By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – The “Jeffer” as he is called by many, Jeff Heotzler won his first career Sunoco Modified feature at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway on Saturday evening in the $4,000 to win Firecracker Showdown. The race was named as such as it was a shakedown run for the Firecracker 50 to be held on Wednesday, July 1.
Saturday evenings racing events were sponsored by long time track sponsors School House Pools Inc. of Amsterdam, NY.
Heotzler won the event in the iconic Palmer’s Service Center #76 Teo Pro car owned by Carole and Alton Palmer. Heotzler was named as the driver of the car earlier this year and the combined experience of both Heotzler and car owner and former driver Alton Palmer make it a very potent race team for sure.
In the Fuccillo Automotive Group Mike Cole Memorial victory lane, Mimi Lazzaro was honored to interview Heotzler, who her father Lou Lazzaro used to race with during his career while Mimi grew up around them all in the pit area.
“Thanks to Alton and Carole for choosing me to drive this racecar,” Heotzler said in victory lane. “We really couldn’t get a handle on this Teo Pro car, but we were finally able to do so this week. Hopefully, we can keep it up front.”
Heotzler dedicated the race to Jared Petruska who passed away earlier this year. Petruska and his family owned the Atlas Paving #66 who Heotzler drove for at times during his career. “This one is for Jared Petruska,” Heotzler said.
Early day rain made some hard work for the track crew to get the track ready for the racing events on Saturday evening, but they did a tremendous job which led to some really quick lap times during the evening.
In heat three, Danny Varin came close to breaking the track record of his father Bobby who set the record back on April 11, 2009 with a lap of 18.136. Danny’s turned a lap of 18.199 secs in heat race number three on Saturday evening.
Ed Biittig Sr. won the 50/50 on Saturday evening worth $751.
Fonda Speedway head starter Joe Kriss opened the racing program with a fantastic rendition of the National Anthem.
DTD TV did a fantastic job videoing the racing events on Saturday at Fonda as there were no fans allowed in the grandstands for the racing events.
It was the first night of handicapping of the 2020 racing season and after winning heat race number one Jeff Heotzler was handicapped to start on the outside pole and he took the lead at the drop of Joe Kriss’ green flag in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. After starting in the sixth position, Danny Varin gained two spots up to fourth just before the first of only two caution flags slowed the event.
On the restart, Craig Hanson was the new second place car with Varin just behind in third with ninth place starter Josh Hohenforst and 10th place starter and defending track champion Rocky Warner completing the top five. At the halfway point in the event the top five remained the same with the leader in lap traffic by lap 16.
Varin got by Hanson on lap 17 for the second position and one lap later Varin started putting pressure on the leader. Hohenforst and Varin swapped the second position a couple of times with the final caution of the event out with five laps to go for Hanson whose great run came to an end with a flat right rear tire. Hanson would pit for a new tire and rejoin the rear of the field.
Warner took the third position away from Hohenforst with three laps to go with 14th place starter Matt DeLorenzo following him through for the fourth position. Warner got by Varin for the second position with two laps to go in the event but Heotzler kept the car straight and true to the checkered flag for his first career win at Fonda.
Warner, Varin, DeLorenzo, and Hohenforst completed the top five along with a great run by Scott Huber to finish sixth.
“This is another one for the bucket list,” Heotzler said. “I haven’t got many years left but it’s always great to come to Fonda. Thanks to Carole and Alton for giving me this opportunity.”
Six caution flags slowed the Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman feature event with Kevin Chaffee leading at the drop of the green flag from his pole position start. Outside pole starter Ricky Quick took the lead away on lap two and held it until lap six when the first caution flag flew.
Chaffee got the lead on the restart while defending track champion Tim Hartman Jr. took away the second position after starting the event in the fifth spot. Chad Edwards started the event in the 25th position in the John Kollar Motorsports #10% and by lap 10 he was already up to the third position.
Tucker O’Connor had a great run come to an end on lap 11 as he came to a stop in turn three while running fifth, bringing out the caution and on the restart Edwards went from third to first as he took the lead in the event. Chaffee pressured the leader at times and kept it close, but Edwards got the win, the eighth of his career in the division, followed in the top five by Chaffee, 10th place starter JaMike Sowle, Hartman Jr., and eighth place starter Cody Clark.
“It’s been a great start to the season for us,” Edwards said in victory lane. “I tore the left front off of the car in our heat race and got it fixed but while lining up to go out for the feature I noticed the tow was off as it just didn’t look right so I went back to our pit area and the crew adjusted it.”
“We switched to a new Bicknell car for this season and thanks to John Kollar for sending me the money all winter long from his Florida home in order to make this all happen.”
The Montgomery County Office for Aging feature was one of if not the most exciting of the evening with Johnny Young leading at the start from his fifth position start with Stephen Gray in tow. Two-time winner in 2020 Brett Mortensen started the event in the 11th position and by lap two he was already up to the third position.
Mortensen took the second position away from Gray on lap six and from that point on Mortensen was the fastest car on the track as he caught up to the leader by lap 10 of the 15-lap event. Young and Mortensen were side by side for the lead many times throughout the remainder of the event with Young able to hang on to the lead each time.
On the final lap going into turn four to the checkered flag, Mortensen got alongside of Young with the two making contact coming out of the turn forcing Mortensen into the front stretch wall which broke the steering on the #1B. The two cars remained hooked together, side by side to the checkered flag but with no steering Mortensen hit the infield wall in turn one after the cars separated and Young pulled ahead, destroying the front end on Mortensen’s car and sheering off the left front tire.
