Wing Side Up
By Bob Gangwer
GOSHEN IN 4/17/00 Motivation. A word or a state of mind that obviously seems to have lost its meaning for this column. Until now that is.
Not that there hasnt been a lot of things happening in the super world all winter long, its just only now are we inspired enough to write about them. Or maybe we mean sober enough. Whew, its been a long winter to be sure.
Anyway, where is that inspiration coming from you might ask. Simply put, the supermodified season is upon us. More significantly we are going to be there when the bad boys of ISMA shake the racing world from the final stages of hibernation down in the heart of Dixie.
This weekend finds us following the ISMA road show to North Carolina for a two race weekend that kicks off at Orange County Speedway on Friday and follows up at Southern National on Saturday.
We cant wait to see the 3/8 mile Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC to determine if it holds up to our favorite 3/8, Kalamazoo. Chris Perley is the defending champion of the race and looks to be in solid contention to repeat as he is one of the few drivers that hasnt lost or changed his ride during the off-season. The 75 lapper gets under way when the pit gates swing open at 2pm. Warm-ups are at 4:15 and racing gets pushed off at 7:30.
There wont be much party time after the show on Friday because after a quick grub of grits and ham, well be on the road early to make the 100 mile trek up the road for Saturdays show at Southern National.
From the pictures weve seen of this track, if we arent cocked and ready to shoot from the drive, it wont take long to get into the fully ready to rock type state of mind once we set foot in Kenly.
Billed as a 4/10 of a mile track, Southern National looks to us to be somewhat like Toledo. Pictures can be deceiving, but the Kodak moments weve seen lead us to believe that this is one very fast, first rate joint.
The race haulers start moving in at straight up 12 noon, with practice beginning at 3 and racing at 7:30.
As many of you know, the defending champion of the race, and all-time ISMA Points Champion, Russ Wood wont be at SNS to defend his crown. The likable New Hampshire native made the decision over the winter to take a sabbatical and has vacated the seat in the potent Dunigan #29. Finding a home in the racy rod is Canadian Randy Ritskes, who found himself rideless after "smiling" Eddie Shea retired at the end of 99.
Teaming with Ritskes will be "Double O" Joe Gosek. For the first time since buying out Tony Osetek way back when, Gosek will be racing supers for someone other than himself. Gosek steps into the other Dunigan car because Mike Ordway has moved on to the USAC Silver Bullet Series full-time. It will be interesting to see how this team gels. Without a doubt Joe can get the job done, and without the pressures of being an owner/driver, Joe should be a force to be reckoned with if he can find his place with ISMAs reigning Championship car owner.
SuperShorts: If you are as fortunate as us and are able to make the trek south this weekend, you may be in for a few surprises. In case you havent heard, and just to keep you from feeling like a stock car loving moron, (jeesh, did we say that? Ok we admit we are going through some serious open wheel withdrawal, without the methanol fix the DTs are getting real bad here.), instead of the true super fan you are, heres some of the changes youre likely to see in North Carolina.
Always the bridesmaid never the bride. Well, as funny as it may be to imagine the Joey Payne in a wedding gown, hey, did we say funny, hmm, you know, if you know anything about the "Jersey Jet", you would never put this past him. However, we digress. Joeys winter was a continuation of mid-summer through fall 99 that found the Miller team in turmoil. As odd as it may seem, the team that has finished second in ISMA points the last two years has split up.
Regardless of the reason, (and there are many that remain hidden amongst the bitterness), Joey is out and spent the majority of the long winter hunting for a ride like a wolf in search of the elusive winter meal.
After being rumored to be in the Dunigan car, in the former Shea cars under the Gibraltar Financial/Miller Racing banner, as well as a host of other teams, the "Jet" has found a home with George Brothers.
Brothers, who hails from Tewksbury, MA, has raced supers for 10 years mostly at Star where he has won once at the tight ¼ mile. This season he makes the big leap by fielding two ISMA cars. Payne will drive a Graves chassis, while Brothers will be in a Butch Valley car. R&R engines will power both of the cars.
With the "Jet" flying off over smoother waters, where does that leave Jeff Miller? Well, in not too much of a predicament actually. Continuing with a belief that harkens back to his days fielding a mighty midget, Miller once again will fill his cars with former midget aces.
While the name, Lou Cicconi is no stretch of the imagination, given the fact that he has run the supers off and on for the past two years, how about Nick Fornoro?
