50 YEARS OF WINGED SUPERMODIFIED RACING
The International Super Modified Association was founded in 1974 by multi-time Oswego Speedway champions Jim Shampine and Nolan Swift to ensure the future and longevity of supermodified racing. With the help of a Central New York businessman, Tom Heveron, Shampine and Swift formed ISMA as a forum for owners and drivers to express their ideas and opinions.
ISMA’s initial goals were to upgrade supermodified racing with better safety conditions, offer more events per season, ensure sufficient purses, and aid drivers and teams. The association worked with track managements in making decisions and in discussing ways of improvement.
The club encouraged new drivers and owners to join supermodified racing, worked to capture racetracks’ interest in supermodified racing, and helped to promote the division to a wider audience.
Heveron became the original ISMA president and was aided by Shampine as the vice president and Fred Graves as the secretary and treasurer. These three men and numerous others led ISMA through its developmental stages.
The early years
The new supermodified racing association soon negotiated with western New York’s Lancaster Speedway, now known as Dunn Tire Raceway Park, for a 40-lap race held on July 3, 1974 which saw Richwood, Ohio’s Todd Gibson garner the association’s first feature win. The following year ISMA booked races at Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway with a $5,000 purse and $1,000 to win.
In 1976, ISMA developed a point fund with tracks contributing $500- $1,000 per race to this fund. Unlike most other point systems, ISMA adopted a system that awards points to the car owners, citing the fact that the association was an owners club rather than drivers. This “owners points” policy is still intact today.
By 1977 ISMA had accomplished sanctioning over $96,000 in purse money and races, adding a point fund of $4,400 paid by promoters, offering tow money at all ISMA-sanctioned races, having insurance certificates from each promoter on file, and working with other promoters for more races.
The ’77 season saw ISMA events at Ontario, Canada’s Delaware and Flamboro speedways, New Hampshire’s Star Speedway, Connecticut’s Thompson Int’l Speedway and Fulton. Over 35 years later, Delaware, Star and Thompson continue as ISMA host tracks.
ISMA pioneered the franchise system in supermodified racing, in which teams purchase a franchise at the beginning of the season. Creating a win-win situation for both the teams and promoters, franchise teams are required to attend a certain number of races each year while being guaranteed a minimum starting purse at each event a considerable amount more than non-franchised cars. This system helps to ensure solid, stable car counts and a successful event for the promoter.
Today, ISMA normally sanctions between 8 to 12 nights of racing a year, including two of the prestigious supermodified races – the July Hy-Miler Nationals at Sandusky (Ohio) Speedway, which has been a staple ISMA event since 1978, plus two-day doubleheader races at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway and northeast Ohio’s Lorain Raceway Park give Midwest fans a total of six opportunities to enjoy winged, big-block supermodified racing in 2023.
ISMA has a long history of racing at the Home of the Supermodifieds, Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway, and has three events scheduled at the five-eighths-mile oval in 2023. Oswego remains the only track to race big-block supermodifieds on a weekly basis in the summer as the headline class.
A new event in 2023 is a Sept. 16 season closer at Evans Mills Raceway Park in the North Country of upstate New York. The 75-lapper will determine this year’s first ever ISMA/MSS series champion.
As was the case for many racing organizations, 2020 was a year of challenge due for ISMA with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in an abbreviated season. With the Canadian border shut down and several ISMA teams and many members located north of the border, officials ruled that no matter how many races were held, no points would be awarded.
The 2020 season, albeit unofficially, didn’t open until July 24-25 with the Hy-Miler Nationals at Sandusky running as a two-night non-sanctioned event. After Sandusky, three races (Lee USA, Star and Thompson) made up the abbreviated series.
The Canadian border remained closed throughout 2021 although officials determined a 2021 points series would be held. The border closure affected car counts all year and a scheduled event at Jukasa Speedway in Ontario was forced to be cancelled.
Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire was a new track added to the schedule in 2021 and Jennerstown Speedway in western Pennsylvania returned to the series after a multi-year absence. Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts also returned to the series after many years away with a Wednesday night non-points show opening the tour in early June. Traditional events at Sandusky, Oswego and Star remained on the schedule with Monadnock and Lee USA speedways in New Hampshire filling the nine-race series.
Thompson Speedway did not return to the schedule in 2021.
ISMA worked closely with Oswego Speedway and the Midwest Supermodified Series (MSS) in 2022. Three ISMA races were held at Oswego as a part of the new Winged Supermodified Challenge promoted by John Nicotra and others. MSS and Oswego co-sanctioned the races in an effort to bolster car counts at the track most centrally located for most supermodified teams.
Two additional nights of racing at Berlin (Mich.) Speedway in July were co-sanctioned shows between ISMA and MSS. ISMA “standalone” events (not co-sanctioned) in 2022 included the two-night Hy-Miler Nationals at Sandusky in late July and the annual Bob Webber Sr. Memorial Star Classic.
For the first time in ISMA’s history, the organization merged with another series – MSS – to create the ISMA/MSS Supermodified Series.
After working closely with MSS in 2022 that included multiple co-sanctioned shows, the two series have joined forces for the new season to create a single championship tour that will visit six tracks in three states – Michigan, New York and Ohio. The merger comes in an attempt to continue to boost entry counts after the 2022 season saw several shows with larger fields than previous seasons.
Another benefit comes with the close working relationship between ISMA/MSS and Oswego Speedway, which again hosts three ISMA/MSS shows in 2023. For the first time in many years, there are no conflicts between ISMA/MSS races and weekly Oswego Novelis Supermodified shows. The goal is to attract more Oswego supermodified teams to follow many or all ISMA/MSS races, and vice versa, in another combined effort to boost entry counts at both ISMA/MSS and Oswego big block supermodified shows in 2023.