CHRIS PERLEY SWEEPS CLASSIC 100 AT LEE USA
By Carol D. Haynes
Photos by Jim Feeney
Lee, NH – The Classic, traditionally held at Star Speedway the week after the Labor Day International Classic at Oswego, continued for the 45th time Saturday, but it was held 15 miles away from that Epping, NH venue at Lee USA. Chris Perley was the 2009 Classic champion and he defended his title taking both 50-lap segments to win the overall championship. Starting twelfth in the first 50, he traveled up through a pack of talent to take the lead on lap 33.
In the second, after a redraw of the top eight finishers from the first 50, Chris was third on the grid, a unique starting spot for the man who has dominated ISMA races for the past few years. By the time one lap was complete, the 11 was out front and the cliché, “never looked back” was never truer here as he sped to the second 50 win. The overall “Classic” championship was determined by points and Perley made the calculation easy. The title also earned him an extra $1500 bonus, added to his double victories worth $3000 each for the Vic Miller team. It was Perley’s 5th win and third consecutive of the Classic event.
First 50 a wild one:
Twenty-five winged supers headed to the line for the first segment of the 45th annual Classic 100 after poignant ceremonies to mark the anniversary of 9-11.
Dave Duggan took the initial lead, but quickly handed it off to Rob Summers. Summers took off leaving Duggan to contend with Bobby Santos, Mike Lichty, Russ Wood and Justin Belfiore.
A quick slowdown came on lap 16 when the 88 of Joey Scanlon stopped in front and was pushed into the pits.
The field bunched behind Summers on the restart allowing Santos to get alongside Summers for a run at the lead. The pair dueled side-by side for several exciting laps before Santos grabbed the point on lap 20.
Nearing the halfway mark, it was Santos with a couple car lengths over Summers, Belfiore, Wood and now Perley who was moving steadily forward.
A yellow, then red dropped on lap 26 when Justin Belfiore came up hard on the slower 616 of Artie Rousseau and the two were into the first turn cement wall. The impact put a gaping hole in the wall, which was repaired before the action could restart.
After the delay, Santos was ready to lead again in his first-ever run in the Booth 61. But, within three laps, Perley was knocking on his door having passed by Summers and Wood.
There was nothing stopping the Rowley Rocket now, even some heavy traffic. At race end several lap cars separated him from the pack. Behind him, though, some intense battling ensued between Santos, Summers, Cicconi, Magner and Locke until a white flag accident saw Danny Lane and Ben Seitz tangle and go off on the hooks. The redo of the white and checkered didn’t change Perley’s position any but Wood took the runner-up spot from Santos on the last lap. Bobby settled in for third pressured by Cicconi and Summers for the top five.
It was Perley’s second straight Lee USA win, having copped the Ollie Silva Memorial 75 just a month previous. “This whole race was about patience. We still have 50 to go. And, we’re allowed to change one tire when we get into the pits, but one tire isn’t going to carry it if you burn everything else off. I played the waiting game and luckily I caught the leaders. The cautions helped me out a little better. I just got the front somehow. The car worked and it seems really good. It probably slipped a little toward the end but a new right rear will help that. Hopefully we’ll have something for the next 50.”
Wood was happy picking up second with a skating car. “We were slipping and sliding at the end and the traffic helped me. The 61 was fading a little. It was weird. We pushed the first half of the race and the second half I was really loose. I don’t know how we can correct that problem but we’re going to make a couple changes for the second race. I know Chris will be hard to beat. He’s starting third and we’re starting seventh. We’ll just keep plucking away. This was fun for me. I enjoyed it.”
The talented Santos, jumping aboard the 61 for his first race in the potent machine, said of his good run, “It was fun. We have a good car here. I think we just got a little looser than we wanted to be, but I think we have some good ideas to get it better for the second half.”
Bob Magner, Jeff Locke, Mark Sammut, Eric Lewis and Mike Lichty finished up the top ten.
Second 50 is all Perley:
The veterans of the very first Classic, which was actually held at Lee Speedway, drew the positions for the top 8 finishers in the second 50 lapper, which saw Jeff Locke on the pole with Mark Sammut outside. The second row consisted of Perley and Cicconi trailed in order by Santos, Magner, Wood and Locke.
A couple slowdowns started the second 50 when the 84 of Lichty was having problems starting. Mike said later a shorting kill switch may have been the cause. The car was also losing oil pressure. When he finally got started, the race stopped again for the 109 of Bob Fitzpatrick who was hooked. The field was down to 22 as Scanlon and Seitz were no shows from the first event.
Finally underway Locke and Sammut were passed by Perley before one lap clicked off. Santos had moved up quickly to take over third from Sammut with Cicconi hot on their tail.
On lap 10, Santos’ fine run expired when the 61 stopped suddenly and was pushed pitside not to return.
On the restart, Perley pulled away from Locke, Magner, Cicconi and Sammut. Russ Wood, Eric Lewis, Summers and Bob Bond were in the mix heading forward.
On lap 24 Summers flew the yellow when he brushed the wall in three after contact with Oswego Classic winner Bob Bond. Summers was hooked and into the pits for good.
The restart lineup showed Perley, three lap cars, then Magner who had taken over second, trailed by Cicconi, Wood, Locke and Bob Bond.
