By Mark Kane
For Capital Region Independent Media
Capital District racing families came together at the three local tracks — Albany Saratoga, Fonda and Lebanon Valley speedways — to pay tribute to one of their own that has been lost through the years.
As fans we may not always agree with each other on how races were won or lost, who got into who and for what reason. But there is one thing we do agree on and that is the love for dirt track racing and the respect we have for those gladiators who put on a show for us, the fans, and how we feel when we lose one of those gladiators, no matter if we knew them personally or just as a fan of the sport.
At “The Great Race Place,” Albany Saratoga, it was the Sportsman teams paying tribute to Mark Hughes, who was tragically killed in a work-related accident.
At “The Track of Champions,” for the 17th straight year the Fonda Speedway fans came together to honor fan favorite, as Jimmy King would say, HONDOOO Carpenter, who passed away after a three-wheeler accident with the Hondo Classic for Pro Stocks. Also honored was former car owner for HONDOOO and video extraordinaire (BOBCO) Bob James, who lost his fight against cancer with the first annual BOBCO Memorial Dash for Cash for the Pro Stocks. It was also fan appreciation night, with just $5 to get into the stands for a full night of ground-pounding racing action.
At “The Valley of Speed” it was a night of honoring Bryan Goewey, George Marcus and Bubba Tanner, three members of the Valley Family who are dearly missed. It was also the return of “The Jet” Brett Hearn to his office behind the wheel of the No. 20 for the first time in 2022.
With all the emotion off the racing surface the on-track action had me looking to see if there was a full moon in the sky with plenty of cautions being thrown and some tempers getting out of control. I am not sure of the reason, but while drivers are taking matters into their own hands it is getting out of control, especially when each week we hear how hard it is to find parts and how teams are parking their cars due to the financial strain of racing during the 2022 season.
Let’s just hope before someone gets hurt this matter gets taken care of and teams get back to racing with their head and not the front bumper. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of great racing action between the cautions as well.
ALBANY SARATOGA SPEEDWAY
At Albany Saratoga, after starting off the season with a win and then not having a season up to his standards, Peter Britten, the 2017 Modified champion, is on a roll going back to back in the NAPA Modified feature, making his way from the 13th starting position on a smooth, fast racing surface.
At the drop of the green it was veteran C.G. Morey grabbing the early lead with Kris Vernold, Ryan McCartney, Jack Speshock and Matt Depew rounding out the top 5. Quickly on the move was Speshock, who got the run out of turn 2 and would take over second on lap 3. Jeremy Pitts was rolling with his 27 ride and on the move was sitting in the top 5 by lap 5.
Morey was pulling away from the field as the caution flew on lap 8 to tighten up the field. Once back to green the racing inside the top 5 was heating up as Pitts, Don Ronca — who had moved his way into the top 5 from his sixth row starting spot — and Speshock going three-wide behind the leader, Morey. At this point you almost needed two sets of eyes as Adam Pierson, Kenny Tremont Jr. and Peter Britten were having a great battle of their own inside the top 10 and looking to get to the front.
By lap 15 the top 5 were Morey, Ronca, Pitts and the duo of Britten and Tremont Jr., who had worked their way to the top 5 still looking for more. Lap 17 found a new leader as veteran Don Ronca got the run off turn 4 and would get the lead down the front chute and continued to lead.
Behind the leader Pitts and Britten were having a great battle and closing in on the leader as Britten worked his way around Pitts. A great battle inside the top 10 found Marc Johnson, Matt DeLorenzo and Mike Mahaney battling hard for position. Going down the back chute on lap 27 Britten and Pitts caught the leader as the trio went into turn 3 side by side by side. Britten coming out of turn 4 and down the front chute the new leader and quickly started to pull away as Kenny Tremont Jr. was now working on Pitts and Ronca, with Speshock holding down a solid fifth and within striking distance as Tremont Jr. worked his way to second.
In the closing laps it was all Peter Britten in for his third win of the year with Tremont Jr., Jeremy Pitts in for a solid third, Speshock was fourth and Ronca held on for a top 5.
