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WILD WORLD SERIES ISMA FINALE FINDS CHRIS PERLEY A WINNER AFTER LADY LUCK HELPS HIM TO VICTORY LANE

By – Carol Haynes
Photos – Jim Feeney

Thompson, CT – “I’ll take this one,” Chris Perley shouted as he erupted from his Vic Miller 11 in victory lane at Thompson Speedway Sunday. With ten laps to go in the ISMA portion of the World Series of Racing, Chris Perley, who had won six of the last nine World Series’ events, had not really expected win number seven. He was running fifth late in the race and figured that was where he was going to stay. Ahead of him Mark Sammut, Dave Shullick Jr., Russ Wood and Mike Lichty had been the show. But on lap 43 things began to happen. Leader Sammut broke a hub and crashed out of the race. Dave Shullick Jr. took over the lead on the restart and Perley was able to pass a “loose” Mike Lichty who had used a lot of car battling Sammut, to gain third with five to go. Then with two to go, Perley had moved by Wood when all of a sudden Shullick’s wing broke giving Chris the opportunity to grab the lead and the win.

Said the recently crowned 2009 ISMA champion after a finish that definitely went his way, “ I was kind of settling in on sixth or fifth. I was racing hard, but the car was loose. I couldn’t really get where I wanted to go. As I’ve said before, I’d rather be lucky than good sometimes and this really played into my favor today. But, I didn’t give up on the car because my crew never does. I have awesome motors from R&R and Ed Shea helps out with those motors and everything. I have a great crew. Obviously you can’t beat this crew. You can’t beat this crowd or this track either. It’s my favorite track.”

He continued replaying the 50 lapper by saying, “On the restarts I was quicker but just as I’d catch up. I would lose ground and then gain ground. I was as fast as the leaders but I couldn’t get by. It was do or die. They say to save the best for last but I wasn’t saving anything by any means. Then, I don’t know what happened. Poor Sammut crashed and gave me a top five. Maybe that gave me some extra incentive. Then I got by somebody and then somebody else and I was second. Then Shullick looked like he bobbled and I thought ‘I don’t have much time. I only have one shot at this one.’ I did the one shot deal and it worked. Unbelievable. Another win.  And four championships in a row too. It’s just crazy.”

“What do I do for an encore? I don’t know. I’m running out of things, I know that. This really just shows how good the whole crew is together. They don’t quit. I don’t quit. The car doesn’t quit. It’s just crazy.”

Dave Shullick Jr., who had lost a potential first win at Thompson for the second straight year, settled for the second place finish. Last year he spun off the track late in the going and then worked his way back to 8th before time ran out.  Said the North Ridgeville, Ohio driver after his runner up finish. “The car was pretty good. It was a little bit loose but I searched around the race track and found a groove that was really, really good for me. I think we had it in the bag but the wing broke with two laps to go. We were wicked loose then. I was just hanging on and that’s why Chris got us.”

Russ Wood, no stranger to victory lane himself, finished up a strong third in the Holbrook 29. “Our car was pretty good. It was strong for the first 30 laps and then developed a push toward the end. Chris just out drove us. It felt good to run with those guys. Overall we’re happy. Third is pretty good.”

Mother Nature had tried very hard to wreak havoc on the races for the second straight week, but Thompson management prevailed despite loosing the entire day of qualifying on Saturday. So by Sunday morning, ISMA’s feature field was lined up by points with the top twelve handicapped using the money won system.

Robbie Summers, who had the pole, elected to move to the rear due to car problems, leaving Jeff Locke and Mark Sammut in the front row at the green. Locke, a feature winner in his rookie season, took off like a shot, leaving Sammut in the proverbial dust.  But Jeff’s lead quickly evaporated after a brush with an about to be lapped car, causing Locke to fall back enough for Sammut to take over and Locke to slide backwards a few spots. Mike Lichty quickly got by Locke and headed for a battle with his fellow Canadian driver.

Yellow slowed things down between the top two when Bobby Santos, filling in for an ailing Lou Cicconi in the Wentworth 10, looped it around off turn four, bringing out the flag despite being able to recoup the car. Santos pulled pitside for a check over and rejoined the field at the rear.

Back underway it was Sammut, Lichty, Locke, Shullick Jr. and Wood ahead of Jeff Holbrook, Bob Magner, Dave McKnight, Justin Belfiore, and Chris Perley, the top ten.

