FONDA, N.Y. – Amid a strange and frustrating year for motorsports due to COVID-19, Mike Maresca was able to write his name in the record books for the first time at Fonda Speedway.
Fonda, under the direction of promoter Brett Deyo for the second-straight season, enjoyed an increase in car counts at the half-mile dirt oval despite the Northeast being one of the hardest hit regions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maresca proved to be the most consistent of those competing in the big-block modified field, earning his first track championship to join names like Lou Lazzaro and Jack Johnson as a track champion at the venue known as the ‘Track of Champions.’
“I think we have an asterisk for 2020,” Maresca said. “We didn’t win a race, but won the championship. I really wanted to win a race last year.”
It was recently announced that Maresca would return to the Montgomery County oval this year to defend his track championship. In addition, Maresca also plans to race at nearby Utica-Rome Speedway, where Deyo is the leaseholder this season.
“I really like Fonda (Speedway),” he said. “I want to keep racing here and get that first win. I also like what Brett (Deyo) has going on. I like Utica as a facility and I look forward to seeing what he can do there and to get a chance to race there.”
Maresca hasn’t always been a big-block modified racer. In 2018 he traveled south to race a dirt late model, which provided him an opportunity to learn and grow as a race car driver.
“Honestly, the biggest thing we learned that season was how efficient those guys are,” he explained. “We learned how much it takes to race and how to win. Those guys who do that for a living are so professional. I learned a lot preparation wise. They know how to be efficient with their money, how to be neat, clean, the way they think about racing, the chess match of racing. I learned more about that than I did driving that year.”
Despite learning more of the business side of racing that season, he says he also learned on the track as well.
“I learned how to drive more as well,” Mike said. “I got more of my own driving styles. When I left was when the big blocks were starting to change from torsion bars to coil overs. They started to act more like a late model. Timing wise the transition was perfect.”
After his year racing late models, Maresca came back to the Northeast. While that season had its ups and downs, it was capped off by Maresca winning the Outlaw 200 at another nearby track, Fulton Speedway.
“I think that’s a testament to the whole learning how to race and the mindset I learned racing late models,” he said. “I try to put too much pressure on myself though. I try to be the same person I was. If anyone knew me in 2016, ’17, ’18, I was a dirty kid running up and down the road.
“I like racing and it’s fun. I try to do my best, be prepared and be professional as possible. At the end of the day though, I’m still the same dirty old kid rolling under the car. We have won some big races and that gives me confidence. I learned a lot racing back home in 2019 as well. People forget the year I won the Outlaw 200 I DNQ’d for Georgetown (Speedway). I went to Grandview (Speedway) a few weeks later and didn’t make it as well. You take your losses and keep on digging.”
Maresca admitted he almost gave up on his big-block modified dreams after those disappointments, but in the end chose to stick with it.
“At a point in the year I was ready to hang it up,” he said. “People around me were telling me, ‘Maybe this isn’t for you.’ I didn’t and I started to run better. I won a few local races and had some good runs at tracks like Cornwall. I won a race at Fonda. It propelled me and I was feeling confident. I wasn’t worried about anything else but my race car and my program.”
When it comes to Fonda, Maresca is ready to defend his championship, but he also wants to win a race in a championship season.
“There’s a couple I’d like to win,” he said. “You obviously wanna win the big one on Fourth of July. Fonda 200 you wanna win but the Firecracker 50 is more my style. Deyo has a lot of special races there. He has that Dave Lape race, that would be really special to win. One of the guys who help me, Mike Harris, is a good friend of his. The Fonda 200 is the biggest and most prestigious one.”