In the Sportsman it was Tommy D’Angelo picking up the Mark Hughes Memorial for his first-ever win in the Sportsman after making the move up in the limited Sportsman earlier in the season, rounding out the top 5 were Darryl Nutting, Travis Witbeck, Dylan Madsen and Dan Grignon.
In the Pro Stocks it was Chucky Dumblewski picking up the win after a last lap pass on Luke Horning coming out of turn 4 with Rob Yetman, Jason Casey and Shane Henderson rounding out the top 5.
In other action, Ashton Pierson picked up the hold over Limited Sportsman win with Chris Crane Jr. picking up the regular show, Nick Napoli picked up the Street Stock win and Jon Sheppard won the 4cyl. feature.
A full night of racing action greeted the fans on Fan Appreciation night at Fonda Speedway. This was a night full of emotion and great racing action in the Mohawk Valley. With just $5 to get in the front gate on a very special night it was great to see so many people take advantage of the price. At that price I am not sure you can even get a burger and soft drink at McDonald’s.
Once again, the Fonda race teams, their sponsors, family and friends, as well as the race fans became part of the 17th annual 29-lap Hondooo Classic to honor Hondooo Carpenter. Every year the racing family comes together to make this event a high-paying event for the Pro Stocks and this year it was no different as a total of $3,669.97 in lap and bonus money was raised and added to the regular weekly purse.
During the 17-year history of the event, nine drivers have won the prestigious event and now you can make it 10 as Beau Ballard picked up the popular win. The 26-car strong Pro Stocks made their way to the historic Fonda oval and went four-wide to salute their fallen friend in front of the packed covered grandstand where everyone was on their feet.
At the drop of the green, the powerful, low, sleek Pro Stocks roared into turn 1 with Jason Morrison grabbing the early lead with Beau Ballard and Chuck Dumblewski right along with him, along with the rest of the field looking for their part of the big pay day.
Lap 2 found an early race lead change with Ballard the new leader, with Morrison and Dumblewski in tow. Not happy with third, Dumblewski worked on Morrison and made his way to second in turn 2 on lap 4. Working his way to the front on the high side from his fifth row starting spot was current point leader Nick Stone, working his way into the top 5. Lap 8 found the field come back to Ballard as the caution flew for the 88 in turn 4. Once back to green Ballard once again went to the front as Stone quickly picked up two spots and was now the new second place car.
The red flag was out for a multi-car crash on the front chute. Back to green and the leaders went into turn 1 door to door with Ballard getting the lead over Stone and Luke Horning, who had worked his way into the top 3 after starting seventh. Out front the battle for the lead was heating up as Ballard on the top and Stone on the bottom were putting on a show for the fans and showing why the Pro Stocks are so popular.
Behind the leaders, Morrison, Dumblewski and Ivan Joslin were battling hard for the four, five and six spots. The leaders started to work their way into lap traffic as the caution once again was out. Once back to green Ballard remained the leader, with Stone all over his rear bumper as Luke Horning was working his way to the front and now into the top 5. Again the caution was out and this time it was for second place runner Nick Stone with what was thought as a flat, but later found out it was a broken wheel that sent the Stone No. 8 to the hot pit. After changing the tire Stone returned to the battle.
Once back to green, Ballard remained the leader and once again had to deal with another caution and this time it was Horning, who was on his rear bumper and took the lead with a slide job only to have Ballard put on a slide job of his own and regain the top spot. As good as the race was for the lead it was Stone putting on a drive back to the front, picking off cars at will and working his way to the front.
With 27 down and two to go, Horning jumped the berm and lost spots as Josh Coonradt, who had been working his way through the tough Fonda Pro Stock class, would take over second as Stone continued his drive to the front.
As the checkers flew on the 2022 edition of the Hondo Classic it was Beau Ballard picking up the popular win and all that went with it. Following Ballard to the line was Josh Coonradt, Nick Stone — who worked his way from the back over the last nine laps of the event — Chucky Dumblewski, Jason Morrison and Ivan Joslin rounding out the top 5.
