FULLER TAKES IMPRESSIVE WIN AT FONDA IN “THE JACK”, EDWARDS, GATES, VARIN, & SORRENTINO ALSO TAKE WINS
By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – On Saturday evening at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway, the pit area was filled to capacity, actually overloaded with race cars for a five division racing program on day two of Thunder Along the Mohawk weekend 2018. With the grandstand filled to capacity and many fans in the bleacher areas as well it was truly a fitting way to honor legendary Fonda Speedway driver Jumpin’ Jack Johnson with a tribute to him simply called “The Jack”.
Making it an even more special event was the fact that it was a 100-lap race that was part of the Super DIRTcar Series with the winner being guaranteed the 12th starting position in the NAPA Auto Parts Super Dirt Week modified event at the Oswego Speedway, which will be held in a couple of weeks.
When the checkered flag flew to complete the event it was 2017 Fonda Speedway Modified Track Champion Tim Fuller who gained the guaranteed starting spot after winning “The Jack”, his second Super DIRTcar Series win in two weeks after also winning at the Mohawk International Raceway last weekend.
“I’ve raced with Jack and we have become very good friends,” Fuller said in victory lane after the win. “We missed last night’s race here at Fonda but I wanted to have this car 100% prepared for tonight’s race. With the two series wins, the last couple of weeks have been good.”
The evening began with an invocation by Linda Brill and on the parade lap there were three cars leading the field that were replicas of cars that Jack Johnson had driven during his career including the #37 and two of the famous #12A’s. The entire modified field did a four wide salute to Johnson while being led around the track by the three replica 12A cars. An extra $420 in bonus money was given out to the driver who was in the 18th position on the 18th lap of the 100-lap feature event.
Other winners on day two of Thunder Along the Mohawk weekend were Chad Edwards in the 30-lap Super DIRTcar Series Sportsman feature, Kenny Gates in the 50-lap Super DIRTcar Pro Stock feature, Danny Varin in the 25-lap Empire Super Sprint (ESS) feature, and Zach Sorrentino in the street stock feature.
There was a special moment leading up to the ESS feature as the drivers left an open spot on track, performing a missing man formation honoring sprint car driver Greg Hodnet who was tragically killed in an accident at the BAPS Motor Speedway last Thursday evening. The voice of the ESS Mike Mallett also did a special tribute to Hodnet, who was a special friend of Mike’s, and one of his heroes as well. Great job Mike on the emotional tribute to your good friend, I’m sure that Greg would have been proud of the way you handled yourself during your tribute to him and the way that it was done.
When the green flag dropped to start the 100-lap “The Jack” event it was Matt Sheppard leading from his outside pole position start. Third place starter Larry Wight was the new second place car on lap four after getting by Willy Decker for the spot, with Wight up to challenge the leader two laps later. The first caution flag in the event was out on lap seven for Jimmy Davis who slowed on the front stretch. Davis would pit and return at the rear of the field.
Wight was the new race leader on the restart with another yellow out on lap 17 for 2018 Fonda Speedway modified track champion Bobby Varin who climbed and rode the wall in turn two. Varin drove away but was done for the night at that point. Davis brought out the caution again on the restart when he suffered front end issues and came to stop against the inside wall on the front stretch. One more caution slowed the field on that restart as well but once the field got going again on the next restart it was sixth place starter Stewart Friesen who took over the race lead.
Tenth place starter and recent Fonda winner Pat Ward moved up to the fourth position on lap 23 with Friesen in lap traffic by lap 30 with the attention now focused on 2017 Fonda Speedway Modified Track Champion Tim Fuller who was one of the only cars racing on the inside of the speedway and making it work. Fuller started the event in the 13th position and on lap 35 he was in the top five. Fuller got by Ward for the fourth position on lap 45 and three laps later he was the new third place car after getting by Sheppard.
At the halfway point the top five consisted of Friesen, Wight, Fuller, Sheppard, and Ward. Wight closed in on the leader in lap traffic just past the halfway point but when Friesen was able to get by the lap cars of Max McLaughlin and Keith Flach he gave himself some breathing room as Wight wasn’t able to get by them as quickly. By the time Wight did get by those two lap cars, Friesen had opened up a straightaway advantage yet again.
The yellow was out again on lap 69 for Demetrious Drellos who came to a stop on the front stretch with Friesen, Wight, Fuller, Sheppard, Brett Hearn who started 14th and Rocky Warner who started 21st in tow. Fuller took over the second position from Wight on the restart with Hearn and Warner now in the top five.
