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RACING AROUND: Season opener successful at Fonda

One thing is for certain, there were a whole lot of smiling faces Saturday night at Fonda Speedway.

After a season without fans in the stands, there was a traffic jam heading into the Montgomery County Fairgrounds anxious to put some normalcy back into their weekends.

Even with the lots full, from across the track, you could see the fans were not taking any chances as there was adequate social distancing throughout the seating areas.

And the Fonda Speedway management and drivers put on a show that will have everyone talking for the rest of the season.

The 2020 champions –Michael Maresca (Sunoco Modified), Chad Edwards (Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman), Nick Stone (Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks), Brett Mortensen (Montgomery County Office for Aging Inc. Limited Sportsman), Jason Samrov (Street Stocks), Ken Hollenbeck (SOHC) and John Napoli (DOHC) Four Cylinder Cruiser champions – were all presented their championship trophies on Victory Lane in pre-race ceremonies.

A highly emotional ceremony honoring the late Jumpin’ Jack Johnson followed with Ronnie, Natalie and Jeff Johnson all sharing memories and presenting Jack’s trophy from his 1979 Syracuse championship trophy and several pieces of Jack Johnson apparel including his embroidered 1975 track championship jacket.

When the racing hit the track, it did not take long for the fans to have something to cheer about as Stewart Friesen, who flew back to Fonda after competing in the NASCAR Truck Series race in Richmond, opened the season in fine fashion by blasting a new track record with a lap of 17.74 seconds, breaking the mark of 18.12 set by Anthony Perrego last September.

After drawing the pole for the feature, Friesen quickly established a solid lead that was challenged by Josh Hohenforst on a mid-race restart, to pick up his 69th career win at the Track of Champions.

Even with all the wins Friesen has posted over the past few years, he is still 30 behind Dave Lape (99), 44 behind Lou Lazzaro (113) and 80 feature wins behind the mark of 149 set by Jack Johnson.

Edwards and Hollenbeck kicked off the defense of their track championships with opening night feature wins, while Beau Ballard picked up his first pro stock feature win after visiting Victory Lane at Fonda the last time in 2008 with an IMCA modified. After being away from racing for 14 years, former street stock driver Jeremy Tyrrell parked his No. 14J limited sportsman in Victory Lane for the first time.

The hard luck award for the night has to go to the father-son race team of Cliff and Dan Haslun. Cliff got crossed up in the opening heat race for the pro stock division and ended up on his roof in the first turn on the first lap of the first heat race of the season. Later Dan was having a solid run in the Cruiser division before a spindle broke, sending him hard into the wall.

Montgomery County Open

The tribute to the 11-time track champion continues Saturday with the $12,000-to-win 40-lap Montgomery County Open sponsored by Andy’s Speed Shop and dedicated to Jumpin’ Jack Johnson.

The modified heat race winners will be presented $112 by Finish Line Landscaping and just to make the pot even sweeter, the winner will also get a guaranteed starting spot in Septembers Fonda 200.

Along with the regular classes competing Saturday, The Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modifieds will also be making their first appearance of the season.

Gates will open at 3 p.m. Saturday with hot laps scheduled to hit the track at 5:30 p.m. and the first heat races taking the green at 6:30 p.m.

Adult grandstand admission is $20 for the special event with seniors (ages 65 and up) $18 and kids 11 and under admitted free. Pit admission is $35 for Fonda members and $40 for non-members.

There will be 45 infield drive-in spots available at $100 with four passes included. You must register at thefondaspeedway.com/forms/ to reserve a spot and arrive with all four people together between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.

One thing for certain is that there will not be a repeat winner in the modified feature as Friesen is scheduled to compete at the Bristol Throwdown for the Super DIRTcar Series.

The modifieds will run 40-lap, $10,000-to-win NAPA Super DIRT Week qualifiers on Friday and Saturday with over $88,000 are up for grabs for two nights of racing and Saturday’s Feature is $1,000-to-start.

Brett Hearn, Matt Sheppard, Mike Mahaney, Billy Decker, Larry Wight, Jack Lehner and Demetrios Drellos are also listed among the drivers making the trip to Tennessee this weekend.

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