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Chasin’ Racin’: Fonda championship battle

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By Mark Kane

For Capital Region Independent Media

Demetros Drellos looking for his first Fonda Speedway goes into Championship Night with a six-point lead. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

It has all come down to just six points for the Fonda Speedway Amsterdam Truck Center Modified Track Championship as Demetrios Drellos will go into the final night of points leading by a mere six points over defending champion Matt DeLorenzo.

Drellos is trying to pull off the same feat as DeLorenzo did in 2022 by picking up both the Fonda and Albany Saratoga Speedway Championships.  

Looking for his third Fonda championship (the first was in 2007), Matt DeLorenzo will be looking to change his luck after last week’s flat during the Modified feature that handed the point lead over to Drellos.

Looking at their record for the season at Fonda both drivers have picked up one win each, with Drellos having nine top 5’s as DeLorenzo had eight top 5’s during a season that found Mother Nature winning her share of the races.

Sitting a distant third is young gun Alex Yankowski, who makes the long haul from Covington Township, Pennsylvania, and seems to have found the top side of the historic speedway to his liking, sitting third with 47 points.

CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT

Championship Night is a special night for those who stand proud on Checker Board Square and join a list of great drivers who have had that feeling.

Winning a championship is tough. Winning a championship at a track with so much history and a list of champions that is a who’s who no matter what the division is even tougher and more gratifying.

The 2023 race season has found tight racing action in all divisions that will come down to one special night at the “Track of Champions,” Fonda Speedway.

A talented field of the mighty Amsterdam Truck Center Modifieds made their way to the track on a night that had been producing a great night of action-packed racing on a smooth, fast, multi-groove racing surface.

The fans were in for a treat come feature time. It was Bobby Hackel IV, fresh off a win at Five Mile Point Speedway, fourth at the STSS event at Action Track USA, and into the seat of a new Bicknell Chassis. 

Dave Camara led the field to green with Hackel grabbing the early lead going into turn one, leading down the backstretch, through turns 3 an4 and powered his 97 under the flag stand to lead lap one. Jack Lehner moved to second with Camera third. The caution flew on lap 3 for the 2RJ of Ronnie Johnson, who had slowed.

During the caution DeLorenzo headed to the hot pit for a flat left front tire and would work his way back out to bring up the back of the field. Back to green with Hackel again taking command with Lehner while Rocky Warner worked his way to third.

Matt DeLorenzo is looking for his third championship after losing the point lead last week. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

As good as the race was out front, working their way through  the pack was Demetrios Drellos, Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard and Alex Yankowski, with DeLorenzo on the charge. Now that’s some talent.

Working your way through the tough Fonda field is tough. When the track is as fast as it was Saturday night that charge to the front just got a whole lot tougher.

It was Friesen and Drellos working their way into the top 5 when the caution flew for Matt Sheppard, who was making a rare Saturday appearance looking for those all-important NASCAR points, and went pit side with a flat right rear and would return to the battle. Back to green, Hackel had the new Bicknell Pro Powered hot rod on the move powering to the lead as Friesen working his way to third, getting past Warner. 

Drellos and Yankowski raced hard going forward, with Drellos working his way into the top 5 and Yankowski with his foot to the motor plate. Out front, Hackel was on cruise control  as the racing inside the top 5 was heating up with Lehner and Friesen battling side by side for second on a track that was showing no signs of slowing down while Yankowski, Drellos and Warner were having a battle of their own. 

With Friesen working his way to second, it was Hackel, Friesen, Lehner, Drellos and Yankowski holding down the top 5, with Sheppard and DeLorenzo still working their way forward.

The caution was out for David Schilling. This would be the last time a caution would fly as we would go all green flag laps to the end.

Hackel and Friesen were side by side as they went into turn one, with Hackel powering the top side with perfection and becoming the leader down the back stretch as Sheppard and DeLorenzo had worked their way to just outside the top 5. Changing lanes, Friesen started to run the bottom and started to close in on the 97 but ran out of laps as Hackel continued to power the high side with perfection and that new combination is all he needed to pick up his first Fonda Speedway Modified feature win with Friesen, Drellos, Lehner and Yankowski rounding out the top 5.  Sheppard and DeLorenzo working their way to sixth and seventh.

