By JAMES A. ELLIS
FONDA — Since arriving at Fonda Speedway Thursday, Matt Sheppard’s race team struggled to get his modified dialed in.
They final hit on the right set up during the mid-way break and Sheppard powered his way to the front to claim the victory in the 200-lap, $53,000-to-win Short Track Super Series Fonda 200 presented by Southside Beverage Saturday night at Fonda Speedway.
“It’s crazy. We had a decent race car all weekend, decent, but not good enough to win,” Sheppard said in Victory Lane. “We just kept working on it and working on it. We took one last stab at it in the halfway break and the thing came to life in that second 100 laps. We finally found the balance I was looking for.
“Cautions went our way and we got through the traffic. I am ecstatic. This place has been a thorn in our side. Stewie [Stewart Friesen] has been hard to beat but tonight he had problems — but this 9S was a rocket.”
Anthony Perrego challenged Sheppard in the closing stages of the race but crossed the finish line in second, while Mike Mahaney, who led 55 of the opening 100 laps, finished third with Danny Varin fourth. Demetrios Drellos was fifth under the checkers but came up light on the scales in post-race tech and disqualified, moving Marc Johnson to fifth.
Billy Decker, Andy Bachetti, Jessica Friesen, Max McLaughlin and Brian Gleason rounded out the top 10.
After a last-lap incident in his qualifier, Cody Clark was towed to the scales for post-race inspection. Clark’s crew was able to make the necessary repairs and he thanked them by claiming his fourth win of the season in the companion 25-lap STSS Crate 602 Sportsman feature.
Troy Zilles followed Clark under the checkers, with Tim Hartman Jr. third, Michael Ballestero fourth and 2022 sportsman track champion Payton Talbot fifth. Steve Davis, Troy Palmer, Brendan Gibbons, defending race winner Chad Edwards and Jeremy Tyrrell rounded out the top 10.
In racing action Friday night at Fonda Speedway, Kenny Gates picked up his first win of the season and division best 86th of his career in the 25-lap Pro Stock feature, while Adam Tranka was awarded the Street Stock feature win after Chris Murray, who led all 20 laps of the feature, was disqualified for illegal exhaust.
Brandon Ely was first under the checkers for his initial victory at Fonda Speedway in the Dual Overhead Cam 4-cylinder feature, while Ken Hollenbeck took home the Single Overhead Cam trophy. Mike Kiser grabbed his fifth career CRSA Sprint Cars victory at the Track of Champions over Jeff Trombley and Jordan Hutton.
The weekend racing action got underway Thursday night with Jack Lehner charging to the victory in the “Underdog 33” modified feature and Kyle Dingman taking home the Limited Sportsman feature win.
With the top three finishers in each of the four modified qualifiers run Friday night — and won by Max McLaughlin, Stewart Friesen, Billy Decker and Bobby Hackel IV — drawing for their starting spots, Friesen drew the pole and Hackel the outside pole in the 41-car starting field.
The caution flew on the opening lap when contact sent Lehner sliding into the tires outside of turn three doing heavy front-end damage to his modified. Lehner was uninjured in the accident.
Friesen took control on the restart but could not break away from the field as lapped traffic helped Mahaney and Perrego to stay within striking distance.
Mahaney took the point on lap 30 with Perrego taking over three laps later before Friesen got back in front on lap 35. His lead was short-lived as Mahaney went back in front a lap later before Perrego took the lead for the final 10 laps of the opening 100-laps.
During the break between the 100-lap stages, 11 cars chose to pit on the infield dragstrip, taking fuel only and adjusting tire pressures. The remainder of the field opted to head to their pits where they were allowed to do full service to their cars.
During the break, track prep was done, including running the grader to remove much of the rubber laid down on the racing surface.
Mahaney was one of the drivers who was not pleased with the track prep.
“I feel we were better in the first half of the race,” he said. “Then, the track changed. The first hundred, we had the right stuff and then the second was a lot different. It’s a crapshoot when you already make your adjustments and then they do track prep. That’s a tough one and a real challenge, so live and learn I guess.”