Fuller was able to use the inside groove to close in on Friesen who was running around the outside of the speedway for most of the race. On lap 87 on the inside of turn four, Fuller was the new race leader with the top three of Fuller, Friesen, and Hearn nose to tail racing for the win. With two laps to go while running in the fourth position, Sheppard suffered a flat right rear tire bringing out one final caution.
Fuller took off on the single file restart to lead again with Friesen fighting off Hearn and making it a two car race to the win, Fuller using the inside groove that he ran so successfully all race long, and Friesen the extreme outside, so extreme he was the only driver running that far outside on the track. Fuller survived one final challenge from Friesen on the final lap to take his second win of 2018 at Fonda and the third of his career at the “Track of Champions” in the St. Lawrence Radiology #19.
Friesen, Hearn, Wight, and 12th place starter Erick Rudolph completed the top five but in post-race inspection Wight was light at the scales and disqualified, moving Warner up to the fifth spot.
“The track slicked up and when I got to the top three I knew that I had something,” Fuller said. “In longer races like this you have to bide your time and save your tires. I think that Stewart may have heated up his right rear and I was able to get by.”
The inside row got a good jump at the start of the 30-lap DIRTcar Sportsman feature with Zach Sobotka leading from his pole position start followed by 2018 Fonda Speedway Sportsman Track Champion Chad Edwards who started from the second row in the third spot. Fifth place starter Dave Constantino moved into the third position on lap three with the leader in lap traffic on lap 13.
Constantino got by Edwards for the second position on lap 14 and one lap later was the new race leader after getting by Sobotka for the lead on the inside at the line to complete the lap. The top five at the halfway point consisted of Constantino, Sobotka, Edwards, Jackson Gill, and Tyler Thompson. A yellow flag on lap 17 slowed the field, and then again on the restart, when Joe Williams lost a tire coming down the front stretch.
On the restart, Edwards took the race lead away from Constantino with another yellow coming out on lap 21 for Sobotka who came to a stop on the back stretch while running in the third position. Edwards chose the outside for the restart and led at the drop of the green flag with sixth place starter Cody Clark the new third place car after getting by Gill for the position.
One more yellow with two laps to go slowed the field one last time with the same result on the restart as Edwards restarted on the outside and maintained his lead to the checkered flag, pulling away for his third win of the season and the sixth of his career in the division over Constantino, Clark, Thompson, and ninth place starter David Schilling.
“We came in this morning and set up the car and it was good,” Edwards said in victory lane. “Thanks to Tom & Sharon Spencer for the equipment that they give me to race with and to my crew as well.”
Shane Henderson led the 50-lap Super DIRTcar Series at the drop of the green flag to start the event with third place starter Luke Horning second. Chuck Dumblewski was on the move early from his sixth place starting position, getting by Nick Stone for fourth on lap four, and on lap six he got by Horning for the second position.
On the inside of turn four on lap 11, Dumblewski got by Henderson for the lead and by lap 15 he was out to a straightaway advantage. Dumblewski was in lap traffic on lap 18 and at the halfway point the top five consisted of Dumblewski, Henderson, seventh place starter Pascal Payeur, eighth place starter Kenny Gates, and Horning.
Gates continued his march to the front, getting by Payeur for the third position on lap 28, and Henderson for the second spot with 10 laps to go in the event. Dumblewski held a half track lead with nine laps to go when the red flag came out for a crash in turn four. Josh Coonradt spun his car in the turn and Dumblewski, who had nowhere to go, got in to the spun car of Coonradt, ending both of their races and handing over the lead to Gates for the restart.
Gates took off on the restart and pulled away to his eighth win of the 2018 season and the 80th of his career in the division at Fonda over Payeur, 10th place starter Ivan Joslin, fifth place starter Dan Older, and ninth place starter Mark Sullivan.
“I actually thought that Shane (Henderson) was leading, I didn’t know that Chuck (Dumblewski) was leading,” Gates said after the win. “I was digging for everything I could get, and I thought that maybe I could get a second place finish out of it tonight. Bad luck for Chucky turned in to good luck for me.”
Danny Varin led at the drop of the green flag in the 25-lap Empire Super Sprint (ESS) feature event with Larry Wight doing double duty and taking over the third spot on lap four after starting fifth. Wight took over the second position from Cory Sparks on lap eight with Bobby Varin also getting by Sparks for the third position after starting eighth.
At the halfway point Danny Varin led the event with Wight, Bobby Varin, Sparks, and Josh Pieniazek in the top five. While Danny Varin continued to lead the event, the last caution of the event slowed the field on lap 19 when something on the left front of Bobby Varin’s car broke and he spun on the front stretch.
