26th ANNUAL ISMA AWARDS BANQUET HONORS ACHIEVERS OF 2008
By Carol D. Haynes
Vernon, NY – In the beautiful setting of the Shenandoah Club house at Turning Stone Casino, members of ISMA gathered Nov. 22 to honor the achievers of the 2008 season. The cozy banquet room fireplace took the chill off an unusually cold and snowy November evening as drivers, owners, crews, family and friends came together for the final time in 2008.
For the third straight year the Vic Miller –Chris Perley team took top honors on the point list with seven wins out of the 11-race event season. It was the team's fifth championship run since 2003. Perley and Miller both spoke briefly as they accepted 2008 ISMA Driver and Car Owner of the year awards. Perley thanked his owner, crew and sponsors for their support once more. He also said kidding, "I didn't do it all myself this year" bringing up an old speech phrase. He admitted that the competition was getting tougher and tougher and although the team won a majority of the time, it was not easy. Vic Miller also mentioned that whatever next year brings, that he looks forward to having fun.
In addition to the aforementioned awards, Scott LeClair, one of the behind the scenes men on the Miller-Perley team, was honored with ISMA Mechanic of the Year award.
Chris Perley, after three very successful and winning years in a row, claimed the ISMA Achievement award. Vic Miller was awarded the prestigious Jim Shampine Memorial award. Miller, who raced in the 60s and 70s against Shampine, was especially proud of being in the same echelon as the legendary innovator and one of ISMA's founders.
The top 20 in owner points received checks from the $50,000 point fund with the 21st finisher, Brandon Bellinger, picking up $500 courtesy of new sponsor Gino DiFilippo, owner of Shadow's Candle Co. The top ISMA drivers were also awarded checks from the driver's point fund initiated by Kathy Harrington two years ago. The sponsors for this separate point fund are Perley's Marina, Inkspot, Luther's Way Out Grafix, SUPRS.net, Russ Conway and Coastal181.com
Mexico's Bob Bond claimed the 2008 ISMA Randy Witkum Memorial Rookie of the Year award, finishing eighth in the final point standings in his first winged season of competition. Ed Shea Concrete Products sponsors this award, which was presented this year by Sheri Witkum Battle.
Jeff Holbrook, car owner and driver, was honored with the ISMA Most Improved Driver award while his entire 4-car team crew was presented the 2008 ISMA Race Threads Crew of the Year award.
The ISMA Support award went to Dennis and Sue Heppel. Dennis serves as one of ISMA's pit stewards while his wife Sue helps operate the ISMA Novelty Trailer, two important positions in the organization. The duo also sponsors the Mechanic of the Year award, which includes an embroidered jacket and a $500 check.
The annual Gater Racing News Most Popular Driver award, as voted on by the fans, went to Vern Romanoski for the second straight year. A check, trophy and free subscription were presented to Vern courtesy of the Gater.
An award which is being retired this year, the A.J. Michaels award, was presented to Mike Lichty, who like Michaels, has been very close to that first ISMA feature win, but has yet to achieve his goal. Michaels was killed in an opening day accident at Oswego Speedway in 1990.
The Jim Soule Dedication award went to Eddie Bellinger Jr., who has helped his son Brandon become a third generation supermodified driver, still following the do-it-yourself ideals of Soule. Bellinger Jr. also serves on the ISMA Board of Directors.
By luck of the draw, Jeff Holbrook claimed the new helmet given each year by Seymour Enterprises while Bob Haynes Sr. took home the new radiator from BS&B Radiators, owned by Canadian Wade Litt.
Earlier in the day ISMA's Board of Directors met to begin finalizing the 2009 schedule, which appears at www.ismasupers.com. While still somewhat tentative the confirmed list finds an auspicious 16-track slate with a possibility of an additional June doubleheader at All-Star and Thompson, with those two dates still in the works. Oswego Speedway's Sept. 4 event shows a Twin 30's format making 19 potential feature runs.
ISMA president Howie Lane laid to rest speculation surrounding some of the traditional events by saying that he and Sandusky Speedway owner Kevin Jaycox had signed a 3-year contract renewal of ISMA's Hy-Miler show at that Ohio speedway and that the Oswego Classic weekend event contract had already arrived, eliminating the confusion from this season. The 2009 schedule, with the 18-show schedule, counting the additional All-Star and Thompson June events, will find the ISMA organization vying for $735,000 in purse money. Several other agenda items including a revamping of the point system for 2009 and some minor rule changes which will be available as an addendum sheet for the already in print ISMA Rulebook.
The ISMA officers of Howie Lane, Jerry Kritzman, Kathy Harrington and Delores Murphy remain for 2009. Board members Brian Allegresso, Mark Sammut and Vern Romanoski were recently elected for new 3-year terms, joining Ed Bellinger Jr., Jack Murphy, Dan Soule, Brad Lichty, Vic Miller and Jeff Holbrook, who are serving out two and one year terms respectively.
MC and ISMA announcer closed out the ceremonies and handed the mic over to Rock a Rolla, the night's DJ and the dancing began!