MARK SAMMUT CAPS OFF DOUBLEHEADER ISMA WEEKEND WITH A WIN AT LANCASTER
By Carol D Haynes, ISMA PR; photos by Jim Feeney
Lancaster, NY – Canadian Mark Sammut has been an ISMA stalwart for 21 years, a congenial competitor who has weathered the up and down nature of racing. Last August he took his biggest win, a $10,000 payday at what he calls his home track, Delaware Speedway, to the approval of a huge throng of fans.
Saturday night at Lancaster Speedway, he picked up his seventh-career ISMA win, to the cheers of many Buffalo area fans who had seen him run and win years ago in his Can-Am midget. He quipped in victory lane when he spoke of that midget win, that he wasn’t buying a dragster to win in another division at Lancaster! But he did mention that the car he was driving was 21 years old and it has served him well. The new car that had been debuted last year, has gone back to the drawing board.
“First I’d like to thank all the fans for coming out. And thanks to my crew, family and the sponsors – Art Currier, Wells Foundry, Mobil Services and so many more for their long-time support. It was an awesome win. This car is almost as old as I am. We’re lucky we’ve gotten the balance on the fuel and stuff figured out over the years. It took it to the end to come to life. It was a little off at the start and even when I was behind McKnight there he wasn’t holding me up or anything, it was just all I had at the time. Finally it started to burn some fuel away and it went. We couldn’t ask for much better of a car. If Shullick’s car was on he would have probably had a lot for us. But, hey, some nights it’s your night and some it’s not. It kind of looked like we were reeling in Muldoon there and then the caution came. Sometimes the cautions are my enemy so I have mixed feelings about cautions because I usually loose one or two spots. And there was a lot of fast lap traffic in front of him so if I had caught him in that it could have been a tough go. As it turned out it worked out great for us at least. We’ll take it anytime.
“I won here years ago with the Can-Am Midgets and now to win on the big track with the supers is absolutely great.We’ve had the same guys helping us over the years, so to do it for the team once in a while sure means a lot.”
Sammut had grabbed the lead after Michael Muldoon’s dominant lead was begin to evaporate due to an ignition problem, only to battle one of the fastest or the fastest in the field, Dave Shullick Jr., to race end.
Said Shullick after his determined run, still fighting a motor problem that caused him to exit early at Delaware the night before:
“The car was really, really outstanding. It’s not the one I ran here last year. We had a great car. It was picture perfect all day, probably one of the best I’ve had here. Unfortunately, about ten laps in we were coming through and something in the motor laid down again; same as last night. I almost pulled in with it at that point but I decided to stick with it and see if it would run. And, we finished the race in second. The motor still was flat. It had no power off the bottom. I literally had the throttle wide open in the turns trying to get it to go. We were running on seven cylinders at the end. We were lucky to finish second. We had a car that could have easily won this race. But hats off to Mark Sammut. It’s awesome to see him him and to Danny Bowes for a great third place run.”
Bowes, who had run well at Lancaster event last year, was pleased with his third place finish.
“We had a long day. We were pretty quick in practice. We put new tires on the car and we didn’t gain any speed. Everybody picked up about a half a second and we didn’t pick up anything. We were getting kind of nervous, scratching our heads, so we just stuck with our game plan. Right off the bat in the feature the car was pretty good. I was just trying to be patient and pick cars off one at a time. At the end there I just kind of used up the tires. The balance of the car wasn’t quite what it needed to be to challenge the guys up front. We had a pretty rough night last night at Delaware. We had a flat left rear the whole race. It had a slow leak we didn’t detect and we were just junk the whole race. It was a long trip for us and to salvage the weekend with a third is pretty awesome. We’re pretty happy with that. This track is different; one of the most unique tracks I’ve run on. The car seems to like it. We put a pretty weird setup in it. We kind of stumbled on it last year. It worked out so we went back to it. That’s why we were pretty nervous because when we put the new tires on, we slowed. We stuck with it though and it worked out. Maybe we can compete for a win next year.”
After a slight power delay, and three early exits from the lineup, Mike McVetta with a broken rocker arm, Rich Reed with a bad vibration and an early ofn for newcomer Nick Cappelli, the ISMA field was pushed away for the 50 lap Lancaster feature and it was outside front row starter Michael Muldoon who powered away with the lead, a spot he quickly appeared to not be giving up. Muldoon had wrecked his 10 at Delaware and the team headed out of Canada to Baldwinsville to pick up their back-up 15 to get back to Lancaster to race.
It appeared it was a worthy trip as third generation driver Muldoon was soon out of sight of second place runner Dave McKnight, who has two career wins at Lancaster, and tough challengers Mark Sammut, last year’s winner Trent Stephens, Mike Ordway Jr., Dan Bowes and Dave Shullick Jr.
The laps flew by as practice and heat lap times of mid-to high – 14 second laps predicted they would. By lap 20 with no flags flying, 2017 ISMA Rookie of the Year Muldoon was approaching the end of the field with only the Seitz- driven 32 of Soule Racing, struggling with new car bugs, pulling off the track to lessen the fast field by one.
At halfway, Muldoon was on cruise with a lap car in between his 15 and Dave McKnight, Trent Stephens, Shullick, Mike Lichty, Chris Perley, Ordway, Bowes and more all battling each other for position as Muldoon continued to pull away.
At lap 30, it was Muldoon, Sammut, McKnight, Shullick, Stephens, Bowes, Perley, Ordway and Moe Lilje all in constant and exciting position swapping mode except for the flying 15 who was alone out front.
Lap 36 saw the first yellow when the 84 of Lichty had a suspension part break, sending him into the Lancaster Thermal Foam. Dave Duggan ran pit side to fix a flat while Lichty was hooked.
On the restart, Muldoon tried to survive the onslaught behind but one lap later, Mark Sammut had become the leader at the line. The spectacular run of Muldoon’s was unraveling at this point and two laps later, the 15 slowed and crept into the pits. Mike described the demise of his possible second career ISMA win, “Something stopped working .. no ignition, something electrical. It’s not my week. I heard from everyone ‘the car was really fast and that I was pulling away from everyone, maybe a half a track length’. But, it’s all irrelevant now. It happens. We’ll be back to try again.”
It was now the Sammut-Shullick show for the lead with less than ten to go. A distance behind were Dan Bowes, Perley, Lilje, Kyle Edwards, Shullick, Tim Jedrzejek and Stephens, still looking to move up.
Shullick tried in vain to get around Sammut, but Mark was not to be denied this night and Shoe II settled for a second trailed by Bowes, Perley and Lilje in the top five.
Perley was back in form as attested to in his post-race interview. “Actually it was a fun race. I passed some cars so I was quite pleased. We still missed it I guess, but it was fun. It was a good race. We kind of chased our tail all day. We’re learning the new tires and running the old car, but it felt good. I was tight the whole race but we will just have to adjust for the tire. The left rear is definitely better. Thanks to Ed Shea and the guys, Jimmy D, Lancaster and the fans for coming out….”
Moe Lilje, driving the Lichty 74, also was happy with a top five. “Tonight went a little better than last night. We got off to a rough start. The car didn’t really take the bumps as well as it did in hot laps earlier. So I knew if I flogged it at the beginning of the race I knew I was going to drive the tire off of it. So I made do for a little bit and let half the field go by me before I decided to take off about halfway. I made up some of the ground back up and came away with a solid P5 so we’re happy with that.”