It’s really no surprise that “The Canadian Clipper” Stewart Friesen has blown in and put a stranglehold on the modified division at Fonda Speedway.
What is surprising is the one driver who’s been able to keep up with the new Canadian blast.
It’s not defending champion Ronnie Johnson, or multiple champion Bobby Varin.
It’s Jimmy Davis.
If you look up the word journeyman in any Webster’s dictionary, Davis’ picture isn’t included, but the definition certainly hits the nail on the head. “Any sound, experienced, but not brilliant craftsman or performer.”
Yep, that’s Davis.
But if he keeps running the way he did in the first month of the season, journeyman may no longer apply.
He’s already had three top-three finishes in four races at Fonda, and has finished second to Friesen the last two weeks.
“Between the two of us, we’ve got that place [Fonda Speedway] covered right at the moment,” said the Ballston Spa driver earlier this week. “But if he doesn’t run into trouble, he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Last week was a perfect example of Friesen’s potential. Davis started 13th in the feature, but rocketed into the lead.
“The last 10 laps, the car started to free up, and here comes Stewie,” said Davis. “After he went by me, I moved to the top, and I gained some ground on him, so I feel confident he’s beatable. I just have to step it up a little more.
”That was also my third week on the same tires, and I know he’s screwing on new tires every week.”
It’s easy to find a reason for Davis’ success at Fonda. After years of running a Bicknell chassis, he switched, or rather, switched back, to Troyers during the winter.
“I talked to Billy [Troyer engineer Billy Colton] a lot last year when I was running Brewerton, and he convinced me to get this small-block-only car,” said Davis. “In 2010, we were fast at Fonda with a Bicknell. I won two shows and in one span was no worse than third in seven races. I lost that car, but then I brought out another one and won first-time out, so when the season was over, we just put it on jack stands for the winter.
“Last year, I couldn’t catch a break with that car. It was just too tight. I tried everything under the sun to free it up, and when I did get it turning, all it would do was spin.
“In my first few years in a sportsman, I only had old Troyers, cars I bought from guys at Lebanon Valley. The last one I bought, from [John] Hewitt, we ran that car for 140 races and won, like, 20 races with it. I’ve always had a good feel for Troyers.”
After constantly banging his head on the wall, so to speak, last season, Davis had no intention of running a full schedule at Fonda this year.
“We were just going to pick and choose shows,” he said. “The motor we had had 680 laps on it, and we only freshened the top end.
“At one point in February, my grandfather called me and wanted to know if I had anything for Fonda. He’s a diehard race fan, and said we had to come up with a car for Fonda.
“I called Billy and got a price on a brand new car and called my grandfather and told him what it was and he said, ‘Order it.’ I told him I didn’t have a small block for Fonda, and he said ‘Find a motor.’
“He’s really the only reason we’re at Fonda this year.”
Although Davis recorded his first sportsman victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in 1995, he had his best years at Fonda in the early part of the current decade. From 2000-02, he won 10 sportsman features, and was the track champion in both 2000 and 2002,
Since moving up to modifieds, he’s also added eight victories in that class at Fonda to his resume.
And now, he’s also got one at Utica-Rome. Last Sunday, he recorded his first win ever at the Vernon track, passing Ken Tremont Jr. on the last lap after an edge-of-your-seat side-by-side battle in one of the Rood Racing team cars.
“When I was racing for Ralph Wade in ’08, we used to park next to those guys [Jason Rood and his family] at Utica-Rome and we became good friends,” said
Davis. “When Jay moved up, he was struggling and I was going pretty good at Fonda with the same kind of car, so I started helping him out a little bit.”
Which eventually led to Davis’ current Sunday night ride and last weekend’s victory.
“I knew I had a good car,” said Davis. “I finished second to Ronnie [Johnson] in my heat, but I had the fastest time of all the heats. I started eighth in the feature and figured if I could get top two or top three, it would be OK because that’s one tough field. But I really got rolling and started chasing Kenny down for the lead, and we ended up racing door handle-to-door handle to the end. He was getting a run off the corners, and I was in the middle, where it was slippery. I could have slid up and taken his line, but I was really never sure if I cleared him, I didn’t want to screw him up because he’s always raced me clean.”
With the way superstars like Friesen and Brett Hearn have been dominating the area tracks so far this season, Davis will probably admit there’s nothing wrong with being sound and experienced.
Another night off
For the second time this season. The Ridge pulled the plug on its racing show on Thursday.
Because of heavy rains early in the week and a continuing drainage problem between the third and fourth turns, co-promoters Mike Romano and Jake Spraker decided to cancel tonight’s card and focus on getting the track back in shape.
The New York State Stock Car Association will hold its annual golf tournament Thursday at Fairways of Halfmoon. According to NYSSCA president Mark Krosky, there are still openings available for foursomes, and sponsors are still being sought.
“We still have sponsor tees and sponsor holes for $100, or businesses can just donate door prizes, if they want to,” said Krosky.
Anyone interested in playing (entry fee is $100 per person, which includes golf, cart, lunch and dinner) or becoming a sponsor should contract Krosky at 894-0197.
Morris Ford is sponsoring the hole-in-one contest on the par-3 eighth hole, which, if you’ve ever played at Fairways, is a real bear.
Around the tracks
u Albany-Saratoga Speedway, which has been drawing over 50 budget sportsman on a weekly basis, began paying tow money to the cars that didn’t qualify for the feature last week.
“We gave everyone $20,” said general manager Lyle DeVore. “I think that made them realize we’re trying to help them out. At least that way, they got their entry fee back.”
u Had it not been for Davis, Tremont would have recorded his first win at Utica-Rome Speedway since 1987 last Sunday. That was the last time Tremont ran there on a regular basis, when the track as known as New Venture Speedway and operated by Jim Beechy. Tremont had four wins that year and also won the track championship.
u Devil’s Bowl kicked off its season last Sunday, with Vince Quenneville Jr. outrunning defending track champion Ron Proctor in the NASCAR modified feature.
u Otto Sitterly of Canajoharie won last Sunday’s season-opening supermodified feature at Oswego Speedway. The win marked the fourth time Sitterly has won on opening night. At a practice session the previous week, Sitterly topped the charts with an average speed of 133.849 mph.
u Officials at both Lebanon Valley and Fonda Speedway had to disqualify drivers last weekend. At Lebanon Valley, Ryan Darcy won the Lebanon Valley sportsman feature, but was disqualified for being 12 pounds light, giving the win to Kim Herrick. At Fonda, Ivan Joslin came across the finish line second in the pro-stock feature, but was disqualified for having an illegal carburetor.
u Brett Wright, who jumped right from go-karts to the budget sportsman division this season, won his heat and then finished a respectable 13th in the feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
u Hearn will be trying to record his 100th career win at Albany-Saratoga tonight.