SCHENECTADY - On Nov. 3 at Mallozzi's Restaurant, Fonda Speedway promoters Ric and Laura Lucia hosted their 17th consecutive awards banquet to celebrate with the champions of the 2013 racing season at the Fonda Speedway.
At the end of the event they turned over the key to the Fonda Speedway to the new promoter for 2013 and beyond Matt DeLorenzo after the Lucia's decided to end their 17-year tenure at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds after the conclusion of the 2013 racing season.
Track champions who were crowned for 2013 at the awards banquet were Stewart Friesen (second consecutive title in the modified division 2012 and 2013); Dave Constantino (first career title in the 602 sportsman division in 2013); Pete Broderson (second consecutive title in the pro stock division 2012 and 2013); Rob VanAernam (fourth career title in the street stock division 1998, 1999, 2010 and 2013); Ken Hollenbeck (second consecutive title in the single cam 4-cylinder division 2012 and 2013); and Kerrie Hollenbeck (first career title in the dual cam 4-cylinder division).
The 2013 Fonda Speedway track champions poses with their awards at the track’s annual banquet at Mallozzi’s Restaurant in Schenectady on Nov. 3. Pictured, from left, are Stewart Friesen (modified), Ken Hollenbeck (4-cylinder single cam), Kerrie Hollenbeck (4-cylinder dual cam), Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia, Pete Broderson (pro stock) and David Constantino (602 sportsman). Missing from the photo is Rob VanAernam (street stock). (Photo contributed by Cella Motorsports Photography)
Longtime Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia, left, hands over the ceremonial key to the track to new promoter Matt DeLorenzo at the banquet. (Photo contributed by Cella Motorsports Photography)
Ric Lucia started the annual banquet with a few words saying "it is an honor to host the 2013 awards banquet as we celebrate the 2013 season," he said. "We fought the weather again this year, but were able to get all of our big shows in. 2013 was a year of trials and tribulations and my thoughts and feelings are with Andy Bachetti and his family, Jack Johnson and his family, and Dave Buanno and his family among others."
Ric Lucia handed out the first of many special awards to Mark Kislowski who was a great supporter of Fonda Speedway over the years and also personally thanked BBL Companies, Alton and Carole Palmer, Mike Sowle, and others for their friendship and support.
Other special awards handed out at the banquet were as follows: Brian Gleason (modified Rookie of the Year), Connor Cleveland and Chris Schaffer (602 sportsman Rookie of the Year), John Bradt (pro stock Rookie of the Year), Wayne Rubscha (street stock Rookie of the Year), JaMike Sowle (modified most improved), Tim Hartman Jr. (602 sportsman most improved), Chuck McSpirit and Dennis Joslin (pro stock most improved) and Jaime Warner (street stock most improved)
The Pit Crew of the Year went to the crew of Stewart Friesen's No. 1 modified.?The crew included Loren Ward, Eric Mack, Patrick Feeney, Tim Parks, Layne Parks and Aaron Bard.
The crowd pleaser event award went to the Sept. 22 modified race, which was won by Stewart Friesen with Ronnie Johnson and Mark Kislowski finishing behind him. The car numbers finished with?Friesen's No. 1 in first, Johnson's No. 2 in second and Kislowski's No.3 in third.
The Excellence in Journalism award went to Ron Szczerba and the Dedication to Racing award went to Josh Flint and Mimi Lazzaro.
Ric Lucia also presented Hertha and Marty Beberwyk with an induction into the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame saying, "Hertha and Marty spent 50 years in racing and 17 of it was here at Fonda. 17 years ago when I took over Fonda, Marty believed in me and came on board with Laura and I and Hertha worked behind the scenes and what is most special about her is that she tells it like it is."
Positions two through 10 in points in the modified, 602 sportsman, and pro stock divisions were presented their awards along with the drivers in positions two through five in the street stock division and the second- and third-place drivers in points in the single- and dual-cam 4-cylinder division. For a listing of those drivers, visit www.fondaspeedway.com and click on points.
The track champions were presented their awards starting with modified champion Stewart Friesen who said afterwards "We came into Fonda a couple of years ago and it has definitely been a lot of fun. I want to thank Ric, Laura, and Marty who always made us feel right at home here at Fonda."
"This championship really does mean a lot to me," 602 sportsman champion Dave Constantino said. "I want to thank Ric for an awesome track this year and all that he has done for us here at Fonda."
"I love Fonda Speedway," pro stock champion Pete Broderson said. "There is nowhere else that I want to race. Albany Saratoga is closer to home for me, but Fonda Speedway is in my heart."
"It has been a great year," street stock champion Rob VanAernam said. "I wouldn't even be racing if it weren't for the Fonda Speedway."
It was a very emotional evening for Ric and Laura Lucia at the banquet as they reflected some on their 17-year tenure at the speedway and thanked everyone who was there to help them.
"Thanks to everyone who was here with Ric and I, including Louie and Barbara and many others, some of which spent the entire 17 years here with us as that is exceptional," Laura Lucia said. "Now I want to present my own Dedication to Fonda Speedway award to my husband Ric with this piece of the original wooden fence at the speedway which Louie still had and gave to me."
The piece of the wooden fence was framed and presented to Ric as a true piece of history from the Fonda Speedway.
"17 years ago seems like a long time but it also seems like it went by very quickly," Ric Lucia said to the crowd. "When we got the race track it looked like ground zero and there was really nothing left, to which Marty said to me what did we get ourselves into. Then the rumors started are they going to last two years and we ended up lasting through 17 years, three floods, and a lot of triumphs and tragedies."
"Now it is a time for a changing of the guard but through the years we have made many friends and mentors, including Jack Johnson who was always there to offer me advice on what I could or should do and he encouraged me at times when I was at my all time low. He also gave me one piece of advice which I will always remember when he told me if you can't say or do something good for racing don't say or do anything at all."
"Over the last three years Matt (DeLorenzo) and I have been talking and he was serious three years ago, but got very serious about taking over Fonda this year. We have known since mid-summer that it was going to happen, as we laid a plan to make it a smooth transition."
"I told the Fair Board that they needed youth in here with a lot of energy and resources and Matt definitely has all of that. I don't just want Matt to take over and do as well as we did, but I want him to do better and I am just as enthused about him taking over the speedway as I was when we took it over 17 years ago."
"I am very thankful to my wife, Laura, who stood by me for 17 years, behind the scenes mostly, but she actually had just as much passion for this as I did and together we were able to make it through all of the struggles that we had. It has truly been my honor and my privilege to promote the speedway and the sport that I love so much."
Ric Lucia then presented the key to the speedway to new promoter Matt DeLorenzo who has a contract for the next three years in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with options after that.
"First thing I want to say is thank you to Ric and Laura," DeLorenzo said. "I started racing here in 1999 and by the beginning of December we will have a lot of things nailed down here for next year."
DeLorenzo's career accomplishments at Fonda include a big block modified track championship in 2007, two 358 modified track championships in 2004 and 2006, one career win in the open sportsman division on Aug. 17, 1999, ninth on the modified all-time win list with 37 wins in 10 winning seasons the first win coming on April 17 2004, and the last one coming on Sept. 14, 2013.
"We will be going over what needs to be renovated at the fairgrounds starting this week and I truly believe that 2015 will be even better than 2014. DIRT Car will be coming back for 2014, but one thing that I am going to promise to you is that my team and I will keep everything positive at the speedway next year and beyond that."
For more information about the Fonda Speedway as it goes through its transition, visit www.fondapseedway.com.