Where has the summer gone and the 2018 racing season?
It does not seem that long ago I was walking around the mall in Rotterdam looking at the new cars and talking racing, and here we are one week away from The Track of Champions, Fonda Speedway, to crown their 2018 champions.
It will all come down to the Night of Features as Bobby Varin, who has six championships, his first coming in 2000 and his last coming in 2010 has a 2-point lead over Josh Hohenforst, who is looking to add his name to the Fonda Speedway greats.
For Hohenforst it has been a season of consistency as he has yet to see Victory Square in 2018 but has nine top fives and 12 top tens and went into Saturday’s event with a 10-point lead.
For Varin it has also been a season of consistency with four wins, 10 top fives, and 10 top tens.
One thing is for sure — it could have been a whole different point chase if NASCAR Truck Star Stewart Friesen had not picked up seven wins when not aboard the No. 52 Halmar Truck on Saturday nights. Another factor that could have changed the point chase was last week Hohenforst had troubles with his ride in the heat race action and Laudy Hoyenga’s No. 3 that Marc Johnson had piloted the past two weeks was offered to him and he wheeled the machine to a fine third place run.
After rain most of the day and most tracks canceling due to that rain Fonda promoter Pete Demitraszek waited out Mother Nature and the fans were treated to some great racing action and the drivers were given a very fast racing surface.
The modified fast warm ups were something special as they were flat footing it all the way around the famed oval. They roared down the front stretch, threw it sideways into turn one, throwing mud high into the air stayed high and drove it hard down the back chute and stayed high wide and digging.
It was not only the Modifieds that put on a show for the fans but the Sportsman and Pro Stocks as well enjoying the great racing conditions they were given. The night was filled with many cautions and red flags but not due to the track conditions, but a few drivers driving over their head.
The Graham Racing Team of Peter Britten and their new hired gun Danny Johnson were a welcome addition to the Modified field, as was Tony Pepicelli making his way back to the racing wars in the Bo Karl 71.
At the drop of the green of the Modified feature it was Shaun Pangman jumping out to an early lead with Rocky Warner trying to keep up as Timmy Fuller and Pep Corradi battled nerf bar to nerf bar for third. Fuller wrestled the spot away on lap 8 as Pangman started to put distance on the field.
Back in the field Bobby Varin was making his way to the front, looking to cut into the point lead of Hohenforst, using the high side. The 1J of Warner was starting to push going into turn one as Fuller started to reel in the rookie.
On lap 12 the red flag was out as Warner made contact with the lap car of Don Bellen, and Bellen made contact with the wall between turns 1 and 2, then barrel rolled. Bellen was OK but done for the night as Warner continued to hold down the second spot.
On the restart going into turn one the 6H of Hohenforst sat facing traffic as Corradi was in the outside wall, with Jessica Friesen and Darwin Greene sitting on the bottom of turn two. Hohenforst rejoined the field in his original position before the caution, leaving the fans wondering why.
Once back to green it was Varin who had worked his way into the top 5 on the great racing surface, taking over third as Peter Britten was making his way into the top 10. Now it was Varin’s time to show his muscle, once again taking over the second spot then running down the 34 of Pangman and using the same move he used to take over second, going high in 3 and diving to the bottom to be the new leader.
From that point it was all Varin in the Palmer Service No. 76 who cruised to his fourth win of the season and 64th of his career for the future member in the Hall of Fame at The Track of Champions.
Following Varin to the line was Tim Fuller, Shaun Pangman, Rocky Warner, and Josh Hohenforst rounding out the top 5.
Once again the Pro Stocks put on a great show of side by side racing running in a tight bunch behind leader Ivan Joslin in the early going of the event.
Lap 7 found Andy Graves, who recently moved up from the 4-cylinder division, bring out the yellow. On the restart the field was bunched up and Josh Coonradt made a great move going from fourth to second, and would take over the lead coming out of turn 4.
Once again the caution was out this time for Randy Cosselman, who slowed while running a strong second.
As quick as they were back to racing the caution was right back out for a multi-car tangle after Luke Horning seemed to find it easier to drive through the pack and not around them. Back to green and now it was Chuck Dumblewski on the move as again they were three wide for second with the 7 of Dumblewski getting the spot.
