The DIRT banner will once again fly over Fonda Speedway.
The Track of Champions, however, will maintain its independent status for the majority of its regular Saturday night divisions.
While not covering the modified, both sportsman or street stock divisions, the UMP and pro stock divisions will be racing for DIRTcar track and tour points.
"We are trying to enhance our pro stock and UMP car fields," Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia said. "The opportunity to work together a little bit may be best for everybody, so we are going to try it. It is really not about me and it is not about DIRT. It is what is good for the pro stocks and what is good for the strength of the class. The UMP cars are up here and we are going to see if there is enough enthusiasm for it."
The UMP modifieds are similar to the IMCA modifieds that have run for points at the track since 2000.
The full-fendered pro stocks have produced some of the closest and most exciting finishes the past few years at Fonda and when the drivers venture to events like Super DIRT Week in October, they consistently turn in impressive performances.
"We are offering the DIRTcar points for pro stocks because we want to give them the opportunity to be able to run the pro stock series," Lucia said. "Drivers have shown interest in it and it puts them in a difficult spot if they can't run for DIRTcar points and add track points. We are going to try it. I want to be optimistic because if it doesn't work the way I think it should, then we can go back to what we were doing."
Last year, Chucky Dumblewski finished second at Super DIRT Week in the pro stock feature and was named rookie of the race. Nick Stone placed seventh in the feature, while "Krazy" Kenny Martin won the hard charger award with his run from 29th to 10th. Former Fonda Speedway co-champion Rob Yetman finished 29th after engine trouble set him pitside after a strong early run and Rocky Warner turned in a strong qualifying effort but finished one spot out from making the main event. He is a Futures Race winner at the fairgrounds and Martin won the main event the first year pro stocks ran at Super DIRT Week.
Another bonus for local drivers in the class is that Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, which runs on Friday night, is also DIRT sanctioned for the class as well as the modified and sportsman divisions.
"I am very comfortable with what we have done with modified racing," Lucia said. "I am looking more at the racers and most concur with keeping the class not with DIRT.
"Obviously, I have noticed that the pro stock class everywhere has been struggling and this is an opportunity to strengthen the class a little bit. If the drivers want to go do the DIRTcar series races, they can do it. We have got some guys who have shown interest in the series and I am going to approach this very open minded and optimistic. We need to do things that are going to help our sport."
The DIRTcar pro stocks and UMP modifieds will run Hoosier tires and drivers will need to purchase a DIRT license.
Lucia said Fonda Speedway will allow the drivers to run Hoosier, American Racers and Goodyear tires for a few races so they can run tires already purchased.
The open tire rule also applies for Glen Ridge for the month of April, plus pro stock and street stock drivers at the Ridge will run for bonus money sponsored by Don's Towing and Recovery. Cars must display a Don's Towing and Recovery decal on the right side door panel to be eligible for the bonus.
Ready to go
Glen Ridge Motorsports Park will open its gates at 3 p.m. Friday for an open practice and inspection day.
Free admission is offered to the grandstand so fans can observe the new configuration of the track and the many improvements made in the off season.
I had the opportunity to tour the facility last week. The expanded pits and parking areas are going to be necessary if the racing surface is as fast and remains as smooth as it looks. The track is now more of a 'D' shape configuration and is wider in turns one and two with a wall on the outside of the turns. New fencing and more bleachers also have been added.
Fonda Speedway will open for its 59th consecutive year for competition Saturday with the annual 40-lap Ice Jam for modifieds and a 602 Sportsman feature on tap along with practice sessions for all divisions. The modified and 602 sportsman will have an open tire rule for the event. The pit gate opens at 1 p.m. with the front gates opening at 2 p.m. and racing taking to the track at 4 p.m.
Season opener and swap meet
Caroga Creek Raceway is scheduled to host its first race of the season Friday.
The non-points show will feature all go-kart divisions plus slingshots. A swap meet also isslated at the Ephratah raceway. A raindate of Saturday has been set in case of inclement weather.
Jumpin' Jack back?
I spoke with Jack Johnson at the Fonda Speedway car show in mid-March and asked if he would be in race-shape to start the season.
He said that the trip he took to watch Ronnie race at Selinsgrove took a lot out of him but expected to be ready to give it a shot and see how things go on opening day at Fonda.
The 11-time modified track champion was injured in an accident late last season and has been battling health issues since.
James A. Ellis is a sports reporter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.