Hanson expanding his horizons

Over the past couple of race seasons, Craig Hanson has been expanding his horizons.

The 31-year-old modified pilot who has his home tracks based at Fonda Speedway and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, has ventured out to enjoy competition at other facilities.

“I am just trying to get out and expand my horizons,” Hanson said. “Brett Deyo has a pretty good series going there and most of the races pay around $500 just to start. Plus I am getting to see new places, try different things and am trying to make myself a better driver. You see different set-ups and every track has a little different driving style. It keeps you on your toes when you go to the different places.”

Hanson lists Five-Mile Point, Thunder Mountain, I-88, Accord, Middletown, Big Diamond (Pa.) and Georgetown (De.) on his list of tracks.

He picked up a victory at Five-Mile Point in October 2013.

“It is pretty good when you compete. Most of the races, the money is good,” the second-generation driver said. “We went to Big Diamond and they had 50 cars and they were all good cars. Just to make the race is an accomplishment.”

Racing is definitely a family affair for Hanson, whether it is at Fonda and The Ridge or on the road.

“Some of the races the kids go with us, but my parents [Ken and Dawn] always go and Angela always goes,” he said. “Sunday we are going to Thunder Mountain, so we will take the kids with us. Big Diamond, it wouldn’t have been good because we got home at 3 in the morning.”

Hanson, who has been racing since 2001 and owns the 2007 Glen Ridge modified track championship along with 21 wins at the Ridge to go with six at Fonda, admits he doesn’t know how long he will be able to broaden his racing horizons after this season.

“We are doing a little traveling before the kids get bigger,” he said. “My son starts school this year, so we may have to cut back on the traveling. He is already in pre-K and will start kindergarten in the fall.”

Condolences to the Compani family

Former Fonda Speedway promoter Ralph Compani passed away Sunday in California.

Ralph was the promoter when I officially started covering the speedway in 1993 but was around the track since it opened in 1953. One thing I learned quickly was not to ask him a question on Saturday because he was so focused on the night’s racing. Just wait for Tuesday and he would talk racing all day. He was also the type who would yell at you on Saturday and buy you lunch on Tuesday.

Anyone who was involved in racing, especially during the 1980s and ’90s, has a Ralph Compani story.

One of my stories came a few years after Ralph was no longer the promoter at the Track of Champions.

I bumped into him in the parking lot of a local store and, of course, started talking. He informed me he had gone to the doctors recently and was sent directly to the hospital for emergency heart surgery.

I asked if it would be OK for me to include that information in my column and he said, “Sure, go ahead.”

A couple of weeks after running the bit of information, I ran into him again; this time he came up to me laughing.

“You know, after that piece in your column, I got a bunch of phone calls; some from people I haven’t heard from in over 20 years. A couple of drivers told me to sit back and relax because they were going to get a big-name lawyer and sue the doctor. They said he must be a quack because they know I don’t have a heart.”

They were wrong.

Ralph Compani had a heart, and it was bigger than Fonda Speedway.

Pit notes

Many fans may have noticed the No. 816 modified of Jeff Rockefeller is carrying a pink color scheme this season.

Rockefeller told me Saturday night the car and the season are dedicated to his mother, who passed away last year from breast cancer.

With Orange County quiet this weekend there is a strong possibility that Stewart Friesen will return to Fonda Speedway Saturday night with his eyes set on his second win of the season at the Track of Champions and to snap Ronnie Johnson’s three-race win streak.

Memorial Day Weekend means sprint cars at Fonda Speedway and the Patriot Sprint Car Series will make its debut at the Track of Champions Saturday night.

It is Military Appreciation Night at Fonda and The Ridge. All active military and veterans will receive a free grandstand admission with an ID or a DD214.