A sea of orange at Fonda
The quote of the night Wednesday had to come from Brett Hearn.
After an autograph session under the covered grandstand at Fonda Speedway alongside legendary Bill Wimble, Hearn headed back to the pit area. As he left the grandstand he lifted his sunglasses, looked around and said, “Wow. Look at all the orange.”
The orange was a tribute to the man being honored Wednesday night at Fonda Speedway, Jumpin’ Jack Johnson.
Fans donned T-shirts sporting the color that dominated the cars of 11-time track champion through his successful decades of racing.
It is a tremendous tribute to Johnson as the fans filled the covered grandstand and fourth turn bleachers – a sight that has not been seen at the speedway for quite a while.
Then there was the emotional moment as the cars lined up on the front straightaway prior to the 50-lap main event.
A voice came over the speakers thanking the fans and drivers for their support followed by the command to “Fire ‘Em Up” from Jack Johnson via telephone from his hospital bed.
Sometimes the midweek specials fall flat.
Not this one.
Thanks to the efforts of John and Paul Lakata, Jeff Kollar and friends along with the staff and management at Fonda Speedway, Wednesday’s Jack Johnson Tribute was a huge success.
Not only did the fans turn out, they also opened their wallets. The drivers passed the helmet after drawing for their starting spots on Victory Lane and collected more than $4,000 to donate to ALS research. Johnson has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and remains hospitalized.
Stewart Friesen sweetened the pot by donating the $500 bonus he received from RCT Roofing.
Return of the
On my way into Fonda Speedway Wednesday, I was informed by longtime team owner Tommy Spencer that he was ready to return to racing and will field a car in the 602 sportsman division.
Spencer announced that his driver will be Billy “Wild Child” Gray and they will run at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park and also Fonda Speedway.
Gray has a pair of modified wins to his credit at Fonda Speedway with the last one coming on Aug. 2, 1997 to go with five feature wins in the open sportsman division.
Last Friday at I-88 Speedway in Afton, Darwin Greene held off Andy Bachetti and Mike Mahaney for his first career win at the speedway.
Varin returns to racing
Wednesday night Danny Varin made his return to racing after suffering burns to his legs in a sprint car crash on July 23 at Rolling Wheels.
Varin drove the T-Rex Express No. 93 to an 11th-place finish in the 50-lap main event at Fonda.
Looking quickly at the point standings at Fonda Speedway heading into the final four weeks of racing and it’s amazing how close a couple of the battles for the top spots are.
In the 602 sportsman division, defending track champion Rocky Warner leads Connor Cleveland by a single point, 576-575. The battle for third between Dave Constantino and Chris Schaffer also is hotly contested as Constantino is a mere two points up on Schaffer, 539-537.
The pro stock battle looks like it will go right down to the wire also.
Kenny Gates has two feature wins this year and is clinging to a five-point lead over Nick Stone, who has five wins, 620-615. Don’t count out Pete Broderson, who is in third with four feature wins and 609 points.
Dave Horning Sr. has notched eight feature wins this year and amassed 726 points to lead Jason Samrov by 72 points. Horning needs to average an eighth-place finish over the final four races to lock up his second-straight street stock championship and third of his career.
Friesen has a comfortable 96 point lead over Ronnie Johnson, 655-559, heading into the final four races.
Johnson has to win out (240 points), while Friesen has to average an 11th-place finish to lock up his fourth-straight modified track championship at Fonda.
At Glen Ridge, Brian Pessolano and Harry Shaffer are locked in a close battle for the 602 sportsman crown.
A strong third-place run by Shaffer last week and a ninthplace finish by Pessolano, narrowed the difference to two points with Pessolano leading the way 506-504.
Bobby Varin is on top in the modified standings, clinging to a 20-point edge over Willy Decker, 570-550.