Story By: RON SZCZERBA / FONDA SPEEDWAY – FONDA, NY – The “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway held the Third Annual Jack Johnson Tribute event on Wednesday evening August 2, a 50-lap feature event paying $5,000 to win. When the checkered flag flew it was Mike Mahaney taking the big win in the Buzz Chew #88 Bicknell car, the new car just recently brought out to try an end the frustrating 2017 season Mahaney has had up until now.
Mahaney is no stranger to big money wins at Fonda as back in 2012 he won the opening event of the season known as the “Ice Jam” which paid $4,000. To top that all off he won the season ending event in 2012, also a Tribute to Jack Johnson, worth $12,000 to the winner.
“The track had a lot of grip in it tonight and I was just trying to stay close to the 9S (Matt Sheppard) who was leading early so that if he made a mistake I could capitalize on it,” Mahaney said in victory lane. “Then I was able to make it around Matt and a lap car for the lead.”
When Jim King asked Mahaney in victory lane how he found his ride in the Buzz Chew #88 Mahaney said “I think that he found me.”
Wednesday was a special event honoring a very special driver, one whom promoter Pete Demitraszek said “helped build this house and one of the reasons that Fonda Speedway is called the Track of Champions.”
There was a sea of “orange” in the large crowd that gathered at Fonda for the event which also featured the 12th Annual Hondo Classic honoring the late Hondo Carpenter with Nick Stone the winner of that event while Rocky Warner took home his sixth win of the season in the 30-lap GRIT Series event for the 602 Sportsman.
Guest co-announcer Bill Foley said after the event “to be able to call this race with Jim King honoring Jack Johnson was a thrill.”
Jessey Mueller’s father drove one of the Jack Johnson Vintage cars around the track for pace laps, one of those laps featuring a four wide salute to Jack and all the fans in attendance. When Joe Kriss’ green flag flew it was Matt Sheppard who was the early leader from his pole position start with Mahaney second from the outside pole.
Sheppard pulled away to a straightaway advantage by lap five and was already in lap traffic at that point as seventh place starter Stewart Friesen was the new third place car on lap 13 after getting by Mike Maresca. The first caution of the event was out on lap 13 and on the restart ninth place starter and current point’s leader Tim Fuller made his way into the top five.
Sheppard was in lap traffic again by lap 20 with Mahaney closing in at that point. On lap 22, Mahaney got to the inside of Sheppard in turn two to take over the lead with the yellow flag out again one lap later for the fifth place car of Mueller who came to a stop on the front stretch. Fuller continued his march to the front on the restart, moving into the third position and with 14 laps to go in the 50-lap event, Fuller was the new second place car after getting by Sheppard.
With 10 laps to go the top two of Mahaney and Fuller made it their own race for the win as they pulled away from Sheppard with Mahaney fast on the outside and Fuller quick on the inside. Over the closing laps Fuller would duck inside Mahaney in the turns but Mahaney kept his momentum up each time and kept the lead going down the straightaways.
Mahaney held on for the win in the “Jack 50” followed in the top five by Fuller, Friesen, Sheppard, and 20th place starter Bobby Varin.
“This team stuck with me while I was struggling, but we all hung in there and dug deep,” Mahaney said in victory lane. “It is amazing for me to come back here at one of the tracks that I got my start after having many different rides since in an event this big.”
This Saturday, August 5 will be Police, Fire, and EMS Appreciation Night featuring “Kiddie Rides”. The first green flag of the evening will fly at 7:00 p.m.
JACK JOHNSON TRIBUTE MODIFIED FEATURE – 50-LAPS – MIKE MAHANEY, Tim Fuller, Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard, Bobby Varin, Mike Maresca, Jimmy Davis, Tim McCreadie, Ronnie Johnson, Darwin Greene, Craig Hanson, Jack Lehner, Jeremy Wilder, Cody Bleau, Jeff Trombley, Troy Palmer, Kenny Sparks, Bob Vedder, Shaun Pangman, Jessey Mueller, Justin Boehler, Cass Bennett, Pep Corradi, Josh Hohenforst, Scott Huber, Billy Decker (DNS)