Fornoro will have a brand new Miller super at his disposal, as well as a back up for the ISMA season. Cicconi purchased all of the Shea equipment including the hauler. He will add this new loot to his 1999 car that he took to the M-40 ISMA win. "Nokies" ride will now be the #5 while Cicconis former #75 will now be emblazoned with the familiar Miller #4.
Miller is obviously hungry for the ISMA championship after being left at the altar the last two years. His choice in drivers is without a doubt interesting. Cicconi has been fast, but the car was too trick in our mind, tending to break more than finish. With Miller pointing the way, this could be the year Cicconi gets headed in the right direction, and while no one is doubting Fornoros ability, we look for this season to be a learning one as he gets used to the new car.
While we cant be sure what color they will be, (weve been led to believe that they will be "interesting"), were sure youll see two cars backed out of the Soule Racing trailer in North Carolina this weekend. Danny will once again field a two-car team with long time compadre Kenny Bell.
Bell will drive Dannys former ISMA car, while Danny will have a brand new New England Racing Supplies roadster to play with that replaces the car that was in the horrendous fire Classic weekend.
Steve Miller has become an ISMA franchise owner this year and will field a car for Johnny Payne. After a very good showing late in the season, and a fantastic run at the Copper World Classic, Johnny is poised for big things this season in the "Sweet 16."
Also signing on as a franchise owner is Canadian Dave Hooper. Hooper has been a long time ISMA competitor, and like most of his fellow Canadians, an all around good guy. ISMA is fortunate to have people like Dave and his "Hoop DeVille".
Another team to watch for in North Carolina, and all season long for that matter, is Howie Lane and his new driver Jamie Timmons. Jamie was very impressive last year in at the ISMA SuperNationals Classic Weekend, and will no doubt be a major contender for the ISMA Randy Witkum Rookie of the Year Award.
Timmons will have a battle on his hands however and the competition will come from Ohio. It will come in the form of the #36 Ron Henes machine. While Ron has given up the driving chores to his son Jon, the team has many years of experience under their belt and did quite well at the M-40 Fall Open Nationals. It will be nice to see some more "local" cars hit the ISMA trail.
Speaking of Ohio cars, Jimmy Shirey wont be in North Carolina. He is putting in a lot of overtime at Ford just to get the car ready in time for Eric to drive in the SuperModified Series opener at Mansfield on the 14th.
Also close to home, Dan Nielson has left M-40 Speedway to fulfill a life long dream by becoming a car owner. Nielson has purchased the #62 Red Line Racing team entry previously owned by Daniel Emmons and driven by "Dashing" Dion Parish. Parish will continue on as the driver, while Emmons will now concentrate on building the potent engines that will propel the Red Line Rocket.
The last we spoke, Neilson said he will keep Dion focused on the local scene at Lorain County, Sandusky and Mansfield with a sprinkling of ISMA shows in between. The big goal, if things go well, is to make Classic this year, and we mean Classic. Dan has said that the ISMA show will come second to the 200 as he has a special place in his heart for that race. Well have more on that in an upcoming column.
And while you can leave his name on the Social Security Benefits list, you take Willie Stutzmans name off the "Retired Super Greats" list. Willie will run a limited schedule, concentrating mainly on the ISMA MI shows and stuff closer to home. We figure that he will once again make the trek to Classic. Even if he doesnt make it on his time trial, or through the heats or the "Killer B", Oswego should put him in the field as a promoters option just for fan appeal. Our friend and neighbor finds as big of a following up there as he ever did around here. Not that he has encouraged it of course!
Ok, whew, serious writers cramp. We gotta get off this thing and get it sent from the only house in Goshen with a direct pipeline to Golden, CO, Bourbon, KY, San Juan, PR, and Oswego, NY. The new address is 2 Winchester Trails, Goshen, IN 46526. The phone is never busy when you dial (219) 534-0520. We will be hooking up with Mike Johnson of Oswego when we get to NC. Mike, whose "Pinners Bar and Grill" campsite during Classic Weekend is second only to his web site, sends us email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before we go happy birthday to our friend Brooke Frost who celebrated on the 21, and our bud Larry Gibson who took another lap on the 23. Also congratulations to Anna Marie Malifitana who got hitched on the 22. Maybe well get to see her and her new hubby when we head south.
We wont be driving the Mustang down but hithchin a ride with ma and pa, so barring any stupid weather, the only wind well feel will be the rush of air off the Explorer as we blow into town on Thursday, and the wind off of the wings Friday and Saturday. Well be in search of that famous "Southern Hospitality" and when we find it well "Keep It Wing Side Up and Wheels to the Ground."