Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – FONDA, NY – Qualifying night for the annual Fonda 200 took place on Friday evening and a mix of veterans and young guns found their way to victory lane.
Journeyman racers Billy Decker and Stewart Friesen each took home their respective 15-lap qualifiers while Max McLaughlin and Bobby Hackel led the youth movement in their races.
In short, it was a quality night of racing at the Track of Champions to see who would make the starting lineup for the $53,000-to-win Fonda 200 on Saturday.
In the first race, Decker used a veteran move on the restart to get around Jack Lehner to grab the top spot and went on to score the victory.
“The outside groove was a little slippery when we were doing the pace laps,” Decker said. “Then, it felt pretty good under that next to last caution so I sailed it in there on the restart, it stuck pretty good and we got a way with one.”
The car the Decker is driving this week has been fine-tuned by the Jeremy Smith racing crew and it showed on Friday night.
“This JSR car is pretty good,” he said. “The guys worked hard on it all week to get a package for here and we have a little work left to do but all-in-all, we’re pretty happy.”
What would it mean for Decker, who use to call Fonda Speedway home in the early part of his racing career, to win the big 200 on Saturday?
“It’d be big,” he said. “We didn’t come here to get our hair cut. We’re really looking forward to Saturday night and certainly would like to knock this one off.”
The second 15-lap affair was won by Stewart Friesen. Friesen started on the outside front row and was gone from the drop of Joe Kriss’ green flag.
“Proud of the Halmar team,” Friesen said. “We’ve got a fast hot rod and looking forward to Saturday.”
For most of the event, Friesen ran the outside groove which has been his preferred lane at the track throughout the years.
“The track’s very fast right now,” he said. “It’ll definitely change a lot for tomorrow that’s for sure.”
Does Friesen feel like his car is set to contend for his third consecutive Fonda 200 victory?
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “I think we’ve got a little more work to do for tomorrow. The track’s really, really fast right now. It’s a big, long race tomorrow. The track’s going to change quite a bit but we’ll see what we’ve got.”
While he’s happy with his car, there are problems with his wife Jessica’s car that they need to address.
“The Halmar 44 is fast,” he said. “We’re still having motor problems with the 1z and that’s unfortunate. We’ll have to do some work overnight on that.”
Any ideas what it could be?
“It’s more motor problems that seem to have plagued us here all year,” he said. “It doesn’t look good right now. She hurt a motor last night too, in fact one we were saving for this race. We’ll see what we can find out. It looks like a spark plug issue but we’ll see what we can do.”
The same could be said for qualifier #3 as Max McLaughlin used an inside front row start spot to get out in front and never look back. The HBR Racing #8H was fast from word go and McLaughlin proved it.
“I just had to float the car through the corner to drive through the black,” McLaughlin said. “Lap traffic got a little interesting there and a couple times I got really free around traffic. We made some changes before the dash to try and get better.”
Even with as good of a car as McLaughlin has, he knows who he has to beat if he wants to take home the big $53,000 payday.
“We’re all going to be chasing the 44 (Friesen) car this weekend,” he said. “This is his stomping grounds but I was real happy with our car. Hopefully we can make a couple more changes, tune it in a little better and give Stewart a run for his money.”
McLaughlin is the current Short Track Super Series Elite point leader by two over Matt Sheppard and Ryan Godown entering the night. He’s really gotten comfortable with his Deyo Series car and it’s been showing all season.
“This car’s just been really great,” he said. “Al Heinke’s given me the opportunity to come back and drive his cars this year and it’s been a lot of fun. This car’s been strong all year and Fonda’s not been one of my better tracks but it’s sure been a lot better this weekend.”
Has he let him think about what it’d mean to get the victory on Saturday night?
“It’d be huge for our team,” he said. “It’s the richest-paying Modified race this year so obviously it’s on everyone’s radar. You’re not just going to have to beat Stewart. You’re going to have to beat a lot of guys so as long as we make the right adjustments and are there at the end, we’ve got a shot.”
