Fonda Speedway hosts awards banquet
By Ron Szczerba
ALBANY — Top performers from the “Track of Champions” were honored on Saturday, December 7 at the Fonda Speedway Awards Banquet hosted at Treviso by Mallozzi’s in Albany, N.Y. This was the first year-end celebration under the BD Motorsports Media LLC promotion of the hallowed half-mile track.
A total of more than $50,000 was paid out in point fund money to all six divisions including the Sunoco Modifieds, the Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman, the Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks, the Montgomery County Office for Aging Limited Sportsman, the Trackside Body Works Street Stocks, and the Four Cylinder Cruisers.
The total of more than $50,000 was a combination of the Fonda Speedway 50/50 money and bonus money from American Racer for those who made the top 15 in points overall in the American Racer Cup points.
Before the delicious buffet style meal was presented, Melissa “Mimi” Lazzaro said a prayer which was written by Kevin Westcott of the Finish Line Chaplaincy who was unable to attend the banquet.
Fonda Speedway announcer Paul Szmal was the emcee for the evening’s banquet and began by saying Happy Birthday to his announcing partner Jay Severson and Craig Hanson who both celebrated birthdays recently.
“Fonda Speedway experienced a rebirth in 2019, I am glad that I could be a part of it along with all of you here tonight as we all share a passion for this business and for this race track,” Szmal said after dinner was completed and the awards portion of the program began.
Szmal called Fonda Speedway promoter Brett Deyo to the podium to address the banquet crowd of 300 people.
“I wasn’t really sure what we were going to have tonight because it’s been a couple of years since there was a Fonda banquet but looking out here at the crowd tonight it’s pretty impressive so first off tonight I want everyone to give yourselves a round of applause for an awesome season,” Deyo said.
“Two years ago I would have never thought that I would be in this position, it just didn’t seem like a possibility,” Deyo continued to say. “We were six hours away, we had a race track (Georgetown) and a series (the Short Track Super Series) and I didn’t think that we would get another one. But the wheels started turning last year and the first thing that I had to do was sell it to my wife Heather. So I told her what do you think about spending the whole summer on the water. What she didn’t know was that it was going to be a camper on the Mohawk River.”
“I was able to get her there and the next order of business was getting a staff together. We had many series events at the I-88 Speedway and it was awesome. It was well manicured, the food was good, and we had such good experiences there. The first thing that I did was to call Jamie and Denise Page (who used to run the I-88 Speedway) to see if they would un-retire and come to Fonda. We were able to talk them into it and they are such a big part of the Fonda Speedway that we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
“The next person already worked for us and our Short Track Super Series and that was Angela Hanson. She always told me that I needed to do races closer to home. So what I did was to make Fonda her home and put her in the office all week. She does a great job and has been there for us all year long.”
“One of the things I heard a lot of this year going to different race tracks was how impressive the staff was at Fonda I got compliments wherever I went and I really owe this to all of you. At our first staff meeting we talked about having the “Disney World Experience” where everyone that you encounter is a pleasant face and I think that we accomplished that this year. Our staff stepped up, we were new at it, it’s a big facility, and we were able to pull it off.”
“The next part of this puzzle was the Fair Board and for years I read how tough these people were. As it turns out they weren’t so bad at all. We have them here tonight including Mark Wilmot Vice President, Mary Ellen Wilmot Secretary, and Martin Kelly Treasurer. The Fair Board were our partners this year, I think that we turned them in to race fans and I’m glad that we can continue this relationship.”
“Last year was a pretty incredible season for Fonda, the racing was awesome, every night the racing was great. The Dollar Night was a huge hit, it brought a lot of new faces and returning faces to the track. MAV-TV came in, we hit National Television along with the return of the Fonda 200. But the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that we paid out $494,770 before tonight’s banquet. Thanks to all of our sponsors and everybody for that because that is a huge number for a weekly race track.”
“Going forward we are still working, we resurfaced the whole race track with new clay, a lot of credit to Craig Hanson for that, he has been putting a lot of hours in as we try to make racing more affordable for the drivers. I don’t think that the racing can get much better but the tire wear can and that was our goal.”
Next up to the stage was Jamie Page who said thank you to everyone at the Fonda Speedway for making he and his wife Denise a part of their family. “Fonda Speedway consists of a family group that puts their heart and soul into everything that they do,” Page said. “We appreciate that and that is the kind of people that we are too.”
