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Matt Sheppard wins Jack Johnson ROC 60 at Fonda Speedway

8/12/2016 - 11:16:52 AM
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FONDA, NY – For the majority of Wednesday’s Jack Johnson Tribute Night main event, Matt Sheppard could catch race-leader Stewart Friesen but could not find a way past.
That all changed with 10 laps to go.

The caution flew for Bobby Varin who slowed with a flat right front tire. On the restart, Sheppard made a strong big for the lead. The modified pilot out of Waterloo swung wide entering turn one and dove to the bottom of the speedway and slid up in front of Friesen exiting turn two to take the lead.

From there Sheppard cruised to pick up the win in the 60-lap, $5,000-to-win Ferris Mowers Race of Champions Dirt Modified Series fueled by Sunoro event honoring 11-time Fonda Speedway champion Jumpin’ Jack Johnson.

“Once we got out front I knew we were OK but I just didn’t know if we would ever get there,” Sheppard said in Victory Lane. “I think I was better on the top and the bottom but catching him [Friesen] nd passing him are two different things. I kept working him and working him. Finally on that restart we were able to get that crossover and get the lead.”

In the companion features on the night, “Cousin” Luke Horning took the field from green-to-checkers to win the 20-lap pro stock main event, while Rob VanAernam rallied to get his first win of the season in the 15-lap street stock feature.

Through a redraw on Victory Lane, Craig Hanson and Jeff Rockefeller made up the front row and brought the field of 25 modifieds to the green.

Rockefeller held off early bids from Friesen before heading pitside with mechanical issues on lap five.

Friesen, who started third, took over the point but was soon joined by Sheppard, who started fifth in the field.

Hanson night ended on lap 11 as he slowed with mechanical problems.

Friesen opted to restart from the outside and was able to hold Sheppard at bay. Meanwhile, Josh Hohenforst, Ronnie Johnson and Bobby Varin moved into the top five, but the car on the move was the Halmar International No. 43 of Jimmy Horton. The veteran driver picked his way from the 12th starting spot into sixth on lap 11 with Vic Coffey, who started 11th, on his bumper.

“I was actually surprised early in the race when he kept giving me the bottom but he was making the top work,” Sheppard said.

With a long green flag run, the leaders caught up to lapped traffic by lap 25.

Friesen had trouble getting by the lapped car of Kenny Sparks, which allowed Sheppard, Johnson and Horton to pull to within striking distance of the leader.

Friesen nudged Sparks to let him know the leaders were on him and finally cleared Sparks bring the rest of the front runners with him.

The caution flew two laps later when Korey Wilder came to a stop against the fourth turn wall.

At the halfway point, Friesen was still in command but could not shake Sheppard as he looked for a path around the leader.

“I had the grip but not the momentum,” Sheppard said. “I could get a good run off four and got that three car length run but could not get the three-and-a half or four car length run I needed. I needed to hit it just right to get an extra car length and needed him to miss a little bit, which doesn’t often happen.”

Sheppard continued to pressure Friesen and finally got the break he was looking for with 11 laps to go.

Varin, who was running sixth at the time, slowed in turn one with a flat right front tire and went pitside before returning to the pack at the rear.

Friesen switched strategies on the restart, opting to go from the inside. He won the drag race to turn one but Sheppard made the move of the race, as he went over the slight burn and turned hard left, cutting under Friesen and slide up in front of him exiting turn two to lead lap 50.

“I was going to enter high, you can see there is a little bit of a burm there,” Sheppard said. “It was one of those moves where I thought I might drive around him or cross him up or I thought I might flip. It dug in a little and got a little bit hairy but it settled back down. I stood on the gas and let it go.”

With a clear track in front of him. Sheppard drew off to a two-second lead before the checkers dropped over his hood for his third career feature win at Fonda Speedway. Friesen held on for second over Horton, while Johnson and Coffey compete the top five.
Varin recovered to finished sixth followed by Bodie Bellinger, Hohenforst, Jimmy Davis and Brandon Walters.

