By Ron Szczerba
FONDA, NY – “HELL YEAH”
Saturday evening at the “Track of Campions” Fonda Speedway, Stewart Friesen became a three time winner of the prestigious Fonda 200 joining Doug Hoffman as a three time winner of the grueling 200 lap event.
In victory lane, Friesen said “Hell yeah” as he celebrated his $53,000 win thanking the best boss in the world Chris Larsen, his race team at Fonda with him to celebrate the win, and his Halmar team down south as well. “It feels damn good to keep this one at home,” Friesen said. “We’re gonna celebrate keeping this one at home this year.”
“The trophy is pretty damn cool,” Friesen continued. “To look at the guys that have their pictures on that trophy and to know that mine is going on there as well it is, I don’t know what to say, just super special. In 2001 I put a four barrel on the sportsman motor, ran all 200 laps with Hoffman, and kicked everybody’s butt so it’s just super special.”
The pageantry type scene that the Fonda 200 brings to the historic Montgomery County Fairgrounds facility is truly special and this year was no different. From the Canadian Anthem, which was sung by Mimi Lazzaro to the National Anthem, which was sung by American Idol star Madison Vandenburg, to the drivers being introduced while walking in front of the huge grandstand crowd, to the special victory lane celebration by Stewart Friesen and his team, it was an unforgettable event.
And on top of all of that the $10,066 50/50 prize that was taken home by Greg from Gloversville. Thanks, in no particular order to Heather, Julie, Rose, Sienna, Ashley, and Chesnee for all their hard work!
Steve Bernier led at the drop of Joe Kriss’ green flag with an early caution flag out on lap two for Mat Williamson who suffered a flat right rear tire. Williamson pitted and returned to the tail of the 41 car field. By lap 15 Bernier was racing four wide for the lead with Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, and Alex Yankowski with Friesen able to take over the race lead.
Yankowski and Demetrios Drellos were the new second and third place cars on lap 30 with the caution out six laps later for Drellos who suffered a left front flat tire. He restarted at the rear of the field with Friesen maintaining the lead on the restart with Billy Decker now second. Sheppard fell back as far as fourth before starting to race to the front again, sitting in the second position after getting by Decker on lap 68.
Friesen had a four lap car cushion between himself and Sheppard at that point with the caution out three laps later after Michael Trautschold suffered a flat tire and spun in turn four with Decker, Yankowski also involved. Decker never stopped on the track and continued on in the fourth position while Yankowski went to the hot pit and restarted at the rear.
Thirteenth place starter Marc Johnson was running in the top five since the lap 50 point in the event, but he was the next driver to suffer a flat left rear tire while running third on lap 75 bringing out yet another caution. Friesen and Sheppard were the top two on the restart with 18th place starter Bobby Hackel the new third place car on lap 80 after getting by Decker for the spot.
Lap traffic came into play just before the halfway point allowing Sheppard to get by Friesen briefly for the lead on lap 91 on the front stretch to complete the lap. That lead didn’t last too long however as Friesen was able to get back by Sheppard for the lead on the backstretch of the following lap. When Friesen decided to pit under a caution on lap 96, it handed the lead over to Sheppard who led to the halfway point with Hackel, 23rd place starter Max McLaughlin, Decker, and Jessica Friesen in the top five at the halfway mark.
Eight cars decided to go to the infield for minor adjustments to their cars while the rest of the field decided to go to the hot pit for major adjustments. The second half started with Marc Johnson, who was the first car to drive to the infield pit, in the race lead followed in the top five by Chris Curtis, Stewart Friesen, Bobby Varin, and Brian Calabrese who all pitted on the infield as well. Sheppard, who was the leader at lap 100, restarted the second half of the event in the ninth position.
A wreck on lap 103 after a restart brought out the red flag for a multi car pileup on the frontstretch involving Decker, Drellos, Tucker O’Connor, Anthony Perrego, Dave Constantino, Darren Smith, Rocky Warner, Ronnie Johnson, JaMike Sowle, Ryan Odasz, Dave Camara, and JR Hurlburt. Constantino and Perrego were the only two cars able to continue, while Warner was transferred to Albany Med for observation. No other drivers were reported injured.
An update on Rocky posted on his media page Sunday morning by his wife Tami who has been by his side since the accident, stated that thankfully nothing is broken but he did have a small laceration on his face that needed five stitches. There are no heart or spinal injuries! His helmet was crushed, and his neck and shoulder are still very sore. He is still at Albany Med waiting for his blood pressure to get under control before he can be released.
Eight laps into the second half of the event, Stewart Friesen made his way by Curtis for the second position with Johnson out to a straightaway advantage. Fifteenth place starter Tyler Dippel, who pitted on the infield at the halfway point and restarted the second half in the eighth position after originally starting in the 15th position, was the new third place car on lap 112 after he also got by Curtis for the spot with Hackel’s great run coming to an end on lap 123 when he got into the backstretch wall.
