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Chasin’ Racin’: Four first-time winners          

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By Mark Kane

For Capital Region Independent Media

Rookie Cody Clark picked up his first ever Modified win, adding his name to an impressive list. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

Sitting in the Fonda Speedway stands as long as I have over the years, I have seen many first-time winners, but Saturday night there was something special about it in more ways than one.  Let’s start out with how about four new winners in one week?

And it gets better from where I was sitting.     

The past few seasons, the Fonda Speedway fans have watched Cody Clark hone his skills in the tough 602 Sportsman driving the high side and always putting on a show with his clean, hard driving style. During the off-season, Cody and Laudy Hoyenga joined forces and the team has been fast right out of the box.

The Modified rookie, who has been right in the middle of the fight all year and gaining popularity in the stands, was in the thick of the battle from his up-front starting position. What was special was his mom sits right below us and Laudy sits behind us. Think they were a little excited when Cody won his heat? I’d say just a little, and even more when he pulled the front row starting spot for the Modified feature.Oh, Mom knew he had a fast hot rod under him and she was getting a little bit more excited. 

Let’s just save the best for last — the last three laps of the exciting $4,000-to-win Thunder Along the Thruway Series feature.

How about a driver who wins a Pro Stock championship in 2005, picks up 18 wins sitting eighth on the all-time win list along the way at Fonda Speedway, takes a few years off and comes back with all four American Racers diggin’ in a Crate 602 Sportsman and pulls off an impressive win in just a few weeks back turning left. Well, that is what Butchie Irwin did driving the Mitch Poole-owned, New Day Motors, Don Downes prepared ride.

Butchie Irwin picked up 2005 Pro Stock championship, took a few years off and piloted the Mitch Poole 117B to his first 602 Sportsman win. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Seems like the Greene County connection has hit their stride. This is a team with a long family racing history, a love for the sport and they have more than paid their dues. With Butchie and Garrett Poland behind the wheel the team has jelled during  the 2023 season.

In his Pro Stock career, Butchie was a tough competitor in a class that was as hard to win in as it is today and seems he has not lost the touch only now it’s a whole different animal, a few years later, but the win feels just as good for the entire team.

The Pro Stock feature found both Nick Stone and Beau Ballard disqualified, handing the win to Shawn Playford, who has had an up and down season but has been very competitive in the always tough and popular class. “Handing” is the wrong word, “earned” is better as he battled door to door for the lead with Stone. Guess I can understand why he would not want to win like that, but remember he won with a legal car. That is most important and should mean a lot.

The Limited Sportsman found Tim Wilmont avoid the leader who got loose and made contact with the back stretch wall, ending the night for the leader. This then handed the lead over to Wilmont as he adds his name to the list of winners along with the other three at the “Track of Champions,” Fonda Speedway.

MODIFIEDS

As the Mighty Modifieds made their way to the track it was the rookie Cody Clark with veteran and former track champion Dave Camara, who is in a comeback year.

At the drop of the green it was Clark grabbing the early lead with Alex Yankowski, Ronnie Johnson, Stewart Friesen and Rocky Warner holding down the top 5 when an early caution was out for Jesse Mueller with a flat tire.

Alex Yankowski and Stewart Friesen racing hard during the Short Tack Super Series at Fonda Speedway. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

Once back to green it was Yankowski the new leader through one and two and down the back chute with Clark, Ronnie Johnson, Rocky Warner to fourth and Stewart Friesen back to fifth. On the move was Matt DeLorenzo, working his way from his 12th starting position as Yankowski was pulling away from the field and closing in on lap traffic. Now in lap traffic, Clark was starting to close the gap as DeLorenzo and Warner battled for fifth.It was DeLorenzo getting the spot as Demetrios Drellos was working his way through the tough Modified field on a very fast racing surface.

By the half way flags it was Yankowski still out front and able to hold off the challenge of Clark after a series of cautions that kept the racing close found DeLorenzo and Friesen battling hard and nerf bar to nerf bar as Drellos continued his march to the front as things were starting to heat up.

Working hard to stay in the top 3, Ronnie Johnson now was in a battle with DeLorenzo and Friesen as they both worked their way past the 2RJ of Johnson, leaving him to now have to deal with Drellos. Out front Yankowski was hitting his marks lap after lap and continued as the leader as Drellos worked his way past Johnson for fifth.

The laps clicked away when seventh-place runner Rocky Warner made contact with the wall between turn 1 and 2 to bring out the caution and tighten up the field on lap 27 for a three-lap shoot out. Mom was getting a little excited and it was starting to catch on with the fans around her.   At this moment they were all Cody Clark fans.

As the green flew, just like the past restarts Yankowski was on the money, but this time Clark was right on his rear deck through one and two and down the back stretch. The rookie was peddling for all he had and he had enough as the leaders worked their way under the flag stand. Going down the back chute into turn 3, Clark went high, Yankowski took the short way around with Clark ending up on the top pulled to the door of the leader.  

