JUSTIN BELFIORE’S PATIENCE PAYS OFF AT WATERFORD’S ISMA 50
By Carol D. Haynes
Photos by Jim Feeney
Waterford, CT – Patience paid off for Ipswich, Mass. driver Justin Belfiore Saturday night at the ISMA-Wirtgen 50 at the Waterford Speedbowl. Justin’s decision to sit back a little was key to his win. Running second to leader Randy Ritskes, Belfiore saw Robby Summers, in the Lane 97, and Chris Perley drive by around lap 15. Justin was worried they’d get away, but he didn’t panic. Three laps later, the three cars ahead of him approached the lap car of Brent Roundy. Ritskes brushed with the 76 sending him sideways in front of the top trio running full bore out of the fourth turn. After a lengthy red, Justin picked up the lead and went on to his second career ISMA victory almost exactly two years to the day from his first. Belfiore, who has had some of the worst luck in racing, was almost speechless and a little unbelieving as he walked from victory lane.
“I just don’t know what to say. In the beginning there when Perley and those guys started pulling by me I was trying to stick to my guns but I was wondering if I was waiting too long. For once in my life I was glad I was patient. I was fortunate. It seems like I had something or someone else helping me out tonight with all the wrecks and things going on. I’m just ecstatic. I’d like to thank Doug from D&G Modular Homes. He helped get me here. Also, to my dad and the crew, thanks for all the hard work and dedication.”
In a race that far too many accidents and failures, Dave McKnight was able to avoid the messes to finish second to Belfiore. “It was a good run,” Dave said. “Last year we got wrecked here. It’s been a long day. It’s too bad Chris got taken out but that’s racing. There’s a long way to go yet. We had a good car but we had nothing to gauge it by from last year. Our notes were very vague. We took a little bit of a gamble. The car was tight. It was good on short runs but just got bad as the push got worse and worse and worse. All in all it was a great run. I’m really happy with the performance of the car and the guys. My hats off to Stage Door for sponsoring us this year. We’ll go to the next race and see what the Patco team can do. I guess that the points race is on now. Sorry to see Randy get injured. Hopefully it’s not too bad and he can get patched up and get back behind the wheel.”
Third place runner Nokie Fornoro was close to McKnight at the end and a late race yellow bunched them up, but Fornoro settled for third with an ailing right rear. “I’m happy with third. Our rules say we have to run the same tires we qualify on. We got a bum right rear. It shrunk on us. I was a half inch off on stagger. With these wide tires, you need the stagger. So I’m elated with third. I’m actually more happy for Justin because that poor son-of -a gun has the worst luck. If I can’t win, why not him? I wish we had a better show for the fans but it’s the second race of the season. We have a long way to go, we’re all together and having fun.”
The first laps of the race were not pretty, as the winged speedsters just couldn’t get into the racing mode. First Dan Osmeloski, Vern Romanoski and Randy Wimert tangled in between turns one and two. Bobby Haynes and Larry Lehnert exited during the cleanup. Wimert and Lehnert were able to continue. Then in succession Kyle Carpenter was off with a broken driveshaft. Lou Cicconi spun and was hooked, also with a broken driveshaft. Bob Magner tangled with the wall on a restart attempt while his teammate Dave Trytek entered the race he left in the push off laps. There were only two laps complete.
The race finally got moving after a full features worth of cautions were already run. Randy Ritskes took the Budnick 88 out front with Robby Summers, Belfiore, McKnight and Perley trailing. On lap 13 Ritskes slid high and brushed the wall lightly but was able to keep his lead. Two laps later he might have wished he hadn’t. Approaching lap traffic as the clock ticked to 18, Ritskes and Brent Roundy, driving a former Cicconi car, brushed out of four. Roundy went sideways taking Ritskes, Summers and Perley with him into the fourth turn wall. Ritskes was taken to LawrenceHospital with at least a broken wrist and possibly more. Perley’s 11 looked mangled as it left the track but ironically, it was ready to race sometime later. A massive effort to get the Miller 11 back into the fray took place out back while the track cleanup and transporting of Ritskes took place. Unfortunately, no one was left to bring the 11 car back out and due to the already long race, the race was restarted.
Perley, who was taken out of the inaugural race at Waterford last year, gave this account. “Seventeen laps. What happened? Let’s see here. A red car hit a yellow car and took out the top three. I was on the outside, trying to get by. That’s what happened. The car was actually repaired with the help of many people including the Cicconi’s, but we couldn’t find an official to tell because they were all out on the track. I had a good car. We might have picked up a few extra points but who knows. Something may have also been wrong with the car.”
A couple cars were in and out of the pits on the ensuing cleanup including Mike Lichty for a tire, Mark Sammut, and Kyle Carpenter. Ricky Wentworth pulled into the infield done for the night also at this juncture.
Racing really got going after this melee with Belfiore now running out front leaving McKnight, Nokie Fornoro, Scott Martel, Joe Petro and Ray Graham Jr. trailing.
With ten to go, Justin looked to be a sure winner, but he couldn’t count on it until the checkered fell, Mark Sammut appeared to move into second but was a lap down as Dave McKnight had the spot with Fornoro, Martel, Petro and Graham still racing for spots.
Misfortune hit once more with two to go as Petro tangled with Graham’s teammate John Torrese on the backstretch knocking Joe out of a potential top five.
Justin was able to breath as the checkerds dropped on a long race. McKnight and Fornoro stayed in the top three.
Scotty Martel, out for the first time this year, came in fourth. “Nineteenth to fourth is all I can ask. We had a little bit of a problem in practice so I missed all that. We used the heat as a practice. We were off and made an adjustment for the feature. We survived all the carnage and came out fourth. For the first time running this year, I’m happy with that. We’ll move on and be ready for the next one.”
Completing a two-car team Patco sweep was fifth-place finisher Mike Lichty who had not gone unscathed during the race. “The race was very interesting. At the start of the race we were kind of off. On the red flag we had to change the left rear because a car got into it. Then we had to go to the rear but the car was decent after that. We just ran out of time and ended up fifth. It was a good night for the Patco Transportation supermodified 84. But people drove like idiots out there. That’s all I can say.”