In the final 15-lap event, Bobby Hackel avenged his miss from the Ultimate Underdog 33 on Thursday night with a solid run to capture the win and give him a legitimate shot at the big check on Saturday.
“Yesterday (Thursday) was a great precursor,” Hackel said. “Unfortunately, it’s almost a race you never want to be qualified for (winless drivers). We’ve had a good season and getting out here to run Fonda and Utica-Rome, getting myself on the road is helping our program.”
For Hackel, to be one of the four winners on Friday night along side Decker, Friesen and McLaughlin left the East Greenbush, NY driver with a huge smile on his face.
“I’m trying to chase the coat tails of those big guys,” he said. “I’m trying to learn every time I go out on the track and we’re getting closer.”
Midway though the 2022 season, Hackel split with his Saturday night team which had him at Lebanon Valley. He then decided to take his family-owned team to Fonda for the rest of the season and that seemed to help out on Friday.
“I really just want to be better out on the road,” he said. “I want to race with Stewart Friesen. I want to race with Matt Sheppard. I want to race with the best of the best and if I keep chasing them, I keep learning.”
Is Hackel happy with his car for Saturday’s 200-lapper?
“Hopefully we can tune on this car a little better,” he said. “200 laps is a long time. Those guys are going to be tough but anything can happen.”
Ryan Godown won the six-lap Arnold Ainsworth Dash for Cash For the top six in Short Track Super Series Elite points.
Kenny Gates took home the Pro Stock feature for his first win of the 2022 season. Beau Ballard, Josh Coonradt, Ivan Joslin and Slater Baker completed the top five.
Adam Tranka captured the $500-to-win Street Stock feature after Chris Murray, who crossed the line first, was disqualified for an illegal exhaust. Jason Samrov and Matt Mosher completed the podium.
Brandon Ely (Dual Cam) and Ken Hollenback were victorious in the Four-Cylinder feature.
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #1 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO PARKS COMPANIES LLC – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – BILLY DECKER, Ryan Godown, Jack Lehner, Payton Talbot, JaMike Sowle, Marc Johnson, Matt DeLorenzo, Scott Huber, Ryan Darcy, Josh Reome, Aaron Jacobs, Rocky Warner, Jeremy Slosek (DNS), Nick Stone (DNS)
$100 BONUS FOR THE HIGHEST FINISHING FONDA SPEEDWAY REGULAR FROM THE GANG IN SECTION 8 – PAYTON TALBOT
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #2 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO FASTLINE PERFORMANCE – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – STEWART FRIESEN, Jessica Friesen, Andy Bachetti, Alan Johnson, Brian Gleason, Danny Creeden, Nick Heywood, Jimmy Horton, Tucker O’Connor, Brian Pessolano, Danny Johnson, Bobby Varin, Craig Hanson
$100 BONUS FOR THE HIGHEST FINISHING FONDA SPEEDWAY REGULAR FROM THE GANG IN SECTION 8 – BRIAN GLEASON
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #3 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO UPSTATE AUTOMOTIVE – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – MAX MCLAUGHLIN, Anthony Perrego, Matt Sheppard, Mat Williamson, Ronnie Johnson, Danny Varin, Tim Fuller, Tyler Dippel, David Schilling, Allison Ricci, Brett Haas, JR Hurlburt, Matt Sobiech
