Story By: RON SZCZERBA / FONDA SPEEDWAY – FONDA, NY – Stewart Friesen captured the $53,000 win in the Fonda 200 Saturday night at the Fonda Speedway.
In an exact repeat of the 2019 event, the rest of the podium included Rocky Warner in second and Mike Mahaney in third. Danny Varin was fourth and Tyler Dippel completed the top five.
When Joe Kriss’ green flag was thrown to start the Sunoco Modified “Fonda 200” event, pole position starter Jeff Rockefeller took the early lead as the drivers all settled in for a long 200 laps. Outside pole position starter Danny Varin took the lead away from Rockefeller on the outside of turn two with sixth place starter Stewart Friesen up to the second position by lap 12 after getting by Rockefeller.
Varin stretched his lead to a full straightaway by lap 15 with four lap cars in between himself and Friesen at that time. The first caution of the event was out on lap 22 for Alex Yankowski with a unique format in place under yellow flag conditions. Drivers were allowed to go to the hot pit under caution without going laps down even though the first three laps under yellow counted in the event.
Varin chose the inside on the restart and maintained his lead over Friesen, going between the lap cars of Darwin Greene and Steve Akers on lap 34 to keep pace over Friesen. Varin and Friesen were side by side for the lead on lap 39 with two more lap cars racing side by side in front of them. Varin shut the door on Friesen and maintained the lead at that point.
On a lap 46 restart, fourth place starter Rocky Warner took the second position away from Friesen as they swapped the position twice before Friesen gained control of it again on lap 48. Ninth place starter Mike Mahaney challenged Warner for the third position on lap 59 and took it away from Warner at that point.
Friesen took the lead away from Varin on the inside of turns three and four on lap 66 only to have Varin get back by for the lead on the backstretch of the next lap. The race took a turn for the worse on lap 67 for Friesen who cut down a right front tire to bring out the caution. Friesen would pit to change the tire and discovered that he also had a broken right rear shock which his crew changed, and he went back out on the track in the 24th position.
Ronnie Johnson started the event in the 14th position and moved past Warner for the second spot on lap 72 just before another caution slowed the field two laps later. At that point there were twenty cars still on the lead lap with the top five consisting of Varin, Johnson, Warner, 11th place starter Tyler Dippel, and 22nd place starter Matt DeLorenzo.
Varin maintained the lead through the restart with Dippel getting by Warner for the third position on lap 81. On lap 87 in lap traffic, Johnson took the lead away from Varin after going by both Varin and a lap car with Warner also getting by Varin for the second position four laps from the halfway point.
At the lap 100 break which was ten minutes in length, drivers were allowed two options, one was to go to the hot pit for any adjustments to your car with the other being going to the infield for fuel and air pressure adjustments only. DeLorenzo, Friesen, David Schilling, Mahaney, Brian Gleason, and Josh Hohenforst were the only drivers to choose the infield option while others went to the hot pit for adjustments to their cars including Johnson who was the race leader at the time.
DeLorenzo was the leader when the green flag dropped to start the second half of the event while Johnson was the first of the cars out of the hot pit in the seventh position. Lap 101 saw Friesen get by DeLorenzo for the lead with Mahaney getting by Schilling and DeLorenzo for the second position on lap 109 with Friesen now out to a straightaway advantage.
Warner came out of the pit at the halfway point in the ninth position and got by two cars on a lap 115 restart to get back into the second spot. Warner got right up to Friesen’s rear bumper in lap traffic on lap 129 with Varin now in the third position after coming out of the pit at the halfway point in the eighth spot.
Through two more cautions Friesen pulled away on each restart to a straightaway lead each time including lap 155 with lap traffic coming into play three laps later. As Friesen was leading by a comfortable margin focus turned to 33rd place starter Adam McAuliffe who was sweeping around the outside of the track to gain positions every lap.
McAuliffe was in the fifth position when the yellow came out on lap 186 for Johnson who slowed in turn one. On the restart Craig Hanson was the driver on the move as he was the new fifth place car after starting 17th with one final caution coming out with ten laps to go. Friesen led the remaining laps for his 11th victory of the season at Fonda and the 79th of his career at the Track of Champions.”
Warner, Mahaney, Varin, and Dippel completed the top five, ironically the top three were the same three drivers who finished the 2019 “Fonda 200” event in the top three!
“Pretty wild out there today, I could get to the 93 (Varin) but then he would get away from me,” Friesen told Chris Moore in victory lane. “Had the tire go down and a broken shock and thanks to my crew for getting things changed for me to get back out there. The best race in New York State was here at Fonda today.”
“I saw the 97 (Warner) along side of me at one point and knew that I had to get going,” Friesen continued. “On the restarts I just tried to get a good launch and get back to the top. Congratulations to Jake Spraker who was a great car owner that I got to drive for at one point in my career.”
“I gave it all that I had tonight,” Warner told Mimi Lazzaro in victory lane following his second-place finish. “Marc Johnson came here tonight to help us out, so I have to thank him and the rest of my crew. A special thank you to Jake Spraker who I drove for the last seven years. He gave me the opportunity to move up to the modifieds and that’s a chance that not a lot of people often get.”
“We had a great car and have a great team that I am very proud of,” Mahaney said after his third-place finish. “I knew that I had to conserve my tires after the final stop, I didn’t have much left that’s for sure.”
McAuliffe was the Hard Charger of the race going from 33rd to finish seventh saying afterwards “My guys gave me a good car tonight; I didn’t need that last yellow but thanks to Laudy Hoyenga for standing by me as it has been a tough year.”
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED “FONDA 200” FEATURE – 200-LAPS – $53,000 TO WIN – STEWART FRIESEN, Rocky Warner, Mike Mahaney, Danny Varin, Tyler Dippel, Craig Hanson, Adam McAuliffe, Matt DeLorenzo, Darren Smith, Bobby Hackel IV, David Schilling, Ronnie Johnson, JaMike Sowle, Brett Haas, JR Hurlburt, Pep Corradi, Chris Curtis, Brian Gleason, Addison Bowman, Roger Henion Jr., Steve Akers, Rich Christman, Jessica Friesen, Darwin Greene, Jeff Rockefeller, Josh Hohenforst, Alan Johnson, Brian Pessolano, Anthony Perrego, George Foley, Andy Bachetti, Matt Sobiech, Dave Constantino, Alex Yankowski, Ray Zemken, Tanner Warner, Tanner Warner, Will Shields, Tim Dwyer, Aaron Jacobs, Billy VanPelt DNS
LAP LEADERS – 1-3 Rockefeller, 4-65 Varin, 66 Stewart Friesen, 67-86 Varin, 87-100 Johnson, 101-200 Stewart Friesen
“B” MAIN RACE WINNERS – Darren Smith, JaMike Sowle
DID NOT QUALIFY – Bill August, Jason Reome, Tanner Forbes, Corey Lowitt, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Ancel Collins, Corey Cormier, Dan Santabarbara, Brian Calabrese, Ronnie Holmes, Rich Eggers