To steal a phrase from Daily Gazette colleague Carl Strock, I hied myself over to Albany-Saratoga Speedway last week to talk with general manager Lyle DeVore, and when I got there, I got a little bonus.
DeVore and modified driver Ronnie Johnson were sitting on the track in a golf cart, discussing the configuration of the track, and how to improve the racing at the historic facility.
By the time they were done, they agreed that the entrances and exits of the turns should be changed, and that will start next week when the track is resurfaced.
The project was scheduled to begin Friday, but the rain that fell Thursday night pushed back the project until next week.
“We’re shooting for Tuesday,” said DeVore Friday. “We’ll just have to wait and see how wet it is.”
DeVore talked about pushing the racing surface out another car-width in the corners, and also creating more racing surface on the inside of the turns which, in theory, would make two distinct racing lanes.
“Right now, we’ve got everybody diving to the bottom in the turns,” said DeVore.
DeVore said that a minimum of 100 truckloads of new clay will be brought it.
“We want everyone to know we’re going to be back here next year,” said DeVore. “We wouldn’t be doing this much work if we weren’t going to be back.”
It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but Pete Demitraszek, who has handled track preparation at The Ridge for the last two seasons, is going to be the new promoter at the track.
He’s already announced that the track will return to a Friday night race date next season, but he’s still working out all the other details, including putting together his own staff and deciding which divisions to run next season.
Mike Mahaney isn’t your typical bully.
The 22-year-old has a degree from SUNY-Alfred in motorsports technology, an aw-shucks smile and a great back story (he started working on his father’s race cars when he was 10, and his father, Jim, now works on Mike’s car).
But he proved to be a bully again on Sunday, when he took the milk money away from all the regulars at Fonda Speedway.
Mahaney held off Johnson to win the 112-lap modified feature, which paid $12,000 to win, on an afternoon when the track was honoring Johnson’s father, legendary driver Jack Johnson.
Ronnie Johnson wasn’t afraid to use his front bumper in an attempt to get past Mahaney in the closing stages of the 112-lapper.
“I was trying to rattle him a little bit,” said Johnson after the race.”
“I was just trying to be smooth and not give up the bottom line, and when Ronnie got into me a couple of times, he was just trying to tell me that I had to go faster,” said Mahaney, who raced against Johnson all year at Utica-Rome.
Now, don’t forget, Mahaney also won “Ice Jam” on opening day at Fonda (which was the first time he ever raced at the track) and took home $4,000. That makes three races (he also ran on April 14), two wins and a sixth-place finish and over $16,000 in earnings.
So much for defending your home turf. Mahaney and track champion Stewart Friesen, the Canadian driver who became a Saturday night regular for the first time this season, certainly dispelled the myth that Fonda is a tough track for outsiders to tame.
Someone should have reminded Jimmy Davis and Matt DeLorenzo that Sunday’s feature was 112 laps. When they took each other out while racing for the lead on lap 51, it remainded me of this year’s NASCAR race at Bristol, when Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth did the same thing. The only thing that was missing at Fonda was Davis pulling a Stewart and throwing his helmet at DeLorenzo’s car.
Super DIRT week
The biggest event of the season gets under way Thursday with the annual Super DIRT week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Action starts with time trials on Thursday, heats on Oct. 5, the Gander Mountain 150 for 358-modifieds on Oct. 6 and the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 for big-block modifieds on Oct. 7.
Friesen will be trying to become just the second driver ever to win three straight October classics, matching Gary Balough, who won three in a row from 1976-78.
But if Friesen does tie the record, he’ll need an asterisk next to his name. After his victory last year, it was found that he ran with an illegal fuel cell. But rather than disqualify him and give the victory to the second-place driver, Billy Decker, DIRTcar just fined Friesen half of his share of the purse, about $25,000. But that still left him with $25,000 and a second straight victory.
Around the tracks
u Lebanon Valley and Albany-Saratoga track champion Brett Hearn won last Friday’s King of the Catskills at Accord Speedway, taking home the top prize of $7,000.
Bobby Varin had a big lead in the Andy Romano-owned big block, but had to pull in when the engine lost oil pressure.
But Hearn said that he thought he had Varin covered, anyway.
“I wasn’t showing all I had,” said Hearn last weekend at Fonda. “I went with a softer tire and it was really hooked up early. But when the car is that good early, you can’t get too excited, because you know it’s going to go away some.”
u Talk about the luck of racing. Last Saturday at Fonda, A.J. Romano got into an accident during his heat race and was scheduled to run the consolation. But after his crew replaced radius rods and got a little kink out of the frame, the car wouldn’t steer properly, so Romano never went out for the consy. But he was able to come back on Sunday, and finished fourth in the 112-lap feature.
Alton Palmer was at the other end of the luck spectrum. He also had to run the consy on Saturday, but got caught up in a tangle coming out of the fourth turn and went straight into the outside wall. The damage to his car was so severe that he couldn’t race on Sunday.
u During intermission Sunday, Fonda Speedway named its most popular drivers for 2012. Winners were Ryan Odasz (modified), Mark Mortensen (602 sportsman), Pete Broderson (pro stocks), Greg Havlichek (street stocks) and Ben Righi (four-cylinders).
u Did you ever think you’d see Varin go a full season without getting a win at Fonda Speedway? Yes, I realize he left the track in late July, but he only skipped three races, leaving him 0-for-17.
u With the exception of Hearn, not one other driver from Lebanon Valley took part in the McDonald’s weekend at Fonda, and Hearn really doesn’t count, because he’s a professional racer, and competes in every big-money race, anyway.
u Last weekend’s victory also gave Mahaney a guaranteed starting spot in Saturday night’s Outlaw 200 at Fulton Speedway. Varin, Hearn and Friesen are among the other guaranteed starters.