“I tried as long as I could to hold him off but that last caution was not what we needed,” Friesen said. “I was playing defense all race long. He just had a great race car and we were just off a little bit. It was still good. Second is still a great run. We are learning some things and it was a challenging race track tonight. We just got beat by the best in the business right now so that is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Horning and Chuck Dumblewski brought the field of 20 pro stocks to the green with Horning immediately taking charge heading into turn one with Rob Yetman and Dumblewski in pursuit.

The caution came out on the second circuit for debris on the speedway and Dumblewski went pitside under the caution but returned to the back of the pack.

Yetman challenged Horning on the restart but the Gloversville driver was up to the task and held on to his lead as Pete Broderson, Jim Normoyle Jr., Kenny Gates and Nick Stone moved into contention.

A long green-flag run was interrupted by a caution on lap 16 for Jim Normoyle Sr. who spun in turn one, setting up a five-lap shoot out for the win.

Horning again was up to the challenge and pulled ahead of Yetman as Stone, Broderson and Gates battled in a three-car pack behind them.

Horning hit the line first for his fourth win of the season and 10th of his career at Fonda. Yetman crossed the line second followed by Stone, Gates and Broderson. Shane Henderson, Normoyle Jr.,, Jason Casey, Jay Casey and Ivan Joslin made up the second five.

Hunter Sanchez and Bill Yager battled on the front end early in the 15-lap street stock feature with Sanchez keeping the point for the first eight laps.

Josh Coonradt, who was racing with a $100 bounty on him after winning 11 of 12 races this season, took over the lead on a lap nine restart. The race went back to yellow a lap later when contact in turn two sent Yager sideways forcing the field to scramble. Steve Young received heavy damage in the accident as he made hard contact with the backstretch wall.
Coonradt suffered a set back on lap 11 and slowed on the backstretch. He was able to make it to the pit area and returned to the race at the rear.

VanAernam inherited the lead and distanced himself from the battle for second between Cliff Halsun, Jim Croncki and Coonradt.

Haslun won that battle as VanAernam picked up his 37th career street stock victory. Coonradt got up for third with Croncki fourth and Sanchez fifth.

Racing returns to Fonda Speedway Saturday with Triple 20s for the modified, 602 sportsman and pro stock divisions in the Sowle Summer Showdown. They will be joined by the Patriot Sprinters. The street stock and rookie sportsman division will have the night off.

Fonda Speedway

Race of Champions Series – Jack Johnson Tribute Night

Modifieds — 60 laps — 1. MATT SHEPPARD, 2. Stewart Friesen, 3. Jimmy Horton, 4. Ronnie Johnson, 5. Vic Coffey, 6. Bobby Varin, 7. Bodie Bellinger, 8. Josh Hohenforst, 9. Jimmy Davis, 10. Brandon Walters, 11. Pep Corradi, 12. Jeremy Wilder, 13. Bob Vedder, 14. Korey Wilder, 15. Kenny Sparks, 16. Jeff Trombley, 17. Craig Hanson, 18. Jessey Mueller, 19. Darwin Greene, 20, Justin Boehler, 21. Billy Dunn, 22. Scott Huber, 23. Jeff Rockefeller, 24. Billy Decker, 25. Pat Ward.

Pro Stocks — 20 laps — 1. LUKE HORNING, 2. Rob Yetman, 3. Nick Stone, 4. Kenny Gates, 5. Pete Broderson, 6. Shane Henderson, 7. Jim Normoyle Jr., 8. Jason Casey, 9. Jay Casey, 10. Ivan Joslin, 11. Cassidy Wilson, 12. A.J. Walters, 13. Jason Morrison, 14. Jason Samrov, 15. Jim Normoyle, 16. Chuck Dumblewski, 17. Gus Hollner, 18. Justin Knight, 19. Randy Cosselman, 20. Dennis Joslin.

Street Stocks — 15 laps — 1. ROB VANAERNAM, 2. Cliff Haslun, 3. Josh Coonradt, 4. Jim Croncki, 5. Hunter Sanchez, 6. Bill Yager, 7. Johnny Young, 8. Steve Young, 9. Joey Wilson, 10. Harold Chadderton.

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