Photo courtesy Bill McGaffin Matt Sheppard drives to victory Saturday night in the season-opening modified feature at Fonda Speedway.
FONDA -- With the new management of DeLorenzo Motorsports taking over the reins at Fonda Speedway, Saturday evening started a new chapter at the Track of Champions and it was Matt Sheppard who made a fantastic move on a green/white flag restart with one lap to go to take an exciting win over Fonda Speedway regular Danny Varin in the modified feature.
"That was a lot of fun," Sheppard said after the victory. "What a last lap that was."
Other winners on opening night at Fonda were Cody Clark (sportsman), Pete Broderson (pro stock), John Bradt (street stock) and Ken Hollenback (4-cylinder). Clark's win in the sportsman event is unofficial until his motor is checked over and deemed legal after it was claimed following thefeature event.
In the modified feature, fan favorite Ronnie Johnson took a nasty tumble in turn one, flipping over several times before coming to rest on his wheels. Johnson came full bore into turn one and hit the soft spot in the track just right that the wheels dug into it and sent him on a series of flips. Johnson walked away from the crash and Sunday morning, Fonda Speedway promoter Matt DeLorenzo said that he had been in contact with Johnson, who said that he was OK but sore.
Johnson started the 30-lap modified feature event on the pole and took off and hid at the drop of the green flag as he led by a straightaway by the time lap four was completed. Danny Varin started the event in the fifth position and by the time Johnson was in lapped traffic on lap seven, Varin had already moved up to the third position and was challenging his father Bobby Varin for the second spot.
On lap 11, the red flag was out for Johnson after his flip in turn one, and on the restart Bobby Varin inherited the lead with the caution coming out again on the next lap for Darwin Greene, who came to a stop at the pit road entrance in turn three. On this restart, Danny Varin got by his father for the lead while Sheppard -- who started the event in the 12th position -- moved from fifth to third at the drop of the green flag. One lap later, Sheppard survived a three wide challenge from both Billy Decker and Jeremy Wilder to keep the third position.
Caution flags slowed the middle portion of the race, but with four laps to go, Sheppard got by Bobby Varin for second place and set his sights on Danny Varin. The event stayed under the green flag for a few laps, allowing Sheppard to use the outside of the track to close in on the leader, but just after lap 29 was completed and the two leaders were side-by-side, the caution came out for four cars that had slowed on the front stretch, setting up a green/white one-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Danny Varin took the advantage on the restart, but Sheppard got a good run on the outside heading into turn three, drew alongside Varin and took the lead for good coming out of turn four. Danny Varin took second, with Bobby Varin, Pat Ward and Wilder completing the top five.
Dan Santabarbara led early in the 20-lap sporrtsman feature, but was quickly passed by Rocky Warner by the end of lap one. A couple of restarts -- including one for a three-car wreck involving Luke Munroe, Ray Zemken and Chip Constantino -- ended with Clark moving into second place behind Warner with Tony Farone, Jeremiah Munson and Mark Mortensen completing the top five.
Clark closed in on Warner by lap eight, and the top two ran in lapped traffic a straightaway ahead of Farone. On lap 13, Clark got a run on the outside of both a lapped car and Warner to take the lead coming out of turn four, then ran in lapped traffic the rest of the way and held on for his first career win at Fonda ahead of Warner, Munson, Farone and Ricky Quick.
Clark's win will not be official until his motor is inspected and deemed legal.
Defending Fonda Speedway pro stock champion Broderson started his 20-lap feature on the pole, and while he was chased throughout by Chuck Dumblewski -- who was side-by-side with the leader when a caution came out on lap 18 -- Broderson held on in a fight to the finish over Dumblewski, Nick Stone, Rob Yetman and Ivan Joslin for his 15th Fonda win.
In the 15-lap street stock feature, Randy Miller dueled with Dave Horning Sr. and Brady for the lead, with Miller taking the lead on lap six and leading the rest of the way for what was to be his first career Fonda win. However, in the post-race tech inspection, Miller was disqualified for illegal tires and wheels, handing Bradt his fifth-ever win at the Track of Champions. Horning was awarded second, with Neil Cosselman, Ellis Shafer and Jerry Cohn completing the top five. Original fourth-place finisher Jason Samrov was also disqualified during inspection for an illegal carburetor.
Defending 4-cylinder track champion Ken Hollenback picked up right were he left off in 2013 with a win in an eight-lap feature. It was Hollenback's 23rd career win in the division and came over Shane Playford, Keith Tesiero Sr., Keith Tesiero Jr. and Kerrie Hollenback.
Fonda Speedway will return to action with a regular show in all divisions, including the 4-cylinders, starting at 7 p.m.
-- Staff report