Johnson continued to lead on the single file restart and stretched his advantage out to a full straightaway before lap traffic slowed his progress allowing Stewart Friesen to close in and take the lead on the backstretch when Johnson was slowed by a lap car who was running in his lane trying to get off the track into the pit area on lap 129.
Sheppard found some speed at this point in the event, taking the third position away from Dippel on lap 135 and four laps later the second position from Johnson. When Curtis slowed on lap 146 with left rear suspension damage while running in the top five, it brought out the caution with Sheppard taking over the race lead on the restart.
“The tires were so weird,” Friesen said. “I fired, got the lead and got rolling then on that restart when Sheppard got by me it felt like I almost had a flat and then it got going again. Then on another restart I tried to keep some heat in the tires. There was some brown on the top, but it really wasn’t usable, but we were able to make it stick there one time.”
Sheppard stretched out his advantage to a full straightaway four laps after taking the lead, but when slowed by lap traffic on lap 158 it allowed Friesen to close in by lap 164. On the outside of the backstretch on lap 176, Stewart Friesen got a run on Sheppard and took the lead with another yellow coming out one lap later for Johnson who suffered a left rear flat while running third.
One more yellow flag flew with just under 20 laps to go in the event with Stewart Friesen choosing the inside for the restart. He maintained the lead on the restart and pulled away slightly but when he approached lap traffic with seven laps to go it allowed Sheppard to close in. Sheppard put heavy pressure on Stewart Friesen over the final two laps with a lap car in front of the leader to close out the event.
“I caught Cody (Clark) there at the end and I was saying man just keep it rolling dude keep it rolling,” Friesen said in victory lane. “I wasn’t getting off the bottom one more time.”
Stewart Friesen was the winner by 0.349 secs over Sheppard with Dippel, Williamson, and 36th place starter Tim Fuller completing the top five.
“I was scared that he was gonna make something work because I was skating pretty good in one and two,” Friesen told Chris Moore. “But it don’t matter it was enough. Thank Dan Fiedler of DTM Motorsports and the Benson’s down south for the smoke. I think we got it all, the gauges were pegged coming across the finish line at the checkered flag. We got some bullets in the gun now for the big money season, this is what we prepared for all year and the first one paid off.
“The tires were real finicky after restarts,” second place finisher Matt Sheppard said. “I think that when I was able to get by him (Friesen) my tires fired real good and his didn’t but on the next restart his fired real good and mine didn’t and I think that was probably the difference in the race. He got a heck of a run on the outside, I spun a little bit down the backstretch, and he was able to clear me. We made the car better at the break but probably needed just a little bit more. All in all, it was another real good run for us.”
“This feels real good especially after not racing all year,” third place finisher Tyler Dippel said. “My guys behind the wall really kept me in this race. We got into a jingle in four with a lap car and it sheared both the radius rods off. But I’ve got some of the best guys behind the wall and they kept me in it and kept me on the lead lap the whole time, so this third place finish is really because of them.”
Joe Toth and Brian Calabrese started the 25-lap STSS Crate 602 Sportsman feature on the front row and after contact by the two on lap one in turn three, Calabrese was the lap one leader. Calabrese was in lap traffic by lap five with 2023 Fonda Speedway Crate 602 Sportsman Track Champion Payton Talbot the new second place car on a lap eight restart.
The halfway point saw Calabrese, Talbot, Toth, Michael Ballestero, and 13th place starter Tyler Peet completing the top five. At the completion of lap 14, Talbot took over the lead from Calabrese with lap traffic coming into play four laps later. While Talbot pulled away to his seventh win of the season, the story of the race was the comeback by Chad Edwards after starting the event in the 19th position after winning consolation event number one.
Edwards was running in the top ten when he was run up high in turn two on lap nine and dropped back to the 17th position. The never quit attitude was definitely in play for Edwards as by lap 21 when the caution came out he was already in the top five. Lap after lap Edwards continued his march to the front, taking the second position away from Toth on the final lap.
Talbot was the winner of the event followed by Edwards, Toth, Peet, and 14th place starter Tim Hartman Jr.
“Yeah this car was awesome,” Talbot said after the win in the Ted’s Body Shop #14T Bicknell car. “I think that we struggled there for the first five or six laps and then once we found the top it was good. I’ve always loved the top here, I’m more comfortable on the top than I am on the bottom. What a way to top off the year, I want to thank everyone that’s behind me. What a way to cap off the year.”
“I started 19th, got up to sixth and I got a little impatient and tried to go down the middle on a restart,” Edwards said after his second place finish. “I almost went into the wall and fell back to where I started and then just worked my way back up. Thanks to Mikey Jackson for getting us going on a new shock package with Andrew Buff and Jams Performance and this car really came to life tonight.”
