SHEPPARD TAKES $10,000 FIRECRACKER 50 WIN AT FONDA
By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – The first four editions of the “Firecracker 50” at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway over the span of the last four years have been won by one driver Stewart Friesen. After a rainout on July 2, the race was re-scheduled for Monday evening with a different winner in victory lane this time as Matt Sheppard took his sixth career win at Fonda in the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) event in the HAS #9S Bicknell car.
“What a crazy race,” Sheppard said in victory lane. “Fonda Speedway can be a thorn in anybody’s side, it’s a tough place to get around but when your car is right it’s a lot of fun.”
The STSS Crate 602 Sportsman division was also in action on Monday evening with Payton Talbot taking his sixth win of the season and tenth of his career in the division at Fonda in the Ted’s Body Shop #14T Bicknell car. The win for Talbot was worth $2,000.
“This place this year we’ve been pretty solid,” Talbot said. “But I felt like we struggled a little bit tonight. We had an interesting Saturday, our race got cut short, so this definitely feels great to be back in victory lane.”
Scenic View Campgrounds and Picture Perfect Pools & Spas presented the racing program that began with opening ceremonies with Michael Parent taking a lap on the track in his $25P car with the Canadian flag attached to the car while Mimi Lazzaro sang the Canadian Anthem. Following that Ronnie Johnson took a lap around the track with the American flag attached to his #2RJ car while Lazzaro sang the National Anthem.
A redraw for starting positions on victory lane placed Mat Williamson and Matt DeLorenzo on the front row at the drop of Joe Kriss’ green flag with DeLorenzo the early leader. A quick yellow flag flew on lap two for Jessica Friesen who came to a stop on the front stretch with DeLorenzo choosing the outside line for the restart and maintaining the lead when the race resumed.
Alex Yankowski moved into the second position after getting by Williamson on the restart while seventh place starter Matt Sheppard moved up to the fourth position with DeLorenzo now a straightaway ahead of the second place car. Eighth place starter Max McLaughlin moved into the top five on lap eight while DeLorenzo was in lap traffic with three lap cars blocking the track in front of the race leader as they raced for position.
DeLorenzo was relieved of the lap traffic issue on lap 11 when the caution flew for Brian Calabrese who suffered a flat left rear tire. DeLorenzo again chose the outside on the restart and maintained the top spot while behind him Sheppard and McLaughlin both got passed Williamson for the third and fourth positions.
McLaughlin was next to suffer a flat tire on lap 12 while running fourth, bringing out another caution. He pitted and restarted at the rear of the field. This restart saw a big change in position behind the lead car of DeLorenzo as Yankowski maintained his second spot while Williamson and 11th place starter Danny Varin both got by Sheppard for the third and fourth positions.
Current point leader Demetrios Drellos started the event in the 16th position and moved into the top five on lap 16 while Sheppard fell back to the seventh position behind 15th place starter Stewart Friesen. One lap later Varin was in the wall in turn two bringing out the yellow flag yet again. Varin was okay but was done for the evening at that point. On this restart, Sheppard began his move back up to the front getting by the fifth and sixth place cars of Friesen and Willaimson.
“I felt like I got to rolling a little bit there and got up to third,” Sheppard said. “I kind of pushed into turn one, and then off of turn two everybody just drove by me. I thought that I had a flat right rear tire, the car just wouldn’t even drive around the track, and they were going around me on both sides. When the red flag came out for Varin, I pulled over next to my crew and asked if the right rear tire was flat and they said no.”
At the halfway point in the event DeLorenzo was the leader followed by Yankowski, Sheppard, Drellos, and Friesen. Sheppard was the new second place car on lap 27 after getting by Yankowski and closed in quickly on DeLorenzo who was now in lap traffic. At the finish line to complete lap 28, Sheppard moved past DeLorenzo for the lead while Drellos and Friesen were side by side for the fourth position. Drellos started showing signs of smoke from his #111 on lap 35 and retired under caution one lap later when Chris Curtis brought out the fifth caution flag in the event.
“When we went racing after the red flag the car took off like a missile again and I drove up through the field,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard chose the inside on the restart and held the lead at the drop of the green while Yankowski got by DeLorenzo for the second position. Friesen made a bonsai move on the outside of turn four on lap 37, getting by both DeLorenzo and Yankowski for the second position. Friesen and Yankowski swapped the second position twice with ten laps to go while Sheppard pulled away from the field.
One final yellow flag came out on lap 44 but Sheppard maintained the lead on the restart with Friesen chasing him across the finish line in second to the checkered flag. Yankowski, DeLorenzo, and Williamson completed the top five while Michael Trautschold finished in the sixth position after starting 24th. The win for Sheppard was the 34th of his career in the STSS Series.
“The side by side restarts are tough here,” Sheppard said. “And Stewy, this is his house. To line up next to him with a few laps to go I was thinking man is he going to steal another one from me here. But this car was just too strong tonight.”
“We had a lot of work to do tonight,” Freisen said after finishing second. “We drew bad and that threw us behind the eight ball early. I just couldn’t get through the holes; the track was rough in one and two and I couldn’t get through there. Matt could get through there pretty good and clean air was really good. Once he got it, it was a different story. That’s it, second, it really blows.”
“We were good,” Yankowski said after his third place finish. “The cautions just don’t seem to fall our way to get the lead and win a race. But that’s the way it goes. We were able to put ourselves in position and I think we’ve done a good job at that all year long. Last year we had some signs of speed and flashes of success, but we weren’t really that consistent. This year I think we’ve been a lot more consistent.”
