave (Constantino) and the guys at DKM Fabrication for all of their help.”

Invader David Cook led the first three laps of the street stock feature before Michael Arnold got by for the lead on lap four and went on to his second win of the season and the second of his career at Fonda over Cook, Cliff Haslun, 2018 track champion Johnny Young, Scott Gauthier, and Dave Horning Sr.

A great field of 20 Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series (MVVDMS) race cars showed up to compete at Fonda on Saturday evening with Rob Sanford (modified), Doug Mathewson (sportsman), and Bill Liese (late model) the overall winners in the three different categories. It was also New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Safety Awards Night for the vintage cars at Fonda with the winners of the monetary awards being Sanford and Mathewson.

NYSSCA president Dan Wood, who also competed in the vintage car feature in his beautiful Kenny Tremont #115 look alike car, along with Fonda Speedway NYSSCA track rep Bonnie Mortensen presented the awards to Sanford and Mathewson.

Josh Pieniazek led every lap in the caution free, 20-lap CRSA Sprint car main event, surviving serious challenges by Justin Mills and lap traffic to take the win. Mills, Jeff Trombley, Tyler Carter, and Dalton Herrick completed the top five in the event. NYSSCA Safety Awards were also presented to Pieniazek and Trombley by the NYSSCA reps.

“I just had to continue to hold my line, be consistent, and get through lap traffic” Pieniazek said in victory lane about the fantastic race with Mills. “I have to thank Mike & Debbie VanDusen for the opportunity to drive their car tonight. I was pretty much done for the year or at least tonight after blowing the engine in my own car and got the call this week from the VanDusen’s to drive their car here tonight.”

Next weekend will be a two day racing program at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway. On Friday evening 9/21 at 6:00 p.m. the track will have the “Thunder Along the Mohawk Prelude to the Party” featuring the DIRTcar 358-modified and sportsman series along with modified time trials for Saturday’s Super DIRTcar Series modified event. There will also be a $500 to win street stock feature and entertainment by the Kyle Bourgault Band in the Entertainment Building at 10:00 p.m. after the racing events are completed.

Then on Saturday 9/22 at 4:00 p.m. the two time rained out “Jack” event will be held in honor of Fonda Speedway racing legend Jack Johnson. The event will be a part of the Super DIRTcar Series and will reward the winner the 12th starting position for the Super DIRT Week modified event at the Oswego Speedway coming up in October. Also on the racing card will be the DIRTcar sportsman and pro stock series, the Kramer Williamson Memorial event for sprint cars, and the Classics on Dirt Vintage cars.

For more information about the Fonda Speedway you can go to their website www.newfondaspeedway.com or on Facebook at www.facebook,com/newfondaspeedway

BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS PRO STOCK FEATURE – THE 13TH ANNUAL HONDO CLASSIC – 29-LAPS – KENNY GATES, Josh Coonradt, Luke Horning, Nick Stone, Jay Casey, Kenny Martin Jr., Randy Cosselman, Andy Graves, Nick Arnold, Cassidy Wilson, Jeff McPhail, Scott Govertson, Jason Casey, Matt Roberts, Buck Gasner, Jamie Warner, Chuck Dumblewski, Ivan Joslin, Tom Dean, Mark Sullivan, Devon Camenga, Jay Corbin, AJ Walters, Chuck McSpirit, Dave Stickles, Ashley Celebucki, Dean Charbonneau, Jason Morrison, Jon Routhier, Rich Crane, Don Collins, Jim Normoyle, Justin Knight, Shane Henderson (DQ)

BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS MODIFIED FEATURE – 25-LAPS – PAT WARD, Jeremy Wilder, Rocky Warner, Willy Decker, Ryan Odasz, Cody Bleau, Scott Huber, Pep Corradi, Dave Constantino, Kyle Armstrong, Tony Pepicelli, Josh DeMagistris, Aaron Cross, Darwin Greene, Aaron Jacobs

BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 25-LAPS – MARK MORTENSEN, Jeremiah Munson, AJ Filbeck, Jason Greco, Aaron Burton, Brian Pessolano, Ray Zemken, Charlie Tibbitts, Mike Richmond, William August, Griffen Mansmith, Matt Becker, Brian Calabrese, Nick Stone, Cody Clark (DQ), Dan Santabarbara (DNS), Tyler Thompson (DNS), Michael McCallion (DNS), Dylan Eldred (DNS)

BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS MOHAWK VALLEY VINTAGE DIRT MODIFIED SERIES (MVVDMS) FEATURE – 20-LAPS – DOUG MATHEWSON (SPORTSMAN), ROB SANFORD (MODIFIED), Dan Wood, John Constantino, Mike Houghtaling, Stanley Wetmore, BILL LIESE (LATE MODEL), Malcum Warner, Doug Atkins, Wade Seaburg, Jon Atkins, Ed Lawrence, Mike Cole, Kavin Winton, David Chairzuk, Tex Gordon, Craig Ferguson, Jay Lais, John Roese, Mike Gray (DNS)

BENJAMIN MOORE PAINTS CRSA SPRINT FEATURE – 20-LAPS – JOSH PIENIAZEK, Justin Mills, Jeff Trombley, Tyler Cartier, Dalton Herrick, Peter Dance, Thomas Radivoy, Tyler Jashembowski, Dana Wagner, Johnny Kolosek, Dustin Purdy, Emily VanInwegen, Mike VanPelt, Jesse Pruchnick, Jerry Sehn, Brandyn Griffin, Craig Pellegrini Jr., Eric Jennings, Darryl Ruggles, Link Pettit, Alysha Ruggles (DNS)