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Racing Around: Season openers a success

April 14, 2011
By JAMES A. ELLIS ( , The Leader Herald

If you are a race fan who went to Glen Ridge Motorsports Park or Fonda Speedway last weekend and the racing did not get your heart pumping as fast as the cars, then I doubt few things will.

Both tracks were blessed with outstanding opening-day racing surfaces and the drivers responded with performances that will be hard to beat, but I sure hope they try.

Heads-up and invert starts have a tendency to lead to runaways, but Friday and Saturday, they led to action-packed racing at the front of the pack.

With Craig Hanson, Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard and Kenny Tremont starting up front at The Ridge, you knew the racing was going to be good.

Friesen and Sheppard diced it out head-to-head for the lead with Friesen on the high side and Sheppard low, often sandwiching lapped cars. When you could take your eyes off the battle for first and second long enough, Hanson and Tremont were duplicating the battle behind them. And just for good measure, Bobby Varin was charging from deep in the starting grid to make it into the top five at the finish.

A media person, who was visiting Glen Ridge for the first time, stood on the infield taking photos. He made a comment after missing a couple of laps while checking his work "I am not used to this. Everything happens so fast here. You blink and you miss something."

There was no let down Saturday for Fonda Speedway's annual Ice Jam.

The racing surface was fast with several modified drivers posting times in the high 18 to low 19-second range

Luck was not on Danny Varin's side Saturday as he turned the fastest lap in qualifying, earning him the honor of drawing for the inversion number for the modified feature. Even with a crewmember drawing for him, the inversion was 10, putting Sheppard on the pole with Alton Palmer along side.

While Sheppard was able to get the lead, he was not able to run away and hide as the top-five battle behind him continuously changed.

First Palmer held the runner-up spot before Josh Hohenforst wrestled it away. Then Friesen moved in behind Sheppard to continue their battle from Friday night. It wasn't long before Ronnie Johnson picked his way through to second and eventually into the lead with eight laps remaining to claim his first opening-day victory.

Although there were a couple of opening-day glitches at both tracks, it was nice to hear fans complimenting the racing at both tracks instead of complaining about the setbacks.

Kudos to both tracks and all the race teams on an outstanding opening weekend.


Friday night at Glen Ridge, modified driver Erik Nelson made hard contact with the wall, resulting in serious injuries.

According to reports, Nelson suffered a partially collapsed lung and was airlifted to Albany Medical Trauma Center.

After being placed in an induced coma, he regained consciousness on late Sunday afternoon.

Nelson's condition continued to improve and he was released from the hospital Tuesday.

Nelson told his father, Bill, that the car jumped out of gear in turns one and two. When he got the car back into gear and came up to speed, something failed in the steering sending him hard into the turn four wall.

Cards of encouragement can be sent to: Erik Nelson, c/o Bloomfield Florists, 367 Forest Avenue, Amsterdam, New York 12010.

Successful weekend

Gloversville's Rocky Warner pulled off an unusual double-win last weekend.

Warner picked up the Rookie Sportsman division victory Friday night at Glen Ridge then, after his crew replaced a blown clutch twice at the garage, won the pro stock dash for cash Saturday at Fonda Speedway.

CCR Opener

After wet grounds forced the postponement of last Saturday's season opening race and swap meet at Caroga Creek Raceway, the track will try again this Saturday to get the non-points racing and swap meet in.

Just in case, the track has set Sunday as a rain date.

This weekend

While the points battle for the 2011 track championship at Glen Ridge opened Friday, the points chase for all divisions begins this Saturday at Fonda Speedway.

Just a reminder, Saturday's race program at Fonda Speedway will begin at 7 p.m., weather permitting.

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



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