There were no other yellows to slow the fast-paced action as Perley moved flawlessly around the Lee oval. Magner was second but was being reeled by Cicconi as Wood, Bond and now Sammut battled for top spots. Mike Lichty, fighting for points as the two races carried ISMA points, stayed behind Sammut with Locke and Vern Romanoski.
As the white flew for Perley, half a track away from the others, Cicconi snuck up and stole second from Magner who suddenly was fading backwards. On the last lap, Wood snuck up on Cicconi and took the runner-up spot. Cicconi, Sammut and Magner finished up the top five in some wild last laps of racing.
After at a fizzled attempt at victory flag carrying he tried doughnuts in turn 1, Perley pulled the car into victory lane for his second win of the night.
“The car is just unbelievable. The first race it was great. I didn’t think it could get any better but it this race it was just awesome. We usually don’t start up front that much. I really didn’t want to bide my time on this one since we started up front. I figured we’d just get it and try not to run my own tires off. The car just stuck with it. What an awesome car. Vic Miller’s cars are so good. They top everything. With R&R motors powering them it’s just an awesome package.
“I have a great crew backing me. And awesome sponsors with Ed Shea, Perley’s Marina, NEMRS, Blink’s Fried Doe, Malco Products of New England and Barrett’s Transportation. I hope the fans enjoyed this. It’s the first time they’ve tried this format. I liked it.”
“We’re going to Disneyland,” shouted out Perley when handed the $1500 cash bonus which went to the drivers. Wood and Cicconi received $900 and $600 respectively.
With separate points being calculated to determine the overall Classic top three, ironically, it was the three finishers standing in victory lane. Both Wood and Cicconi collected bonus cash for their paired finishes.
Cicconi smiled and said, “Well, I got second. I was watching the 41 car. He passed me early. I knew he was going to come back to me because he was going too fast. I reeled him in and eventually I got second.”
Russ Wood, who was third finisher of the race, collected the second place overall bonus “Not a bad night – a second and a third. We weren’t too bad but Chris was awesome. Those guys are unbelievable. Nobody is going to beat them when they are on. It was fun out there. Looked like there was some good racing. We were sliding at the end but it wasn’t a bad weekend for us. We’ll take it.”
Bob Magner who has recently returned to the Holbrook 41 commented on his fourth. “This place is horrendous. I guess unless you are the master Chris Perley, it’s hard to be smooth here. My car was really good. I could roll into the center of the corner. The car was awesome but I was trying to be careful and not spin tires on the way out. At the end, it was driver error. I forgot to pump the fuel from the back end. I probably put myself in the way to get passed by all those cars at the end. To come away with a fifth and sixth, I’m happy. The car’s in one piece and this is the best we’ve been in a long time.”
Mark Sammut was content with fifth after recent weeks. “It was okay, the car wasn’t great but considering where we started in the first, we ended up eighth. And, unfortunately we started outside pole in that one but the car just wasn’t as fast as the guys at the start. At the end, the car was better but I was already behind them then. To finish and eighth and a fourth is not too bad. Obviously we would have liked to do better. But, we can go home in one piece and work on it for Berlin.”
Bob Bond, Mike Lichty, Vern Romanoski, Jeff Locke and Justin Belfiore finished the top ten. Belfiore, amazingly after his hit in the first race, was able to race the second with no nose wing, an old tire and a somewhat banged up machine.
Heat 1: Bob Santos, Bob Bond, Russ Wood, Jeff Locke, Bobby Haynes, Eric Lewis, Craig Rayvals, Artie Rousseau, Brandon Bellinger
Heat 2: Dave Duggan, Joey Scanlon, Lou Cicconi, Bob Magner, Danny Lane, Mark Sammut, Vern Romanoski, Billy Gove, Bob Fitzpatrick
Heat 3: Rob Summers, Justin Belfiore, Chris Perley, Mike Lichty, Ben Seitz, Jon Gambuti, Rich Reid, Eric Emhoff
Feature 1: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Russ Wood (29), 3. Bob Santos (61), 4. Lou Cicconi (10), 5. Rob Summers (35), 6. Bob Magner (41), 7. Jeff Locke (37), 8. Mark Sammut (78), 9. Eric Lewis (28), 10. Mike Lichty (84), 11. Vern Romanoski (5), 12. Craig Rayvals (94), 13. Dave Duggan (51), 14. Bobby Haynes (44), 15. Jon Gambuti (14), 16. Brandon Bellinger (02), 17. Ben Seitz (17), 18. Danny Lane (97), 19. Bob Bond (25), 20. Justin Belfiore (98), 21. Artie Rousseau (616), 22. Joey Scanlon (88), 23. Bob Fitzpatrick (109), 24. Eric Emhoff (2), 25. Rich Reid (92) (01 dns)
Feature 2: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Lou Cicconi (10), 3. Russ Wood (29), 4. Mark Sammut (78), 5. Bobby Magner (41), 6. Bobby Bond (25), 7. Mike Lichty (84), 8. Vern Romanoski (5), 9. Jeff Locke (37), 10. Justin Belfiore (98), 11. Jon Gambuti (14), 12. Danny Lane (97), 13. Eric Lewis (28), 14. Dave Duggan (51), 15. Rich Reid (92), 16. Brandon Bellinger (02), 17. Rob Summers (35), 18. Bobby Haynes (44), 19. Bobby Santos (61), 20. Eric Emhoff (2), 21. Craig Rayvals (04), 22. Bobby Fitzpatrick (109) (17, 88 dns)