FONDA, NY – Retirement and Ryan Odasz just didn’t get along.
Odasz walked away from the sport of auto racing for what he believed to be the final time in 2012. Yet, here he is preparing for the 2019 season with a full-time ride at Fonda Speedway aboard the Bill and Erik Nelson-owned No. 85 Sunoco RacingModified.
The Ballston Spa, N.Y., driver will be thrust full-time back into racing at the Track of Champions this season.
Odasz enjoyed a successful Modified career at Fonda from 2003 through his aforementioned exit from the sport in ’12. During that period he racked up 11 Modified wins at the half-mile track.
For personal reasons, Odasz quit halfway through the ‘12 season.
“I had to walk away,” he said. “I had so much going on in my life that it got to the point I didn’t want to be at the races. When I left, I thought it would be forever. I found a whole other life outside of racing. I was skiing, waterskiing, getting out on the water and got the joy of being a new Dad. I even gutted our house right down to the studs.”
Like most racers, Odasz couldn’t stay away forever. He pieced together his own car for some starts in late ’17 and ’18, but admittedly wasn’t up to speed. A crash last season put him on the sidelines.
Then, he got ‘the call’ from Erik Nelson.
The Nelson Motorsports No. 85 – a staple at Fonda for many years – had enjoyed a strong ’18 season with young driver Demetrios Drellos that included a feature win and several top-five performances.
Drellos couldn’t make a mid-September non-point race at Fonda, so Nelson turned to Odasz to fill the seat.
“Erik calling that day probably saved me from retiring again,” Nelson said.
The team’s first outing didn’t start out well. Pulling on the track for hot laps, a stripped spool in the rear sent Odasz to the pits. Some quick work and ingenuity got the car ready for qualifying.
“I started at the back of the heat race in case everything wasn’t right,” Odasz said. “As soon as I stepped on the gas, I knew they had an awesome car. I think I got to third in the heat race and fifth in the feature. Even with brake problems, we were good.”
Drellos has opted to travel more in ’19 and couldn’t commit to every point race at Fonda. As a result, the No. 85 seat became open and Odasz was selected to fill it.
The team will head to Fonda with a Bicknell chassis and fresh big-block engine purchased this off-season. Odasz is optimistic about the partnership.
“Erik (Nelson) has a vast knowledge that I am missing since I was out of it so long,” he said. “Erik is going to make me better. We have some things that will help them out, too. I think we will complement each other.”
The engines fire on the ’19 season at Fonda on Saturday, April 13 with a practice session. Opening Night is slated for Saturday, April 20 featuring the Sunoco Modifieds, Crate 602 Sportsman paying $1,000 to win (thanks to Eric Orozco Racing), Pro Stocks in a ‘Best of 8’ Series $800-to-win event, Limited Sportsman and Street Stocks.
Since 1953, the ‘Track of Champions’ Fonda Speedway has hosted the best in stock car racing. Now under the management of BD Motorsports Media LLC, the speedway will operate weekly on Saturday nights from April through August plus several special events. Fonda Speedway is located on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds off New York State Thruway Exit No. 28 at 21 S. Bridge Street Fonda, NY 12068.
Fonda Speedway is on the web atwww.thefondaspeedway.com. To learn more, call the office at 518.915.4395, like Fonda Speedway on Facebook www.facebook.com/