Decker, Marc Johnson, Jessica Friesen and Mahaney, who all pitted on the infield, pulled away from the field. Decker and Johnson swapped leads twice before Johnson gained control on lap 115.
Sheppard, Perrego and Stewart Friesen were making their way to the front and joined Johnson and Mahaney at the front as they weaved their way through lapped traffic.
Sheppard beat Johnson on a lap 135 restart and brought Mahaney with him to the front.
When the caution flew with 50 laps remaining, Friesen, who was running fifth, opted to go to the hot pit for tires and rejoined the race at the back of the pack. Friesen’s night ended on the restart as a plume of smoke billowed from his modified as he drove into the first turn.
Sheppard maintained his lead and survived a late-race restart that allowed Perrego to get a nose under the leader with four laps to go but could not complete the pass before the checkers fell over Sheppard’s hood for his first Fonda 200 victory.
“I am not really sure what happened,” Sheppard said. “I felt pretty comfortable and then with three or four to go there I felt the car drop down on the left rear and I thought I was getting a flat but then it took back off. I am not really sure what happened but right now I don’t really care. This is definitely the crown jewel we were looking for.”
Mahaney finished third for the third-straight time in the Fonda 200. Bobby Varin was awarded the Hard Charger award after finishing 11th after starting 40th in the 41-car field.
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Clark holds on
After scrambling to make repairs to the left-side suspension of his car, Clark was able to make the most of his draw of a front-row starting spot and lead the opening 11 laps before Zilles took the lead on a lap 12 restart. Talbot, Hartman Jr., Ballestero made their presence known in a tight battle for third with Tyrrell.
Clark retook the lead from Zilles on a lap 17 restart and held on for the $2,000 victory. Hartman held off Ballestero for third with Talbot finishing fifth.
“When I came in after the heat race, I had no idea if we were going to be able to make it out for the feature,” Clark said in Victory Lane. “All the guys from DKM [chassis builder DKM Fabrication] along with guys from other race teams came over to help, it’s amazing how other people come and help out everybody.”
In Friday’s 25-lap Pro Stock feature, Beau Ballard jumped out to the early lead before the race was red flagged when Chuck Dumblewski flipped. He was uninjured in the wreck.
Slate Baker took the lead on lap five with Gates, who started seventh, took the point on lap seven, leaving Baker to battle Ballard and Josh Coonradt for the second.
Gates had a straightaway advantage erased by a caution on lap 14 that allowed Ballard to put pressure on Gates but could not get past before the checkers dropped on Gates’ 86th career win at Fonda Speedway. Ballard, Coonradt, Ivan Joslin, and Baker completed the top five.
“It’s taken us all year to get here,” Gates said in Victory Lane. “I couldn’t be happier. I just had to run clean laps because I knew that the Utica Rome Track Champion [Ballard] was right up my tail, so I had to turn good laps, or he was going to go by us. I was able to hit my marks and finish the race out clean to get here to Victory Lane. There was grip on the bottom tonight and that suits me perfectly. They call me the catfish and the catfish swam on the bottom tonight.”
The 15-lap Fonda Fair Four Cylinder feature saw four lead changes over the 15-lap distance with 2022 Track Champion Ken Hollenback and invader Brandon Ely waging a war for the overall lead in the event on laps two through six when they swapped the lead three times. On lap six, Ely took the overall lead in the event with his DOHC after starting sixth and went on to his first career win at Fonda. Ken Hollenback finished second overall and was the SOHC winner.
Murray led every lap of the 20-lap event for the win after starting on the outside pole. In post-race tech, Murray was disqualified for an illegal exhaust handing the win over Tranka.
The 20- lap CRSA Sprint Car feature began with Tomy Moreau leading at the drop of the green flag until lap three when Hutton got by for the lead on the inside of turns one and two.
Hutton held the lead for three laps until Trombley got by on a lap seven restart.
