By MATT NOLES
FONDA, NY – Though it’s been stated time and time again, for posterity it needs to be stated at least one more time; racing is a fickle business.
For the entirety of the 2019 season at the famed Fonda Speedway, Josh Hohenforst has had some of the worst luck one could have. In fact, it can be said with near certainty that if it weren’t for bad luck, the driver of the No. 6H would have none at all.
However, for the better part of the last month, lady luck has finally decided to give Hohenforst a much-needed break and though he was already a guaranteed starter for the 2019 Fonda 200, the ‘Apollo Rocket’ decided to make a strong statement on Friday evening.
On the original start, Hohenforst rocketed from third to the lead before the rest of the field managed to clear the starter’s stand. After an early caution made his drive to the front null and void, Hohenforst quickly decided that if one attempt was good then a second would be that much better.
On the ensuing restart, he again drove past Elmo Reckner and Andy Bachetti in quick order and reached the top spot before the end of the first lap. Though Bachetti began to reel in the race leader in the closing laps, Hohenforst had more than enough to hold him off as he raced to victory in the evening’s second modified qualifier over Andy Bachetti, Jessica Friesen, Mike Mahaney and Billy Decker to round out the top-five.
“We definitely had a good initial start going from third to first on the front stretch,” said Hohenforst on Friday night. “Then the caution came out and I said ‘well, I won’t be able to do that again’ but on the restart we fired good and things just worked out our way and I was able to get the lead out of turn two and the race went green to checkered after that.”
There are moments where going with the proverbial flow pays off. Then there are moments where doing the exact opposite does as well. Never one to be boring behind the wheel of a center-steer modified, Hohenforst put the right rear of his DKM chassis on the cushion and never looked back while the remainder of the field found the bottom groove to their liking. It was a temptation that paid off in the form of an outside front row starting spot for Saturday night’s feature at the historic Montgomery county facility.
“When there’s a good top at Fonda it’s awfully hard not to run it,” He continued. “That’s the place where I like to be and I figured that would be the fast way around. I kind of maneuvered a bit and changed my line here and there but the top worked and that’s what the car liked so I went with it and it paid off.”
Though he earned a guaranteed starting spot with his victory at the Glen Ridge Motorsports Park earlier this season, solidifying his place in the field – and on the front row next to Stewart Friesen no less – the stress on Hohenforst decreased exponentially after running 15 solid laps on Friday night.
“Hopefully we can just carry the momentum into Saturday,” continued Hohenforst. “Having that guaranteed starting spot definitely took some stress off of us coming into tonight. We were able to try some new stuff on the car that we haven’t all season just because we knew we were going to be in the show. I think we really hit on something tonight and we’ll do a little bit of tweaking on it and hopefully we have a good long-run car for the 200 tomorrow.”
Where some drivers are stressing over strategy and other unknowns for the 200 on Saturday, Hohenforst is content with letting the cards fall where they may. In short, life in general is basically a crapshoot and for all intents and purposes – at least where planning is concerned – the Fonda 200 may take on the same theory.
“I think it’s going to be a crapshoot honestly,” Hohenforst concluded. “But it all depends on what the weather does tomorrow too. If the track takes rubber, we usually have some pretty good tire wear here. We just have to see what the surface is; we have a few different tire combinations so we just have to hope we have the right stuff and make the right call. We’re just going to try to maintain our position, have good pace and keep our nose clean through the first 100 to 150 laps and go from there.”
Bachetti Credits ‘Good Omen’ Draw for Solid Qualifying Effort
Andy Bachetti and Fonda Speedway have never seen eye-to-eye. It’s a relationship that has never really been what one would call ‘healthy.’
Yet on Friday night, the driver of the No. 4 Garrity Asphalt Reclaiming sponsored entry finished a close second behind Josh Hohenforst earning him a fifth place starting spot for the Fonda 200 on Saturday evening.
Maybe there’s hope for Bachetti and Fonda after all. Then again, it might have just been the luck of the draw.
“I drew a good number,” said Bachetti on Friday night. “That’s my explanation. I actually drew number 12 so that was a good omen for us from the start tonight. We had some carburetor issues tonight so I think that if we could have restarted better that we would have been right there challenging for the win. That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time here.”
Though carburetor issues may have hampered his race from the onset of his qualifying event on Friday night, one would have been hard pressed to have guessed there were any issues under the hood at all as the three-time Short Track Super Series champion began chasing the leader down in the latter stages and noticeably at that.
“We were definitely closing the gap,” Bachetti continued. “Saturday is going to be a long race so we’ll have to see what happens but we have a good starting spot and a good car going into the feature for sure.”
The two major factors heading into Saturdays 200-lap affair for the majority of competitors are simply having enough options and watching the weather keenly. The feeling in the Bachetti pit reads almost exactly the same of their contemporaries.
“We have a couple of different game plans together for Saturday,” He concluded. “But a lot of it depends on what the track does and what the weather does whether we race tomorrow or race on Sunday. We have a couple of different strategies that we’re looking at but it’s one of those deals where you just have to roll the dice and see what happens.”
SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING HEAT RACE #2 – 15-LAPS – TOP 10 TRANSFER TO THE FONDA 200 – JOSH HOHENFORST (starts on the outside pole for the Fonda 200), Andy Bachetti, Jessica Friesen, Mike Mahaney, Billy Decker, Elmo Reckner, Danny Varin, Mike Gular, Matt DeLorenzo, Craig Hanson