Racing Around: Fonda set to open for new season

With more than 80 cars in the pits, the sound of racing filled the air in the Mohawk Valley for the first time this season as Fonda Speedway hosted a test and tune session last Saturday.

As the Track of Champions prepares for its 68th consecutive opening night this Saturday, the drivers showed there was just a little rust to shake off before they start to battle for the track championships.

Defending track champions, Bobby Varin, Chad Edwards, Kenny Gates and John Young were on hand to shake down their rides.

Varin returns to defend his modified title in the Palmer Service 76 and clicked off a fast lap of 19.126 over some choppy, spring-track conditions. The time was second fast on the day as his son, Danny put the T-Rex Express to the test, posting a 19.071 lap (94.384 mph).

On the day, 11 modified drivers broke the 20-second mark, including Josh Hohenforst, Dave Constantino, Jessica Friesen, Korey Wilder, Scott Huber, Jeff Rockefeller, Elmo Reckner, Matt DeLorenzo and Craig Hanson, while Rocky Warner just missed with a lap of 20.081 in the Jake Spraker-owned No. 1J.

For Korey Wilder, the time was an accomplishment. He sat out the past couple of seasons, and has returned with a new team and a fresh outlook.

“We are excited to be back,” Wilder said. “This is a Teo chassis we got from Stewart Friesen with a big block. I missed being here and competing. The one thing I have to work at getting back is the throttle control, but it will come.”

It was also great to see Steve Akers back in the pit area with his No. 27A modified. Akers showed some power early turning a 20.902-second lap in the first warmup session.

Gates and Luke Horning posted the fastest times for the pro stocks as they make the switch to American Racer tires after being on Hoosiers for the past five years.

“They have a bit more side bite than the Hoosiers,” Gates said. “But we have our notes from when we ran them before and have an idea what set up to put under the car.”

Gates clicked off a best lap of 23.173 (85.014 mph), while Horning was right there with him, posting a best lap of 23.183. Justin Knight and Chucky Dumblewski were third and fourth fastest respectively with laps of 23.302 and 23.306.

“The Flying Onion” Tony Farone had his No. 18 602 sportsman dialed in, posting the fast lap of the day for the division with a 20.411 (88.187 mph), while Brian Calabrese was right there with him with a 20.477 lap and Mark Mortensen and Edwards posted fast laps of 20.502 and 20.558 respectively. In all, 15 sportsman drivers posted times under the 21-second mark along with limited sportsman driver E.J. McAuliffe who turned a 20.788-second lap.

However, the fast lap of the day went to Brian Purdy, who toured the half mile in his sprint car for an 18.353-second lap (97.114 mph).

Fonda Speedway promoter Brett Deyo took feedback from the drivers on hand Saturday and removed the outside retaining wall that stretch along turn two to the back stretch.

Deyo also has added another incentive to bring drivers and fans back to the track this season.

With Saturday’s traditional season-opener paying $4,000-to win for the Sunoco modifieds, Deyo has now increased the purse for the April 27 feature for the modifieds to $8,000-to-win the 30-lap main event.

On opening night, the 602 sportsman will be running for $1,000-to-win, while the pro stocks will run for $800-to-win and will run for $1,000-to-win on April 27.

Pit notes

Albany-Saratoga Speedway is slated to open its season Friday night with the modifieds competing in the 54-lap, $5,400-to-win “Come ‘N Get It” modified shootout.

Glen Ridge Motorsports Park has scheduled an open practice for April 28 with opening night slated for May 5.