Trombley held the point until Kiser, who started 10th, took over on lap 15 and held on for his fifth career CRSA career win at Fonda Speedway.
On the opening night of the Fonda 200 Weekend sponsored by Southside Beverage, Lehner used a borrowed motor to record his victory in the Underdog 33.
“I have a lot of cool people that make this all happen for me and thanks to Paul Pinkerous, this is his motor that he let us use this week,” Lehner said in Victory Lane.
In Thursday’s 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature, Dingman took home the $1,100 win top prize
Jimmy Horton led the opening lap of the Underdog 33 before Hackel took over on a lap two restart. JaMike Sowle took over second with Chris Curtis and Lehner battling for third.
Lehner grabbed second on a restart with Ronnie Johnson also getting by Sowle for the third.
Johnson took over second behind Hackel on lap 17 with Tanner Warner joining the top five at the midway point.
Johnson and Lehner both made a strong bid for the lead just past the halfway point when the lap car of Matt Sobiech was right in front of the leader
with Johnson and Lehner looking for a way to get by both the lap car and Hackel for the lead. Hackel maintained the lead at that point after getting to the outside of the lap car with Johnson and Lehner also clearing Sobiech to continue their battle for the lead.
Coming out of turn four to complete lap 27, Lehner took the lead exiting turn four with eight laps remaining and pulled away for his second career victory at Fonda Speedway. Hackel beat out Johnson for the runner-up finish with Sowle fourth and Tyler Dippel fifth.
Lance Hill took the early lead in the Limited Sportsman feature before suspension problems ended his run on lap five and put Butchie Irwin in the lead ahead of Zach Dufel and Dingman.
Dingman took the lead on a lap 11 restart and pulled away from the rest of the field.
With one lap to go the red flag was out after EJ Gallup rolled his car over in turn four but landed on all four wheels and kept on going. Other cars were involved as well causing the red flag condition.
Dingman got a good restart and led the final lap to the big win followed in the top five by Irwin, Dufel, Mike Arnold, and Michael Kalkbrenner.
“It got a little scary there during that red flag on the front stretch, but the car was awesome and went anywhere that I wanted it to,” Dingman said in Victory Lane. “Thank you to my crew and sponsors and everyone that helps me; this is my final Limited Sportsman race. I’m moving up to the regular sportsman division next year, so this is definitely the way to go out.”
The Short Track Super Series Fonda 200 Weekend presented by Southside Beverage wraps up the 69th season of racing at Fonda Speedway.
2022 Fonda 200 Weekend presented by Southside Beverage
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED “FONDA 200” FEATURE – 200-LAPS – $53,000 TO WIN – MATT SHEPPARD, Anthony Perrego, Mike Mahaney, Danny Varin, Marc Johnson, Billy Decker, Andy Bachetti, Jessica Friesen, Max McLaughlin, Brian Gleason, Bobby Varin, Rocky Warner, David Schilling, Tyler Dippel, Chris Curtis, Alex Yankowski, JaMike Sowle, Brian Pessolano, Mat Williamson, Jimmy Horton, Payton Talbot, Stewart Friesen, Alan Johnson, Dave Constantino, Ronnie Johnson, Nick Heywood, Allison Ricci, Bobby Hackel IV, Aaron Jacobs, Matt DeLorenzo, Ryan Godown, Brett Haas, JR Hurlburt, Tucker O’Connor, Jeff Trombley, Craig Hanson, Darwin Greene, Danny Creeden, Tim Fuller, Jack Lehner, Demetrious Drellos (DQ Weight)
