FONDA - Stewart Friesen summed up the battle between himself and Ronnie Johnson in the 100-lap season finale at Fonda Speedway in one word, "intense."
Johnson got to the front early and led all but one of the first 88 laps of the main event.
Friesen, who started seventh, pulled into second on lap 16 and hounded Johnson over the next 72 laps but could not find a way past.
Stewart Friesen, center, is flanked by third-place finisher Mark Kislowski, left, and runner-up Ronnie Johnson after winning Sunday’s 100-lap modified main event at Fonda Speedway. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Until lap 89, when Johnson got pinned behind a lapped car and Friesen got by on the high side of the second turn before pulling away for his 10th win of the season.
"We were trying to run the same line in three and four," Friesen said. "I just had enough of a roll between one and two and was able to box him in behind the 816 [Jeff Rockefeller]. I knew if we could get by, we had a pretty good race car in clean air."
Joining Friesen with victories on the final night of racing for the 2013 season at the Track of Champions were Mark Mortensen (602 sportsman) and Ivan Joslin (pro stock).
With the top-three finishers in each of the four heat races redrawing on Victory Lane for the Palmer Service Center-sponsored Ed and Michael Keyser Memorial race, Jeremy Wilder and Keith Flach brought the field of 30 modifieds to the green.
The caution flew on the opening lap when contact in the tightly bunched field damaged the front end of Ryan Odasz's ride, leaving it disabled on the inside of turn one.
Johnson, who started third, followed Wilder to the front, with Wilder holding a bumper advantage at the end of the opening lap.
Johnson overtook Wilder in turn one, and with a clear race track, pulled away to a full straightaway lead.
As Johnson built his lead, Wilder turned back the challenges of Flach and Pat Ward before Ward took over the runner-up spot on lap six.
By the 10th lap, Friesen had picked his way into fifth, bringing Brett Hearn, Matt DeLorenzo and Mike Mahaney with him.
Johnson's run was slowed when he got caught behind Tyler Dippel and JaMike Sowle as they raced for position toward the back of the field.
When Johnson finally cleared them, his straightaway lead dwindled down to 10 car lengths over Ward, Friesen, Wilder and Mahaney.
Friesen found a line past Ward on lap 15 and went to work at reeling in Johnson.
Meanwhile, Bobby Varin, who started 13th, joined the frontrunners in the Jake Spraker-owned No. 1J.
The second caution of the race came on lap 36 with Johnson in front, Friesen second, Varin third, Mahaney fourth and Ward fifth.
With a clear track in front of him, Johnson was able to hold off Friesen but could not build a lead as the caution flew again on lap 40.
Johnson chose the outside row on the restart and Friesen poked a nose in front, but Johnson recovered to retake the lead on the backstretch.
"He passed me and I was fortunate enough to regain the lead," Johnson said. "We drove as hard as we could."
At the midway point, Johnson held the lead over Friesen with Varin third and Mahaney fourth, while Hearn and Mark Kislowski exchanged spots in fifth and sixth.
Johnson and Friesen broke away from Varin, while Mahaney, Kislowski and Hearn looked for a way around a lapped car.
The leaders continued to pull away as they made their way through lapped traffic.
Friesen had a close call on lap 68 as he was passing the lapped car of Dippel, who had a tire going soft, kicking the car sideways forcing Friesen to take evasive action.
He was able to close back in on Johnson and was within striking distance when Johnson came up on Rockefeller.
Friesen went to the high side of turn one and was able to get alongside, pinning Johnson behind Rockefeller enough to break his momentum and take the lead.
As Friesen pulled away from Johnson, the battle for third heated up.
Hearn had worked his way into third and continued to battle for position with Kislowski.
Kislowski had enough to beat Hearn to the checkers to take third, while Varin crossed the line in fifth.
Elmo Reckner, Mahaney, Jim Davis, Ward and Larry Wight round out the top 10.
"It was a great job by the track crew to give us a track we were able to race on all over on today," Friesen said in reference to Saturday's slick, one-line race track.
Mortensen and Rocky Warner made up the front row of the 25 car lineup for the 20-lap 602 Sportsman Challenge.
Warner jumped to the lead and held off Mortensen over the first eight circuits.
Mortensen made a move on Warner off turn four and slid up in front. During the move, Warner cut a right front tire and rode the wall before coming to a stop in turn one.
A pair of cautions on the restart gave Warner's crew enough time to change the tire for him to return at the back of the field.
Sportsman champion David Constantino took up the battle with Mortensen, while Jeremiah Munson, Matt Pappa and Cody Bleau were locked in a dual for third.
Constantino briefly took the lead on lap nine, but could not hold off Mortensen as he steadily pulled away for his fifth win of the season.
Constantino came home second followed by Munson, Pappa and Bleau. Brian Pessolano finished sixth followed by John Scarborough, Warner, Adam McAuliffe and Chris Schaffer.
The closest finish of the night came in the 30-lap, $1,000-to-win pro stock feature.
Ivan Joslin and Dennis Joslin both held the lead early in the feature until the caution flew on lap seven.
Kenny Gates found an open lane on the low side of the speedway and pulled into second behind Ivan Joslin.
Dennis Joslin and Nick Stone found their way back around Gates before contact between Don Kennedy and Jay Casey brought out the second caution of the race. Under the caution, Dennis Joslin retired to the pits and did not return.
After two restart attempts, the race returned to green flag action. Gates again slipped into second behind Ivan Joslin. Division champion Pete Broderson joined the battle for the lead but dropped back after stopping on the track with a flat tire. He made his way to the pits, change the tire and return without losing a lap.
Ivan Joslin and Gates broke away from the field with Gates taking the lead on lap 25 but Joslin rallied back in the high line to cross the line on lap 26 with Gates ahead by 0.022 seconds and Joslin led at the end of lap 27 by 0.072.
Gates took a car length lead on lap 29 but had his momentum broke by a lapped car. Gates and Joslin split around the car and Joslin crossed under the checkers 0.067 seconds ahead of Gates for his third win of the season.
Stone placed third followed by Jason Casey, Bill Knapp, Broderson, Kenny Martin, Kim Duell, Randy Cosselman and Danny Wood.