FRIESEN SECURES $10,000 FIRECRACKER 50 VICTORY WITH FINAL TURN, LAST LAP PASS AT FONDA
By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – Special, a one word description for the Firecracker 50 racing event at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway on Wednesday, July 3. First time was a two word description of the event as there were many things that happened for the first time ever at the legendary speedway in its 68th season of championship racing.
For the first time ever the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) made an appearance in both the Modified and 602 Crate Sportsman divisions. Series announcer Jeff Ahlum did a great job keeping the huge crowd informed of what was happening on the track along with Fonda Speedway announcers Paul Szmal and Jay Severson.
Also for the first time MAV TV Motorsports taped the event with a release date of late August or early September for viewing.
Thirty eight Modifieds and 35 602 Crate Sportsman cars signed in for the evenings events at the speedway and when Joe Kriss’ final checkered flags flew for the evening, Stewart Friesen in the Halmar #44 DKM Cyclone car and Tim Hartman Jr. in the Mike Parillo #22 car stood in the Mike Cole Memorial Fuccillo Automotive Group victory lane celebrating their victories.
For Friesen it was his third victory of the 2019 season at Fonda, the 57th of his career at the track in the Modified division, and the ninth time during his career that he has won an event at the “Track of Champions” at a distance of 50-laps or more.
For Hartman Jr. it was his fourth win of the season and the eighth of his career in the 602 Crate Sportsman division at Fonda.
Both Friesen and Hartman Jr. are currently the point leaders in the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) in their respective divisions.
The 50/50 was won by Kevin Golas of Selkirk, NY and was worth $3985!
Opening ceremonies for the event were “special” in their own right as two restored military jeeps from Gibbons Military Motors stood on victory lane with the American Flag attached the back of the vehicles.
One of the jeeps according to Gibbons was a 1945 Willys MB, nicknamed “Lil’ Buddy”, which saw service with the US Army in WWII. This jeep was restored by Brendan and Richard Gibbons (WWII veteran) in 2010.
The other jeep was a 1942 Willys MB, nicknamed “Dolly.”, which saw service with the United States Marine Corps and US Army during WWII along with postwar service with the US Airforce in Europe. This Jeep was restored in 2011 by Brendan and Richard Gibbons.
The jeeps were piloted by Taylor LaPlante and Alex Comins.
Ed Biittig Sr. did his usual wonderful job with the invocation saying “Racing is it for me as many of you know and I’ve been praying for a long time to see this type of crowd again at Fonda. This year with the efforts of Brett & Heather Deyo and their wonderful staff, Fonda Speedway is back and now I pray that its success continues.”
Mimi Lazzaro did a great job singing the Canadian National Anthem while Captain Eric Chan of the 109th Air Lift Wing of the New York National Guard did a great job with the National Anthem while Lori Scanlon signed the National Anthem.
While the Anthems were being sung, two horses were coming down the front stretch with Kaitlyn Scott riding Keote and Adrienne Bell riding Jack.
The starting grid was brought down the front stretch and stopped while Short Track Super Series (STSS) announcer Jeff Ahlum ran down the starting field. The family of Mike Cole, which included Nancy Cole, Jean Cole, Tony Cole, Lucas Cole, Julie Ruszkowski, Mackenzie Ruszkowski, Garrett Johnson, and Phil Beaver then gave the command “Gentleman Start Your Engines”.
The Fuccillo Automotive Group pace truck with the Cole family riding in the bed of the truck, then led a four wide parade lap around the speedway while Joe Kriss’ waved both the American and checkered flags.
The entire pre-race ceremony was enough to give you goosebumps, great job by the Deyo family and the staff at the speedway along with John Lakata and anyone else who may have been involved in it.
By the luck of the draw, Rocky Warner and Jessica Friesen started the Firecracker 50 event on the front row with Friesen taking the race lead at the drop of the green flag. Jessica’s husband Stewart Friesen wasn’t wasting any time getting up through the field from his eighth place starting position, getting by two cars up to the sixth spot by lap two.
Stewart then got by Erick Rudolph and Allison Ricci for the fourth position on lap five with the yellow flag coming out at that point for Larry Wight who slowed in between turns three and four. Wight would pit and rejoin the field at the rear on the restart.
Jessica Friesen choose the outside lane for the restart and maintained her lead position while Stewart Friesen got by Brett Hearn for the third position followed by seventh place starter Matt Sheppard and fifth place starter Rudolph who were also able to get by Hearn for positions in the top five at that point.
Lap 11 saw Jessica Friesen in lap traffic while Stewart Friesen and Sheppard were able to get by Warner for the second and third positions. Stewart Friesen was right behind his wife racing for the lead on lap 17 and was able to get by for the point on that same lap on the inside of turn three. At the halfway point in the event the top five consisted of Stewart Friesen, Jessica Friesen, Sheppard, Rudolph, and Warner.
Stewart Friesen was a full straightaway ahead of his wife Jessica who was still in the second position but that all changed on lap 31 when Jessica stopped her car on the backstretch and while under caution Stewart suffered a flat right rear tire handing the lead over to Sheppard. Stewart Friesen would pit to change the tire and restart at the tail end of the lead lap cars while Jessica’s great run came to an end while running second.
Rudolph took the lead away from Sheppard on the restart while Friesen went down the middle of both Larry Wight and Hearn for the eighth position. The yellow flag was out on lap 37 with the top five on the restart consisting of Rudolph, Sheppard, 11th place starter Anthony Perrego, Warner, and sixth place starter Mike Gular. On this restart, Sheppard took over the race lead while Friesen got by Gular, Warner, and Perrego on the outside for the third spot.
