RAY GRAHAM TAKES HIS ISMA FIRST AT MANSFIELD FRIDAY EVENT
By Carol D. Haynes
Photos by Jim Feeney
Mansfield, OH - Ray Graham Jr. took off from the pole at MansfieldMotorsportsPark in Friday night's ISMA-Wirtgen Super Series 40-lapper and stayed right there to finish in the same spot. It was a career first for the Iowa resident who has been in the hunt on many an occasion. Surviving a red and a couple yellows, Graham looked to be running away with the short sprint, but with ten to go, his 99 car began to falter and Dave Trytek and then young Mike Lichty came on to challenge. Lichty made a last lap, last corner attempt to take what would have been his career first also, but fell short as Graham brought his first win home. Six time winner to date, Chris Perley was out of the action on lap six after a brush, ironically, with Lichty. But it was Graham's night to shine.
Said Ray in the post race interview; “The car was handling really well in the heat race until the motor started skipping. We thought we had it fixed but in the last ten to twelve laps of the race it started again. I could hear them coming but the motor just wouldn't go. It kept sputtering. We have something in the fuel system that's making the motor skip. It plugged up the motor after the heat race. So we're going to have to find out what that is. If there were another five laps, they probably would have had me. I didn't know whether it was Mike or Dave at the end there. I just put the car in the middle of the track and if they were going to go around, they were going to work hard for it. The first win feels good. “I feel good for the guys who do all the work. I just show up at the track”
Once again Mike Lichty stood on the podium just shy of his goal. In the waning laps of the race he did everything he could to pull off his first win, but once again fell short by one spot. “We had a good car. We just missed a little bit for a 40-lap run. I probably spent two or three extra laps trying to get around Dave than I should have, but he was running good and pretty tough to pass. Hats off to the whole crew. The Patco Transportation Stage Door 84 car is getting close. We've got a 100-lapper tomorrow so we'll see what's going to happen.”
Third place finisher Dave Trytek was the only member of the Holbrook team to finish and he made it a good one. “Tonight the car was good,” Dave said smiling. “When we unloaded tonight, it was good. In the heat race we did good. In the feature we started up front and finished up front which is good. I'm very happy. Unfortunately our other two cars didn't fare so well, but at least one car was salvaged. We've run good here before. I wish we could have held on for second, but I'm happy with a podium finish. It's my first one.”
The 40-lap Mansfield prelim got off to a bad start when after one lap, red fell with a major pileup in between 1 and 2. A jumble toward the back of the pack saw eight cars end up with some kind of damage after all was said and done. Included in the melee which saw Larry Lehnert hit do some air time and hit hard into the soft walls in turn two, were Dave Shullick jr., Rich Reid, Gene Gibson, Dave McKnight, Dave Mumaw, Terry Gibson and Jeff Holbrook. After a lengthy red, a flatbed and a bunch of tow jobs, the race resumed with none of the aforementioned making it back out.
Graham quickly pulled away from Dave Trytek, Bob Dawson, Mikey Ordway and John Blewett III, driving his first super race in the Cicconi 75. Right behind Blewett, the current point leader and six-time feature winner this season, Chris Perley looked to be making his run forward. Unfortunately while coming under Mike Lichty, the two brushed and Perley spun bringing out the yellow and a hook. Perley was to watch the remainder of the 34 laps from the infield. He would say later, “I ran out of luck. I got a new bucket of luck in the truck though. I haven't even opened it up. It was just a racing accident. I got too close. It was awesome to see the race finish that we had tonight. The exciting end - new people winning - it was great. You can't beat that with a stick!”
Lichty concurred. “I think I pinched Perley a little bit coming down but it was two tough guys running for the same spot. It was just one of those deals.”
On the green, Graham took off again and put some distance between his car and Trytek's. Bob Dawson, Moe Lilje, John Blewett, Mike Lichty and Mike Ordway Jr. were battling behind, but it was Lichty on the move forward.
By lap ten, Lichty had fought past Blewett who was left to fend off the advances of young Ordway.
By lap 20, Graham had put two lap cars behind him and second place runner Trytek. Dawson held third, while Lilje in the Stout 19 and Lichty were top five.
Yellow flew on lap 23 for the 91 of John Torrese who had slowed and was coasting into the pits.
Everyone behind Graham only got a quick glimpse of the rapidly moving 99 machine as Ray ran and hid once more. Lichty was still fighting forward as he came by first Lilje and then Dawson. With ten to go things started to heat up in the decimated field. With Lichty third and Trytek second, Graham's motor began to sputter. Lichty was not about to miss out on the opportunity to run the 99 down.
Each lap the second and third place runners got closer and closer to the leader. On lap 38, Lichty made a breathtaking move around Trytek and headed for Graham. On lap 39 in the last turn, The Canadian driver described his last ditch attempt. “I just needed one more lap to get by Ray. I drove it in a ton there at the end but the car just washed up the race track. If it had stuck we probably would have made the pass. There's only so much real estate you can use over there.”
Graham sputtered to his very first ISMA win with Lichty, Trytek, Dawson and Lilje on his tail.
Said fourth place runner Dawson,” Fourth place is fine. We're happy with it. The car worked good. It helped with the inversion and stuff. We had a good night. The car was just about neutral. We're looking forward to the long race tomorrow. This is my best ISMA finish but there's more coming!”
Lilje was content with fifth. “We had a solid run. We came home a lot better than some of the other cars that came back on the hook. I'm a little bit disappointed that I really couldn't move through traffic. I could see the leader at the end of the race and you know the win's right there. We're content with coming home fifth. Everybody runs pretty good in ISMA so a top five with these guys is a pretty good run.”
Eleven cars remained of the original 26 starters with Mike Ordway Jr., John Blewett III, Mark Sammut, Charlie Schultz and Brandon Bellinger the top ten and Vern Romanoski the last finisher.
SUMMARY - Mansfield ISMA 40
Heat 1: Ray Graham Jr., Mike Ordway Jr., Mike Lichty, Chris Perley, Mark Sammut, Terry Gibson, Dave Mumaw, Larry Lehnert, Jeff Holbrook
Heat 2: Dave Shullick Jr., Johnny Torrese, Bob Dawson, John Blewett, Brandon Bellinger, Kelly Miller, Ryan Klingelhofer, Bob Magner, Bobby Haynes Jr. (dns). Race checkered after a Magner wreck on lap 9 to allow for car removal.
Heat 3: Dave Trytek, Rich Reid, Moe Lilje, Gene Gibson, Charlie Schultz, Vern Romanoski, Dave Sanborn, Dave McKnight. (90 and 97 dns).
Mansfield 40: 1. Ray Graham Jr. (99), 2. Mike Lichty (84), 3. Dave Trytek (70), 4. Bobby Dawson (28), 5. Moe Lilje (19), 6. Mike Ordway Jr. (10), 7. John Blewett III (75), 8. Mark Sammut (78), 9. Charlie Schultz (7), 10. Brandon Bellinger (02), 11. Vern Romanoski (5), 12. Kelly Miller (16), 13. Johnny Torrese (91), 14. Ryan Klingelhofer (77), 15. Chris Perley (11), 16. Dave Sanborn (24), 17. Rich Reid (55), 18. Gene Lee Gibson (0), 19. Dave Shullick Jr. (49), 20. Terry Gibson (2), 21. Dave McKnight (94), 22. Dave Mumaw (14), 23. Larry Lehnert (92), 24. Jeff Holbrook (35), 25. Bobby Magner (90) ( 97 Summers dns)