Racing Around: Fonda Speedway plays host to Jack Johnson Tribute

Everyone knew it would be extremely difficult to come close to last year’s inaugural Jack Johnson Tribute Night at Fonda Speedway.

Wednesday’s Jumpin’ Jack Johnson Tribute may not have been as spectacular, but it was still a great night.

Pete Demitraszek and his track crew faced an uphill battle all day as heavy rains hit the speedway in the morning and scattered showers fell throughout the day. They stayed after the track and got it ready for the night.

With the heavy track for time trials only two cars failed to break the 20-second barrier, while four drivers broke the 19-second barrier. Ronnie Johnson set the fastest time with an 18.669 lap, while Billy Decker clocked in at 18.820, Jessey Mueller at 18.829 and Matt Sheppard with an 18.990.

Stewart Friesen had the quickest lap in the feature with a 19.242, about 93.545 mph.

The drawback was that the track only widened out to about two grooves midway through the modified feature.

Still “Super Matt” and Stewie put on a great show for the fans. And it was great to see Jimmy Horton have a solid run to finish third.

“It was great for the Halmar Team,” Friesen said. “For Jimmy [Horton] to get out on the road and run as good as he is, is a big shot in the arm. He is a great teammate and we have a lot of fun hanging out. It is cool.”

Johnson was the first Fonda regular to cross the line with a fourth place run.

Sheppard has adjusted to The Track of Champions lately. It took him some time to figure out the track but has found some success in the past couple of years.

“I don’t know if we just got the monkey off our back or what but we don’t get to run here too often but we have run a lot stronger here the past few years when we do get here,” Sheppard said after his win Wednesday. “It helped that we had such a good race car here tonight. That really helps.”

Stepping up

Jeremy Wilder’s No. 24 modified faltered in time trials for Wednesday’s modified feature and he missed the qualifying heat races.

Wilder appeared on the track for a test run at the back of the pro stock main event in Mark Kislowski’s No. 3 Dave Camara Tribute car.

Wilder, who is the points leader at Fonda after his win last week, was added to the field and started 23rd. He made a strong run, getting into the top 10 before retiring to the pits on lap 40 and settled for 12th place.

Bounty hunter

After Josh Coonradt picked up his 11th win in 12 races, (Johnny Young beat him to the checkers on June 18) a bounty of $100 was put up for the next drivers to beat him.

It didn’t take long for someone to collect.

Rob VanAernam’s street stock sat in a trailer for three weeks before the prize money was offered. VanAernam broke the car out and outlasted the field Wednesday to collect the bonus money. Coonradt finished third after having to make a late-race pit stop.

Bellen to return

On July 29 Kathy Bellen took a wild ride in her POWRi midget, flipping several times at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park. She was taken to the hospital for observation after the wreck.

“I am doing fine,” she said. “They sent me to St. Mary’s for evaluation, did some X-rays on my neck and shoulder and said all looked fine. I was banged up pretty good and quite sore for a few days but I was lucky that all I got was a few bruises. As for the car, the cage did what it was supposed to. However, with the section of the cage breaking, (top right above my head), we are going to retire that car.”

Bellen said the she is ready to get back in the car and compete this week.

“Since my dad [Don Bellen] blew his engine on the same night, we are going to be putting my engine in his car so that I can continue racing this season,” she said. “As scary as that wreck was, I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. Most people who heard about the wreck told me I was crazy. That may be true, but I just can’t stay away from this sport.”

Sowle Summer


Heading into Saturday’s Triple 20s, with full points being awarded in each race, it could be a deciding week in points battle at Fonda Speedway.

Wilder is leading the modifieds with 666 points, while Bobby Varin and Ronnie Johnson are deadlocked for second with 662 apiece.

After this weekend, there is only one more points race left on the schedule, a 50-lapper for the modifieds, before the break for the annual Fonda Fair.

The rest of the track championships will be settled when racing returns on Sept. 17.

It should be noted that Saturday’s racing program will not include the street stock or rookie sportsman divisions, while the Patriot Sprint Cars will be on hand for the second time this year.


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