Pennsylvaniaâ€™s â€œLiquidâ€ Lou Cicconi piloted the Rick Wentworth-owned No. 10 supermodified into victory lane Sunday, capturing the checkered flag in a 50-lap International Super Modified Association (ISMA) event at the newly paved Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
The event – full of firsts – was both ISMAâ€™s season opener and maiden visit to the Malta, N.Y. track. Despite the fact that snowflakes had been flying across the Empire State earlier in the week, sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures allowed the former dirt track to fly something a little more seasonal – its first checkered flag of the year.
Having started ninth, Cicconi took the lead away from sophomore driver Dave Duggan with an inside move heading into turn three following a mid-race restart. ISMA Champions Chris Perley and Mike Ordway chased the race leader to the finish. Cicconi, who earned 15th-place in points and visited victory lane once in 2009, was never seriously challenged after taking the lead, despite loosing half of his braking power.
Listen to – (Lou Cicconi)
Duggan and Bob Magner led the 21-car field to the green to start ISMAâ€™s 36th season, but before the duo could make it onto the backstretch, a mid-pack scuffle sent Ordway and Russ Wood around in turn No. 1. Both cars were able to pushed away.
On the restart, Duggan grabbed the early lead. Magner, Eddie Witkum, Jr., Jeff Locke and 2009 ISMA points runner-up Mark Sammut filled out the top five.
All was well until Joey Scanlon got out of shape in the Bruce Budnick-owned No. 88 on lap No. 5. With four trips in the books, Duggan led Magner, Witkum, Locke and Sammut. Mike Lichty, Cicconi, Ben Seitz, Otto Sitterly and Brandon Bellinger completed the top 10.
Perley busted into the top 10 on the restart, while Cicconi and Lichty fought for sixth behind Sammut. Duggan had begun to creep away when the first of numerous â€œconeâ€ cautions slowed the action.
Orange cones had been placed around the inside of the speedway to be used as reference points and as a make-shift inner border line between the pavement and infield dirt. However, throughout the afternoon the cones ended up getting kicked out onto the track as drivers searched for room down low. The mounting cautions eventually led to their removal after Dave Shullick, Jr. had one slip up underneath his Clyde Booth-owned No. 61 machine on lap No. 11.
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On that ensuing restart, Cicconi conquered Sammut on the outside for fourth place. He then drove under Lockeâ€™s No. 37 supermodified heading into the third turn for third. Three laps later, Cicconi worked his way under Witkum for the runner-up spot in turn No. 1.
Duggan had been enjoying a lead of a dozen lengths when Sitterly pulled up and out of the groove after losing a torque arm on his No. 7. Sitterlyâ€™s night was over. The field was stopped on the front stretch for refueling after it had met itâ€™s caution lap limit.
With 21 laps behind him, Duggan now had Cicconi on his rear bumper. Witkum, Locke and Sammut filled out the top five. Lichty, Perley, Seitz, Ordway and Wood completed the top 10. Bellinger, Paul White, Danny Lane and Jeff Holbrook rounded out the supers remaining on the track.
Cicconi wasted no time in attacking the race leader, taking the top spot away on the restart with an inside move heading into turn No. 3. Behind him, Perley slipped under Lichty and Locke to take away third.
With 15 to go, Duggan had fallen prey to the Vic Miller-owned Perley and Ordway rides. Up front, Cicconi had begun to weave his way through light lapped traffic. Perley was able to close the gap some, but Cicconi continued to hold strong.
With five to go, Cicconi had cleared what wouldâ€™ve likely been his last lapped car before the completion of the race. However, Laneâ€™s No. 97 broke loose in the first turn, bringing out the raceâ€™s final caution.
A lapped car sitting between Cicconi and Perley on the restart allowed the race leader a few extra lengths for insurance. Cicconi was solid in the final few laps, earning his way into ISMAâ€™s history books as the first supermodified feature winner at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
Perley crossed the line in second.
Listen to – (Chris Perley)
Having overcome an early race spin, Ordway finished in third.
Listen to – (Mike Ordway)
Mirroring Ordwayâ€™s accomplishment, though one place shy, Wood rebounded to finish fourth.
Listen to – (Russ Wood)
Lichty rounded out the top five while early race leader Duggan, finished in sixth.
Listen to -Â (Dave Duggan)
Trekking in from Las Vegas, N.V., Bellinger had the longest commute. He was rewarded with a solid eighth-place finish.
Listen to – (Brandon Bellinger)
Donâ€™t expect to see Jeff Holbrook behind the wheel of any ofÂ his ISMA supers again until the leaves begin to change. He says heâ€™ll be competing weekly at the Oswego Speedway in 2010. On Sunday, Holbrook landed his No. 35 in 10th place.
Listen to – (Jeff Holbrook)
ISMAâ€™s next stop is the Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut on May 29.
Albany-Saratoga 50: 1. Lou Cicconi (10), 2. Chris Perley (11), 3. Mike Ordway (1), 4. Russ Wood (29), 5. Mike Lichty (84), 6. Dave Duggan (51), 7. Jeff Locke (37), 8. Brandon Bellinger (02), 9. Paul White (16), 10. Jeff Holbrook (35), 11. Danny Lane (97), 12. Ben Seitz (17), 13. Mark Sammut (78), 14. Bobby Haynes, Jr. (44), 15. Eddie Witkum, Jr. (9), 16. Dave Shullick, Jr. (61), 17. Otto Sitterly (7), 18. Bob Magner (41), 19. Joey Scanlon (88), 20. Michael Barnes (70), 21. Vern Romanoski (5)
DNS – Justin Belfiore (98) motor & Bob Bond (25) accident in practice
Heat Race #1: 1. Duggan (51), 2. Witkum (9), 3. Ordway (1), 4. Sitterly (7), 5. Romanoski (5), 6. Seitz (17), 7. Holbrook (35)
Heat Race #2: 1. Barnes (70), 2. Scanlon (88), 3. White (16), 4. Locke (37), 5. Wood (29), 6. Haynes (44), 7. Belfiore (98)
*98 dropped out with motor woes while leading
*44 lost wheel and spun into infield
*70 took lead away at the end
Heat Race #3: 1. Magner (41), 2. Lichty (84), 3. Cicconi (10), 4. Sammut (78), 5. Bellinger (02), 6. Perley (11), 7. Shullick (61), 8. Lane (97)