Racing Around: Fonda to host tribute races

Last season, Fonda Speedway started a tradition of honoring past champions with tribute nights, and it turned out to be a feature fans appreciated.

Some of the legends were on hand along with their families and friends to greet fans and talk racing while looking over memorabilia in the Fonda Speedway Museum before the night’s racing began.

That has continued this season with a tribute to Steve Danish on opening night and continues this week with a double feature of tributes to Dick Schoonover and Rene “The Champ” Charland.

After being housed at the McDonald’s on Riverside Drive in Fultonville for years, the museum was transplanted to the fairgrounds and has grown in size and popularity. Filled with photos, roofs, sidepanels, cars, driving suits and other memorabilia, it has become a popular gathering place for fans to just talk racing before the regular Saturday night program begins.

The museum also houses the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame, which will hold induction ceremonies later this season.

It has also kept another racing legend in touch with fans.

“I really enjoy being involved with the museum,” said seven-time track champion Dave Lape. “I have met a lot of people again and it is a lot of fun. Now that we are there and people know we are going to stay there, they bring more and more things to share. I really enjoy that museum.”

At the season-opening car show, Lape had his restored Tobias-chassis 44B on display along with a table and stools that were covered with pictures of his cars throughout his 50-year career.

It was not uncommon to see fans just coming over, grab a stool and just sit there talking racing.

That atmosphere of talking and sharing racing stories and memories is a key element behind the success of the museum.

“A lot of people are bringing stuff down. I have 12 roofs to be put in this year,” Lape said. “Randy Colegrove and his son Travis have been a big part of getting displays for the museum. We are trying to keep up and keep it changing.”

One of the roofs is off Jack Johnson’s 1979 championship Gremlin, with 11 feature win stickers still in place.

Lape talked about some of the activities that are planned to take place this season at the museum.

“We have a couple more tribute nights and what we are going to try to do is get guys who are racing now and try to bring them in each week,” he said. “We will announce the week before who is going to be there. We have talked to guys like Ronnie [Johnson] and Rocky [Warner], who we have put their championship roofs up, and guys like Bobby [Varin].”

Lape admitted that the museum has become the focal point of his involvement in racing since retiring.

“Jackie and I don’t often go to the races,” he said. “We go there about 3 o’clock, get something to eat and then we go home. I really don’t miss seeing the races; I have seen a million of them. I am not against them, but after racing for 50 years, watching is not the same.”

Around the tracks

The weather looks like it is going to give Glen Ridge Motorsports Park a break this week and the cars could be making their first appearance on the fast quarter-mile Friday night.

Caroga Creek Raceway is scheduled to host the first race of the season for the New York State Dirt Kart Series on Saturday.

Gates open at 11 a.m., with a driver’s meeting at 2 p.m. and practice sessions by class will begin at 2:30 p.m. Then, time trials, B Mains and features will follow.

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