By JAMES A. ELLIS
FONDA - Stewart Friesen won the modified main event at Fonda Speedway on May 31, but damaged the suspension in the Thad Parks-owned No. 1.
Stewart Friesen celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the $5,000-to-win Empire State Championship 50 on Thursday at Fonda Speedway. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Rocky Warner (97) races with Dave Constantino (7) and Jeremiah Munson (10%) during the GRIT Series Midweek Meltdown 30-lap, $1,000-to-win feature for the 602 sportsman Thursday at Fonda Speedway. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The top three finishers in the GRIT Series Midweek Meltdown for the 602 sportsman pose in Victory Lane on Thursday at Fonda Speedway. From left, are Jeremiah Munson (second), Rocky Warner (first) and Chad Edwards (third). (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Since then, the two-time defending Fonda Speedway modified track champion has posted a fourth- and 11th-place finish.
Friesen shook off the setbacks to claim his 24th career feature win in the 50-lap, $5,000-to-win Empire State Championship 50 Thursday night at Fonda Speedway.
"The first few laps I thought we were going to be too loose, but after that it started to come around to be the same, good, old car," Friesen said in Victory Lane.
In the companion GRIT Series Midweek Meltdown 30-lap, $1,000-to-win feature for the 602 sportsman, Derrick McGrew was first to the checkers. However, McGrew came up seven pounds underweight on the scales in post-race tech and was disqualified, handing the victory over to Rocky Warner.
"This isn't how we want to win them, but being light obviously cost him the race, but it is not what won him the race," Warner said. "Hats off to Derrick and his crew, they did a heck of a job and he drove a great race. It is very unfortunate, but you win some this way and you lose some this way."
By virtue of a redraw for the top nine starting spots in the 50-lap modified feature, Ronnie Johnson and Pat Ward brought the field of 25 modifieds to the green with Johnson immediately taking control.
Friesen, who started fourth on the grid, built a rhythm and began moving forward, passing Ward for second on lap six, then alongside Johnson two laps later, entering turn one to take the lead exiting turn two on lap nine.
Friesen maintained his line and pulled away from Johnson and Ward as they battled for the runner-up spot.
"Ronnie and Pat got a good jump right off the start and I had to search a little bit," Friesen said. "Then when I got some heat in the tires, I was able to maintain the line and they kind of backed up a little bit."
By lap 15, it became a three-way battle for second as Billy Decker, who started ninth, closed in on Johnson and Ward.
Decker moved past Ward into third on lap 32 and passed Johnson in a three-wide move around the lapped car of Mark Kislowski in turn two with eight laps to go.
Decker could not mount a charge for the lead, as Friesen had built a straightaway lead and cruised to his third win of the season in the caution-free event.
Decker was second, followed by Johnson, Ward and Peter Britten. Danny Johnson, Jeremy Wilder, Brian Gleason, Mike Mahaney and Bobby Varin complete the top 10.
John McAuliffe and Jeremiah Munson led the field of 28 sportsman division cars to the line, with Munson grabbing the early lead.
McGrew, who started fourth, rode the low side of the speedway to get to the front by the fourth lap, leaving Munson, McAuliffe and David Constantino locked in a tight battle for second.
McGrew was unable to pull away as the caution flew on lap 14 when Luke Munroe made hard contact with the first turn wall.
The caution tightened the field and helped Warner, who started 11th, into the contention.
Munson, Constantino and Warner crossed the line in a pack on lap 17, with Warner winning the race through turns one and two to move into third and then settle into second behind McGrew on lap 21.
The second caution of the race flew with eight laps remaining when Johnny Illanovsky came to a stop on the backstretch.
McGrew handled the restart and opened a gap between himself and Warner to cross under the checkers first, with Warner second, Munson third, Chad Edwards fourth and John McAuliffe fifth.
The top five changed as McGrew came up seven pounds light on the scales and McAuliffe was disqualified in post-race tech.
"We have been struggling here at Fonda and early in the race I kind of felt we had something for everybody," Warner said. "Once we got heat in the tires we were fine, but late in the race when we got that last caution, the tires sealed up and we couldn't run the top."
Warner was credited with his third-straight GRIT Series win, followed by Munson, Edwards, Adam McAuliffe and Ricky Quick. Robert Bublak, Tony Farone, Connor Cleveland, Chris Schaffer and Cody Clark completed the top 10.
Fonda returns to action Saturday night with a regular race card featuring a 25-lap, $800-to-win feature for the 602 sportsman on kids night.
Kids under the age of 12 will be admitted free, and it is also banner night for young race fans to create banners for their favorite drivers.
Banners are to be brought to the souvenir trailer before the racing program, and will be displayed on the front of the grandstand during the program.
Face painting by JoJo's Fabulous Faces will be available free of charge under the covered grandstand from 5 to 7 p.m.
EMPIRE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP DIRT CAR MODIFIED FEATURE 50-LAPS STEWART FRIESEN, Billy Decker, Ronnie Johnson, Pat Ward, Peter Britten, Danny Johnson, Jeremy Wilder, Brian Gleason, Mike Mahaney, Bobby Varin, Bodie Bellinger, Elmo Reckner, Josh Hohenforst, A.J. Romano, Mark Kislowski, Jeff Rockefeller, Craig Hanson, Vinny Sanganetti, Korey Wilder, Darwin Greene, Matt DeLorenzo, Jeff Trombley, Pep Corradi, Alton Palmer, Justin Boehler, JaMike Sowle (DNS), Brett Hearn (DNS)
DIG SAFELY NY GRIT SERIES SPORTSMAN FEATURE 30-LAPS ROCKY WARNER, Jeremiah Munson, Chad Edwards, Adam McAuliffe, Ricky Quick, Robert Bublak, Tony Farone, Connor Cleveland, Chris Schaffer, Cody Clark, Brian Pessolano, Ivan Joslin, Matt Janiak, Dave Marcuccilli, Chris Stevens, Jason Greco, Kurtis Hohensheldt, Dave Constantino John Illanovsky, Mark Mortensen, Tim Hartman Jr., Greg Havlichek, Luke Munroe, Dan Santabarbara, Matt Hitchcock, Chip Constantino, Derrick McGrew (DQ), John McAuliffe (DQ), Jon Miller (DNQ), Nick Guererri (DNQ), Frank Hoard Jr. (DNQ), Troy Arnold (DNQ), Shea Montgomery (DNQ), Mike Duka (DNQ), Scott Duell (DNQ), Josh Demagistris (DNQ), Anthony Alger (DNQ), Brian Calabrese (DNQ), Daryl Nutting (DNQ), Ray Zemken (DNQ), Kyle Plumstead (DNQ)