Column By: RYAN LOEFFLER / RPW – FONDA, NY – One of New York’s modified crown jewel events is on tap this weekend at the Fonda Speedway.
The facility will be jam-packed with drivers and fans from all over the northeastern United States looking forward to one of the biggest weekends of the year in the world of dirt modifieds.
Whether it’s due to it having the largest dirt modified winner’s payout on the entire east coast, or the rich history surrounding the event, it’s definitely a weekend that all northeastern dirt modified drivers have circled on their calendar since the beginning of the season.
The inaugural running of the Fonda 200 dates back to 1955 when NASCAR legend Junior Johnson took the checkered flag with the NASCAR Grand National Series.
The history doesn’t stop there though. Racing legends such as Richard Petty, David Pearson, Jack Johnson, Bob McCreadie and Brent Hearn all have visited victory lane at the Montgomery County fairgrounds in this prestigious event over the years.
Two out of the past three editions of the event had the local favorite Stewart Friesen taking home the $53,000 prize, as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver claimed wins in 2019 and 2021. (The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Last year’s running had the six-time Short Track Super Series champion Matt Sheppard coming away victorious. Sheppard did not have an entirely easy path to victory lane on that night however.
Sheppard started 11th and was even back to as far as 13th on a restart at the halfway break, before the 9s came roaring to the front during the second half of the race. “Superman” only needed 32 of the final 100 laps to climb his way to the front of the field. Once there, he didn’t look back, finishing the night on the top step of the podium.
Saturday’s running of the event is Round 3 of the 2023 Short Track Super Series Ollie’s Bargain Outlet ‘Elite’ Series and is also Round 10 of the 2023 River Valley Builders North Region for the beasts of the northeast. Sheppard currently leads the point standings in the Elite series after picking up wins in the first two rounds, both at the Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, NY.
Billy Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Mat Williamson, and Larry Wight round out the Top 5 of the standings, only separated by a combined 12 points. Sheppard also holds a commanding lead in the North Region standings, picking up 6 wins in 9 races so far this season. Mat Williamson currently sits in 2nd for this series with Marc Johnson, Dillon Steuer, and Steve Bernier following in that order.
Weekly racer and former Super Dirt Car Series full-timer Demetrios Drellos will look to add a Fonda 200 win to his resume after picking up the Amsterdam Truck Center Modified track championship earlier this season. Drellos was just able to edge out Matt Delorenzo by a mere six points to take home the title.
Both drivers were dominate at Fonda throughout this year, as each scored a win and nine Top 10’s in 12 features.
The modifieds take the track for the first time on Friday evening, for their Short Track Super Series Amsterdam Truck Center Modified Qualifying Races.
In 2022, it was Billy Decker, Stewart Friesen, Max McLaughlin, and Bobby Hackel IV picking up wins in the 15-lap heat races.
Aside from the modifieds, Friday’s program also features the CRSA Sprint Cars, the Below Zero Ice Cream Pro Stocks, Street Stocks & Fonda Fair Four Cylinders on the card.
Saturday concludes the weekend’s action with the STSS Modified B-Mains, as well as a full program for the Swagger Factory Apparel STSS Crate 602 Sportsman, and is capped off with the 31st running of the Fonda 200.