FONDA - Wednesday will be the first time the World of Outlaws Late Models have seen action at Fonda Speedway.
The same can't be said about the touring group's race director, Tim Christman.
The 44-year-old race director got his first experience of short-track dirt racing watching his father, Ray, race and flag at Fonda.
World of Outlaws Late Model race director Tim Christman will return to Fonda Speedway on Wednesday. Christman’s father, Ray, was a flagger at the track in the 1970s. (Photo contibuted by Larry?Burnett)
"I was born in Amsterdam and lived in Ephratah as a kid," Christman said. "My father was a graduate of Fonda High School and raced at Fonda and Albany-Saratoga Speedway. He later flagged and worked at Fonda Speedway. My mom scored there, so we have a lot of history at Fonda. It makes this kind of neat. "
Ray Christman flagged the races at Fonda in the early 1970s and was on the flag stand the night Pete Corey and Don Wayman raced to a dead heat.
"That was back in the day when the flagman actually ran the race," Christman said. "Now is it more the race director who runs the race. I remember as a kid hanging out with my dad and learning from him. He remained involved in the race business after we moved from the area when I was a freshman in high school.
He had a lot of experience and he was able to help eliminate a lot of mistakes on my part, having been through a lot of those things."
Tim Christman's journey back to Fonda Speedway has taken trips through Florida, where he attended high school and college before entering the financial world. However, his passion remained in racing.
"It was kind of a strange deal [getting involved with the World of Outlaws]," he said. "I did some consulting work for them and grew fond of the late model side of it. When I had the opportunity to take over that business unit, I did. It is something I cherish. I have been at it for seven years now."
Christman also has seen the other side of racing as a track owner.
"When I was a kid I would say, 'If it was my race track, they wouldn't do that," he said. "I got the opportunity to buy a race track years ago. I owned Ocala Speedway in Florida for a couple of years. I had worked in the financial world for a couple of years, but when you get the calling from something you love, it's great. Money can only drive you so far."
Now as the race director for the World Racing Group's World of Outlaws Late Model Series, Christman strives to put on a top-quality show for the fans.
"I am sure it is going to be a great show," Christman said. "Obviously, Fonda is in big block country, and the late models are still kind of new to the area. Hopefully we will have some local guys come out and support it. We have a strong contingent of touring guys and regional guys who will be there. I know Billy Decker and Larry Wight are coming to run. It is great that they are going to run a big block show with the late models."
Although he is confident Wednesday's race will be exciting for fans to watch, Christman said, "The one thing that is kind of disappointing for us is that we expect this to probably be one of our smaller car counts of the year. There really aren't a lot of regional drivers to pull from. I wish the fans could see one of our full-blown car fields. But with that being said, we will still have a lot of great cars there and the feature will be fabulous, but it may not be like it would be if we had all the regional strengths we would have if we were racing in Ohio or Pennsylvania. The late models are growing in New York, but the big blocks are still king.
"There are ties back to Fonda with Tim Fuller, Tim McCreadie and Billy Decker, all guys who have had success there," he said. "It will be neat to see how they do with their late models."
Looking out of the tower atop the covered grandstand at the Fonda Fairgrounds Wednesday, Christman will have the chance to relive a memory from his past.
"As a kid I remember watching the cars come down the road on the other side of the river," he said. "The midweek shows were always special and a favorite because you got to watch the guys from Fonda defend the track against the invaders. That was the highlight of the summer. Watching these guys come in and take on the best. A big block race back in the day, you would get 50 to 60 cars for a midweek show. Just making the show was an accomplishment."
Christman has traveled back to New York several times with the World of Outlaw Late Models running at Canandaigua, Rolling Wheels, Weedsport and Brewerton, but Wednesday will be his first time back at the Track of Champions in a long time.
"The last time I was at a race at Fonda was in the summer of 1983," he said. "We went back on a family vacation and saw a friend of the family, Jack Farquhar, race. It is a small world. I have a ton of pictures with me with Lou Lazzaro, Jack Johnson, Harry Peek, the Dalmatas, the list goes on. It will be a neat race for me for sure. I may even have to make a trip across the street to get some ice cream."
The gates open at 4 p.m. for Wednesday's race with the green flag dropping at 7 p.m. Adult general admission will cost $30. Tickets for children ages 6-11 are $3 and kids 5-and-under will be admitted free of charge.