Stock car racing: Fonda's Hondo Classic keeps getting bigger, better
Memorial races are always a good idea at their inception, but over the course of time, interest wanes, sponsors disappear and the race itself is soon forgotten.
But that’s not the case of the Hondo Classic at Fonda Speedway. The event just keeps growing and growing.
The seventh annual Hondo Classic, in memory of pro stock driver Hondo Carpenter, who was killed in an ATV accident on July 4, 2005, will be held Saturday night at the Track of Champions, and once again, there’s no shortage of support.
Lap money for the 20-lap feature has exceeded $1,000, and there are gifts and bonuses for every driver who competes in the race. Heat race winners will each receive $200.
There are also a couple of bonuses that are rather unique. For instance, Randy Ross and Dan Camara have instituted the “Uncle Willy” bonus, $300 to the last-place finisher. The bonus is also a
memorial, to Willie Fifield, who died recently. Fifield was a huge race fan who spent his Saturday nights at Fonda rooting for his nephew, Rod.
Then, there’s the “Hondo’s Lunch Money” bonus, $25 from Grandma Millie’s Bakery, which also goes to the last-place car.
That bonus derives from a statement made famous by former Fonda Speedway announcer Jim King during the days when Carpenter was still looking for his first pro stock victory. More often than not, it was Kenny Gates who would roar past Carpenter in the closing laps of a race, prompting King to call out, “Kenny Gates stole Hondo’s lunch money again.”
The Hondo Classic is a great way to remember a great driver, and Kelley and Kaitlyn Keefe deserve a lot of credit for keeping the memorial alive, and keeping it growing.
Budka sticks it out
Joey Budka returned to victory lane last Friday, winning his first budget sportsman feature of the year at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but before the win, he was ready to throw in the towel.
Budka returned to racing this season after selling all of his equipment to Jimmy Eaton five years ago. He got the itch to get back behind the wheel during the winter and landed a ride in one of the Anthony Marro Eastside Metals and Recycling team cars.
But Budka, who always drove an open sportsman with a motor that could produce aboout 600 horsepower until this year, admitted he had trouble adapting to the crate engine, and things had gotten worse recently. Three weeks ago, he had a huge lead in the feature when a brake caliper bolt broke, and two weeks ago, contact with Jack Gentile during the B main put Budka into the wall, knocked off one of his wheels and knocked him out of the feature.
“It’s tough figuring out this place with the crate motor,” said Budka in victory lane after his win. “We go from the first heat races of the night and then the last feature, so we’re dealing with two totally different races tracks.”
Budka is no stranger to success on what was the Champlain Valley Racing Association circuit. He won the overall CVRA sportsman championship in 1998, and one of his victories that year came in the first 100-lapper ever held for sportsman at Albany-Saratoga.
Time for Big Show
Albany-Saratoga should be packed to the rafters on Tuesday night when Brett Hearn brings his “Big Show 4” to the track.
The main event will be the 100-lap Super DIRTcar Modified Series race, which should draw the top drivers in the Northeast.
Hearn started the Big Show three years ago at Orange County speedway, when he wanted to try his hand at promoting, and although the first two races went well, last year’s lacked that big-race feeling, according to Hearn, who decided to move the event to Albany-Saratoga when Lebanon Valley Speedway promoter Howie Commander leased the Malta track during the winter.
The race should be interesting from the standpoint that Malta is a small-block track, and many of the big guns pulling in will be sporting big blocks.
“Most guys know the hot set-up on a Friday night is a small block, but the small blocks that run on Friday nights at Malta are different than the DIRT-legal version, so nobody really knows what a DIRT legal car will do against a big block,” Hearn said. “I think it was pretty cool that Stewie [Stewart Friesen] came in [on June 22] and ran a big block. That was the first time this year that a big block won there.”
“Big Show 4” will also include pro stocks, and a 10-car Dash for Cash sponsored by Morris Ford. The dash will consist of the top five drivers on the DIRT modified tour, the top four in points at Albany-Saratoga and one driver voted in by the fans.
Prior to the race (from 5-6 p.m.), there will be an autograph session with the top DIRT stars, as well as NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday
Gates will open at 4 p.m., and racing will start at 7. General admission is $22 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
Around the tracks
The Ridge will be running Twin 25s for modifieds, with each winner getting $1,500, on Sunday. There will also be a special fireworks display. General admission will be $13.
There were only 13 modifieds at The Ridge last Sunday for a regular feature with a regular purse structure. Total car count was 61, of which half were sportsman.
How did Ken Tremont Jr. celebrate the 4th of July? He went to Devil’s Bowl to race on the asphalt, finishing ninth in the modified
feature, which had been scheduled for 44 laps, but was shortened to 25 because of rain. Hunter Bates picked up the win.
In the accompanying 44-lapper for late models, Dan Petronis of Mechanicville finished a season-best second. Petronis was the NASCAR late model champion at Albany-Saratoga last season, winning six features, and opted to stick with NASCAR this season.
Victories at Albany-Saratoga and Fonda last weekend have helped Matt DeLorenzo get over the frustration of the first three months of the racing season. “We started the season with a new car, but wrecked it and just continued to struggle with it after that,” said DeLorenzo is victory lane at Fonda. “Tonight, we brought out our old reliable 2007 Teo.”
Gates’ victory in the pro stock feature last weekend at Fonda was the 48th of his career, moving him to within three of the track record held by Todd Hoffman.