MORE RACING

There were two drivers doing double duty during the night as Danny Varin, who pulled out of the Modified feature, and Hackel were both in ESS Super Sprints. WOW, were the 360 winged warriors fast as they were pushing the limits on the high side and putting on a show for the fans.

Bobby Hackel IV picked up his first-ever Fonda Speedway Modified feature win with a dominating performance. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

With his talent and experience at Fonda, Danny Varin showed the field the fast way around the famed half mile after starting sixth and taking the lead from Jordan Poirier on lap 13.

The early going found Bobby Hackel IV grabbing the  lead of the ESS Earl Halaquist Memorial Winged Super Sprint feature, holding off Jordan Poirier for the lead until Poirier worked his way around Hackel to become the new leader on lap 6. With the battle out front Varin was making his way to the front running the fast line around the high side and he was coming fast.

Taking second on lap 8, Varin quickly started to reel in Poirier. Getting a great run on the high side out of turn 2, Varin was able to power his way down the back stretch and work his way to the lead, coming out of turn 4 and never looked back, picking up the popular win with Poirier, Jorden Thomas and Paulie Colagiovanni who started ninth, with Matt Tanner rounding out the top 5 with a great run after starting 13th on a track that continued to be smooth, fast, and with multi grooves.

Danny Varin picked up the popular ESS Winged Super Sprint win at Fonda Speedway on a very fast racing surface. Mark Kane/For Capital Region Independent Media

The Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Sportsman, who are also in a battle for the championship, finds Payton Talbot going into Championship Night with a 25-point lead over Chad Edwards. At the drop of the green with the two major point chasers starting deep in the field, 17th and 19th, it was veteran and fan favorite Happy Harry Shaffer taking the early lead.

Out front, Shaffer was hitting his marks and was able to get the jump on three restarts. On the move were Talbot and Edwards, racing each other and the fine field as they were working their way into the top 5. You could not even hear the drivers getting off the gas into one and two.

For Shaffer it was Brett Mortensen, who was putting on the pressure and would make the move on the high side of four to be the new leader.

A late caution brought the field back to Mortensen’s rear deck with 10 laps to go. Once back to green, Mortensen continued out front. The battle was heating up for not only the third position but with one week left to go the championship is still on the line as the two championship contenders were racing hard nerf bar to nerf bar, swapping the spot and points as Shaffer was maintaining second.

Out front, Mortensen was the class of the field as he hung on for the win with Shaffer having a great run for second, Edwards held on for third, with Talbot fourth and Chip Constantino rounding out the top 5.

It was not a good start for the Below Zero Pro Stocks as a red flag flew on lap one for a parking lot in turn 1. Once back to green and Devon Camenga with the early lead as All-Time win leader Kenny Gates was second and point leader Ivan Joslin in the top 3.

After a lap 6 caution, Gates was now all over the leader and would make the move coming out of two and down the back chute to be the new leader, a lead he would never give up as he cruised to the popular win over Joslin, Camenga, Luke Horning and Josh Coonradt rounding out the top 5. With the win this gives Kenny five wins on the season and 91 career wins.

In other action, A.J. Greco picked up the Montgomery County Office For the Aging Limited Sportsman win as Wayne Russell and Kerrie Hollenbeck won the Fonda Fair Four Cylinders.

So here we are, it all comes down to the last night of racing to crown the champions at Fonda Speedway. What a night it is going to be.

There are some very special people in this sport and we have just lost one very special man, Don Davies. The love for the sport came out in the words he put on paper, the compassion he felt came out in the words he spoke. Mr. Don Davies was at the top of his game as a motorsports journalist and he had the utmost respect of all in the sport. Chasin’ Racin’ would like to extend our deepest thoughts to JoAnn, his wife, and the entire family. Don will be deeply missed.

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