Column By: RAY ROGERS / RPW – FONDA, NY – The Fonda Speedway, once again, proved to be not just the Track of Champions, but rather a community of great racers and dedicated fans this past Saturday evening with the “Tailgate For A Cause” event.
On any given raceday, there’s always those fans who choose to come out early and do a little tailgating, but last Saturday, they came out, in large numbers, for a cause.
This past May, Stewart and Jessica Friesen kicked off their Families campaign to raise some funds for Crossroads Center for Children with a special paint scheme on Stewart’s #52 NASCAR Truck Series Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet to raise awareness for Autism. The paint scheme highlighted puzzle pieces, each with the name of a donor.
The support from fans and special donors was overwhelming, raising $70,000 for Crossroads Center for Children. Crossroads is not just an organization the Friesen’s picked from a hat. It’s a place they hold near and dear to their hearts. Their son, Parker. is a student at Crossroads as he is on the Autism spectrum. With the help and guidance of Crossroads, he will be ready to take the green flag for kindergarten and beyond.
The Friesen’s know the staff who have become part of their family, and they are grateful for the education and support Parker is receiving. What better way to give back then to raise funds to help keep the classroom’s open.
Saturday, with the help of many people including the Ivan Joslin racing team, Fonda Speedway hosted Autism Awareness Night presented by One Zee Tees and Corr/Pak Merchandising. Along with a fantastic card of racing. fans and teams came out early to “Tailgate for a Cause,” a special pre-race BBQ fundraiser. Once again, the racing community responded to the tune of over $15,000 through chicken dinners and raffles, all going to Crossroads.
It is great to see athletes like Stewart and Jessica using their notoriety to raise awareness for a cause they truly believe in. Hats off to them and everyone involved in this great event for staying humble and helping others along the way. The Friesen’s are great ambassadors of not only our sport but of our community as well.
Each season, when we enter the dog days of summer, we start to get a better picture of whos going to be in contention for the track championship and how the season’s rookies are making out. This year’s Novice Sportsman division has three stand out drivers…EJ McAuliffe, Rich Christman, and Brett Mortensen. Each has scored multiple wins and continue to improve their driving skills every week putting on a great show for the fans.
I believe some of the Sportsman drivers may want to take note of these drivers as they may just be the ones going door-to-door with them next year for a victory or two.
Tim Hartman Jr. is having a standout season, not just at Fonda where he has scored multiple wins, but everywhere the Mike Parillo-owned team unloads. With three point races left in 2019, Hartman is in the catbird’s seat. Chad Edwards scored his first feature win of the season this past Saturday, tying him with Adam McAuliffe for second. I spoke to Chad after the race and he was relieved to finally get to victory lane.
“I was beating myself quite a bit this season,” Edwards said. “It feels good to get this win. We really needed this one.”
Edwards is the defending track champion. After last Saturday’s run, it looks like it’s up to him and McAulliffe to settle the score for second.
How about Fonda Modified Rookies Dave Constantino and David Schilling, both of whom sit solidly in the top 10 in points. Constantino scored his first Modified feature win early in the season and has been consistently finishing each week while Schilling has kept his nose clean and has raced with the front runners on several occasions.
Both drivers have shown they’ve got what it takes to run in the Modifieds.
Speaking of newcomers to the Big Blocks, Brian Pessolano has officially joined the ranks in the Dodson Construction #24P machine, a seat vacated several weeks ago by Willy Decker.
Pessolano ran several events with the Modifieds, albeit with his under-powered Crate engine while Dodson’s primary engine was being rebuilt. It’s great to see drivers given the opportunity to grow in the sport.
Week in and week out, the best side-by-side racing I’ve witnessed has been the Pro Stocks. Sure Luke Horning has been the class of the field, but the racing, hands down, is second-to-none in the country.
Last week, positions five through ten battled door-to-door, lap after lap, sometimes four-wide…just amazing racing!
If you are a Fonda Pro Stock fan, you know things are coming down to the wire and spots two through five will be contested with fury. Nick Stone found his stride Saturday night, but only eight points separate he and Josh Coonradt. Perennial track champ Kenny Gates and Chuck Dumblewski sit fourth and fifth respectively within striking distance of Stone.
Horning may claim the title but the entire Pro Stock field has stolen the show this year at the Track of Champions.
Saturday night, as I made my last trip through the pits before heading home, I stopped to talk with Pro Stock wheel man Jamie Warner. Warner was smiling ear-to-ear. What was he so happy about?
“I had the best seat in the house tonight,” Warner said. “I finished the race, the car’s in one piece and I had a lot of fun doing it.”
It was then that I thought back to when driver’s would take parts off the family sedan and bolt them on to their race cars if they thought it would help them finish well…when drivers like Warner would scrape every extra dollar to go racing. With Hall of Fame weekend upon us, lets not forget where we came from. Let’s remember those who went racing every chance they got, knowing they may never win but had fun doing it.
This weekend’s festivities kick off with the induction ceremonies at the Speedway museum. The event takes place at 3pm and this year’s inductees include:
- Dave Camera
- Dan Ody
- Randy Glenski
- Jack Cottrell
- Dick Bennett
- Bernie Maruski
- John Grady
- Doreen Marcucci
The Bill Fake Track Pioneer award will go to Chet Hames. The 4th annual Bruce Dostal Dedication to Fonda Speedway awards will be given to Pete Lazzaro, Bob James and Mike Pfau of BOBCO Video and Laurie Fallis.
If you would like to learn more about this year’s Hall of Fame class, please visit the Fonda Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame Facebook page. It’s full of great write-ups on all of this year’s inductees.
Gates to the Historic Fonda Speedway open on Saturday at 4pm and a spectacular night of racing from yesterday and today is scheduled. The Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series makes its return to its home track for their Hall of Fame race, featuring Vintage Modifieds, Sportsman and Late Model Replica’s…all competing for a chance to stand on Checkered Board Square at Fonda.
Also on the schedule for this historic night of racing will be the Big Block Modifieds, Sportsman, Limited Sportsman, Pro Stock (Best of 8’ Series) and Street Stocks. Hot laps roll away at 6pm with heats set to hit the track at 7pm.
Well folks it looks like the racing Gods are turning up the heat this weekend so let’s all try to stay hydrated. Stay cool and I hope to see you all at the races!