“I also want to touch on the 50/50 ticket sellers,” Page went on to say. “Some kick ass girls and guys there. Everyone in this room has them to thank as much as the rest of us do for the money being paid out tonight. A very impressive number collected by them for a weekly race track.”
The 50/50 Ticket sellers attending the banquet included Ivan Joslin, Jaynie Corbitt, Mimi Lazzaro, Dylanne Hodge, Heather Marr, and Julie Compani.
“I also want to thank all of our staff at the track along with Mike Parillo,” Page said. “Everybody has a love/hate relationship with that man. I’ve been told that Mike is the weak spot at Fonda and I disagree 100% with that, he is a very resourceful man, he has a lot of contacts, and what he steps up and does to fill the void is very impressive.”
“The Fonda Fair Board are our partners as Brett (Deyo) said. The Fonda Fairgrounds is a huge facility and I’m impressed with what they do with it. It’s really nice to have a partner in our sport and I thank them very much.”
“Special thanks to my wife Denise, her and Brett already had this deal made before I even knew about it. She has a passion for racing just as we all do, it’s not really about the race cars it is all about the people that do it. We were told many times how difficult the Fonda fans and racers were but quite honestly we really didn’t see that. They embraced what Brett had brought to the table along with the staff who embraced us as well.”
“When we promoted I-88, we knew most of the people, it’s a small community and we knew most of the people in it. When we came to Fonda we were a little behind the eight ball when we got started but my wife Denise picked up the ball and handled the concession side of it and from day one I don’t think anyone complained how they were handled, how they were served, or the food they were served.”
“I’ll end with three words that sum up the work we do at the track and what it takes to do it, sacrifice, commitment, and pride. Brett (Deyo) puts his heart and soul into everything, he is very dedicated to what he does, and it is very educational for Denise and I to work under him here at Fonda.”
After the top five in points were announced and presented their awards (see complete chart of points below), Brett Deyo came back to the podium to thank and acknowledge sponsors at the track with plaques for each one of them including:
Sampson Motor Car – Jerry Sampson
Fuccillo Automotive Group who sponsored the Mike Cole Memorial Victory Lane in 2019 at Fonda – Shawn Sponable
Trackside Body Works – Greg Duesler
Montgomery County Office for Aging – Jason Walrath & David Jordan
Algonkin Motel – Jamie & Denise Page
Swagger Factory Apparel – Mike Jackson
Sunoco Race Fuels – Greg Smith
The top five in the Trackside Body Works Street Stock division points were acknowledged next (see complete chart of points below), followed by Brett Deyo handing out two more special awards.
“Over the winter we had a plan for track prep, but on the first day about three hours in we lost our plan,” Deyo said. “He headed out the gate but on the way out he told me that I guess you know everything and he was right about one thing. We scrambled to put a track prep team together quickly on opening day and through the season.”
“The first guy to step up for us was supposed to just loan me a water truck for a couple of weeks and he got himself in for a lot more than that. He was there for us every day whether it be to fix a toilet or putting seven freezers on a trailer and coming up the thruway hoping that we didn’t see a cop, to watering the track and doing everything else. I wish I could say that he brought a great attitude with him but sometimes he didn’t but he did a hell of a job for us and that is Mike Parillo.”
“The other part of the track prep crew came mid-season and you probably saw him out there in his driver’s suit on the grader a few times. Craig Hanson did so much for us, putting his own racing on the back burner a lot of times. Craig stepped up and got on the grader and he hid this from me, he didn’t tell me that he knew all of this grading work or I would have had him working for me a lot sooner. But he really did a great job and hopefully we can keep him doing it again next year. Special thanks to Craig’s pit crew who got his race car ready for the feature while he was out on the grader.”
“The next special award is for someone who has done a lot for me not just at Fonda but everywhere. This year he had perfect attendance with us. He attended every Short Track Super Series event that we had, he attended every Georgetown Speedway race that we had, and he drove over three hours one way to be the pit steward at the Fonda Speedway. I look at this guy as the backbone of our whole program, Dave Pace.”
The Montgomery County Office for Aging top five in points were honored next (see complete chart of points below), followed by more special awards from Brett Deyo.
“Probably the most memorable night that I had at the Fonda Speedway all year was our Autism Awareness Night, we had an unbelievable turnout including a chicken barbeque and raised $15,700 that night for the Crossroads Center. The person behind it selling sponsorship for the race and cooking the chicken gets the Spirit of the Sport Award and that is Jessica Friesen.”
