Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – FONDA, NY – Friday night at Fonda Speedway was the type of night that Andy Bachetti, Mat Williamson and Max McLaughlin wanted, and maybe needed, if they have eyes on the big money Saturday night.
While all three drivers didn’t make way to Checkered Board Square to win one of the four qualifying races for the Fonda 200, each were able to stake a claim that they could be holding Brett Deyo’s $53,000 check at the end of Saturday’s crown jewel event.
For Bachetti, finishing second in the third qualifier to Stewart Friesen puts the ‘Wild Child in the redraw on Saturday and gives him a big shot of confidence.
“Our car was pretty good tonight,” Bachetti said. “I don’t know if we would have had anything for Stewart if we’d had a caution, but I’m happy with our effort.”
Friesen took off from the drop of the green from his outside front row starting spot and left the rest of the field in his wake. Bachetti was able to power to the runner-up spot but knows the 44 car is going to be tough in the main event.
“We just need to hope he has a bad day tomorrow night,” he said with a laugh. “Actually, he seemed to have us all covered by like eight-tenths. We’re good but we still need to do some work to be a winning car, but I’m happy.”
Bachetti was piloting his team’s DKM Cyclone chassis on Saturday. This is the same car he had success at Fonda with back on April 22nd for the Jumpin’ Jack Johnson Memorial.
“This car really seems to work well here at Fonda,” he said. “This was the best I’ve felt here in a long time. I hope we can translate that into a great run on Saturday.”
Mat Williamson also had a great piece in his qualifier, driving from ninth to finish third behind winner Alex Yankowski and 2023 Modified Track Champion Demetrios Drellos.
“Jeff (Behrent) and these guys gave me a great car tonight,” Williamson said. “We were able to move around and make passes like we needed to and got to a redraw spot. Now, hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow.”
Saturday night is 200 laps and is one of only a handful of crown jewels that Williamson doesn’t have in the trophy case. Does he think he’ll be able to get to the front or will strategy have to come into play?
“I sure hope this thing is good for all 200,” he said. “It’s a good car and these guys work their tails off to make it this way. We need luck on our side, just like everyone will, but I think we have a car that can win.”
How close is Williamson’s car after Friday’s 15-lap qualifier? Is it a winning car or will they have to fine tune?
“I think we’re on the right track for sure,” he said. “It’s close and we showed we can drive forward. Now we just need to make some minor tweaks to get it even better.”
With making it to the redraw, does Williamson feel getting a good starting spot is important?
“It’s 200 laps,” he said. “If we start 12th, and blame the draw for why we didn’t win, then we just weren’t good enough. Plain and simple, but I think we have the car, the engine and the team to win $53,000 tomorrow night.”
Max McLaughlin wasn’t lucky enough to make it into the redraw for Saturday’s main event, but the HBR driver put on a show driving from the final row of the third qualifier (11th starting spot) to come home sixth and lock into the show.
“It was very important to get in the show tonight,” McLaughlin said. “We didn’t get up as far as we’d like but we got in so I’m happy with that.”
Did track conditions aid or hamper McLaughlin’s charge through the field?
“It was hard to pass,” he said. “The track’s pretty dirty but it was a lot smoother than it was on Thursday night. Gives me some confidence that it’ll be even better for tomorrow and hopefully it cleans off.”