Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – FONDA, NY – Racing is all about luck. Some drivers have good luck, while others aren’t so lucky.
Saturday night at the Fonda Speedway, fans saw both during the opening round of the Thunder on the Thruway Series for two drivers who were fast during the 30-lap Modified main event.
From the moment Joe Kriss threw the initial green flag in the $4,000-to-win event, Craig Hanson was fast, but it was Jessica Friesen who took command of the race from the onset with Bobby Varin in tow.
However, Friesen slowed coming off turn four on the second circuit to bring out the caution.
After starting in the feature in sixth, Hanson worked his way to the top spot as the lap counter clicked three, working his way by Varin who had assumed the lead when Friesen slowed.
At this point, the second-generation driver began to set sail. In getting to the front, he had worked his way by the point leader Matt DeLorenzo, Varin, the 35 of Chris Curtis and even the 44 of Stewart Friesen. Each of these drivers had lined up in front of Hanson at the original start.
From that point, Hanson was gone as he opened up a healthy lead over the Halmar 44 which had found its way to second. Even through lap traffic, the 20c was able to maintain a sizeable lead over Friesen who tried everything he could to catch up to Hanson’s rear bumper. He even ran the extreme outside lane of the speedway while the leader hugged the inside.
Then came the equalizer in the form of a caution flag.
With six laps to go, Ray Zemken spun in turn four to bring out the yellow flag. That’s when the luck of the top two drivers flipped.
On the ensuing restart, Friesen powered to the outside of Hanson’s Bicknell machine. As the two raced down the backstretch, and in to turn three, there was a new leader with Friesen clearing the “Grader Operator” to take command.
From that point on, the race was in Friesen’s control and he went on to grab his second trip to Fonda’s Checkered Board Square of the 2022 season.
“It was good racing with Craig,” Friesen said. “I thought we’d get side-by-side when I was on the top, but it started to get more and more grip off of two on the low side. Then, that caution came out.”
How timely was the caution for Friesen’s chances?
“I was hoping a lot for a yellow flag,” Friesen said. “It had rubbered up on the bottom a great deal off of (turns) two and four. I could get into the corners really good but then there was nothing left off.”
Did Friesen know he had a chance to get by the leader on the restart?
“I figured if we got side-by-side and I could get him in dirty air in turns one and two, we might have half a chance,” he said. “Luckily, it stuck.”
After Friesen was clear of Hanson, as the two entered turn three, the Sprakers, NY wheelman moved down to take away the lane that the 20c had been running nearly the entire race.
“I tried to look and make sure I was clear of Craig,” he said. I wanted to be as certain as I could that we weren’t going to hit or anything. Clean air is big with these cars and so is hitting those grip strips off the bottom when they come about. It’s been a while since we won a Modified race so it’s great to be back here.”
Second place on the night was Demetrios Drellos who was able to get around both Matt DeLorenzo for third and then Hanson for second with just five laps remaining.
After winning his heat race handily, a runner-up finish Saturday was a big time showing for the Queensbury, NY driver.
“I’m so happy with tonight,” Drellos said. “After starting eighth and driving to second, this was the best car we’ve had yet at Fonda.”
Drellos noted that it wasn’t just himself who finished second. It was total team effort.
“This was huge for us,” he said. “I have to thank my amazing crew, our sponsors and the fans for all of the support they’ve shown. It really helps as I try making this racing dream a reality.”
After leading a race-high 22 laps, Hanson had to settle for third when the night was over with DeLorenzo having another strong showing in fourth. Chris Curtis had an amazing run on Saturday to complete the top five.
MODIFIED FEATURE – 30-laps – $4,000 TO WIN – STEWART FRIESEN, Demetrios Drellos, Craig Hanson, Matt DeLorenzo, Chris Curtis, Bobby Varin, Jack Lehner, Marc Johnson, Danny Creeden, Ronnie Johnson, Brian Gleason, Billy Decker, David Schilling, Pep Corradi, Bobby Hackel, Brian Pessolano, Brian Calabrese, Nick Heywood, Ray Zemken, JaMike Sowle, Tucker O’Connor, Alex Yankowski, Rocky Warner, Dave Constantino, Brandon Daley, Alan Barker, Jessica Friesen, Darwin Greene (DNS)
Second win of 2022 and the 81st win of his career in the division for Friesen
LAP LEADERS – 1 Jessica Friesen, 2 Varin, 3-24 Hanson, 25-30 Stewart Friesen
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Drellos, Stewart Friesen, Varin