FONDA — On an emotional opening night to the 2021 season at Fonda Speedway that paid tribute to late icon “Jumpin’” Jack Johnson, Stewart Friesen turned in a dominant performance to win Saturday’s Sunoco Modified feature.
The night also featured a stirring tribute to Johnson, who died April 1 at 76 following a lengthy battle with ALS. The ceremony included Johnson’s son Ronnie, daughter Natalie, brother Jeff and family friend Joe Bellomo standing in victory lane along with four of the Fonda Speedway legend’s former race cars.
Tribute was also paid to Jack Johnson with the purse of the Sunoco Modified feature, with $1,212 added to the original winner’s share of $2,400 in honor of Johnson’s No. 12A car.
In that feature, Friesen started on the pole by the luck of the draw and went on to lead all 30 laps. Earlier in the night, Friesen won his heat race and set a blistering new one-lap track record of 17.74 seconds, breaking the mark of 18.12 seconds set last Sept. 20 by Anthony Perrego.
Friesen pulled away from Michael Maresca early in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature, with Josh Hohenforst eventually moving into second on lap 12. Friesen was nearly a half-track ahead of the competition when a yellow flag on lap 16 bunched up the field.
On the ensuing restart, Hohenforst briefly got on front coming out of turn two, but Friesen reclaimed the lead by the end of the lap and quickly pulled away to a huge lead, winning by 8.3 seconds over Hohneforst, Maresca, Demetrious Drellos and Bobby Varin.
It was Friesen’s 69th career victory at Fonda and his fifth opening-night win at the “Track of Champions.”
Friesen had finished 13th Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in Richmond, Virginia, then flew up to make the race at Fonda.
“It is pretty damn cool,” Friesen said in victory lane. “When I was a kid, I dreamed of doing this.”
Chad Edwards scored the win in the 25-lap Swagger Factory Apparel Crate 602 Sportsman feature, taking the lead from Mark Mortensen on a mid-race restart and pulling away. Mortensen held on for second ahead of Tim Hartman Jr., Cody Clark and Tony Farone.
It was an adventurous race night for Edwards, whose winning car had to be towed to victory lane because it was stuck in high gear and wouldn’t move after going over the scales during post-race inspection.
“We broke a driveshaft in our heat race, and it mangled the linkage to the transmission,” Edwards said. “We kept working on it right up until feature time and got it back together, so I have to thank my crew for all of their hard work tonight. The track was in awesome shape tonight and I never lifted after that last caution.”
Beau Ballard came up from 12th place at the start to earn his first-ever win in the Algonkin Motel Pro Stock division, taking the lead away from Jason Morrison and stretching out his advantage to win the 20-lap feature. Nick Stone, Andy Graves, Morrison and Steve Cosselman completed the top five.
Ballard’s last win of any kind at Fonda came on June 14, 2008 in the IMCA division.
Jeremy Tyrrell led every lap in the 15-lap Montgomery County Office for Aging Inc. Limited Sportsman feature event for his first career win in the division at Fonda and was followed in the top five by Carter Gibbons, Stephen Gray, Taylor LaPlante, and Jonathan Feagles.
Defending Fonda Fair Cruiser track champion Ken Hollenback (single overhead cam) was the overall winner of the 12-lap feature event while Tyler White finished second overall after starting 12th and was declared the dual overhead cam winner. Slappy White, Kerrie Hollenback and Billy Hillman completed the overall top five.
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