The SUNOCO Modifieds would make their way to the track with the 12A replica coupe leading the parade to the speedway. At the drop of the green on the SUNOCO Modified feature, a pair of rookies would lead the pack to the green with Nick Heywood getting the early lead with another rookie, Tucker O’Connor, JaMike Sowle, Ryan Odaz and Chris Curtis in tow.
Quickly it was O’Connor showing early speed as he would go wheel to wheel with the leader into turn 1 and be the new leader on lap 3 as Ryan Odaz moved to second one lap later, leaving Heywood having to deal with Curtis and Craig Hanson, who was on the move. Behind the leaders, the 111 of Demetrios Drelloswas on the move as Hanson worked his way to the third spot.
With 10 down, O’Connor was now under heavy pressure from Odaz and Hanson as one lap later Hanson went into turn one in third and would come out of turn two and down the back chute the new leader. Drellos continued his march to the front and would now be sitting third and started to work on the rookie O’Connor for the second spot as the leaders stared to work their way into lap traffic.
Current point leader Matt DeLorenzo and Rocky Warner were making a charge to the front and were now sitting in the top 5, with Ronnie Johnson just outside the top 5. Things started to heat up for the lead as DeLorenzo worked his way to third as the leaders were putting on a show for the fans. Then things got interesting as Drellos put a slide job on Hanson to become the new leader down the back straight. Hanson made the same type of move on the leader, but contact was made, with Hanson becoming the leader and Drellos getting the run on the top side out of turn 4.
Then things heated up even more. In fact, it got downright steamy as Drellos tried to make the pass on the front stretch, Hanson moved up a lane and put on a block, but Drellos was right there on his door panel and again contact was made as Drellos was forced into the wall. Going into turn 1 Drellos dove to the bottom and made contact with the tire barriers and then contact with Hanson, sending the 20-car spinning into the wall between turns 1 and 2 as the caution flew with Drellos the new leader, so everyone thought, as on the next caution lap Drellos headed to the pits.
Their misfortune found DeLorenzo the new leader, Hanson bringing up the rear and Drellos done for the night. Once back to racing, the red was quickly out for a parking lot in turn 4. Back to green it was now DeLorenzo and Warner in a battle for the lead, with DeLorenzo able to keep the lead and pick up his fifth win of the year and 42nd of his career at the “Track of Champions,” and padded his point lead as Rocky Warner would finish second, Ronnie Johnson third,Dave Constantino fourth and Chris Curtis in for another solid run rounding out the top 5.
The Sportsman went green to checker with Brandon Gibbons getting the early lead and having a great run out front, looking for his first win. With the great run out front it was Payton Talbot who was the show after starting 12th and putting on a drive to the front.
As the laps clicked away, Gibbons still out front and Talbot now in second. Gibbons was locked down on the bottom behind a lap car as Talbot, who loves the high side, made the pass for the lead and would become the new leader on lap 21.
From that point on it was Talbot being the class of the field cruising to his second win of the year with Stephen Gray on a great run, Chad Edwards, Brendan Gibbons and Mark Mortenson rounding out the top 5.
Other action found Zach Dufel pick up his third win of the year in the limited Sportsman with Ken Hollenback and Dale VanAllen picking up the 4-cyl. wins.
Nick Stone picked up the BOBCO Memorial Dash for cash for the Pro Stocks and Jason Reome was the winner of the Swagger Factory 602 Black Flag Challenge.
At Lebanon Valley it was Brian Berger picking up the first-ever Bryan Goewey Memorial and the $10,000 paycheck that went with it.
On lap one of the event a nasty crash occurred on the back stretch with many cars involved. There were many damaged racers, but all drivers walked away. Following Berger to the line was Marc Johnson, Keith Flach, L.J. Lombardo and Eddie Marshall rounding out the top 5.
The Sportsman found Whitey Slavin picking up the George Marcus Memorial and Chad Jeseo picked up the 17th annual Bubba Tanner Pro Stock Classic.
It was a fine weekend of racing. We look forward to more this weekend with the beautiful weather on tap. Please be sure to support the sponsors that help bring the great sport of dirt track racing to the local tracks.