Friesen Dominates In $53,000 Fonda Score

Stewart Friesen in victory lane at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway. (Dave Dalesandro photo)
Stewart Friesen is among the entries for the Short Track Super Series Sunshine Swing in February. (Dave Dalesandro photo)

FONDA, N.Y. — When Brett Deyo took the promotional reins at Fonda Speedway this season, one of his goals was to bring the dormant Fonda 200 back bigger and better than ever.

Stewart Friesen, who left the venerable speedway with a $53,000 check early Sunday morning after dominating the rain-delayed event, will be the first to tell you he succeeded.

“The money here beats what I got for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win at Eldora by a lot but that was a whole different feeling than winning here at home,” Friesen said. D

Almost as happy were Rocky Warner, who inherited second’s $20,000 payday when apparent runner-up Matt Sheppard came up light at the scales and third-place finisher Mike Mahaney, who collected some $10,000.

Friesen, who won a Friday night qualifier to earn the pole, led most of the race, at times building up a huge lead, but Sheppard, while not as good in the open, nearly got around him a few times in traffic and finally managed to edge ahead briefly on one of the never-ending restarts.

“Being out there in clean air helped, so all the restarts were great for me,” said the winner.  “I thought I’d really screwed up when I let Sheppard by on the bottom late in the race, so once I got the lead back, I parked it on the bottom whenever I got to lapped cars.”

The first half of the 200 looked more like a sprint, as everyone knew a storm front was approaching from the west and wanted to be on the point when it hit, hopefully right after halfway.  Friesen led off the initial break, with fifth-starting Andy Bachetti shooting to second by lap ten and drawing in on Friesen.

But Bachetti began to fade in the 20-lap range and by the time the third yellow flew on lap 26, the third-starting Warner stood second and began challenging Friesen.

They ran that way through traffic until a lap 45 restart that saw rookie David Schilling dive under Warner to take second. By then it was sprinkling but luckily the downpour did not appear until the field was under caution on lap 72.

The race was then red-flagged and the cars sent to the pits to await the restart, which finally came at 10:50 p.m. after the intermittent rain finally quit, allowing the track crew to blade and then run in the racing surface.

Friesen, Mahaney and a number of other contenders took advantage of the caution laps run before the green reappeared to short pit, handing the lead to Warner, who promptly lost it to Sheppard.

Stewart Friesen (Dave Dalesandro photo)
Stewart Friesen (Dave Dalesandro photo)

But by the time the “make a choice” halfway break came, Friesen had climbed back to the top 10 with his major pit stop done.

He and Mahaney joined the dozen cars that elected to go to the infield and get fuel, tear offs and an air pressure adjustment while the remainder of the field went to the hot pit, where they could do anything to their cars on the ten minute break but had to go to the rear of the field.  Some, like Sheppard, did major work and when he returned to the speedway, he was faster than ever.

Matt DeLorenzo led the field to green for the second half but two laps later Friesen, who lined up sixth for that restart, split Mahaney and Danny Varin to snare second and after five more trips around the big half mile he was back in the catbird seat.

Sheppard flew from the rear to second after making his adjustments and even got the lead away from Friesen on a lap-177 restart.

But yet another restart two laps later gave Friesen another chance and that time he not only prevailed, he cranked it up and drove away from Sheppard, whose only hope was a last lap dive into turns three and four when they hit traffic again but it came up short.

They took the checkers that way with Warner third ahead of Mahaney, Billy Decker, Hearn, Brian Pessolano, Anthony Perrego, Bryan Gleason, Schilling and Bobby Varin.

“I didn’t want the track to rubber up,” tipped Warner, the 2019 track champion. “Once that happens, you can’t pass these guys, though I did get by Sheppard at the scales.”

“I got tight when it locked down,” said Mahaney. “Then you have to be in the right place unless you’re Friesen.  He can run anywhere here.

Tim Hartman notched a $1,500 win in the sportsman feature, topping Chad Edwards, Joe Williams, Mark Mortensen and Brian Borst with a flag to flag run after picking the pole in the redraw.