FONDA – Last Saturday night, Brian Calabrese pulled into the pits from warm-ups, grabbed the steering wheel from the car, scampered across the pit area, got into a second car and headed back out to the track.
Calabrese has been doing double-duty on Saturday nights at Fonda Speedway, competing in the Crate 602 Sportsman division and the modifieds.
“The modified is not my main focus, we are all crate right now,” Calabrese said. “Larry [McGillis] and I would like to get a championship, but with the modified, we are just going to run what we have and not use up tires. When you love to race, you find a way to do it.”
Running a modified was not in the original plans for the season for the 21C team, but when opportunity knocked during the Short Track Super Series Southern Swing for the 602 Sportsman, Calabrese answered.
“Jeff Brown of Brown’s Logging gave me an engine,” Calabrese said. “He is from Maryland, and I met him down in South Carolina. He gave me this JPM big block. It has been a struggle because it has a lot of power. It is hard, but I haven’t stopped working on it to get it better and we are getting better each week. I can’t really commit to modified with just one motor as much as I would like to. Brett Deyo lets us run both classes, and I am going to do that on Saturdays and see what happens. If I run better and maybe get some more support, I may move up. But right now, I can’t move up because I can’t afford to replace the motor.”
The McGillis/Calabrese team has one sportsman feature win so far this season at Fonda Speedway and is second in the early-season points and 16th in the big block point battle. They also have a DIRTcar sportsman feature win this season at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park.
“The crate class is really competitive, but this big block thing is a whole other animal,” Calabrese said. “It is a lot of fun, but can get discouraging pretty quick when you don’t start going forward. We will just keep working on it. The crate program we have figured out; you just need luck.”
In the 1980s, Fonda Speedway ran 320 and big block modifieds, and several drivers would do double duty competing in both classes. They quickly found out there is a significant difference.
“It is insane.” Calabrese said. “With the big block, you’re not afraid to go up against the wall because you are driving off the right rear and you have power to steer it out of harm. With the crate, you feel like you’re going to try to knock down the wall with your right front. When you get in the crate after the big block, it is pretty much like a walk compared to a run. It’s crazy, but it is a dream come true.”
While backing from sponsors are an important part of any team’s success, Calabrese said, “I thank my wife. I don’t go home until 10 or 11 o’clock every night. She lets me do this and is really supportive of it. She told me if I am going to do it, do it 100% and you can see that’s happening. We have a lot to get done, and I don’t think I can do this forever. I was joking that I was going to retire from racing at 40, but that is like five years away yet, so we will see what happens.”
BUFF WINS AT THE RIDGE
Andrew Buff held off Calabrese for his first win of the season in the Red Chair DIRTcar 602 Sportsman feature, while Justin Buff placed third, Ricky Quick fourth and Garrett Poland fifth.
“Cousin” Luke Horning and Mike Hill are 2 for 2 this season at The Ridge with Pro Stock and Limited Sportsman feature wins as are Billy Hillman in the Dual Cam Mini Stocks and Adam Tranka in the Street Stocks.
Adam Fusco set a new track record for the All-Star Slingshots with a 15.539 lap en route to his first win of the season.
The Empire Super Sprints (ESS) are scheduled to make their return to Fonda Speedway since 2018 on Saturday night.
The show is part of a weekend run for the 360-sprinters that starts Friday night at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Danny Varin got a jump on the field, winning the season-opener at Fulton Speedway on April 29.
General admission is $18 for both events.
The ESS is also scheduled to be at Utica-Rome and Fonda on Aug. 5-6 and at Utica-Rome for the Cole Cup on Oct. 4.
Fans that took advantage of visiting Fonda Speedway on Dollar Night got to see one of the best modified features.
Matt DeLorenzo’s last-lap pass of invader Ryan Godown, who has five feature wins to his credit already this season, got their hearts pumping.
The track was fast and multi-grooved even late in the race, with Godown, DeLorenzo and Stewart Friesen all turning laps in the low 19-second range.
While DeLorenzo’s rally will make the highlight reels, Chad Edwards, Cody Clark and Calabrese came from deep in the pack in the sportsman feature for a close finish, while Kenny Gates and Nick Stone took their battle right down to the closing laps before Stone got the advantage for his third-straight victory.
Griffin Mansmith and Michael Kalkbrenner raced to their career first heat race victories last Saturday night.
Mansmith won his first 602 Sportsman qualifier, while Kalkbrenner won a limited sportsman qualifier before a second-place run in the feature event.
“Money” Mat Williamson picked up the STSS victory in the Battle Tuesday night at Accord Speedway. Danny Creeden, Andy Bachetti, Bobby Hackel IV and Danny Tyler round out the top five.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway will host a $3,000-to-win modified feature along with a $1,500-to-win Sportsman Shootout Series event and a $1,000-to-win pro stock event on Friday the 13th.