“There were nights when drivers had issues during their heat races with their race cars and Alton Palmer stepped up to loan them his back-up car. One such night was Dollar Night when Michael Maresca had issues with his race car during his heat race and Alton stepped up to loan him their backup car to race so that Maresca’s sponsor St. Lawrence Radiology who was in the sponsors tower that night, could see their car compete.”
“He has spent his entire life at Fonda and always helped everyone out, he is a car owner, a former driver, and a sponsor. The winner of the Good Guy Award is Alton Palmer.”
The Algonkin Motel Pro Stock top 10 in points were announced next (see complete chart of points below) followed by the Rookie of the Year Awards in all divisions with Deyo presenting the awards to:
Dave Constantino & David Schilling – Sunoco Modifieds
Andrew Buff – Swagger factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman
Rich Christman – Montgomery County Office for Aging Limited Sportsman
Bill Knapp – Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks
Josh Samrov – Trackside Body Works Street Stocks
Cole Lawton – Four Cylinder Cruisers
Deyo also presented the award that nobody wants to win but needs to be recognized, an award for a driver battling through misfortune at the speedway. “This driver kept a positive attitude and remained committed to racing at Fonda Speedway at all costs, Deyo said. “It stuck out to me because he never said a word, he kept coming through the gate every week to race, Steve Akers.”
The top 10 in the Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman division were next up to accept their awards (see complete chart of points below) followed by the Best Appearing Car Awards in each division with the winners of those awards being:
Brian Gleason – Sunoco Modified
Adam McAuliffe – Swagger factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman
EJ McAuliffe – Montgomery County Office for Aging Limited Sportsman
Kenny Gates – Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks
Cliff Haslun – Trackside Body Works Street Stocks
Cole Lawton – Four Cylinder Cruisers
The top 10 in the Sunoco Modifieds were announced next (see complete chart of points below), with Rocky Warner taking top honors in the division. With his Sunoco Modified crown in 2019, Warner now has championships in four different divisions at Fonda including the Street Stocks, Pro Stocks, Crate 602 Sportsman, and Modifieds.
“I’m probably as surprised as the rest of the people in this building, Rocky Warner said when Paul Szmal asked him about the 2019 season. “After last year we were gonna go back to Crate 602 Sportsman racing but I talked Jake into staying into the Modifieds thanks to Jimmy over here and this is where we ended up. Thanks to all of my crew, family, Jake gave me a shot and I thank him for that.”
“It was a great year for us, Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman Champion Tim Hartman Jr. said. “It was certainly unexpected but I’m glad that it happened. Thanks to Mike Parillo as without him I wouldn’t be able to race as much or be as competitive as I am along with my family and crew.”
“I need to thank the guys at our table, they work on our cars all summer long with no complaints despite racing three nights a week, all of my sponsors, and my girlfriend Nancy for allowing me to do anything that I want,” Algonkin Motel Pro Stock Track Champion Luke Horning told the banquet crowd.
“The car was great all year, thanks to Dave at DKM, my crew, my brother, my nephew, for an amazing year,” Montgomery County Office for Aging Track Champion EJ McAuliffe said.
“Thanks to my wife and my crew for all their help this year it was a great season,” Trackside Body Works Track Champion Jason Samrov said.
“Thanks to everyone that helps me and to Fonda Speedway, that’s the best I’ve saw that place in years,” Four Cylinder Cruiser Track Champion Ken Hollenbeck said.”
All of the track champions received a jacket, trophy, and a bottle of champagne to celebrate their track titles.
Szmal closed the banquet by announcing the dates for the Fonda Speedway Car Show which will be held at the ViaPort Rotterdam Mall on March 27-29, 2020. There is an open practice session scheduled for April 11 with opening night scheduled for April 18.
Located off New York State Thruway Exit 28 in Fonda, Fonda Speedway is a half-mile clay oval hosting weekly stock car racing from April through September. modifieds, sportsman, limited sportsman, pro stocks and street stocks will compete weekly, with bi-weekly appearances by the four cylinders and special events.
The speedway, which opened in 1953, is among the most historic in the nation.
BD Motorsports Media LLC has leased the facility beginning in 2019. The speedway experienced a resurgence with large crowds and increased car counts during the new promotional team’s first season.