“B” MAIN RACE WINNERS – Dippel, Horton
DID NOT QUALIFY – Scott Huber, Ryan Darcy, Jason Reome, Nick Stone, Neil Stratton, Danny Johnson, Matt Sobiech, Tanner Warner, Ancel Collins, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Daniel Morgiewicz, Jeremy Slosek
STSS SWAGGER FACTORY APPAREL CRATE 602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 25-LAPS – CODY CLARK, Troy Zilles, Tim Hartman Jr., Michael Ballestero, Payton Talbot, Steve Davis, Troy Palmer, Brendan Gibbons, Chad Edwards, Jeremy Tyrrell, Stephen Gray, Chip Constantino, Mark Mortensen, Jeremy Slosek, Dan Santabarbara, Dylan Madsen, Tyler Peet, Michael McCallion, Kyle Dingman, Jason Greco, Tim Deffer, Ben Feldman, Matthew Perry, Michael Arnold, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Carter Gibbons, Clayton DuMond, Travis Green, Harry Shaffer, Tanner Warner
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Madsen, Talbot, Palmer, Tyrrell, Shaffer, Ballestero
CONSOLATION RACE WINNERS – Brendan Gibbons, Davis, Mark Mortensen
DID NOT QUALIFY – Jason Reome, Blaine Klinger, Karl Barnes, Dale VanAllen, Dale Welty, Brian Borst, Joe Williams, Brett Mortensen, Gerard LeClair, Ron Proctor, Wesley Sutliff, Michael Kalkbrenner, Greg Crooker, Walt Henry, Corky Warner, Josh Kane, Bob Fachini, Doug Kline, Griffen Mansmith, Adam Taft, John Santolin, Garrett Poland, Greg Havlichek, Don Bellen, Chris Kugler, David Hackett Jr., Tim Dwyer, Joey Scarborough, Zach Dufel, Clyde Peek
GRECO’S NAPA HARD CHARGER AWARD – Stephen Gray +15 positions 26th to 11th
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #1 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO PARKS COMPANIES LLC – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – BILLY DECKER, Ryan Godown, Jack Lehner, Payton Talbot, JaMike Sowle, Marc Johnson, Matt DeLorenzo, Scott Huber, Ryan Darcy, Josh Reome, Aaron Jacobs, Rocky Warner, Jeremy Slosek (DNS), Nick Stone (DNS)
$100 Bonus for the highest finishing Fonda Speedway regular from the Gang in Section 8 – Payton Talbot.
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #2 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO FASTLINE PERFORMANCE – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – STEWART FRIESEN, Jessica Friesen, Andy Bachetti, Alan Johnson, Brian Gleason, Danny Creeden, Nick Heywood, Jimmy Horton, Tucker O’Connor, Brian Pessolano, Danny Johnson, Bobby Varin, Craig Hanson
$100 Bonus for the highest finishing Fonda Speedway regular from the Gang in Section 8 – Brian Gleason.
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #3 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO UPSTATE AUTOMOTIVE – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – MAX MCLAUGHLIN, Anthony Perrego, Matt Sheppard, Mat Williamson, Ronnie Johnson, Danny Varin, Tim Fuller, Tyler Dippel, David Schilling, Allison Ricci, Brett Haas, JR Hurlburt, Matt Sobiech
$100 Bonus for the highest finishing Fonda Speedway regular from the Gane in Section 8 – Ronnie Johnson
STSS SUNOCO MODIFIED QUALIFYING RACE #4 FOR THE FONDA 200 – 15-LAPS – $500 BONUS THANKS TO DAVE PRIME JR. MAC TOOLS – 7 QUALIFY – 3 REDRAW – BOBBY HACKEL IV, Mike Mahaney, Demetrious Drellos, Dave Constantino, Alex Yankowski, Chris Curtis, Jeff Trombley, Darwin Greene, Tanner Warner, Ancel Collins, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Daniel Morgiewicz, Neil Stratton
