Racing Around: Pro stock class offers close racing

It is hard to argue that on a weekly basis, some of the closest and best racing belongs to the pro stock division.

Truly, I cannot remember the last time I watched a pro stock feature where the winner just went out and blew the field away by a half track. Consistently the feature comes down to a three or four car, last-lap dash for the checkers.

Plus you don’t know who will get to the checkers first as evidenced at Fonda with four different drivers – Pete Broderson, Nick Stone, Ivan Joslin and Dennis Joslin – winning the four points races so far this season. Each race seems to have fans saying “wow” at least once.

It is hard to believe that not too long ago, the support division basically was on life support.

Some nights there were single-digit car counts in the class. Fonda Speedway, which runs an unsanctioned schedule, even sought DIRT sanction for the division in an attempt to draw more cars. It worked with some success but not a booming result.

However, the drivers kept the division going and now the full-fender division is starting to flourish again.

Each week there are full car-counts in the main events and the heat races actually mean something other than just filling out the program.

It is not just at Fonda where the division has made a strong comeback; Albany-Saratoga, Lebanon Valley and Utica-Rome also have seen an increase in car counts.

Recently, I had the chance to watch a regular weekly race program at Utica-Rome and the pro stock drivers there were going through turns one and two 3- and 4-wide (it may have been an illusion but I thought even 5-wide a couple of times). They were “leaning” on each other a bit, but it would be classified as good, hard racing.

At Fonda, one of the most anticipated races of the season, the Hondo Classic honoring the late Hondo Carpenter, draws a large car count. Because of the hard work of Kelly Keefe and more people behind the scenes, the contingency awards for the event are outstanding. A driver can walk away with plenty of cash from lap sponsorships, beer, “Hondo’s Lunch” or even a carved bear.

There also is a lot of excitement about this year’s race as it will be run mid-week on the undercard for the All-Star 410 sprint cars with a large crowd anticipated for the return of NASCAR champion Tony Stewart to Fonda Speedway.

Unfortunately, the resurgence of the pro stocks has taken its toll on another division, the street stocks. In the not-so-distant past, there were nights when the class had to be divided into two features because there were so many cars in the trophy or small racing-purse division. (I won’t call it a low-buck division because, let’s face it, there is no such thing in racing.)

Anyway, even though I like the division, I do not think it is ready to be the feature class on a weekly basis. Modifieds, big or small-block, are still king and the main draw, but I wouldn’t be going to the concession stand for an extra hot dog during the pro stock feature, because you will miss some of the best side-by-side racing of the night.

Pit notes

There has been a change at the top of the point battle in the 602 sportsman division. Ray Zemken has moved to the top of the list, two points ahead of Mark Mortensen and Rocky Warner who are tied for second with 190 points apiece.

Kenny Gates has four top-five finishes this season in the pro stock features (a fifth, two thirds and a second, plus a runner-up dash-for-cash finish) but he is still chasing the elusive 51st victory that would tie him with Todd Hoffman at the top of the division’s win list.

Rob VanAernam remains perfect in the street stock division at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park with four wins in as many races.

With last weekend’s rainout at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park the track will honor veterans, active military and reserves with free admission to the grandstands Friday with military ID.

The Ridge will host the Racesaver Sprint cars this week as part of its regular race program.

Also, drivers interested in running the June 7 enduro are asked to call 848-0608 by Tuesday to pre-register for the event.

The last enduro did not have a full field of cars and they want to make sure the June 7 event has a full field or it will be cancelled.

The box for Most Popular Driver ballots will be in the Fonda Speedway Checkerboard Souvenir stand starting Saturday night.