With green flag racing Kenny Gates worked his way into the top 5 as Coonradt started to check out from the field. With one lap to go Horning and Joslin made contact coming down the front stretch at the flag stand, then all hell broke loose as point leader Kenny Gates and Dean Charbonneau made heavy high-speed contact with the 4 of Charbonneau going over the right side of Gates’ 35 and getting airborne, taking down the caution light.
The red flag was out to get Charbonneau out of his mangled racer and repair the light as again Horning started the accident and continued the event.
Week in and week out this driver seems to be the center of controversy and causes a ton of damage to fellow competitors in the Pro Stock class.
When the green came back out it was Coonradt taking the lead and he held on for the win over Dumblewski, Justin Knight, Horning and Gates, who returned to the track with a badly damaged race car, was fifth.
Going into the final night of racing Gates holds a 38-point lead over Coonradt, with Dumblewski only 7 points behind him for third. Only 13 Pro Stocks made their way to the track on Saturday nights racing.
The action-packed, caution-filled Sportsman feature found Aaron Burton the early leader as Cody Clark was on the move, quickly taking over second from his eighth starting spot on lap 4.
The first of seven cautions flew on lap 7 as point leader Tony Farone and Josh DeMagistris tangled in turn 2. Back to racing and the caution was out for a multi-car tangle also in turn two.
Again the green flag was out as Ray Zemken took over the second spot only to bring out the caution a few laps later as something broke in the rear of the 1z machine. Back to green with Zemken making his way back to the track with a ratchet strap holding the rear into place found Mark Mortensen quickly on the move, using the high side of the speedway and moving into the top 5. He was second a few laps later, with Clark well out in front.
Once again the red was out as Zemken hit the inside wall a ton and flipped. The restart found Mortensen the new leader but again the yellow was out. Back to green and now Mortensen and Clark were in a great battle for the lead as Brian Calabrese was on the move and sitting in the top 3 after starting deep in the field, with Clark back in front.
With less than a handful of laps remaining the caution again flew as Tony Farone and Nick Scavia made hard contact at the east end of the speedway. With all the caution laps Mortensen’s fine ride would come to an end as he was out of fuel.
Once back to racing it was all Cody Clark, picking up the win over Calabrese with Chad Edwards, Dave Manchester, and DeMagistris rounding out the top 5.
Going into next week’s final points event Chad Edwards holds a slim 6-point lead over Tony Farone with the top 5 all within striking distance as Scavia is 7 points out, Zemken is 14 out and Clark is 24 points back in 5th.
Other winners on the night found Michael McCallion picking up the Limited Sportsman win as Dave Horning Sr. picked up the Street Stock win and Fonda Hall of Fame member John “The Dancing Bear” Constantino picked up the Classics on Dirt Vintage win.
Albany Saratoga Speedway
At Albany Saratoga Speedway on Friday night, under perfect skies and a great racing surface, Ronnie Johnson had to hold back the challenges of Bodie Bellinger, Marc Johnson, and late in the race a hard-charging Jessey Mueller to pick up his third win of the season in a hard-fought win.
As good as the racing was out front Kenny Tremont was putting on the show of the night after starting 24th and working his way through the very tough Great Race Place Modified field.
Throughout the event there were many great battles going 2- and 3-wide.
At the checker it was R.J., Ronnie Johnson, with the win over Jessey Mueller, Kenny Tremont, Marc Johnson and Bodie Bellinger, with Keith Flach holding on for the sixth spot.
With only a few weeks left in the points Brett Hearn holds a 72-point lead over Marc Johnson.
In the Sportsman it was Daryl Nutting picking up the impressive win over Connor Cleveland, Joey Scarborough, Tim Hartman and Jason Gray.
The King of Dirt Pro Stocks found Jason Casey in for the hard-fought caution-filled event win over Chuck Dumblewski, with Brandon Emigh, Josh Coonradt and Kim Duell rounding out the top 5.
Former area resident Jimmy Eaton had his best race of the year since returning to the track, running in the top 5 most of the event and held on for a ninth place finish.
Other winners found Paolo Pascarella picking up the Limited Sportsman win with Randy Miller taking another Street Stock win.
Out at Utica Rome Speedway, Marc Johnson picked up his first Modified win.
At Glen Ridge, Dave Constantino picked up the Sportsman win, the 11-year-old driving sensation Derrick McGrew Jr. won the Limited Sportsman, Ivan Joslin recorded the Pro Stock win and local racer Garrett Poland picked up his sixth win of the year in the Junior Slingshots.
Over at Lebanon Valley, Mother Nature was the winner.