The luck of the draw placed Michael Ballestero and Kadon Hohensheldt on the front row for the Crate 602 Sportsman feature with Ballestero taking the early lead. Dylan Madsen spun in turn two bringing out the one and only caution flag of the event on lap two with Ballestero maintaining the lead on the restart. Fifth place starter Payton Talbot moved into the third position on the restart and two laps later he was the new second place car after getting by Hohensheldt.
On lap eight, on the inside of turn two, Talbot took the lead away from Ballestero and pulled away from there to another win. With the race now for the second position, eyes turned to Brian Calabrese who started the event in the 13th position but moved into the third position on lap nine. Four laps later Calabrese got by Ballestero for the second position but never got close enough to challenge Talbot for the lead even with lap traffic coming into play with ten laps to go.
Talbot scored the victory followed in the top five by Calabrese, Ballestero, 11th place starter Tanner Warner, and Tyler Peet. For Talbot it was his second win in the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman division.
“It took me a little while to figure out the groove,” Talbot said. “After that we were good. I felt more comfortable on the bottom than I did on the top tonight.”
“I just want to thank everybody,” second place finisher Brian Calabrese said. “I wake my wife up every morning at 2:30 when I come home after working on the race car, so I really want to thank her. This is fun, you can’t really forget where you came from. Thanks to Brett (Deyo) for allowing us to run the crates. The cars are equal and it’s all about the drivers.”
“Just couldn’t hang on,” third place finisher Michael Ballestero said. “We didn’t tighten the car up enough and it got real loose on us, so I was just trying to hang on there. This is our first time here this year so maybe we’ll come back and get them next time.”
Action returns to the “Track of Champions” on Saturday, July 22 when Sampson Motor Car presents the prestigious Hondo Classic for Pro Stocks along with the BOBCO Dash. All other divisions will also be in action with a start time of 7:00 p.m.
Fonda Speedway Weekly Report
Miss any action from last week’s racing? The Fonda Speedway weekly report can take care of that. A 90 second summary of the previous Saturday racing action will air throughout the week across seven local radio stations including:
WCSS 1490 & 106.9 in Amsterdam/Schenectady
WIZR 930 & 102.9 in Johnstown/Fonda/Gloversville
WKAJ 1120 & 97.9 in St. Johnsville/Canajoharie
WYVS 96.5 in Speculator and the North Country
If you are a race fan that gets to the track early, be sure to check out the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame which is located on the Fonda Fairgrounds at the rear of the parking area going down towards turn four. The museum is open from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on race days and admission is free!
All races at Fonda Speedway – will be broadcast live on FloRacing (www.floracing.tv) as part of the $150 annual subscription.
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 or follow the speedway on Twitter and Instagram: @thefondaspdwy.
BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES (STSS) FUELED BY SUNOCO PRESENTED BY SCENIC VIEW CAMPGROUNDS & PICTURE PERFECT POOLS & SPAS
SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES (STSS) FIRECRACKER 50 – 50-LAPS – MATT SHEPPARD, Stewart Friesen, Alex Yankowski, Matt DeLorenzo, Mat Williamson, Michael Trautschold, Max McLaughlin, Cody Clark, Billy Decker, Rocky Warner, Dillon Steuer, Marc Johnson, Steve Bernier, JaMike Sowle, Tyler Dippel, JR Hurlburt, Chris Curtis, David Schilling, Francois Bernier, Tim Fuller, Demetrios Drellos, Michael Parent, Bobby Hackel IV, Brian Calabrese, Danny Varin, Ronnie Johnson, Jessica Friesen
1st win of 2023 and the 6th of his career at Fonda for Sheppard
LAP LEADERS – 1-27 DeLorenzo, 28-50 Sheppard
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Parent, Hackel IV, Sheppard, Clark
CONSOLATION RACE WINNERS – Schilling, Sowle
DID NOT QUALIFY – Jack Lehner, Mike Mahaney, Brian Pessolano, Bobby Varin, Tanner VanDoren, Dave Constantino, Dave Camara, Keith Flach, Tucker O’Connor, Ron Holmes, Don Bellen
SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES (STSS) CRATE 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 25-LAPS – PAYTON TALBOT, Brian Calabrese, Michael Ballestero, Tanner Warner, Tyler Peet, Brendan Gibbons, Chad Edwards, Chip Constantino, Kadon Hohensheldt, Blaine Klinger, Dan Santabarbara, Michael Kalkbrenner, Joe Toth, Troy Palmer, Stephen Gray, Dylan Madsen, Brett Mortensen, Roger Hummer, John DuMond, Butchie Irwin, Michael McCallion, Matt Perry, Derrick McGrew Jr., Chris Kugler, AJ Greco, Clayton DuMond, Clyde Peek
6th win of 2023 and the 10th of his career in the division for Talbot
LAP LEADERS – 1-7 Ballestero, 8-25 Talbot
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Ballestero, Greco, Santabarbara, Talbot
CONSOLATION RACE WINNER – Edwards
DID NOT QUALIFY – Gordon Smith, Josh Allen, Greg Crooker, Jeremy Tyrrell, Ben Feldman, Wesley Sutliff, Jeff Bobilin
GRECO’S NAPA HARD CHARGER AWARD – Edwards +14