“Definitely a good run,” third place finisher Joe Toth said after the race. “I started on the pole and went backwards so to finish third behind those two after all they have done here dominating on a weekly basis. I had help from Bob Henry Sr. to get the car dialed in here and I want to thank Andy Belmont for letting me travel all over the place with his race cars.”
Fonda Speedway Weekly Report
Miss any action from last week’s racing? The Fonda Speedway weekly report can take care of that. A 90 second summary of the previous Saturday racing action will air throughout the week across seven local radio stations including:
WCSS 1490 & 106.9 in Amsterdam/Schenectady
WIZR 930 & 102.9 in Johnstown/Fonda/Gloversville
WKAJ 1120 & 97.9 in St. Johnsville/Canajoharie
WYVS 96.5 in Speculator and the North Country
If you are a race fan that gets to the track early, be sure to check out the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame which is located on the Fonda Fairgrounds at the rear of the parking area going down towards turn four. The museum is open from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on race days and admission is free!
All races at Fonda Speedway – will be broadcast live on FloRacing (www.floracing.tv) as part of the $150 annual subscription.
Since 1953, the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway has hosted the best in stock car racing. Under the management of BD Motorsports Media LLC, the speedway will operate weekly on Saturday nights from April through August plus several special events. Fonda Speedway is located on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds off New York State Thruway Exit No. 28 at 21 S. Bridge Street Fonda, NY 12068.
Fonda Speedway is on the web at www.thefondaspeedway.com. To learn more, call the office at 518.915.4395, like Fonda Speedway on Facebook or follow the speedway on Twitter and Instagram: @thefondaspdwy.
STSS MODIFIED FONDA 200 FEATURE – 200-LAPS – $53,000 TO WIN – STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Tyler Dippel, Mat Williamson, Tim Fuller, Anthony Perrego, Jessica Friesen, Matt DeLorenzo, Brian Calabrese, Danny Bouc, Max McLaughlin, Bobby Varin, Marc Johnson, Dillon Steuer, Steve Bernier, Cody Clark, Ancel Collins, Chris Curtis, Michael Parent, Alex Yankowski, Andy Bachetti, Mike Mahaney, Dave Constantino, Bobby Hackel IV, Billy Decker, Demetrios Drellos, Ronnie Johnson, Rocky Warner, Tucker O’Connor, Pep Corradi, David Schilling, JaMike Sowle, Darren Smith, Dave Camara, Ryan Odasz, JR Hurlburt, Danny Varin, Cory Costa, Brian Pessolano, Michael Trautschold, Neil Stratton
3rd win of 2023 and the 88th of his career in the division for Stewart Friesen
LAP LEADERS – 1-14 Bernier, 15-90 Stewart Friesen, 91 Sheppard, 92-95 Stewart Friesen, 96-100 Sheppard, 101-128 Marc Johnson, 129-149 Stewart Friesen, 150-175 Sheppard, 176-200 Stewart Friesen
CONSOLATION RACE WINNERS – Perrego, Clark
DID NOT QUALIFY – Dan Santabarbara, Stephen Gray, George Foley, Derek Bornt, Ajay Potrzebowski Sr., Jason Reome, Matt Sobiech
STSS CRATE 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 25-LAPS – $2,000 TO WIN – PAYTON TALBOT, Chad Edwards, Joe Toth, Tyler Peet, Tim Hartman Jr., Brian Calabrese, Chip Constantino, Troy Zilles, Michael McCallion, Brendan Gibbons, Jeremy Tyrrell, Tanner Warner, Michael Ballestero, Stephen Gray, Clayton DuMond, Dylan Madsen, Mike Kalkbrenner, Donovan Lussier, James Friesen, Blaine Klinger, David Hackett Jr., Chris Crane Jr., Kaydon Hohensheldt, Greg Crooker, John DuMond, Josh Kane, Tavien Blowers, Jeff Higham, David Manchester, Brett Mortensen
7th win of 2023 and the 11th of his career in the division for Talbot
LAP LEADERS – 1-13 Calabrese, 14-25 Talbot
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Zilles, Higham, John DuMond, Toth, Constantino, Ballestero
CONSOLATION RACE WINNERS – Edwards, Tyrrell, Kane
DID NOT QUALIFY – Roger Hummer, Mike Hill, Kyle Dingman, Zack Welch, Connor Prokop, Brandon Tyler, Mark Mortensen, Dylan Eldred, Josh Coonradt, Mike Arnold, John Santolin, Tim Deffer, Cody Clark, Tyler Bobar, Dave DiPietro, Jean-Francois Tessier, Wesley Sutliff, Chris Kugler, Keith Buckhart, Walter Cook, Zach Dufel, Connor Crane, Seth Martin, John Feagles, Clyde Peek, Karl Barnes, John Anderson, Dale Van Allen, Collin Williams, Harry Shaffer, Dan Santabarbara, Michael Wagner-Fitzgerald, Donnie Campbell, Robert Perry
GRECO’S NAPA HARD CHARGER AWARD – Edwards +17