When Friesen took the second position away from Rudolph on lap 41, Sheppard held a straightaway advantage but the race was far from over. Gular’s great run came to an end on lap 44 when he drove to the infield on the backstretch with no caution being thrown as Friesen closed in on Sheppard.
Sheppard used the lap car of Cody Bleau as a pick in turn one with only two laps to go but Friesen was able to get by as well setting up a dash to the finish. On the final lap, Friesen had momentum on his side as he went to the outside of Sheppard in turns three and four. Coming out of turn four, the two were side by side in a drag race to the checkered flag with Friesen winning the event at the line by 0.120 seconds!
Friesen exited his car on victory lane and stood on the roof in celebration after the win with a red, white, and blue wreath around his neck. Jessica Friesen also had her car pushed to victory lane as it carried an In Memory of Mike Cole logo on the back of it.
“Thanks to all these great race fans for packing this place,” Friesen said in victory lane. “That late race caution was key for me. We rolled the dice and put on a softer compound tire when we pitted for the flat tire. Matt (Sheppard) was good down the middle and I just tried to keep the tires under me until the last lap when I went for it on the outside.”
“This is so special,” Friesen continued on to say. “This one is for Mike Cole, I’m gonna have a beer for him tonight.”
The victory for Friesen was worth $10,000 along with a specially designed trophy by John Lakata.
The luck of the draw also set the starting positions for the 25-lap Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) 602 Crate Sportsman feature with Adam McAuliffe and Cody Clark making up the front row for the start. McAuliffe led at the drop of the green flag while third place starter Tim Hartman Jr. took the second position away from Clark on lap three.
The first yellow flag of the event fell on lap four and on the restart Hartman Jr. was the new race leader. Chad Edwards was on the move at that point, taking the third position away after starting back in sixth. As Hartman Jr. pulled away from the field with McAuliffe in second, fourth place starter Brian Calabrese took away the third position from Edwards on lap nine with the caution out on the next lap for two cars that were hooked together in turn four.
At the halfway point in the event the top five consisted of Hartman Jr., Calabrese, McAuliffe, Edwards, and ninth place starter Mark Mortensen. Despite lap traffic with five laps to go, Hartman Jr. went on for the win followed by Calabrese, McAuliffe, Edwards, and Mortensen.
“I knew that it was going to be a tough race,” Hartman Jr. said in victory lane. “We made the right adjustments before the feature, putting more gear in the car to help us on restarts, and we were able to hit lap traffic just right to get the win.”
There will be no racing at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway on Saturday, July 6 with the next event on the schedule being held on Saturday, July 13 when Corr-Pak Merchandising & One Zee Tee’s presents Autism Awareness and Banner Night.
On the racing card will be Twin 20’s for the Sunoco Modifieds paying $1,500 to win each one, the Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Crate Sportsman paying $1,000 to win thanks to Eric Orozco Racing, the Montgomery County Office for Aging Inc. Limited Sportsman, the Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks in a Best of 8 Series event presented by American racer paying $800 to win, the Trackside Body Works Street Stocks, and the Four Cylinder Cruisers with a starting time of 7:00 p.m.
Since 1953, the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway has hosted the best in stock car racing. Now 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/thefondaspdwy or follow on Twitter: @thefondaspdwy.
$10,000 TO WIN BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES (STSS) FUELED BY SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH – 50-LAPS – STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Erick Rudolph, Anthony Perrego, Rocky Warner, Andy Bachetti, Larry Wight, Brett Hearn, Mat Williamson, Craig Hanson, Michael Maresca, Billy Decker, Bobby Varin, David Schilling, Mike Mahaney, Matt DeLorenzo, Allison Ricci, Billy VanPelt, Cody Bleau, Steve Akers, Danny Creeden, Mike Gular, Jessica Friesen, Jeremy Smith, Corey Cormier, Billy Pauch Jr., JR Hurlburt, Alan Barker, Dave Constantino
HEAT RACE WINNERS: Mike Gular, Erick Rudolph, Anthony Perrego, Stewart Friesen
CONSOLATION WINNER – Larry Wight
DID NOT QUALIFY – Tim Hartman Jr., Vinnie Sanganetti, Brian Gleason, Jimmy Horton, Josh Hohenforst, Scott Huber, Roger Henion Jr., Danny Varin
$2,000 TO WIN BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES (STSS) CRATE 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH – 25-LAPS – TIM HARTMAN JR., Brian Calabrese, Adam McAuliffe, Chad Edwards, Mark Mortensen, Tim Dwyer, Jimmy Johnson, JaMike Sowle, Aaron Burton, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Dan Santabarbara, Cody Clark, Travis Green, Blaine Klinger, Harry Shaffer, Jim Housworth, Joe Orlando, Dustin Jordan, Brendan Gibbons, Jonathan Swift, Brett Mortensen, Joe Williams, Andrew Buff, Bobby Flood, Nick Scavia, Brian Borst, Jeremy Tuttle, Matt Shultz, Tommy Collins
HEAT RACE WINNERS: Nick Scavia, Travis Green, JaMike Sowle, Brian Calabrese
CONSOLATION WINNER – Brian Borst
DID NOT QUALIFY – Tom Princiotta, Jeff Holt, Griffen Mansmith, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Morgiewicz, Dustin Jordan, Will Eastman, Tony Farone