Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – FONDA, NY – The Firecracker 50 at Fonda Speedway is the new Independence Day tradition for race fans, and the first edition lived up to the hype.
River St was backed up for hours with race traffic as fans filed into the historic Fonda Fairgrounds on a warm July Summer night. Jessica Friesen and Rocky Warner paced the field to green with Jessica taking the lead until 17 laps in when her husband, Stewart, took the lead.
It wasn’t until lap 31 when both Friesen’s had a problem. Jess slowed with engine issues and Stewart had a flat. This forced the NASCAR Truck Series star to the pits with 19-to-go for a new sneaker. He would restart 16th.
That’s when the show started.
Friesen was up to eighth by lap 34. Another caution came out on lap 37. Two laps later, he was third another.
The blue, white and black #44 was up to second with nine to go and he set his sights on leader Matt Sheppard.
It appeared as if the 9s of Sheppard was going to pull one out again for another big check victory, and defeat Friesen once again. However, that’s when the leader caught the back of the field.
This allowed Friesen to close in rapidly and coming off turn 4 as the field came to the checkers, Stewart Friesen powered around the outside, beating Sheppard by inches in a finsh that had everyone on their feet.
“We got beat by the best car tonight,” Sheppard said. “We got one over on him at the start of the year here but his car was on rails tonight.”
Sheppard knew the fact he almost won was aided by that flat tire Friesen had.
“I was lucky to even being in the lead,” he said. “If it wasn’t for his flat, I wouldn’t have been there. We had a good car, but not good enough tonight.”
When it comes to changing tires and being able to come through the field again, not many can do it. Those types of races are few and far between. However, for Stewart Friesen, the stars aligned on this night.
“I’m glad we had the flat when we did,” Friesen said. “It sucks Jess has some motor problems but when I came down I screamed out for tire compound options and we picked the right one.”
Friesen was knew he had a good car before his problems. He just had to take care of his rubber.
“This car was on rails before the flat,” he said. “I thought I had over heated it there the last few laps, but it came back very well.”
While Friesen’s run from 16th to first in 19 short laps was impressive, he understood that he needed some help from lady luck to get the job done.
“Matt (Sheppard) got caught up in some traffic and we were able to catch him,” he said. “The middle line was pretty good. Before the traffic, I maybe gained a few car lengths but it would have taken me 10 laps or so to catch him on the bottom. Lap traffic got a little wild and that’s all I needed.”
While traffic out on the road was back to the old days, and the stands were packed, drivers were treated to a typical Fonda surface…fast and one that provided some great racing.
If you’re a race fan in the Northeast and weren’t at the Firecracker 50 on Wednesday night, you missed a finish for the ages. If this event isn’t on your bucket list for years to come, it should be!
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