FONDA - When three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart raced Fonda Speedway in a 410-sprint car in 2012 he was impressed by the track's uniqueness and sense of history.
Stewart met the challenge with a heat race victory and a third-place finish in the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) All Star Circuit of Champions A-main.
"You don't see many racetracks with the covered grandstands any more," Stewart said in his 2012 Victory Lane interview. "It definitely gives you a feel for the history of this place. It is pretty cool when you are coming out of turn four, because you see that and everybody out there."
Tony Stewart, left, talks with Fonda Speedway announcer Josh Phillips during last year’s visit by the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Stewart will return to the Track of Champions Thursday with an eye on improving on his podium finish.
"He was intrigued with the racetrack and how it was kind of tough to get used to but those guys are very adaptable," Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia said. "To come to Fonda, win a heat race right out of the box and run third with that group of cars is very impressive."
Thursday's show also will feature the Eighth Annual Hondo Memorial Classic for the pro stock division.
"I like to showcase the modifieds when I can with a special, but there are a lot of people who have done a lot of work to make the Hondo Classic what it is," Lucia said. "One of the problems is when drivers are in the middle of points chases at different tracks it is difficult for them to do this. We decided this year to do this [run a mid-week special] with the show and maybe it will be even bigger and better. The guys have a chance to do a midweek event and recover before they have to compete someplace else. We are thankful there are still people in our sport who are willing to do that extra effort."
The Hondo Classic honors the late pro stock driver Hondo Carpenter. The event is led by Kelley Keefe and the Friends of Hondo Memorial Society and has become the biggest event of the season for the pro stock drivers in the northeast with lap sponsorships and contingency awards for every driver in the field.
Previous winners of the Hondo Classic are Jim Burton (2006), Nick Stone (2007, 2008), Kenny Gates (2009), Chip Smith (2010), Rob Yetman (2011) and Pete Broderson (2012).
Thursday marks the fourth trip to Fonda Speedway for the All Star Circuit of Champions 410 Sprint cars. Daryn Pittman won the inaugural event in 2010, while Tim Shaffer took the checkers the last two trips.
Fred Rahmer set the track record for the 410 sprint cars in 2011 with a lap time of 15.110 sec., which equaled out to an unofficial average speed of 119 mph. Tyler Walker held the previous record of 15.281 sec. set in 2002.
"I am looking forward to it," Lucia said. "I am always going to say the racing is the best here. The track is an anomaly. It has always been that way and that is why it has the history it does."
Thursday's racing action will begin at 7 p.m. with pit gates opening at 4 p.m. and the front gates opening at 5 p.m.
Admission will be $30 for general admission, children ages 6-11 $3, and children under the age of 5 are free. For ticket information for the event, call the speedway office at 382-3115.