By Mark Kane
For Capital Region Independent Media
It was fan appreciation night at the “Track of Champions,” Fonda Speedway, with a meet and greet on the famed front stretch along with the (MVVDMS) Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series, and all the great racing that went along with it for just $5.
I am not sure who enjoys coming to the front stretch more, the drivers who put on the show or the fans who cheer them on.
Race teams come to the track with candy, pictures and stickers for the fans and the fans come down from the stands with smiles from ear to ear. For the weekly fans no matter what their age these chauffeurs are their heroes, the drivers who weekly lay it all on the line.
The appreciation comes from both sides of the fence and that is what it is all about, the racing family coming together as one.
The on-track racing once again found a multi-groove speedway and Saturday night they used the entire speedway racing 2- and 3-wide for some great and exciting racing action in all divisions.
Back in mid-May, Craig Hanson picked up his first win in six years. Well, I guess he liked how it felt as he picked up his second win of the 2022 season in the SUNOCO Modified feature on a busy night at Fonda Speedway after starting eighth on the field.
At the drop of the green it was JaMike Sowle grabbing the early lead in the Palmer Service 76, with Chris Curtis moving from his fourth starting position to take over the second position with Nick Haywood holding down third. As the caution was out for the 34 of Dave Constantino, he and Craig Hanson made contact, with Constantino slowing between turns 2 and 3 and headed to the hot pit and returned to bring up the tail of the field.
Back to green and it was Chris Curtis, Lindell Fuel’s #35, who has become a weekly competitor in 2022 as the new leader with Sowle all over his rear deck down the back chute. Rocky Warner quickly moved to third in the Jason Simmons Racing 98 machine as the caution flew once again, with Constantino slowing on the front stretch and he was done for the night.
Once back to green, Curtis continued to lead with Sowle, Warner, Brian Pessolano and a fast-moving Matt DeLorenzo working his way into the top 5. Lap 5, with Curtis on the bottom, Sowle used the high side between turns 1 and 2 and powered his way to the lead as the last caution of the feature was out for the 50 of Bill August.
Back to green and Sowle continued as the leader as Warner worked his way to second, as Bobby Varin used the high side out of turn 2 to work his way into fourth and was not done yet, taking over the third spot as it was starting to get interesting in the top 5.
On the move was Craig Hanson and R.J., Ronnie Johnson, as Hanson was now in the top 5 and Johnson just outside sitting sixth. Once again, the mid-pack racing was heating up with Demetrios Drellos, Danny Varin and Jack Lehner all looking for racing room. Back up front the Hanson Paving 20 of Craig Hanson worked his way to second out of turn 4.
With Sowle looking stout in the lead trying for the first win with the Palmer’s 76 since securing the ride and for his first Modified win since 2013 he had turned back Warner, but now had Hanson in second and closing fast.
The 2RJ of Ronnie Johnson moved into the top 5 as just before lap 20 it was Sowle, Hanson, Warner, Curtis and Johnson holding down the top 5. The fast-closing Hanson was nerf bar to nerf bar with the leader in turn 3 and made his move on the bottom of turn 4 and would be the new leader of lap 22. He was never challenged from that point and would pick up his second win of the year and ninth of his career at Fonda Speedway.
Holding on for a fine second was JaMike Sowle with a solid run, Warner, Curtis with his best ever finish and the 2RJ of Johnson rounded out the top 5.
WOW, just about tells the story of the Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Sportsman event as it was a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat nail biter right to the end.
Again, this talented field of drivers was racing hard and using every inch of the racing surface from the wall on the high side to the bottom, where the track meets the infield, racing 2- and 3-wide and over the closing laps the crowd was on its feet as the leaders worked through lap traffic.
At the drop of the green it was veteran Dan Santabarbara #7 out to an early lead with the #24 of Brandon Gibbons holding down second after a close call after the #27 of Jason Reome just about drove through the #24 on the initial start under the flag stand.
All eyes were on third-generation driver Tanner Warner, Mark Mortenson and Cody Clark, who were on the move early and into the top 5 and trading positions, doing it with talent and not the front bumper.
A great move by Mortenson found the talented driver coming into the event second on the all-time Sportsman win list powered to the high side around Clark and Warner to be third behind leaders Santabarbara and Gibbons.
Working his way from the 12th starting spot was Payton Talbot, who has been hotter than a firecracker as of late, on the outside and coming to the front in his #14. As Santabarbara continued with a torrid pace out front and had built up a nice lead on the field, Mortenson worked his way to second around Gibbons, leaving Gibbons the tall order to try and hold off Clark and Warner.
Going down the back stretch, Santabarbara encountered heavy lap traffic and lost his momentum as Mortenson was on a charge and closed in on the leader. Once again, lap traffic would find Mortenson all over the leader and would be the new leader on lap 19 once again.
Using the high side out of turn 4, Santabarbara was feeling right at home on the bottom. Talbot had cracked the top 5 and rim riding the top side with perfection and coming fast.
The leaders were side by side and Talbot was racing Clark hard for third nerf bar to nerf bar, with Talbot getting the spot and setting his sights on the leaders, who were in heavy traffic putting on a show that brought the crowd to their feet. Working the high side, Mortenson went 3-wide around a lap car to hold the lead as it was Talbot who had caught the leaders and made the move to second had one last shot at Mortenson, but ran out of laps and had to settle for a fine second at the checkers, with Mortenson picking up his 25th career win.
With this win it ties him with Rocky Warner on the All-Time Sportsman win list.
Following Mortenson to the line was Talbot, Clark and Santabarbara with a nice run, and Warner rounding out the top 5.
In the Pro Stocks, even after being involved in a lap 6 tangle in turn 1, Nick Stone made a last lap pass on all-time Pro Stock winner Kenny Gates to pick up his eighth straight win with Gates, Beau Ballard, Jason Morrison and Chucky Dumblewski rounding out the top 5.
The Limited Sportsman found Kyle Dingman pick up his second win of the year as Ken Hollenback and John Napoli picked up the 4-cylinder wins.
The MVVDMS wins went to Randy Delaney Modifieds, Dan Colvin Sportsman, Curtis Condon Late Model, Carl Cram Mystique, and Jimmy Fugel Antique.
In other action, it was the Ravena Rocket, Keith Flach, picking up the NAPA Modified win at the “Great Race Place” with Matt DeLorenzo, Marc Johnson, Demetrios Drellos and Mike Mahaney rounding out the top 5.
In the Sportsman it was 69 years young Ron Proctor getting his first win since 2011.