Verona, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The resplendent setting of the Turning Stone Casino served as the perfect backdrop for the International Supermodified Association to close out its 35th anniversary season. Founded in 1974 by Jim Shampine, Nolan Swift and Tom Heveron, ISMA ran its first two seasons establishing itself and then began issuing points and naming champions in 1976. Steve Gioia Sr. was crowned the first owner-driver champion. Vic Miller and Chris Perley took home the owner-driver honors this year for their fourth straight title and sixth overall. Perley, with this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crown, tied Russ Wood as a six-time ISMA driver champion, while Miller, as a car owner now has two titles less than the late record-holding Paul Dunigan. Dunigan acquired eight owner championships with four different drivers over his career.
ISMA began the evening by honoring its top-20 car owners and drivers with plaques and point fund checks. Then it was on to handing out the top honors to Vic Miller and Chris Perley. Championship jackets, plaques and the winning point fund checks went to the popular winners.
Perley, who added five markers to his All-Time ISMA feature win total, commented at the podium, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an honor to be in this position. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to sound repetitious but I have such an awesome group of guys that allow me to drive an awesome race car. And, we have a blast doing it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just unbelievable – all the guys and all the families behind us. We couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do this without that support and the support of Ed Shea and all our sponsors and great motors from R&R. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing this for a long time now. And, believe me, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get old. Every year seems to be better and we seem to have more fun. Winning the championship at the end of the year is such a great honor. I love to receive this old trophy, even though my wife isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t too happy with me bringing it home again because it does need some work. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love it if I brought it home another twenty times! Thank you all.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The runner-up in points, Canadian Mark Sammut, and his team continued on to sweep up many of the next awards. MarkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dad and co-car builder, Tony Sammut won the Slice n Go Deli Mechanic of the Year award, which includes a check and a jacket. Mark was also voted Most Improved Driver as he cracked the coveted ISMA win circle for the first time in 2009 after 11 years of trying and then went on to a second feature win. Mark continued his streak by winning the ISMA Achievement Award and by luck of the draw, won the Seymour Enterprises new helmet. To cap off their honors, the Sammut crew was voted the ISMA Crew of the Year, sponsored by Race Threads of Ohio.
The Randy Witkum Memorial Rookie of the Year, sponsored by E.F. Shea Concrete Products, title went to former 4-time NEMA champion Ben Seitz. In his first full ISMA season, Ben reached fifth place in the driver points and his car owner, veteran Bruce Budnick achieved a sixth place in the owner standings. Ben thanked everyone in ISMA and indicated that it was the most professional group heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d ever run with. He also announced that he would be building his own supermodified to campaign in 2010, thanking Budnick for the opportunity to get started. Sheri Witkum Battle presented the jacket and the $500 check.
The ISMA Support award went to driver Larry Lehnert who, along with brother- and car owner Gary, has traveled the entire circuit from their Ohio base to participate with the organization for several years now.
The Gater Racing News Most Popular Driver, as voted on by the fans, once again went to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“MaineiacÃ¢â‚¬Â Vern Romanoski who collected the plaque, check and subscriptions for the third straight year.
A special ISMA appreciation award was given to Bill Dyer, who hauled around the restored Shea 27 show car to many of the events all season giving fans a close-up look of that famed supermodified which gained Russ Wood his first ISMA title. New England -based Fast Trac Safety also presented a Safety Award to ISMA tech man Mark Burns. Lane Racing, also by luck of the draw among the car owners in attendance, took home the BS&B of London, Ontario, radiator prize.
A new award in 2009, the Lois Matczak Memorial Award, was instituted to honor the woman in ISMA racing who best emulates the dedication and contributions to supermodified racing that the Lois provided throughout many years of involvement. The award, sponsored by her husband Skip Matczak, was given to a most deserving Delores Murphy, who has been with ISMA since its inception; many years serving as treasurer and head of membership.
The coveted Jim Soule Dedication award went to veteran car owner Bruce Budnick, who certainly fits the award as a low buck, do-it-yourself type competitor. It was BudnickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first ISMA award in his long association with the group and he was overwhelmed and almost speechless, at the presentation by Dan Soule.
The prestigious Jim Shampine award went to out-going race director Jerry Kritzman who earlier in the evening received a special appreciation gift from president Howie Lane for all the years of hard work and professionalism. Kritzman, after many years as Vice President and Race Director, announced at the beginning of the season that this would be his last.
The officers for the 2010-11 were announced with Howie Lane, Kathy Harrington and Delores Murphy re-elected to their posts and Brad Booth, replacing Jerry Kritzman as Vice President. The Board of Directors remained unchanged.
MC and ISMA announcer Bob Gangwer wrapped up the nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ceremonies with a plea for everyone to go out and look for new fans, new people, new drivers and new sponsors to bring new life and vitality to the sport in the upcoming season.
A big round of applause went to the ISMA WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Auxiliary, chaired by Anne Schaefer, Mary Lou Kritzman, Kathy Harrington, Angela Cullen, Sue Heppell and Delores Murphy for their efforts in putting together another successful banquet.