$100 Bonus for the highest finishing Fonda Speedway regular from the Gane in Section 8 – Demetrios Drerllos
ALGONKIN MOTEL PRO STOCK FEATURE – 25-LAPS – KENNY GATES, Beau Ballard, Josh Coonradt, Ivan Joslin, Slater baker, Frank Twing, Jim Normoyle, Gary Silkey, Zach Sorrentino, Kyle Weller, Jeff McPhail, Steve LaRochelle, Caden Dumblewski, Mike Baker, Dillon Vanston, John Holmes, AJ Walters, Don Collins, Randy Cosselman, Chuck Dumblewski
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Ballard, Coonradt
FONDA FAIR FOUR CYLINDER FEATURE – 15-LAPS – BRANDON ELY (DOHC), KEN HOLLENBACK (SOHC), Kerrie Hollenback, Billy Hillman, Jay Ingersol, Bruce Liddle, Steve Burbank, Kyle Lanfear, Dale Van Allen, Jamie Warner, Jordan Ryder, Chad Hoffman, Todd Morey, Dustin Cameron, Chris Jennings Sr., Chris Hall, John Ray, Keith Tesiero Jr., Blaze Post, Kyle Coley (DNS)
$50 Bonus from Upstate Auto for both the SOHC winner Ken Hollenbeck and DOHC winner Brandon Ely
STREET STOCK FEATURE – 20-LAPS – ADAM TRANKA ($500 Bonus from Stone Motorsports/Online Performance), Jason Samrov ($300 Bonus from Stone Motorsports/Online Performance), Matt Mosher ($200 Bonus from Stone Motorsports/Online Performance), Ray Pierre Jr., Cliff Haslun, Jason Barrett, Lou Gancarz, Even Denue, Josh Samrov, Greg Brockway, Isaac Hirsch, Bob Gibson, Matt Wells, Dave Horning Sr., Chris Murray (DQ Illegal Exhaust)
CRSA SPRINT CAR FEATURE – 20-LAPS – MIKE KISER, Jeff Trombley, Jordan Hutton, Thomas Radivoy, Dalton Herrick, Tomy Moreau, Kyle Pierce, Billy Vaninwegen, Dana Wagner, Trevor Years, Timmy Lotz, Mike VanPelt, Mark Taylor, Darryl Ruggles, James Layton, Link Pettit, John Cunningham (DNS), Aaron Shelton (DNS), Ron Greek (DNS)
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Moreau, Vaninwegen
ARNOLD AINSWORTH DASH FOR CASH FOR THE TOP SIX IN STSS HALMAR ELITE SERIES POINTS – 6-LAPS – RYAN GODOWN ($450), Matt Sheppard ($250), Stewart Friesen ($100), Max McLaughlin, Jimmy Horton, Mat Williamson
SUNOCO MODIFIED “ULTIMATE UNDERDOG” FEATURE – 33-LAPS – $2,000 to win – JACK LEHNER, Bobby Hackel IV, Ronnie Johnson, JaMike Sowle, Tyler Dippel, Chris Curtis, Tucker O’Connor, Scott Huber, Jeff Trombley, Payton Talbot, Ancel Collins, Brian Pessolano, Ryan Darcy, Aaron Jacobs, Joe Williams, Brett Mortensen, Mark Mortensen, Matt Sobiech, Mark Pullen, Tanner Warner, Bobby Varin, Jimmy Horton, Nick Stone, George Foley, Vinnie Sanganetti, Ryan Odasz, Brett Hass, Stephen Gray, Allison Ricci, Jessica Friesen (DNS), Daniel Morgiewicz (DNS)
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Sowle, Curtis, Varin
MONTGOMERY COUNTY OFFICE FOR AGING INC. LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE – 20-laps – $1,100 to win – $1,000 added to the winners share by Holmes & Kugler Towing – KYLE DINGMAN, Butchie Irwin, Zach Dufel, Mike Arnold, Michael Kalkbrenner, Nick Arnold, Timmy Wilmot, Mike Hill, Jonathan Feagles, Phil Arnold, AJ Greco, Corky Warner, Harold Robitaille, Walter Cook, Chris Kugler, Connor Prokop, Josh Kane, EJ Gallup, Wesley Sutliff, Colin Clow, Dale VanAllen, Russ Farr, Lance Hill, Cian DiMezza, Gus Kamberelis, Mark Lighthall, Tim Deffer (DNS)
HEAT RACE WINNERS – Irwin, Dingman, Michael Arnold