Between the turns and coming out of turn 4 the leaders made contact as Clark then made contact with the wall. Going under the flag stand, Clark became the new leader with a fireworks of sparks coming out from the rear of the #4. It didn’t seem to do anything to how the car ran as with mom and all her newfound friends Cody Clark picked up the popular win with Yankowski, Drellos, DeLorenzo and Stewart Friesen rounding out the top 5. 

This is Cody’s first win in a Modified.

MORE RACING

In other action, Butchie Irwin grabbed the lead on a lap 2 restart and was the class of the field from that point on.

Working the high side lap after lap and hitting his marks, Irwin cruised to his first 602 Sportsman feature win as Chad Edwards, Brian Calabrese, Stephen Gray and Chip Constantino rounded out the top 5. The second-place run for Chad Edwards was well earned after starting 15th on the field. Point leader Payton Talbot had a tough night coming to a stop on the front stretch.

The Pro Stocks found Shane Playford picking up the win in another of those great features fans have gotten used to. Early it was Ivan Joslin and Shane Playford battling door to door for the lead with Playford getting the spot, but the two would race clean again side by side with the lead being swapped as Nick Stone and Beau Ballard were working their way through the field. 

With Playford out front, Stone worked his way to second and again Playford was racing door to door with Stone getting the spot and the win until a post-race inspection found both Stone and  the second-place car of Ballard disqualified, making the new top 5 Shane Playford, Luke Horning, Kenny Gates, Ivan Joslin and Josh Coonradt during the very competitive feature.

The Limited Sportsman found Tim Wilmont in for the win with Lance Hill, Kristen Swartz, Kyle Dingman and Michael Kalkbrenner rounding out the top 5.

The four-cylinder was won by Kerrie Hollenbeck.

SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES FIRECRACKER

On Monday it was right back to the “Track of Champions” for the Short Track Super Series Firecracker 50, with 50 laps of ground-pounding Modifieds for $10,000-to-win.

The night found Canadian Michael Parent, Bobby Hackel IV, Matt Sheppard and Cody Clark picking up heat wins for the 39 STSS Modifieds. After the re-draw it was a pair of Mats or Matts on the front row, with Mat Williamson and Matt DeLorenzo bringing the field to green with 2022 Fonda Track champion DeLorenzo leading the charge into turn 1. 

Lap 2 found the caution out for the 1Z of Jessica Friesen, who had lost the power plant and was done for the night. Back to green with DeLorenzo Williamson, Yankowski, Fuller and seventh starting Sheppard in the top 5, with Sheppard working his way to fourth on the re-start.

With DeLorenzo in the lead, the racing was heating up on another very fast racing surface that had Williamson and Yankowski battling for second with the high-flying Yankowski getting the spot. Working their way from mid-pack starting spots, Demetrios Drellos, Stewart Friesen and Billy Decker were racing their way forward, but the talent-filled field was not making it easy.

The yellow was out for Brian Calabrese with a flat to bring the field back to the rear deck of the 3D.  Back to green it was DeLorenzo leading into turn 1, with Yankowski showing power and staying close. Matt Sheppard worked his way to third.

Again the racing just outside the top 5 was nerf bar to nerf bar with tight and clean racing, and it was Danny Varin who seemed to be the fastest. Another flat tire brought out the yellow this time for Max McLaughlin who just a few weeks back won his first Fonda Modified feature.

Back to green the Sheppard 9S dropped quickly back to where he had started in seventh and Danny Varin was coming to the front and coming fast working his way to third. Just one lap later the 93 of Varin made heavy contact with the outside wall after it looked like something broke on the front end, the red flag was out.

Wow, a lot of racing action and only 17 laps into the feature that found DeLorenzo, Yankowski, Williamson, Drellos, Friesen, with Matt Sheppard back to sixth. Back to green and again DeLorenzo put the 3D out front as Sheppard worked his way back into the top 5. The track was still bad fast as the leaders started to pull away and Sheppard was making up ground as again things were heating up in the top 5.  

With Sheppard working his way around Drellos and then after the halfway flags Sheppard was the new second-place car, setting his sights on DeLorenzo, and would be the new leader of lap 28 with DeLorenzo settling into second. 

Not settling for anything was Friesen as he was in a heavy battle with the 111 of Drellos, neither willing to give an inch. The great race for point leader Drellos came to an end when smoke could be seen from the back of the 111 ride as Friesen worked his way to second. The caution was out for Chris Curtis as Drellos pulled pit side.

Super Matt Sheppard picked up the Short Track Super Series Firecracker 50 at Fonda Speedway. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

Once out front after the re-start, Sheppard would hang on to pick up the $10,000 win and Special trophy with Friesen, hanging on for second after battling Yankowski late in the race who would continue to have strong runs in third with DeLorenzo and Williamson rounding out the top 5 as Max McLaughlin rebounded for sixth.

In the STSS 602 Sportsman it was current point leader Payton Talbot back to the win after a tough Saturday night ended his night early. Following Talbot to the line was Brian Calabrese, Michael Ballestero, Tanner Warner and Tyler Peet rounding out the top 5. 

Well, that’s it for now, folks. Please  support those who sponsor local dirt track racing.

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