Young got his first career win in the division in the event while Mortensen ended up second followed by Carter Gibbons, Dylan Eldred, and Gray.
The 20-lap Algonkin Motel Pro Stock feature began with Jason Morrison in the lead at the drop of the green flag followed by third place starter Jim Normoyle. On lap eight, 12th place starter Nick Stone was in the top five after getting by Ivan Joslin and one lap later Normoyle took the lead away from Morrison on the outside of turn four.
On a restart after a lap 10 caution, Stone took the second spot away and on lap 13 Stone was the race leader after making a pass on the leader on the inside of turn three. One final caution slowed the event with two laps to go allowing Normoyle to close in for a final chance at the win.
Stone pulled away on the restart to his second win of the season and the 48th of his career in the division over Normoyle, 16th place starter Josh Coonradt, 10th place starter Kenny Gates, and 11th place starter and defending track champion Luke Horning.
Lou Gancarz led all 15 laps in the Robert’s Towing & Recovery Street Stock feature for his first career win at Fonda over Dave Horning Sr., defending track champion Jason Samrov, Mark Burch, and Josh Samrov. Al Relyea finished the event in the second position but was disqualified in post-race inspection.
Ken Hollenback led all 15 laps in the Four Cylinder Cruiser feature event for his 52nd career win in the division in the SOHC followed by Dale VanAllen, John Napoli (DOHC winner), Zach McSpirit, and Shawn Hemstreet.
Fonda Speedway will be back in action this Wednesday, July 1 with the Firecracker 50 for the Sunoco Modifieds along with the Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman who will also be in action with racing starting at 7:30 p.m.
Since 1953, the ‘Track of Champions’ Fonda Speedway has hosted the best in stock car racing. Under the management of BD Motorsports Media LLC, the speedway will operate weekly on Saturday nights from April through August plus several special events. Fonda Speedway is located on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds off New York State Thruway Exit No. 28 at 21 S. Bridge Street Fonda, NY 12068.
Fonda Speedway is on the web at www.thefondaspeedway.com. To learn more, call the office at 518.915.4395, like Fonda Speedway on Facebook www.facebook.com/thefondaspeedwy or follow on Twitter: @thefondaspdwy.
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE – 30-LAPS – JEFF HEOTZLER (1st career win in the division at Fonda), Rocky Warner, Danny Varin, Matt DeLorenzo, Josh Hohenforst, Scott Huber, Adam McAuliffe, Michael Maresca, David Schilling, Brian Gleason, Brian Pessolano, Andy Bachetti, Danny Creeden, Darren Smith, Pep Corradi, Devin Willis, Allison Ricci, Craig Hanson, Darwin Greene, Steve Akers, Rich Christman, Jim Introne Jr., Dave Constantino, Roger Henion Jr.
Lap leaders – 1-30 Heotzler
Heat race winners – Heotzler, Huber, Varin
SWAGGER FACTORY APPAREL CRATE 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 25-LAPS – CHAD EDWARDS (8th career win in the division), Kevin Chaffee, JaMike Sowle, Tim Hartman Jr., Cody Clark, Joe Williams, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Charlie Tibbitts, Brian Calabrese, Mark Mortensen, Ricky Quick, Brian Borst, Matt Meade, Rich Ricci III, Tim Dwyer, EJ McAuliffe, Michael Wagner-Fitzgerald, Dana Camenga, Aaron Jacobs, David Dickey, Brendan Gibbons, Thomas VanVorst, Nick Scavia, Griffen Mansmith, Tucker O’Connor, David Manchester, Tony Farone, Dan Santabarbara, Michael McCallion (DNS)
Lap leaders – 1 Chaffee, 2-6 Quick, 7-11 Chaffee, 12-25 Edwards
Heat race winners – Chaffee, Tibbitts, Hartman Jr.
Greco’s NAPA Hard Charger Award – 25 positions – Edwards
MONTGOMERY COUNTY OFFICE FOR AGING INC. LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 15-LAPS – JOHNNY YOUNG – (1st career win in the division), Brett Mortensen, Carter Gibbons, Dylan Eldred, Stephen Gray, Kyle Dingman, Spencer Rapp, Harold Robitaille, Clayton DuMond, Jeff Lutes, Bill Port
Lap leaders – 1-15 Young
ALGONKIN MOTEL PRO STOCK FEATURE – 20-LAPS – NICK STONE – (48th career win in the division), Jim Normoyle, Josh Coonradt, Kenny Gates, Luke Horning, Jason Morrison, David Emigh, Bill Knapp, Steve Cosselman, Randy Cosselman, Don Collins, Tanner Warner, Jamie Warner, Beau Ballard, Chuck Dumblewski, Ivan Joslin, Devon Camenga, Andy Graves, Justin Knight
Lap leaders – 1-8 Morrison, 9-12 Normoyle, 13-20 Stone
Heat race winners – Stone, Normoyle
ROBERT’S TOWNG & RECOVERY STREET STOCK FEATURE – 15-LAPS – Lou Gancarz (1st career win in the division), Dave Horning Sr., Jason Samrov, Mark Burch, Josh Samrov, Michael Arnold, Al Relyea (DQ)
Lap leaders – 1-15 Gancarz
FOUR CYLINDER CRUISER FEATURE – 15-LAPS – KEN HOLLENBACK (SOHC, 52nd career win in the division), Dale VanAllen, John Napoli (DOHC, 1st career win in the division), Zach McSpirit, Shawn Hemstreet, Brandon Tyler, Pat McSpirit, Wayne Russell, Ray Young, David Peek-Britten, Mike Landoux, Bubba Cook (DNS)
Lap leaders – 1-15 Hollenback