By Mark Kane
For Capital Region Independent Media
The 2023 Fonda Speedway season was coming down to the final night of points for champions. This is a promoter’s dream. However, heavy rain coming at race time was a nightmare.
What do you do? Either way, someone is not going to be happy, but for those who have to travel any distance as a team as well as the fans, the right decision was made early to cancel the show. The real winner this year was Mother Nature as she has not been kind to Brett Deyo and the “Track of Champions,” with six race nights canceled due to rain.
With the cancellation due to rain, it is Demetrios Drellos as the 2023 Amsterdam Trucks Center Modified champion behind the wheel of the #111. Having a consistent year, Drellos picked up one win and had nine top 5 finishes on the way to his first championship at Fonda Speedway by a mere 6 points over defending champion Matt DeLorenzo.
The rain-shortened season found some great racing action with multiple motor combinations that were working well on a very fast racing surface, with three racing grooves for those who found the high side to their liking.
The Modified field is filled with former and future champions. The talented veterans are working hard to stay on top as the next generation is giving them problems.
Oh, that next generation I am talking about has some mighty talented young guns to deal with on a weekly basis. Speaking of young guns and liking the high side, Alex Yankowski has taken a liking to Fonda Speedway, finishing third in points with his foot to the motor plat looking for his first Fonda win. Having an up and down season, Rocky Warner was fourth(two wins) and rookie Cody Clark picked up one win on his way to fifth in points after a fine rookie season.
Picking up his second consecutive Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Sportsman championship was Payton Talbot with six wins and 10 top 5 finishes against a strong field of weekly competitors. Nothing comes easy in the 602 Sportsman, especially six wins. With his talent behind the wheel, and smooth, clean driving style each week, he is driving from deep in the field and putting on a show on the high side of the famed oval. From the stands, it is a scary place to be up there near the wall.
Having an off year to the 10% standards, Chad Edwards finished 25 points back with seven top 5 finishes. Sitting thid in points was Clayton DuMond with 1 win and 8 top 10s as Chip Constantino and Tanner Warner rounded out the top 5.
The ever-popular Below Zero Pro Stocks again had another great season of highly competitive fender to fender racing action week in and week out. When all was said and done, it was Ivan Joslin picking up his first championship over All-Time win leader Kenny Gates by only 16 points.
The top 5 were separated by only 36 points as consistency was the name of the game. Joslin had two wins and nine top 5s, along with two top 10s in 11 events. Meanwhile Gates had five wins along with nine top 5s. Rounding out the top 5 in points is Beau Ballard, Josh Coonradt, and Shane Playford.
A class that has grown in numbers is the Montgomery County Office for Aging Limited Sportsman. You could see many of the drivers getting better week by week, working their way to the front that at times was a tough thing to do, but Kyle Dingman sure did weekly. In 11 events Dingman had no wins and 10 top 5s, working his way from deep in the starting grid, while avoiding trouble on his way to the championship, 60 points ahead of Lance Hill with Mike Kalkbrenner, Mike Hill and Timothy Wilmont in the top 5.
Weekly the Fonda Fair Four Cylinders put on a show one way or another. Ken Hollenbeck with six hard-fought wins is the 2023 champion, with brother Kerrie Hollenbeck 8 points back in second with two wins. Behind the brothers’ act it was Wayne Russell, Tim Warner and Len St. Andrews.
UTICA ROME SPEEDWAY
There we were sitting in the stands at Utica Rome Speedway for the Tezos All-Stars Circuit of Champions 410 wing Sprints feature. The place was packed, the track was smooth and fast, Sprint Car fast.
Out front of the Sprint Car feature was a white and blue #01 from the drop of the green. Not one of the All-Star regulars, not even a full-time Sprint Car driver but a part-time Modified and part-time Sprint car driver racing for a small team. We were watching something very special lap after lap, something this race fan has been waiting for.
