FONDA - At the beginning of the 2012 racing season at Fonda Speedway, only a few fans knew who Mike Mahaney was when he captured the season-opening 40-lap $4,000-to-win Ice Jam.
Mahaney reintroduced himself to Fonda fans Sunday as he held off a late-race charge from Ronnie Johnson to pick up the victory in the season-ending 112-lap, $12,000-to-win Tribute to Champions race honoring Jumpin' Jack Johnson.
"Definitely the biggest win of my career," Mahaney said in Victory Lane. "I never thought it would happen. Something like $12,000 to win tonight in honor of Jack Johnson who was an amazing driver, it is incredible. The way this season started and ended, I couldn't ask for anything more."
Mike Mahaney, center, celebrates in Victory Lane with runner-up Ronnie Johnon, left, and third-place finisher Brett Hearn after winning the $12,000-to-win, 112-lap feature Sunday at Fonda Speedway.
The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis
The race was the feature event of the two-day 60th Anniversary Tribute to Champions weekend.
Saturday's race program was rained out after qualifying, pushing the feature events, including the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints championship race and a 40-lap, $4,000-to-win modified event, to be run Sunday before the regularly scheduled race card.
Danny Johnson picked up the victory over Matt Sheppard and Brett Hearn in the heldover modified main, while Mark Mortensen won the held over 602 sportsman feature and Reuben Kennedy Jr. held off Paul Mulrain and Bill Duprey for the street stock feature win.
In the 25-lap ESS championship event, Lance Yonge turned back Justin Barger and Jessica Zemken to pick up the victory but it was not enough points to catch Chuck Hebing who locked up the 2012 Lucas Oil ESS championship.
Rocky Warner took home the regularly scheduled 30-lap 602 sportsman victory, while Pete Broderson beat out Kenny Martin and Tom Denton for the 30-lap pro stock feature win.
By virtue of a redraw for starting position in the 60th Anniversary Tribute to Champions race, Mahaney and Jeremy Wilder made up the front row with Matt DeLorenzo and Jimmy Davis making up the second row of the 26-car modified starting grid.
Mahaney took the lead at the drop of the green, but his lead was short-lived as Davis powered to the front on lap two, leaving Mahaney to battle with DeLorenzo and Wilder for the second spot.
DeLorenzo made his way past Mahaney on lap 13 and steadily cut into Davis' lead as the leaders made their way through lapped traffic.
The first caution of the race came on lap 22 when Warner, driving Stewart Friesen's backup car, slowed on the backstretch.
On the restart, Friesen, who was running fifth after starting ninth, was crossed up and hit an inside barrier entering turn three. Friesen made several short pit stops after the wreck before retiring from the race.
With Friesen's wreck, the top 10 shuffled behind Davis. DeLorenzo, Mahaney, and Wilder completed the top four with Ronnie Johnson moving up to fifth, followed by A.J. Romano, Hearn, Billy Decker, Pat Ward and JaMike Sowle.
With a clear track, Davis held his lead, while Mahaney got back around DeLorenzo on the restart and Johnson, Hearn and Romano all got past Wilder.
DeLorenzo moved back into second on lap 38 and went to work on Davis' lead.
After catching Davis, DeLorenzo dove under Davis between turns three and four to lead lap 50.
As the leaders entered turn one side-by-side, Davis made contact with DeLorenzo's right front wheel, sending both drivers spinning into the wall and out of the race.
Mahaney was in position to inherit the lead, while Johnson moved up to second followed by Hearn, Romano and Decker.
Hearn found a way past Johnson on lap 58 and began pressuring the young driver from King Ferry.
Mahaney withstood the pressure, as Hearn also had to deal with Johnson.
Johnson moved up the slick track in turn one on lap 78 in an attempt to get around Hearn but could not make the car stick. He was able to get back into the racing groove before Romano could shut the door.
Johnson finally got around Hearn when he left the low side open exiting turn two on lap 99.
Johnson quickly ran down Mahaney and was on his back bumper with 10 laps remaining.
Mahaney held his lead as Johnson looked for a way past but ran out of time as the checkers fell over Mahaney's hood for his second career feature win at the Track of Champions.
"I have a lot of respect for Ronnie. He is a great guy to race with," Mahaney said. "He gave me a couple of taps to let me know he was there and to go faster."
Hearn held on to third over Romano and Decker. Jeff Trombley finished, sixth followed by Ward, Wilder, Bobby Varin and Danny Johnson.
60th Anniversary Tribute to Champions
honoring Jumpin Jack Johnson
1. MIKE MAHANEY, 2. Ronnie Johnson, 3. Brett Hearn, 4. A.J. Romano, 5. Billy Decker, 6. Jeff Trombley, 7. Pat Ward, 8. Jeremy Wilder, 9. Bobby Varin, 10. Danny Johnson, 11. Josh Hohenforst, 12. Matt Sheppard, 13. Ryan Odasz, 14. Jeff Rockefeller, 15. Mike Ward, 16. Aaron Jacobs, 17. Don Ronca, 18. Stewart Friesen, 19. Elmo Reckner, 20. Rocky Warner, 21. JaMike Sowle, 22. Danny Varin, 23. Matt DeLorenzo, 24. Jim Davis, 25. Alan Johnson, 26. Mark Kislowski.