Racing Around: Santabarbara celebrates first Fonda victory

The Rotterdam area has been a hotbed for winners and champions at Fonda Speedway.

And Saturday night another driver added his name to that list, Danny Santabarbara.

The veteran driver picked up his first career feature win in the 602 Sportsman division at the Track of Champions with a strong run on his birthday no less.

“When they turned the lights off at the speedway for the fireworks display, I was still on Victory Lane,” Santabarbara said. “I didn’t want to fire the car up so I just sat there in the car and took it all in. I have been going there since I was three. To win at Fonda is just special.”

The Rotterdam native has been around racing for most of his life and has watched and learned from some of the top wheelmen from that area.

“I grew up with those guys,” Santabarbara said. “My mother and Pat Johnson were friends and my father and uncle were involved with the cars. I remember Joe Johnson’s garage and Jack was across the street, Harry Peek was just around the corner and the Pepicellis were just up the road. It was great.”

Later he and good friend Pep Corradi broke in to racing driving go karts and slingshots, while helping Jeff Trombley on his No. 21J modified.

“Pep and I came up through together and he got his win last year,” Santabarbara said.

When he got the itch to go racing at the next level, his friend Johnny Grant said he would supply the motor if he bought the car.

“When the crate class came out, Johnny said he would supply the motor if I bought the car,” he said. “I did and went racing crates.”

Saturday, Santabarbara’s friend and sponsor John LeClair, had contacted him and said to purchase a pair of new tires when he got to the track.

“We did purchase the tires but they weren’t on the car,” Santabarbara said. “”The car I have now is a 2013 Teo, the body on it is three years old and the motor in it is a year-and-a-half old. It is still the way the class was intended to be. I don’t have any lightweight stuff and short rear ends. The only thing different might be that I now have Fox shocks on the car thanks to my brother-in-law Ronnie Johnson. That’s about it.”

His choice of number on the car also carries some significance.

I chose to run the number seven because I was born at seven a.m. on the seventh day of the seventh month and weighed seven pounds,” he laughed. “The J is on there for my daughter, Jenna.”

Santabarbara said the response to the victory has been a bit overwhelming.

“I have gotten phone calls and texts from so many people, it has really surprised me,” he said.

Santabarbara thanked all the sponsors on the car for their support and special thanks to his friend Mark Tidball, who has been with him since the start, his girlfriend Lori Gordon for supporting his racing career and his daughter Jenna who has been by his side the whole time.

In his post-race interview on Victory Lane Saturday, Santabarbara said, “Now that I can put my name in the record book, I really don’t care what happens the rest of my career.”

He explained the comment, saying, “I wanted to put the Santabarbara name on that list. My father and uncle helped out so many drivers and started bringing me here. To have your name on the list of winners at Fonda Speedway is an honor.”

Schedule changes

The King of Dirt 358 modified race that was scheduled to be run on July 18 at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park has been canceled but will instead run at Fonda Speedway as part of the show midweek show on Aug. 15 with the Grand Daddy 602 Championships presented by Tom Spencer’s Adirondac Leather.

Fonda Speedway

Hall of Fame

The Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame committee has announced its class of 2018.

They include drivers Harvey Brundage, Don Hendenberg, Todd Hoffman, Norm Moyer, Bob VanAernam and Bob Vedder; car owners Bob and Karolann Grimm, Bob Simski and Tommy Spencer, track contributor Junior Bianco and track personnel Terri Mohrman and Russ Bergh.

Also receiving honors will be Bob Whitbeck (Bill Fake – Track Pioneer Award), while Brian Hannaburgh, Ed and Betty Biittig and ray Rogers will be recognized with the Third Annual Bruce Dostal Dedication to Fonda Speedway Museum Awards.

The induction ceremony is open to the public and will take place starting at 4 p.m. on July 28 at the Fonda Speedway Museum at Fonda Speedway.

Pit notes

— Fonda Speedway will have Kiddie Rides early in Saturday’s race program.

— The King of Dirt (KOD) sportsman series is also on the program and will pay $1,000-to-win along with a $250 Andy’s Bounty! Drivers will draw for timed groups with time trials setting the qualifying main lineups. The top 12 qualifiers will redraw for feature starting positions in the 30-lap main event.

— Former Fonda Speedway sportsman track champion Tim Clemons will be on hand at the Fonda Speedway Museum Saturday along with car owner Tom Spencer as they reunite for a one-race deal for Saturday’s KOD event.

— Saturday’s night’s race program sponsors Palmer’s Service Center, will have drivers Bobby Varin (modified), Ricky Quick (sportsman) and Kenny Gates (pro stock) on hand with their cars at the museum from 4 to 6 p.m. The cars of KOD sportsman drivers Chad Edwards and Connor Cleveland will also be on display.

— As a bonus, Lou Lazzaro’s last car and the last car prepared for Jack Johnson by the Palmer’s will also be on display inside the museum this Saturday.

— With the King of Dirt (KOD) Sportsman Series in town, the racecars of tour regulars Connor Cleveland and Chad Edwards will also be on display at the museum from 4 to 6 p.m.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)