This & That: The Fonda 200 – DTD Exclusive

By Ed & Betty Biittig

The Fonda 200 Weekend is one of the most historic and prestigious events at one of the most revered dirt tracks in the country. Thursday-Saturday, September 14-16, will see some of the best dirt track racers competing at the “Track of Champions.”

The first Fonda 200 was held on June 18, 1955, and was a NASCAR Grand National Series event. The winner on that day was a familiar name as a driver who became one of NASCAR’s premier owners, Junior Johnson. The 200 win was Johnson’s third win in five starts for the 1955 season. Johnson was the only driver to complete the 200 laps, as he led just over 100 laps. For his win, he took home $1,000.

The 200-lap events at Fonda did not return for eight years, until August 24, 1963. The legendary Steve Danish led for 104 laps before a packed house. The race was delayed when the fast timer of the event, Kenny Shoemaker, who timed at 24.11 seconds, dove from his car when it caught fire. Shoemaker was taken to the hospital, and the track waited for the ambulance to return. The race finished at 12:45 a.m.

The third Fonda 200 was held on August 15, 1964. The winner was the popular driver from Lisbon, N.Y., Bill Wimble. Wimble led from lap 65 to lap 195 when he was challenged by Shoemaker, and the two battled to the end before a cheering crowd. For the win, Wimble received $1,250 of the $5,500 total purse.

Racing starts on Thursday with the “Ultimate Underdog Race” for Modifieds plus Limited Sportsman and open practice for all divisions.

On Friday, the Short Track Super Series Modifieds will qualify, along with the CRSA Sprints, Pro Stocks, Street Stock, and Four Cylinders.

On Saturday, September 16, the STSS Modifieds will run the B-Mains plus the Fonda 200 and STSS Crate 602 Sportsman.

The weather played havoc with local racing this past weekend. Friday night, Ed made it to Albany-Saratoga only a few minutes before the rain hit the Malta area, and the track was forced to cancel the big Autism Awareness Pro Stock event. It is now scheduled for Friday, September 22, as part of the Malta Massive Weekend, when the Super DIRTcar Series will be on the card and the track will honor Kenny Tremont, who will hang up his helmet after his appearance at the Malta oval that weekend. The Super DIRTcar race that weekend will be 115 laps and pay $11,500 to the winner.

Utica-Rome got their program in on Friday, and Jeremy Slosek of West Winfield recorded his first modified win. Slosek said, “I want to thank Danny Varin and Mason Olmstead for all their help in bringing their experience and knowledge to make the car the best the car has ever been.”

Despite not being in attendance, Matt Sheppard of Savannah, N.Y., was declared champion in the modified division. Sheppard was behind the wheel of a late model at the World 100 at Eldora this past weekend. After sitting on the pole for his heat event, Sheppard was sidelined for the weekend with a blown motor.

Matt Janczuk was crowned the 602 Sportsman Champion, and Zack Welch was the Limited Sportsman Champion at Utica-Rome.

Lebanon Valley was able to get their program in on Saturday night and crowned the champions in 358-Mods and 602 Sportsman. L. J. Lombardo claimed the 358-Mod title over Andy Bachetti. Tim Hartman, Jr., is the 602 Sportsman Track Champion.

As we close, we would like to give a shout-out to all our local drag racing enthusiasts. On Sunday, Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney spent time at the Fonda Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame with a film crew doing a documentary on women in racing.

Tremont Trivia: Kenny’s first career win came at Lebanon Valley on May 29, 1982. His second career win followed on Sunday, May 30, at the Devil’s Bowl in Vermont. Tremont recorded his 115th career win at Devil’s Bowl on May 25, 1997.

Until next week, please send all news and/or comments to