Fonda Speedway promoter Matt DeLorenzo is learning that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but at least he keeps trying.
His latest venture at Fonda has been to get drivers to pit in the infield, which was where the drivers and the cars that made Fonda famous pitted until Ric Lucia took charge of the speedway, and moved the pits off the third-turn area.
Since taking over the operation of the track last season, DeLorenzo has been open to any and all suggestions, and the one thing fans kept harping on was that they wanted the pits back in the infield.
So two weeks ago, DeLorenzo gave drivers the option of staying where they have been, or moving back to the infield. He’s gotten decent support from the drivers, and a positive response from the fans.
“I’m just trying to increase the fan experience,” said DeLorenzo Thursday. “A lot of the people I’ve talked to said that during intermission, there’s nothing to look at, and everything is quiet. If the cars are in the pits, they can watch guys with impact guns, see the next heat lining up and they feel they’re getting more entertanment throughout the course of the night.”
DeLorenzo, himself a racer, knows he can’t force drivers to pit in the infield.
“Everyone is so accostumed to having their generators and their compressors mounted in their trailers to work on their cars,” he said. “Fonda is unique. We can’t put the big haulers in the infield because it would block the view for some of the fans. So we’ve given the drivers the option of where they want to pit.
“Everyone in the stands loves it. Some of the guys who complained about it, but did it to help me out, now love being back in the infield. But right now, the weather is nice, so that helps. I’m sure in the spring, when it’s cold at night, everyone will want to stay in their haulers to stay warm. But so far, the feedback has been positive. If I can make 12 people happy, that’s good.”
Beginning this week, there will also be a bonus for the highest finishing cars in each division, courtesy of the Lakata brothers at Barney’s Sign Shop in Johnstown. The top finishing modified will receive a $100 bonus, and the top finishing cars in the other divisions will receive $50.
“If we can make it more entertaining for the fans, and I can get more people in the seats, it’s good for everybody,” DeLorenzo said.
A touching moment
Starting in the fifth position at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park last Friday gave Johnny Lutes Jr. the inspiration he needed to pick up the second modified victory of his career.
Last Friday was a tribute to the late Bob Savoie, whose yellow No. 5 was a familiar sight at area tracks.
“When I saw I was starting fifth, I said a little prayer and said, ‘Come on, buddy. Go for a ride with me, and I’ll get you a win tonight,’” said Lutes in an interview with track officials following his win.
Still going strong
It was good to see veteran Denny Soltis pick up a top-five finish at Lebanon Valley last Saturday, finishing fourth in the second of the twin modified features.
Soltis, who is well into his 70s, won his first modified feature at the Valley on July 12, 1975 and has 14 career wins on the high banks. He was also the Devil’s Bowl track champion in 1983, and has a pair of wins at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, both coming in 1978.
His best days are behind him, but anyone who can finish in the top five in a modified feature at the Valley is still one tough customer.
Around the tracks
It was shocking to see Brett Hearn disqualified for using an illegal drivershaft last Friday at Albany-Saratoga. That would be like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady getting suspended for using illegal footballs (oh, wait, he did).
The DQ dropped Hearn to second in the modified championship race, 48 points behind Ken Tremont Jr.
Hearn reportedly switched driveshafts when he felt a vibration during his heat race, and the driveshaft he put into the car was made out of titanium. which isn’t allowed by DIRTCar rules.
I’m thinking someone had to tip off the track’s tech inspectors for them to look for a titanium driveshaft.
With the exception of drivers being disqualified for being underweight following a race, I think the last equipment DQ in the modified division at the Malta track was when both Tremont and Lee Nutting had victories taken away from them during the 1999 season for softening their tires.
Defending Fonda Speedway champion Stewart Friesen passed Pat Ward coming put of the fourth turn on the final lap to win Wednesday’s Super DIRT Series race at Five Mile Point Speedway. Friesen prevented Ward from winning his first series race since 2005.
“I was trying to win the race and I went into the third turn a little too hard, got loose and let the other guy go by me,” said Ward. “We’re getting better and better every race, but I should have had this one.”
The Empire Super Sprints are on the card at Albany-Saratoga tonight.
On Saturday, Fonda Speedway will induct a new class into its Hall of Fame. The inductees include retired driver Dave Lape, announcer Jim King, car owners Carole and Alton Palmer, the late Andy Fusco and the husband-and-wife writing team of Ed and Betty Biittig.