BY JAMES. A. ELLIS
RACING AROUND – In a span of 13 years from his first modified feature win in 1995 to his last victory in 2008, Dave Camara amassed 21 feature wins and a pair of track championships (1998, 1999) at Fonda Speedway.
After the 2010 season, Camara walked away from the sport, but was unable to get the racing bug out of his system.
Now, 13 years later, with the help of Wes Moody and the Moody Mile Motorsports team, Camara will be back behind the wheel of a big-block modified on Saturday nights at the Track of Champions.
But is it the same walking through the pit area as it was when he hung up his helmet 13 years ago?
“I was here a lot last year, and I’ll tell you, 80% of the people I don’t have a clue who they were and I still don’t,” Camara said with a laugh. “I am up in line, and I don’t even know if I am with the sportsmen or the modifieds. I was like, ‘I know Danny Varin and JaMike Sowle, so I will just follow them.’”
It didn’t seem to take much time for Camara to find a comfort zone on the track during last Saturday’s practice session at Fonda. Within a couple of green flag laps, he was lifting the left front wheel in the turns and carrying it halfway down the straightaways.
“Truthfully, I didn’t want to screw anybody else up. I was taking my time,” he said. “The cars are totally different, and it will take a little adjusting, that’s all. It is narrow right now, and it is hard to get the arc going into the corner that you need.”
Another change for Camara will be his number. Instead of piloting his familiar No. 26 modified, he will have the traditional Moody Mile Motorsports No. 24.
Camara’s outlook on the upcoming season is slightly different than it was 13 years ago when he hauled in with a large hauler full of equipment, tires and cars.
“It is just cool to be back, but it is different than it used to be for me,” he said. “I just want to come here and have fun on a Saturday night and go home. My kids are all older now, so they can come watch and hang out. We have a camper here, so if we want to stay, we can.”
Camara confessed that diving into turn one under the green the first time last Saturday “brought back a lot of memories. I am not going to say they were all good memories, but it did bring back a lot of memories.”
TALBOT LOOKING TO DEFEND SPORTSMAN TITLE
Last season, Payton Talbot pulled double duty on the Fonda 200 Weekend, competing in both the 602 Crate Sportsman and modified features.
The reigning 602 Sportsman champion turned in a fifth place in the sportsman feature before turning in a 21st-place finish in the 200-lap, $53,000-to-win main event in his first time behind the wheel of a modified.
Speculation was that Talbot would make the jump to the premiere division this season, but he did not feel the timing was right.
“I did have an offer to race modified,” Talbot said at Saturday’s practice session at Fonda Speedway. “We wanted to run a bunch of shows, and the car owner didn’t want to. I told my father that my gut just tells me we should stay crate racing. If something else comes down the line, and we get a mod ride, great, but I will stay a sportsman for a little while.”
Talbot was crowned the Fonda Speedway 602 Sportsman champion and the Thunder Series Champion for the division after a tight season-long battle with Chad Edwards at both Fonda and Utica-Rome speedways.
Even after the winter break from racing, Talbot said that accomplishment of winning the championships hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“I really didn’t expect it,” he said about the Fonda title. “The week before [championship night], we were 20 points behind Chad. It still has not really sunk in. It would be great to get another track championship this year, but that is asking a lot hoping for no breakdowns or something like that. We will see how it goes.”
Utica-Rome Speedway will kick off its season Friday night with the 30-lap, $6,800-to-win Alex Friesen Remembered main event for the big-block modifieds. The second-annual event honors the late Utica-Rome Speedway promoter and driver Alex Friesen, who died in 1996 at the age of 33.
The 602 Crate Sportsman, Pro Stocks, Limited Sportsman and 4-cylinder divisions will also be on the NASCAR sanctioned race card.
Gates open at 5 p.m., with hot laps set for 6:45 and racing starting at 7:30 p.m.
Matt Sheppard is the defending race and modified track champion.
After a highly successful opening night, Albany-Saratoga Speedway returns to action Friday with the 4-cylinder division joining the program with a featured $1,000-to-win main event for the Pro Stock division.
Fonda Speedway returns to its NASCAR roots this year and will drop the green flag on its 72nd season opener Saturday with all divisions on the night’s race card.
The big-block modifieds will compete in the featured 40-lap, $12,000-to-win Jack Johnson Memorial Montgomery County Open.
Gates are scheduled to open at 2:30 p.m., with the cars hitting the track for warmups at 5:30 p.m. and the first qualifier is set for 6:30 p.m. General admission is $25 for adults, with kids 11 and under admitted free.
Weather permitting, Glen Ridge Motorsports Park is scheduled to host its inaugural “Spring Fling” at the speedway on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.
The event is free and will give the fans a chance to meet the drivers on hand for tech inspection and to mark out their pit areas for the upcoming season.
While there will not be on-track action Sunday, an open practice session is scheduled for April 30 with the 20th season opener slated for May 7.
The Ridge is celebrating its 20th season with the return of the DIRTcar sanctioned 358 Modifieds competing on a weekly basis along with DIRTcar sanctioned Sportsman, Pro Stocks and 4-cylinder cars along with the Street Stock, Limited Sportsman and Tobias Slingshot divisions.