The 2018 ESS Championship was on the line between point leader going in to the night Jason Barney and challenger Steve Poirier who is a seven time champion with the ESS. Barney started the event in the 10th position while Poirier who had some issues throughout the evening started in the 13th spot.
When Barney’s front nose wing collapsed on his car early in the event, it caused handling issues and his car was never right for the rest of the race. Poirier on the other hand was making his way methodically to the front, surviving contact on the back stretch by Coleman Gulick on lap 18 which caused Poirier to spin. Poirier did a 360 degree spin and continued on in a great save which kept him in the hunt for the 2018 title when it could have turned out a lot worse.
Poirier got by Pieniazek and Gulick for the fourth position on a lap 19 restart after a caution and with one lap to go was the new second place car after getting by Wight. Varin maintained the lead to the checkered flag, taking his third career ESS win at Fonda and second consecutive win after winning back on Memorial Day weekend at the “Track of Champions.”
With his second place finish, Poirier was crowned the 2018 ESS Champion for the eighth time in his career, tying Mike Woodring who also has eight ESS titles to his credit.
“I was actually looking forward to the restarts tonight,” Varin said after the win. “I would just move the wing back and get going again. I am racing against a great group of guys here in the ESS, and that makes me a better driver.”
“What a night,” Poirier said at the conclusion of the race. “We battled all night and I knew that I had to get about five spots ahead of Jason (Barney) to secure the title. “We weren’t supposed to run for the title this year but we had a little luck along the way and now we have to decide whether to run for the title next year now that we are tied with Mike (Woodring) with eight titles.”
Zach Sorrentino led every lap in the 10-lap street stock feature for his first win of 2018 at Fonda and the second of his career at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds facility and was followed by Jason Morrison and Dave Horning Sr. at the finish with Michael Arnold and Justin Taylor not able to start the feature event.
SUPER DIRTCAR MODIFIED SERIES “THE JACK” – 100-LAPS – TIM FULLER, Stewart Friesen, Brett Hearn, Erick Rudolph, Rocky Warner, Jeremy Wilder, Jimmy Phelps, Danny Johnson, Peter Britten, Pat Ward, Mike Mahaney, Matt Sheppard, Danny Varin, Max McLaughlin, Keith Flach, Alan Barker, Adam Roberts, Rich Scagliotta, Jack Lehner, Cody Bleau, Dave Rauscher, Jeff Rockefeller, Willy Decker, Brian Gleason, Demetrious Drellos, Josh Hohenforst, Bobby Varin, Jimmy Davis, Shaun Pangman (DNS), Larry Wight (DQ)
SUPER DIRTCAR CENTRAL SPORTSMAN SERIES – 30-LAPS – CHAD EDWARDS, Dave Constantino, Cody Clark, Tyler Thompson, Dave Schilling, Corey Barker, Jackson Gill, Brian Pessolano, Chris Curtis, Brian Calabrese, Adam McAuliffe, Rocco Leone, Ricky Quick, Will Shields, Joe Orlando, Nick Scavia, AJ Miller, Charlie Tibbitts, Griffen Mansmith, William August, Harry Shaffer, Taylor Lamb, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Zach Sobotka, Joe Williams, Ray Zemken, Mark Mortensen, Kevin Root
SUPER DIRTCAR PRO STOCK SERIES – 50-LAPS – KENNY GATES, Pascal Payeur, Ivan Joslin, Dan Older, Mark Sullivan, Marc Lalonde, Shane Henderson, CD Beauchamp, Luke Horning, Roch Aubin, Jocelyn Roy, Nick Arnold, Byron Wescott, Chris Wemple, Andy Graves, Chuck Dumblewski, Josh Coonradt, Frank Twing, Nick Stone, Reuben Kennedy Jr., Justin Knight (DNS), Lee Miller (DNS)
EMPIRE SUPER SPRINTS (ESS) FEATURE – 25-LAPS – DANNY VARIN, Steve Poirier, Larry Wight, Coleman Gulick, Josh Pieniazek, Billy VanInwegen, Shawn Donath, Cory Sparks, Paul Kinney, Matt Tanner, Jason Barney, Bobby Hackel, Jeff Trombley, Jeff Cook, Chad Miller, Matt Billings, Mike Kiser, Kelly Hebing, Dave Axton, Mike Mahaney, Jeremiah Munson, Floyd Billington, Bobby Varin, Josh Flint