CHRIS PERLEY BREAKS WATERFORD BAD LUCK TO WIN ISMA-WIRTGEN OPENER
By Carol D. Haynes
Waterford, CT- In the 100 feature laps that the International SuperModified Association has run in the last two years at the Waterford Speedbowl, 2006 ISMA champion Chris Perley had only completed just under 18 of them. Saturday night that changed as he made it through all 50, winning the ISMA-Wirtgen super series season opener. The victory was not without controversy however. With excitement exploding on every lap, Perley worked his way up from 11th spot to overtake a cruising Dave McKnight up front. A third turn pass attempt on the last lap found the two brushing with Perley going on for the checkered and McKnight's yellow 94 going into the wall and on the hook. It did not make for a special ending for either driver as one can only imagine. Chris commented on his first-ever finish at the Connecticut oval and the last lap.
“I just stayed at it. I raced as hard as I could and the car stayed with me. The tires didn't get blown off it. And, I just ended up with a couple lucky moves here and there. It's terrible for Dave. He's a friend. I don't know exactly what happened over there. I don't want to win them like that. I wish that he'd either finished in front of me or in back of me.
While McKnight and Perley became the focal point of the quick-paced event that saw few cautions but a typical opening day amount of attrition, Joe Petro, Nokie Fornoro and hometown hero Robbie Summers put on a show just behind. Racing until the end, Fornoro, suffering from an extremely painful back problem, didn't let that bother him. With the adrenalin flowing fast and furious Nokie used the last lap restart to grab second, moving by both Summers and Petro within the 3/8th's mile trip.
“I'm very, very happy with our second place,” said Fornoro. “ I felt we had a car that could have won. We tried new things this year. The team has got a real good outlook like we always do. It was a nice run. No one got hurt. I feel bad for Dave but it was a safe race. Not many cautions. It was a good way to start the year. It was a good car count. And I'm just happy to be a part of ISMA. It was good to see all the fans who turned out tonight and I thank them for coming.”
Third place finisher Joe Petro, who led the first thirteen laps, was content with third. “It felt pretty good from the very start. I just got out and actually stayed out there longer than I anticipated; usually these guys come up hot and heavy. But McKnight got by and we got into a rhythm and then Perley got by and McKnight crashed. Lapped traffic was actually pretty tough. My dad put this entire car together over the winter because I've been working so much and traveling. So I have to give all the credit to him. I just came here and drove it.”
Petro was out front of the 26-car ISMA-Wirtgen field at the start. One of the fastest cars of the day, Ray Graham Jr., followed Petro in second but Dave McKnight, who had won a heat in dominating fashion, moved quickly up to challenge Petro. Out back on the 13th lap, McKnight drove by Petro and took off.
The first yellow came on the infamous 17th lap which had been the same circuit that ended the runs of many in 2006, as the 8 of 2006 Waterford victor Justin Belfiore and the 88 of Scott Martel going around. Chris Perley was holding his breath when the yellow unfurled. “When that came on lap 17 and I just barely made it through. I thought déjà vu, here we are in the wall again!”
But there was no wall for Perley this time and the race resumed with McKnight, Petro, Summers and Perley the top five. Lap cars and attrition came to play as McKnight put the 94 through the field as dropping by the wayside were Emhoff, Carpenter, Sanborn, Jamie Timmons, Eric Torrese, Bob Magner, Bob Timmons, and Jeff Holbrook throughout the fray.
The action increased as the faster cars up front tried to cut through the slower lap cars on the tight oval. Perley was picking off cars one at a time, not really expecting too much. “Of course everybody I got to made it harder and harder. I thought to myself, 'Fourth is good. Third is good. Second is even better. Then I got there and I could just see McKnight. I realized who the yellow car was. I knew he must be leading.”
McKnight was running full bore but a lap car here and a lap car there allowed Perley to catch up. With five to go the Rowley Rocket was second as Petro, Summers, Fornoro, Mike Ordway Jr., Mike Lichty, Larry Lehnert, John Torrese and Scott Martel battled behind with McKnight and Perley actually appearing up behind Martel as they cut through the pack.