I have watched Danny Varin from his early years behind the wheel. When he found his love for Sprint Cars he seemed to find the talent that goes along with it and has done rather well and now has won his first national event with the traveling All-Stars with the crowd on their feet.
A few weeks back at Weedsport Speedway, Varin was racing with the World of Outlaw Sprints, set fast time, won his heat, the Dash for Cash and was leading the feature when he slowed with an overheating power plant, ending his fine night and chance at that win. Let’s see, that’s racing and beating the best, the Sprint Car traveling series of the World of Outlaws and All-Stars have to offer. Danny Varin, you did it… Congratulations.
It was not an easy night for the Varin camp at Utica Rome Speedway as earlier in the night after warm-ups and time trials smoke could be seen from the Varin 01. The team had the car ready for racing action and Danny Varin was the class of the field, winning his heat, Dash, and starting on the pole.
From his upfront starting position, Varin jumped to an early lead and had to hold off the challenge of Kerry Madsen after Varin jumped the berm in turn 4 and bounced right back. Up front Varin used the high side with perfection, working his way through traffic.
Behind the leader the winged warriors were putting on a show for the fans, racing hard and using the entire speedway. On the move was Tyler Courtney, who picked up the win the night before at Outlaw Speedway after not being behind the wheel after receiving injuries a month ago at Williams Grove.
Working his way to second, Courtney started to reel in Varin but ran out of time as Varin continued to lead and held on for the popular $10,000-to-win event over Courtney, Zeb Wise, Stewart Friesen doing double duty aboard the 79 of Jordan Taylor, and Madsen rounding out the top 5.
Working his way to the front after starting 13th on the grid, Stewart Friesen parked the Halmar 44 on the front stretch with the win in the 3 Bastards Brewing Thunder Along the Thruway Modified feature.
At the drop of the green it was Bobby Hackle grabbing the early lead as Justin Wright settled into second and kept Hackel in his sights. Behind the leaders Friesen and Billy Decker were on their way to the front, working their way through the fine field that had assembled. Up front Hackel and Wright were staging a battle for the lead racing nerf bar to nerf bar.
The fine ride for Hackel came to an end with sparks coming from the rear of his 97 machine to bring out the yellow as Zach Payne, Rocky Warner, Danny Varin in the BDR 16S for the night and JaMike Sowle running in the top 5.
Back to green it was Wright as the new leader as Friesen worked his way to fourth and Tim Fuller and Decker were still working their way to the top 5. Finding some speed, Warner worked his way to second in turn 2. With Wright out front the battle in the top 5 was heating up as Payne, Warner and Friesen would go 3-wide, with Friesen getting the spot.
A late race caution tightened up the field and found Wright and Friesen racing hard, with Friesen getting the lead with just four laps to go as now it was Fuller and Decker racing hard and into the top 5.
When the checker fell it was Friesen in for the win with Wright, Fuller, Decker and, with his fifth-place finish 19-year-old Alex Yankowski is the 2023 Thunder Along the Thruway Series champion. Having a rough night was Utica point leader Matt Sheppard, who experienced motor troubles early in the night.
The 602 Sportsman found Matt Janczuk pick up the win after leading all 25 laps of the event for yet another win and now has a 13-point lead over Patton Talbot, who would finish second and secure the Thunder Along the Thruway Series championship. Rounding out the top 5 were Willie Decker Jr., Connor Prokop and Blaine Klinger.
The Pro Stocks found Luke Horning picking up the Pro Stock feature with Kenny Gates, Nick Stone, Ivan Joslin and A.J. Walters rounding out the top 5. With his third-place finish, Nick Stone is the 2023 Pro Stock Thunder Along the Thruway Series champion.
What a great night of racing action on a great racing surface that has seen its fair share of rain. For Danny Varin it was a dream come true in front of his hometown fans. Congrats to the entire Varin team on a job well done, guys.
With his strong performances at Fonda and Utica Rome Speedways, Payton Talbot sits on top of the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division II points.
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