$100 BONUS FOR THE HIGHEST FINISHING FONDA SPEEDWAY REGULAR FROM THE GANG IN SECTION 8 – RONNIE JOHNSON
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #4 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO DAVE PRIME JR. MAC TOOLS – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – BOBBY HACKEL IV, Mike Mahaney, Demetrious Drellos, Dave Constantino, Alex Yankowski, Chris Curtis, Jeff Trombley, Darwin Greene, Tanner Warner, Ancel Collins, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Daniel Morgiewicz, Neil Stratton
$100 BONUS FOR THE HIGHEST FINISHING FONDA SPEEDWAY REGULAR FROM THE GANG IN SECTION 8 – DEMETRIOUS DRELLOS
ALGONKIN MOTEL PRO STOCK FEATURE – 25-LAPS – KENNY GATES, Beau Ballard, Josh Coonradt, Ivan Joslin, Slater baker, Frank Twing, Jim Normoyle, Gary Silkey, Zach Sorrentino, Kyle Weller, Jeff McPhail, Steve LaRochelle, Caden Dumblewski, Mike Baker, Dillon Vanston, John Holmes, AJ Walters, Don Collins, Randy Cosselman, Chuck Dumblewski
1st win of the 2022 season and the 86th of his career in the division at Fonda for Gates
LAP LEADERS – 1-4 Ballard, 5-6 Baker, 7-25 Gates
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Ballard, Coonradt
FONDA FAIR FOUR CYLINDER FEATURE – 15-LAPS – BRANDON ELY (DOHC), KEN HOLLENBACK (SOHC), Kerrie Hollenback, Billy Hillman, Jay Ingersol, Bruce Liddle, Steve Burbank, Kyle Lanfear, Dale Van Allen, Jamie Warner, Jordan Ryder, Chad Hoffman, Todd Morey, Dustin Cameron, Chris Jennings Sr., Chris Hall, John Ray, Keith Tesiero Jr., Blaze Post, Kyle Coley (DNS)
$50 BONUS FROM UPSTATE AUTO FOR BOTH THE SOHC (KEN HOLLENBACK) & DOHC (BRANDON ELY) WINNERS
17th win of the 2022 season and the 85th of his career in the division at Fonda for Ken Hollenback
1st career win in the division at Fonda for Ely
LAP LEADERS – 1 Burbank, 2-3 Ken Hollenback, 4 Ely, 5 Ken Hollenback, 6-15 Ely
STREET STOCK FEATURE – 20-LAPS – ADAM TRANKA ($500 BONUS FROM STONE MOTORSPORTS/ONLINE PERFORMANCE), Jason Samrov ($300 BONUS FROM STONE MOTORSPORTS/ONLINE PERFORMANCE), Matt Mosher ($200 BONUS FROM STONE MOTORSPORTS/ONLINE PERFORMANCE), Ray Pierre Jr., Cliff Haslun, Jason Barrett, Lou Gancarz, Even Denue, Josh Samrov, Greg Brockway, Isaac Hirsch, Bob Gibson, Matt Wells, Dave Horning Sr., Chris Murray (DQ Illegal Exhaust)
1st career win in the division at Fonda for Tranka
LAP LEADERS – 1-20 Murray (DQ Illegal Exhaust)
CRSA SPRINT CAR FEATURE – 20-LAPS – MIKE KISER, Jeff Trombley, Jordan Hutton, Thomas Radivoy, Dalton Herrick, Tomy Moreau, Kyle Pierce, Billy Vaninwegen, Dana Wagner, Trevor Years, Timmy Lotz, Mike VanPelt, Mark Taylor, Darryl Ruggles, James Layton, Link Pettit, John Cunningham (DNS), Aaron Shelton (DNS), Ron Greek (DNS)
1st win of 2022 and the 5th of his career in the division at Fonda for Kiser moving him to the top of the All-Time Win List at Fonda for the CRSA Sprint Cars
LAP LEADERS – 1-2 Moreau, 3-6 Hutton, 7-14 Trombley, 15-20 Kiser
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Moreau, Vaninwegen
ARNOLD AINSWORTH DASH FOR CASH FOR THE TOP SIX IN STSS HALMAR ELITE SERIES POINTS – 6-LAPS – RYAN GODOWN ($450), Matt Sheppard ($250), Stewart Friesen ($100), Max McLaughlin, Jimmy Horton, Mat Williamson