Just after the white flag flew, all eyes were on the 94 and 11. McKnight left little room for Perley in the back stretch but coming out of three Perley made his move. Chris described it this way. “I knew he would be tough at the end after years of racing with him. I was faster than him on the outside because he was tight. I could have passed him easily on the outside had I had a lane. But, I knew I wouldn't have a lane coming out of the corner so I had to make a different move. I honestly didn't think I'd get enough of a run on him to get underneath, to get wheel to wheel with him in the corner without him dropping. I tried to diamond the corner and get a run and not hit him on the way by. I needed to move under him real quick. I ended up with the run on him and I had to hold it.”
The two cars brushed, with Perley never skipping a beat while McKnight careening out into the cement wall. He was towed away and later described his race this way. “The car was awesome, really awesome. I had a great car and Chris just wrecked us. That's what it pretty much came down to. We brushed hard enough for him to get into the side of us and get us off the crown. And, there was nothing I could do to save it. Hey, that's the way it goes. I am real happy with the performance of the car despite losing the race less than 50 yards from the checkered flag. We'll just move on to Toledo.”
Howie Hodge Photos
Dave McKnight (94) had a healthy lead in the ISMA-Wirtgen opener at Waterford on Saturday but 2006 champ Chris Perley caught up and got alongside on the last lap of the race. The two cars ran wheel to wheel…until the tires brushed sending McKnight into the wall and Perley to the victory lane ceremonies.
Two relative newcomers to ISMA but not to racing, Robbie Summers and Mike Ordway Jr. rounded out the top five. Summers, from nearby, finished a competitive fourth. “We got loose there at the end of the race and hung on. We got passed right at the very end. It was a good run. I had a blast. I love running these cars. I can't thank Howie and these guys enough. This is my home track and we really wanted to do well here. We're looking forward to that first win. I hope it will be this year.”
Mike Ordway Jr. following in his famous father's footsteps said, “The car ran pretty good. I have to thank Vic , the guys and Perley. They helped me out a ton. I couldn't have done it without them. We finished the race and that was the main goal. We ended up fifth. The car was really good at the beginning but I don't know how to save tires. I never had to in the midget. Here you have to save the tires a little bit. I was just trying to get the feel of it at the very beginning. I ran pretty good. I was getting a little bit loose at the end. I knew Perley was there and Nokie, who went by me at the very beginning. I knew he was by. Perley showed me a wheel a couple times and then finally went by me. I tried to follow him but I couldn't keep up.”
Rounding out the top ten were Mike Lichty, Johnny Torrese, Scott Martel, Mark Sammut and Justin Belfiore.
ISMA's next events are June 15 and 16 at Toledo and M40 Raceway.
Summary ISMA-Wirtgen Event #1 - May 26, 2007
Heat 1: Joe Petro, Mike Lichty, Bob Magner, Nokie Fornoro, Scott Martel, Kelly Miller, Larry Lehnert, Russ Wood, Eric Torrese
Heat 2: Robbie Summers, Ray Graham Jr., Chris Perley, Justin Belfiore, Jeff Holbrook, Mark Sammut, Jamie Timmons, Mike Badessa, Eric Emhoff
Heat 3: Dave McKnight, Mike Ordway Jr., John Torrese, Bobby Haynes Jr., Dave Sanborn, Bob Timmons, Vern Romanoski, Kyle Carpenter
WATERFORD 50: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Nokie Fornoro (32), 3. Joe Petro Jr. (33), 4. Rob Summers (97), 5. Mike Ordway Jr. (10), 6. Mike Lichty (84), 7. John Torrese (91), 8. Scott Martel (88), 9. Mark Sammut (78), 10. Justin Belfiore (8), 11. Russ Wood (14), 12. Larry Lehnert (92), 13. Dave McKnight (94), 14. Bobby Haynes Jr. (44), 15. Vern Romanoski (5), 16. Jeff Holbrook (35), 17. Bob Timmons (13), 18. Bobby Magner (40), 19. Ray Graham Jr. (90), 20. Mike Badessa (6), 21. Eric Torrese (99), 22. Kelly Miller (16), 23. Jamie Timmons (27), 24. Dave Sanborn (24), 25. Kyle Carpenter (76), 26. Eric Emhoff (22).