CHRIS PERLEY ROCKETS TO STAFFORD SPEEDWAY WIN
By Carol D. Haynes; photos by Jim Feeney
Stafford Springs, CT – “The Rowley Rocket” Chris Perley certainly lived up to his nickname on Wednesday night at Stafford Motor Speedway’s Carquest Extreme Wednesday open-wheel event. Perley, starting eleventh in the ISMA field of 26, made a move on local hotshoe Ted Christopher off turn two of lap 29 to take the lead. By the time the checkered flag waved for Perley on lap 80, there were only four cars in the lead lap. It was the second straight ISMA Lucas Oil/Helping Hands of America win for the 2003 ISMA champion. Perley, in his first visit to the famed Connecticut half-mile, gave high praise for his team, the facility and his competition.
Said the driver of the Vic Miller-owned 11 in a post-race interview, “This is awesome. Every win is the best. Earlier during warm-ups we looked about even with everyone as we tested out this beautiful track. It looked like an even playing field. I was looking at the track trying to figure out how much faster I’d have to be to pass someone. After the heat we made a couple minor adjustments before the feature and this thing was on rails, it was on rails. It was awesome. I wish I had a car like this every time. It kind of makes it easy as long as you don’t burn the tires off. I saw Ordway coming up near the end there. I didn’t know how many lap cars were behind me so when we had that restart at ten to go, I just took off. I got a lot of bite there and I knew we had enough tire left. But, you never know though. Is something going to break? Are you going to run out of gas? Every race is the same, you’re just praying that the car and you finish.
He continued, “This is my first time here. After 80 laps I think I got a pretty good grip. It’s been a competitive year in ISMA. I’m the first repeat winner. We’ve had two first-time winners. It’s an awesome division. Going to a new track like today, you always have jitters, but I have a great car owner and a great team behind me. It gives you trust in your car. When you have a car like I did tonight, you want the race to end, but you want to run 15 more laps afterwards that don’t count just to continue the fun. Thanks to Ed Shea Concrete Products, R&R Engines, Perley’s Marina, New England Motor Racing Supply, Barrett’s Transportation, Hardy Transportation and Jack Cook Enterprises for helping to give me this great car.”
Fremont, NH’s Mike Ordway started way back in 25th spot and worked his way up to second at race end. He was more than pleased with the finish. “Starting from near last and finishing second, that was darn good, huh? I’m sitting back there at the start of the race looking up the track and thinking oh man there are a lot of cars up there. The car ran great. The guys gave me a good car. I was able to stay out of trouble. We lost our brakes in the heat race and had to start way back. We just worked our way toward the front and had a good run. I think I could have used a caution with more laps to go and maybe I could have given Chris a run.”
Venerable Bentley Warren parked the Dunigan racing 25 in third place 24-years after he sat in victory lane at the Stafford Motor Speedway in July 1980. “It would have better if I’d been up two spots but it was a fun race. The car was nice and I had fun. It is a very nice track and they run it very well here.”
Nokie Fornoro and Jamie Timmons were slated for the front row, but Timmons had to pull out with an oil leak moving Mark Sammut up to the outside spot. Fornoro in his Helping Hands America 32 grabbed off the early lead at the beginning of the Carquest 80 but soon was run down by Plainville, CT’s Teddy Christopher who had jumped aboard the Howie Lane 9. Christopher, who knows every inch of the Stafford Speedway, soon pulled away leaving Justin Belfiore, Bentley Warren and soon Chris Perley in his wake. Justin was able to stay within sight of Christopher and actually began closing the gap, but moving in to take second was Perley, whose car literally glided over the speedway.
Perley got by Christopher for the lead on lap 29 and pretty much had his way. Christopher ran second ahead of Warren, Belfiore, Mark Sammut, Pat Abold, Mike Ordway, Fornoro and Scott Martel as a long set of green flag laps allowed Perley to massacre the field. Christopher’s run ended with a flat on lap 43, while Russ Wood also pulled his new 29 in with mechanical ills in a car built after his Jennerstown destruction of his former machine.
With 30 to go, Perley was flying by lap cars and was up behind the top ten car of Fornoro to soon put him down a lap. A great battle ensued between Ordway, Belfiore, Martel, Sammut and Abold behind, but it was Perley’s show to lose.
The yellow finally dropped to slow up Perley a little as Sammut’s 78 bobbled to bring out the flag, but then regained its momentum. Mike Lichty, John Payne and Sammut then pitted on this slowdown with the aforementioned two rejoining the field. Moments later Fornoro brought in the 32 and on lap 74, Sammut tried to restart the race but his car did not fire and the flag fell one more time.
Perley had Ordway and Warren right behind him on the restart, but no one was stopping the 11 now and he sped away at the drop of the green. At the checkered it was Perley, Ordway, Warren and Martel all finishing in the same lap with Rick Wentworth fifth, one lap down.
“We are real happy with fourth,” said Martel. “In front of a real good crowd of New England supermodified fans. It’s good to start fifteenth and come up to fourth. We had a motor problem at the end or we might have been able to get up a little closer. All in all to come out with a fourth and to finish with the good guys, we are happy. It’s on to Oxford and hopefully a better finish there.”
Said the second year driver Wentworth, “It was awesome to finish fifth in my first time here. At the beginning I started fourth and figured I’d stay up there but I fell back to around fifteenth. I was trying to feel out the car and save the tires. I was able to come on at the end. With all those green flag laps, if I had had a caution earlier I might have stayed in the lead lap and get a chance at one or two more spot.”
Note…the only damaging accident of the night came when Joe Petro caught a wheel from the Lichty 84 at the start of the third heat. His crew tried valiantly to reassemble the 99 but did not make the feature call.
ISMA EVENT #7, STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – July 14, 2004
Heat 1: Ted Christopher, Jamie Timmons, Rick Wentworth, Bentley Warren, Joey Payne, Dave McKnight, Jen Chesbro, Jon Gambuti, Mike Ordway
Heat 2: Chris Perley, Bobby Santos, Justin Belfiore, Russ Wood, Jamie Letcher, Kevin Torigney, Billy Buyck, Dan Osmeloski, Kyle Carpenter
Heat 3: Nokie Fornoro, Mike Lichty, Pat Abold, Mark Sammut, Scott Martel, Johnny Payne, Joe Gosek, Mike Badessa, Joe Petro (wreck)
FEATURE (80): 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Mike Ordway (61), 3. Bentley Warren (25), 4. Scott Martel (14), 5. Rick Wentworth, 6. Dave McKnight (94), 7. Pat Abold (26), 8. Bobby Santos (97),9. Jamie Letcher (58), 10. Justin Belfiore (8), 11. Mike Lichty (84), 12. Kevin Torigney (86),13. Joe Gosek (17), 14. Johnny Payne (88), 15. Jennifer Chesbro (33), 16. Mark Sammut (78),17. Nokie Fornoro (32), 18. Joey Payne (4), 19. Ted Christopher (9), 20. Russ Wood (29),21. Jon Gambuti (15), 22. Dan Osmeloski (01), 23. Kyle Carpenter (49), 24. Billy Buyck (5),25. Mike Badessa (07), 26. Jamie Timmons (27), 27. Joe Petro (99) dns.