Bentley Warren, who had a podium finish in 2008, found his day end early as a tire went down on the Vic Miller 71 and the New England racing legend pulled in finishing only 19 circuits.

Meanwhile out front, Sammut and Lichty continued their battle. On lap 23, Lichty made a breathtaking attempt at the lead as he and Sammut sandwiched a slower car but Sammut held on and back at it they went as Shullick came around Locke for third to join the fray. Bobby Magner kept the top trio in sight taking Locke soon thereafter.

On lap 28, Lichty, STILL looking for win number one on the ISMA trail, got by Sammut coming onto the front stretch. BUT as Lichty’s luck would have it, a caution flew for his teammate Dave McKnight who was against the wall in between one and two. This negated the pass for the lead. Jeff Locke joined McKnight as he also pulled out of the race here.

The top five remained Sammut, Lichty, Shullick, Magner and Wood as Lichty was using every move he had to try and wrest the lead from Sammut with the 20 to go mark fast approaching. Perley was still mired in seventh behind Justin Belfiore at this point.

On lap 35, yellow flew for the 02 of Brandon Bellinger and the 5 of Vern Romanoski who tangled coming off turn four. Bellinger was hooked while Vern was pushed into the pits.

This restart cost second place runner Lichty his spot when Shullick and then Wood got the jump on him. As Wood and Shullick battled side by side, Lichty fell slightly back with Magner in hot pursuit. Perley was still in sixth.

Sammut was still able to keep the hounds at bay as the race moved into the final segment. At lap 40, Mark had a few car lengths on Shullick who was trailed closely by Wood, Lichty, Perley, Magner and Belfiore. It was still anyone’s ball game.

Suddenly, on lap 43, Mark’s possible home run at the World Series, came to an abrupt halt when the center of this right front wheel broke away, sending Mark into the wall and the tire flying down the track.  Mark was okay but his race was done.

Now, it was Dave Shullick out front with Wood, Lichty, Perley, Belfiore and Magner, the key players. On lap 47, Perley made his move around Wood.

On lap 48, something was not right with Shullick as he slowed slightly with a malfunctioning wing. It was “go time” for Perley and he went, taking the lead and the win in those final two laps. Shullick held for second with Wood third. Lichty finished up fourth with Justin Belfiore garnering his first top five in his short season.

Said Lichty, ‘Well, we didn’t win another one but it was a good run. It was a great battle with Mark. That was the fun part of the race, really fun. Unfortunately, a hub broke for him again. We just got way too tight. We started off the race really decent. We actually had Mark on the outside that one time and the caution came out. We had to go back. All and all it was a good finish to the season. We’ll go back to the shop and wait for next year and see what happens.’

Belfiore, who had just gotten his 98 back about mid-season, commented on his run from the back of the pack. “We started last and at the beginning I was really going to just take it easy and what not, but the green flag came out and the brain turned off. We worked through the field pretty good but I think I used I it up a little bit too much at the beginning. I thought I had enough to go all the way to the front but it didn’t work out. We’ll take a fifth. The guys worked really hard on the car. I’d like to thank Serve Pro of East Boston, Speedy Greco, Tomborello and Son Scrap Metal, my father Jim, of course, Rusty who did a good job on the tires today and Tommy. It was just a fun day. We didn’t even expect to get a fifth but we’ll take that into the winter and hopefully we can come out strong.”

SUMMARY

ISMA EVENT #14. Oct. 25, 2009

No heats run due to inclement weather

Field line up by points, top 12 handicapped.

WORLD SERIES 50: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Dave Shullick Jr. (61), 3. Russ Wood (29), 4. Mike Lichty (84), 5. Justin Belfiore (98), 6. Bobby Magner (41), 7. Jeff Holbrook (35), 8. Danny Lane (9), 9. Ben Seitz (88), 10. Ray Graham Jr. (90), 11. Dave Sanborn (24), 12. Dave Duggan Jr. (51), 13. Mark Sammut (78), 14. Brandon Bellinger (02), 15. Vern Romanoski (5), 16. Jeff Locke (37), 17. Dave McKnight Jr. (94), 18. Bentley Warren (71), 19. Bobby Haynes Jr. (44), 20. Bobby Santos III (10), 21. Robbie Summers (97), 22. Larry Lehnert (92), 23. Artie Rousseau (616), 24. Eric Emhoff (2).