FONDA - For most World of Outlaws Late Model Series regulars, the national tour's inaugural event at Fonda Speedway today represents a trip to a track well off the full-fender division's beaten path.
But for Tim McCreadie and Tim Fuller, the race means so much more.
As natives of upstate New York whose racing roots lie in the Northeast's Big-Block Modified class, McCreadie and Fuller understand the significance of the half-mile oval known as "The Track of Champions."
Tim McCreadie is sixth in the World of Outlaws Late Model point standings heading into today’s race at Fonda Speedway. (Photo contributed by Dennis Kreiger Imagery)
With the speedway oozing six decades worth of modified history, Fonda is hallowed ground for racers like them.
"It's just one of those places where so many great modified drivers have run over the years," Watertown's Fuller said in a news release. "If you drive a modified, you know about Fonda Speedway. Every modified driver would like to win a race there."
Neither Fuller, 45, nor McCreadie, 39 and also from Watertown, have ever been big-block modified regulars at Fonda. But both have entered numerous specials there throughout their careers, including several in recent seasons while moonlighting behind the wheel of modifieds during breaks in the WoO LMS schedule.
McCreadie has enjoyed the most Fonda success of the pair. He owns two career big-block modified triumphs at the track: a Super DIRTcar Series score a decade ago and, most recently, a checkered flag in April 2004 driving his Sweeteners Plus teammate Vic Coffey's modified. Three years ago, in Fonda's 2010 season finale, he finished second in a 100-lapper to Stewart Friesen.
"I probably haven't run more than 15 or 20 total races there, but I've usually run good," McCreadie said in the release. "It means a lot to win there, to stand on that Checkerboard Square [in Victory Lane]. My dad [big-block modified legend 'Barefoot' Bob McCreadie], won some big races there, so it was cool when I finally got a win there too."
McCreadie, who followed the WoO LMS for the first time in 2004 (winning Rookie of the Year honors), led the tour in A-Main wins in '05 and captured the championship in '06. He has paid enough visits to Fonda to become familiar with the track's quirks, including the curved back straightaway that runs parallel with the Mohawk River.
"It has a big, sweeping backstretch," McCreadie said in the release. "It's basically one long, sweeping corner down the backstretch, so you carry a lot of speed through [turns] three and four. It races a little bit like Merrittville [Speedway in Thorold, Ont.] the way the backstretch is shaped. Fonda is bigger the surface is different, but, just like at Merrittville, you don't really lift until you get to the exit of [turn] four.
"That backstretch makes the car handle a little different," he said in the release. "I'm not sure how one of these late models will handle through there, so it'll be interesting."
The wrinkle for McCreadie, entering today's 50-lap, $10,000-to-win WoO LMS affair is that he's never run a dirt Late Model at Fonda. He's heard some positive words about full-fender racing at Fonda, however, from such pals as Caledonia's Coffey and Big-Block Modified star Billy Decker of Unadilla, both of whom have dirt Late Model experience there in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events. Coffey finished second in the 2010 race and Decker recorded finishes of fifth ('10) and 17th ('11).
Coffey, Decker and Decker's Gypsum Racing teammate and fellow big-block modified regular, Larry Wight of Phoenix, all plan to enter tonight's WoO LMS event.
"Vic said the late models were real quick there and they raced all over it," McCreadie said in the release. "That's really all we always hope for. When that's the case, the racing will be good."
Fuller, who developed into one of DIRTcar big-block modified racing's top stars before switching his focus to the WoO LMS in 2007, doesn't have a big-block modified victory at Fonda on his resume, but he's been close. (Most notably, he remembers running out of gas while leading late in the Fonda 200 one year.) He's also made enough Fonda starts to realize what lies ahead for him tonight.
"I've always liked Fonda," Fuller said in the release. "It's easy to drive when [the surface is] heavy, but when it gets slippery, there's a special knack to getting around that place. Guys like [Fonda big-block modified standouts] Jack Johnson and Bobby Varin, they grew up there and they have that knack.
"It's basically just a big circle, so it's all about momentum there. The line will be on the bottom for a while, then it'll go to the top - it just goes back-and-forth. That's why it's always pretty racy."
Both McCreadie and Fuller and glad to see Fonda on the WoO LMS schedule.
"I always like being close to home and racing for good money," said McCreadie, who enters tonight's action ranked sixth in the WoO LMS points standings with two A-Main victories to his credit this season. "It's nice to see Fonda [promoter Ric Lucia] stepping up to the plate and having a big late model show."
Fuller, who sits fifth in the circuit points standings, is hopeful that his familiarity with Fonda will help propel him to a much-needed triumph on the WoO LMS. When he takes to the Fonda oval, his winless streak on the tour will have gone past three years.
"I need a win bad," said Fuller, who is winless in his last 116 WoO LMS races since grabbing the checkered flag on June 17, 2010, at Merrittville Speedway. "Maybe racing close to home will be what we need to get back into Victory Lane."
Among the 11 WoO LMS regulars, only two other drivers share prior Fonda experience with McCreadie and Fuller. Rookie Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., competed in both of the track's Lucas Oil Series event (he finished 14th in '10 and 19th in '11) and Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., placed 10th in the 2011 race.
Outlaws who will make first-ever visits to Fonda include Frank; points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.; defending champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky.; Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., whose four victories this season ties him with Lanigan for the series lead in the category; 2011 champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa.; Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga.; and rookie Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas.
Pit gates for today's program, which also includes a 30-lap, $3,000-to-win feature for the big-block modifieds, will open at 4 p.m. and spectator gates at 5 p.m.
Racing is scheduled to get the green flag at 7 p.m.
General admission is $30. Tickets for children ages 6-11 are $3 and kids 5-and-younger will be admitted free of charge.
More information on Fonda Speedway is available by logging on to www.fondaspeedway.net or calling 315-582-3115.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.