Infield pitting returns to Fonda

I guess things have come full circle (or oval if you prefer) at Fonda Speedway.

Promoter Matt DeLorenzo announced that starting this Saturday, teams will have the option of pitting on the infield. It is not mandatory, but it is an option that many of the teams are seriously taking into consideration.

“When I first took over, people were asking for it. With all the improvements I had going on, it was something I really didn’t think about doing,” DeLorenzo said. “With everything I have done here, we have got fans to come back, but not nearly what I thought it was going to be. I think in order to make things even better and to help bring people back I need more entertainment.”

The fans should enjoy the fact that all races will be lined up on the infield pit road now, so there will be an anticipation of who is up next.

“Right now there is nothing going on in the infield,” DeLorenzo said. “We have a late arriving crowd and there is nothing to see. I think having the race cars on the infield they will be able to see their favorite drivers more. They will see people working on the race cars and the activities that go on before a race. Then they can see their favorites lining up to go out and race and if something happens on the race track, I think we are within reach of the wireless mic to know what is going on.”

Transporters and trucks with trailers will not be allowed in the infield pit during racing. Teams must unload what they feel will be necessary during the night, then move the trucks and trailers to an area outside of turn three. In other words, what they did before the pits moved to the outside of turns three and four during the promotership of Ric Lucia.

Of course, there is another challenge. The haulers must be unloaded and out of the pits by 5:45 p.m. So, some of the traditionally late-arriving teams will be pitting in the outside pit area.

“So far everything has been positive from the fans and anyone I have talked to about it,” DeLorenzo said. “The drivers have mixed emotions, and I can understand that, because it will be more difficult for them to have to unload their trailer and bring stuff in here. Some have said they are not set up for it yet and I totally understand. I am not making it mandatory. I want to try it and I think some of these drivers are ecstatic and can’t wait. They already have their signs up.”

DeLorenzo added that pitting on the infield also benefit the crew members.

“They can watch the races, see what is going on and they can see what is happening on the grandstand side,” he said. “Where they are now the wind is always blowing that way and the lights are always in your face. You can’t see. I think the crew guys are going to like being on the infield because they can see the races and the drivers can see what the track is doing without having to wait to intermission to walk out on the track to check it.”

The paved drag strip area will be designated for use by the modifieds and sportsmen, while the upper pit road will be used for pro stock, street stock and other divisions, much the way they were when I started covering the Track of Champions more than two decades ago.

To accommodate the added infield traffic, the pits will now open at 3 p.m. There will be a concessions stand in place and a new pit shack has been built just beyond the scales.

“There will be a parts truck on the infield but the tires and fuel will stay where they are,” DeLorenzo said. “We will have lineups at both pit shacks. As far as line ups, we will line up on the infield and then when they come around the drivers on the outside can blend in where they are supposed to be. If we have to take an extra lap to get them situated, then we will before going green.

Some of the drivers who have already reserved their spots on the infield are Stewart Friesen, Brian Gleason, David Constantino, A.J. Romano, Bodie Bellinger and Ronnie Johnson.

Let’s face it, if anyone else but Ronnie Johnson pits in the paved area with the 12A painted on it near the fourth turn, it just wouldn’t seem right. Friesen has claimed the pit area nearest the first turn that Dave Lape called home for many years, with Constantino and Gleason pitted nearby. Romano, who recently announced he will be retiring at the end of the season, has reclaimed the spot he started his career in.

Of course there will be some bugs to work out, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

“I am just trying to spice things up and make it more fan friendly and get more fans here,” DeLorenzo said. “Hopefully it takes off, but it could be an epic failure. We have to try to do something to make it fan friendly.”

Celebration time

For 17 years, John Lutes Jr. has been knocking on the door for a feature win.

He almost had one last year at Glen Ridge but was denied on a late-race restart.

Friday night, Lutes was not to be denied as he led the modified field Glen Ridge Motorsports Park green-to-checkers to claim his first career feature win.

After climbing down from a partial roof dance, Lutes did his Spider-Man impersonation, climbing the catch fence on the front stretch to share his celebration with the fans.

“We left another track where we were running in the top 10 to run here at Glen Ridge,” Lutes said in Victory Lane. “We did it. We got a win. Hopefully we can come back and do it again next weekend.”

Condolences

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Shawn Rivers, who was killed in an accident Tuesday night at Lebanon Valley Speedway during the track’s popular “Eve of Destruction.”

Rivers was driving a Winnebago motorhome on track as part of the Gauntlet race when a second vehicle tried to disable Rivers, as part of the rules on the track.

Contact caused Rivers’ vehicle to rollover and collapse pinning him inside.

Rivers was then transported to Albany Medical Center where he later died from massive head trauma, despite wearing a helmet.