With a winner's list including names like Petty, Pearson, Hearn, Tremont, and Friesen, the Fonda 200 is one of the most prestigious events on the Modified calendar. After Hearn's record-breaking 4th victory came in the 2002 running, the event was not held again until 2019, when Stewart Friesen won his first of two consecutive titles (not held in 2020). Last year, Matt Sheppard etched his name in the history books once again, winning the Fonda 200 in only his 3rd attempt, having not contested the race in the very early portion of his career. Will one of the giants of the sport take another jewel for their crown or will an underdog rise up to secure their place in history?
Demetrios Drellos $21,800: Drellos is entering the Fonda 200 after being crowned both the 2023 Fonda Speedway and Albany-Saratoga Speedway track champion. In a rain-soaked 2023 Fonda regular season, Drellos finished inside the top 5 in 9 of the 12 events, besting Matt DeLorenzo by just 6 points, a testament to his fantasic consistency; he nipped DeLorenzo by a massive 7 points at Albany-Saratoga. He has only contested two Fonda 200s, where he finished 27th in 2019's revival and an even more disappointing 41st last year. However, with the two track titles under his belt, Drellos will be one to watch. Let's see if he can put together the strategy to break through in an extra distance affair.
Mike Mahney $21,700: Since the resurrection of the Fonda 200 in 2019, Mike Mahaney has notched three 3rd place finishes in-a-row, and looked to be the man to beat in the first half of last year's event, before a mid-race track rework worked against him. The Kings Ferry, NY driver has had an up-and-down season, with only 16 top 5s in 55 starts, but picked up a guaranteed starting position at Oswego after winning the Super DIRTcar Series event at Autodrome Drummond. Additionally, he sits just 3 points out of 3rd place in the SDS point standings. With 5 career Fonda wins in 62 events, I suggest that Mahaney will be a threat to pull off the biggest win of his career.
Tim Fuller $21,400: The 55-year-old Hall of Famer has not slowed down this season, claiming nine feature victories, with two of them being with the SDS, and his third straight Can-Am Speedway Small Block track title. Fuller opened his season by claiming his 4th career Fonda triumph at the Montgomery County Open back in April and finished 4th in the July 1st Thunder on the Thruway Series event at the circuit. A 20th place result at the STSS Firecracker 50 was not the result he was looking for, but the legendary driver has found himself inside the top 10 in 29 of his 38 starts. Fuller returned to the Fonda 200 last year for the first time since 2002 and came home 39th. He is coming coming off of his 2nd straight DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Showdown in September victory, so the momentum is there for Fuller to pull back into victory lane at Fonda.
Matt DeLorenzo $20,900: After a career-high ten win, two-title season in 2022, Matty D. fell back to Earth in 2023, posting 2 wins and narrowly losing out on repeat track titles at Fonda and Albany-Saratoga to Demetrios Drellos. With that being said, DeLorenzo was still exceptionally consistent, only finishing outside of the top 10 on 5 occasions; he matched Drellos with 9 top 10s in 12 events at Fonda. The Now 50-year-old first competed in this event back in 1999 and posted his best result of 8th in 2021's edition. Existing somewhere between underdog and threat to pull off the win, give DeLorenzo a nod for some consistency on your roster.
Alex Yankowski $21,100: The young Pennsylvanian is somehow winless in 2023, which is positively mind-boggling. The Fonda regular has been on the cusp of victory all season, but the cards have not been in his favor. On May 6th, Yankowski was leading the feature at Fonda before he was taken out in a first corner pileup while negotiating lapped traffic. On July 16th, he led the majority of the Thunder on the Thruway event before being passed with just 2 laps to go by Cody Clark. His best Fonda 200 finish in three attempts was a respectable 16th in last year's running, while he also holds a 9th and 12th in the former Speed Showcase 200 at Port Royal. If Yankowski can find a lucky horseshoe to weld to his ride before the week's end, consider him a viable option for your roster. After this section initially written, Yankowski led the majority of Thursday's Ultimate Underdog 33, a non-winner's race for modified drivers across the Northeast, before having issues late in the event. The monkey is still on his back.
Ronnie Johnson $18,900: R.J. went winless in 2022 for the first time since 2015, but rebounded in 2023 with 4 victories. The son of the legendary Jack Johnson has had his own share of success at Fonda over the years, claiming three track titles, and finishes of 8th (2001), 6th (2002), and 12th (2021) in the Fonda 200. While he did rebound this season, most of his success has come at Albany-Saratoga, where he notched 3 victories, and he has only finished inside the top 10 in 11 of 31 starts. Nevertheless, Johnson very well could pull off the upset on his day and win the race his father did in 1986 and 1988. It will be a gamble, but R.J. would not look out of place on your roster.
Danny Bouc $20,300: Okay, I need to preface this by saying that I can not back up this suggestion with stats and facts about how great Bouc is at Fonda; he has never actually raced at Fonda. I argue that he will run well at Fonda due to his affiliation with Brett Deyo Racing (BDR) and his success at another big track - Georgetown. Before it gets off the rails, I am not suggesting that there is any sort of cheating going on, but Jeremy Slosek picked up his first career win at Utica-Rome last weekend in the BDR car, Danny Varin won last night, and Danny Bouc has BDR slapped on his ride. The good vibes are flowing in the BDR camp, Bouc has the talent, and I would not be surprised to see Bouc battling in the top half of the field. Did I convince you? Probably not, but millions are convinced by astrology, so it was worth a shot!
Danny Varin $17,400: Varin runs a lighter modified schedule than he did earlier in his career, averaging under 15 events over the past handful of seasons. However, he has not been as idle, as his sprint car program has taken him to new heights. On August 21st, Varin pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year, taking down the All Stars at Utica-Rome for his first career victory with the famed series. Last evening, Varin claimed the Ultimate Underdog 33 to the open the Fonda 200 weekend after a race-long battle with Ryan Odasz for 2nd, which turned into the lead battle after Alex Yankowski encountered issues. Varin enters this running of the Fonda 200 with some solid momentum, a race that he has finished 4th in two year in-a-row. Furthermore, he's something of a Fonda modified specialist, claiming 11 of his 15 career victories at the speedway. Varin's part-time modified schedule makes his triumphs even more meaningful, because perhaps he should not be there with the full-time big dogs, but he is. He is the Ultimate Underdog and should occupy a slot on your roster.
Cody Clark $17,400: Before the STSS Firecracker 50 at Fonda back in July, I was banging the drum about how the modified rookie was someone to have in your lineup. What did he do? He went out and delivered an 8th place finish. Now, while Clark picked him his first career win in his first season and finished 5th in Fonda points, he has never run a 200-lap modified event. Clark is clearly a talent and could easily post a top-half result, but it will be interesting to see how the newcomer adjusts to an endurance race in one of the crown jewels of short track racing. Keep Clark on your radar.