Speedway fans embrace sport’s noise, dust, danger (with photo gallery)

Anyone passing by the Fonda Speedway on Saturday afternoon would have heard the racing before they a

Anyone passing by the Fonda Speedway on Saturday afternoon would have heard the racing before they actually knew what was going on, and that’s just the way 17-year-old Jack Bubb of Duanesburg feels it should be.

“I love it,” Bubb said about the thunder from the track. It makes it impossible to have a conversation or even hear your own thoughts. With each pass by the racing cars the noise from their engines would crescendo and explode before fading to a dull roar as they headed into the next lap.

This is par for the course at the Fonda Speedway, which opened its 60th consecutive season of racing and hosted more than 1,000 people for the annual Ice Jam on Saturday. The 40-lap race touts a $4,000 prize and attracts local stars and outside challengers.

One of those big draws for Bubb was Ron Johnson. “I’m a big Ronnie Johnson fan,” Bubb said. “I’ve been following him since I was 3 years old.”

Like many of the fans, Bubb said he has been going to races all his life and concluded that the sport kind of grew on him. Now he is showing up for races every weekend that he can, with one of the main attractions being a potential accident. “It’s a lot of fun seeing them crash.”

When they do crash, fans get a front row seat for any metal carnage, as the closest seats are only a dozen yards away from the track. No one seemed to mind the danger on Saturday afternoon, with people chatting amiably as they walked along a metal fence as cars roared nearby.

The more common threat, though, came from the dirt and debris that constantly spewed off the track. With each turn or acceleration the cars would kick up clouds of dirt that flew into faces and settled on people. The crowd seemed prepared for the flying grit, with blue jeans and a jacket the uniform of the day.

Bubb even got hit by a small rock as he waited in line at the change booth, which provided people with $1 bills to use at the food vendors. He picked up the stone and proudly displayed it to his friends.

Set back from the immediate path of dust was Dakota Sweet, 11, of Johnstown, who sat in the stands with his own black-and-white checkered flag. He got the flag on Friday night when he watched his uncle race and win, but he has been coming to the Fonda Speedway all his life.

Sweet said he enjoyed the noise and also liked the cars, while adding that he would like to drive in the future.

For Dan Lord, 19, of Rotterdam, Saturday was a return to something he hadn’t done in about 10 years. “This is my first time in a while,” Lord said. “It brings back memories.”

He noted that there were still a lot of familiar faces and names from when he used to follow races, like Ronnie Johnson.

Lord was versed in the history of the Johnson family, noting that Ronnie’s dad, Jack, was a well-known racer in his time.

And while Lord acknowledged that he enjoyed the nostalgia, the fun still came back to the crashes. “They’re always entertaining.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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