Column By: RYAN LOEFFLER / RPW – FONDA, NY – Tensions were running high Friday night at the Fonda Speedway as it was the qualifying night for the Fonda 200.
At a minimum, 40 cars will take their starting positions with each eyeing the $1,000-to-start and hopes of clinching victory at the end of the night Saturday to claim the coveted $53,000 winner’s share.
Each of the four qualifiers were 15 laps in distance for the Modifieds with seven cars transferring to the 200-lap main event with the top 3 drivers in each advancing to a redraw.
Fonda’s 2023 Modified track champion, Demetrios Drellos, driver of the #111, started fifth in the first qualifier but was able to climb to third after the a single lap.
Following a yellow flag on lap five, Drellos secured his place in the redraw on the ensuing restart by moving around Pep Corradi for the runner-up spot, a place he wouldn’t relinquish.
Former track champion Rocky Warner faced a daunting challenge in the first heat race. He had to star in the 12th position, shotgun on the field.
Warner made quick work of three cars in front of him from the first wave of the green from starter Joe Kriss and found himself into ninth after the first lap.
Rocky continued his climb up the leaderboard and was in sixth as the race neared completion. Then, he made his way around Corradi for fifth with two laps remaining and that’s where he finished.
“I was hoping to get into a redraw spot,” Warner said. “Being the first heat race, the track is really fast but I’m just thankful to get in.”
While his car was able to move through the field, Warner knows there’s more work to be done.
“We’ve got to get a little better,” he said for Saturday’s main event. “We’re a little tight and we’re not that good right now so we’ve got some work to do.”
Bobby Hackel was in the second heat race of the night, starting on the bubble in seventh.
The East Greenbush, NY driver, who most recently picked up his first career Fonda Speedway Modified feature event win, has found success at the track this season and loves the Fonda 200, even winning his qualifier for the evnet last season.
“I have felt awesome coming into this event,” Hackel said.
He was able to finish fifth in his qualifier and believes his recent runs in 360 sprint car competition has helped his runs in the Modified.
“Running the Sprint Car has allowed me to slow things down in the Modified,” he said. “Hopefully, that’ll help me stay out of trouble on Saturday.”
Before his heat race, I had the opportunity to speak with invader Danny Bouc. This weekend is Bouc’s first time at Fonda and feels like he needs all the laps he can get on track.
“I wish I could’ve run the Underdog 33 last night,” Bouc said. “This is my first time here and I would’ve liked to get more laps under my belt last night.”
Bouc said that the Danny Varin team was able to throw him a couple of bones in regard to setup for Friday night as Varin was the Modified winner on Thursday
The driver from Pipersville, PA started on the pole, inside of Stewart Friesen, for his heat race but faded to third on the first lap. However, that is where he finished as he was able to hold off the rest of the field to secure the coveted redraw position.
After Friday night’s action, 28 cars are locked into the main event on Saturday. The rest of the field for the Fonda 200 will be set on through last chance qualifiers before the 200-lapper.