CHRIS PERLEY TOPS RUSS WOOD at STAFFORD XTREME TUESDAY
By Carol D. Haynes
Photos by Jim Feeney
Stafford Springs, CT – It's no surprise to race fans that Chris Perley won the Carquest Stafford Xtreme ISMA race Tuesday night. After all he has been winning a lot in the past couple of years. But it was a bit of a surprise to Perley. It was not by any means an easy or expected win. "I really didn't think we'd be here tonight," said Perley in victory lane. "Right from the start of the race I thought I'd be going backwards. I am really surprised."
Perley, who started in his usual twelfth place on the grid, would come to battle old rival Russ Wood for the win, but had luck been kinder to Kelly Miller or Mike Lichty, Perley and Wood might have been battling for third and fourth. Lichty lost a tire while leading and Miller would blow a motor big time, leaving Wood and Perley in a déjà vu fight up front. "It was a crazy race," indicated Perley, "It reminded me of one at Seekonk where Woody and I swapped the lead back and forth and you're wondering how long your tires are going to last doing that. I want to thank Russ for coming back and putting a show on."
Chris went on to say, "It was a tough race. I'd like to say sorry to the fans because it took so long tonight. With the heat and all it was a real workout. Thanks to Carquest Auto Parts for putting this night on. This place is just a blast to run. I just didn't think I had the car tonight. I remembered that a couple years ago I won here running real hard through the corners. I did that and I got up to the front. My R&R motor just ran awesome. This thing's got a lot of snot in it. My sponsors Ed Shea Concrete, Perley's, New England Motor Racing Supply, Barrett Transportation, Jack Cook Enterprises and Hardy Transportation - thanks to everyone. There are so many people who help us out and so many fans. All the little things you do for us I just really appreciate it. My crew's the best. They never give up and I try never to give up with them."
Wood, who took the lead on lap 28 from the strong running Kelly Miller in the 16, was very pleased with his new Holbrook-owned car and his finish. "The guys worked until one o'clock this morning. It's a brand new car. There are a ton of people who busted their tail getting this car ready. I want to thank them all especially Brian Allegresso, ButchValley and New England Motor Racing. It was an awesome job. We had a few new car issues but we'll work them out. It's a privilege to drive a car like this. Maybe we can run with Chris this year. I'm looking forward to it. I too would like to thank Carquest for having us."
Completing the podium was the venerable Bentley Warren. The top three on the ISMA All-Time win list were also the top three at Stafford with a combined total of 137 mains between them. Bentley, grinning, said, "The car was awesome. It's fun to drive. I have to thank Vic Miller, Ed Shea and all the guys who work on these cars. And Chris Perley. He worked harder on my car today than on his. It's so much fun to drive with a bunch of guys who just want to have fun. It's really enjoyable. The car was fast and I had a ball. I like this track. I still love racing. If I didn't I wouldn't be here."
A couple shaky starts of the feature saw Jamie Timmons bringing out the first yellow and a tangle between Mark Sammut, John Torrese, Jon McKennedy and Ray Graham Jr., coming on the restart. Hooks were for Sammut and Graham. Defending race champ Rob Summers brought the 97 to a halt in the infield with front wing damage but was able to restart.
Kelly Miller finally grabbed the point with 19-year old Jeffrey Abold hot on his tail, followed by Wood, Romanoski and Lichty in the early going.
Miller extended his lead out front as Abold, Wood and Lichty battled. Moving up into fifth by lap 11 was the 11.
On lap 17, Mike Lichty drove around the 16 of Miller for the lead and a chance at that elusive first ISMA win. It was not to be once more for the young Canadian. On lap 20 he blew a tire sending him around and into the infield with no way to change the flat.
Back out front it was Miller again with Abold, Wood, Perley, McKnight, Warren and Holbrook challenging. The hot, muggy night was already taking its toll as cars, including John Benson Jr., began dropping by the wayside.
The new 29 with Wood at the helm, took over the front spot from Miller with another back straight pass on lap 28. Wood began to pull away and it looked like he might just pull off an "out of the box - to the win circle" feat.
Lap 34 saw Jamie Timmons run off the track with the yellow flying again. Wood was stopped and checked for leaking in the interim but was deemed able to continue and he took up his lead position on the restart. It was also on the restart that both Abold and Perley grabbed second and third by driving by Miller's 16. Bentley Warren moved into to challenge the second-generation driver Abold one lap later.,
Miller's night came to a screeching halt on lap 37 when his motor blew. He emerged quickly from the car, obviously on fire, and was immediately attended to suffering leg burns. The fluid laid down caused Joey Payne, driving the Holbrook 41, to be collected as was Dave McKnight. Both restarted.
During the red, Perley mulled over his circumstances. "During the red I already knew I had a problem with tires. I was kind of concerned with dealing with the heat. With all the stuff we have on now I can't take my helmet off because I can't put it back on by myself so I had to deal with it. I knew I had problems and I'd just have to deal with it."
After the lengthy cleanup, the race resumed and went straight green to the end. Up front it was now Wood and Perley, then Perley and Wood as they swapped the lead on lap 39. Back in the pack Abold held off Warren and Holbrook, with only eleven cars remaining in the field.
With five to go, Perley looked to be pulling away, but then, Wood closed up the gap. A lap car almost proved the lead changer, but time ran out. "At the end there Chris was pushing up and I was trying another groove, " said Russ. "All of a sudden I was gaining on him. I just needed a few more laps. All in all we were ecstatic with a car we didn't even fire until today. It was just awesome."
Perley admitted, "I knew I was slowing up. I knew I had a little left. But I also knew that if I gave it my all I'd be a few laps short and he would have been there. I had to be so careful with my tires because they weren't under me. I had a lot of stagger tonight Scotty tells me. We got really lucky with the cautions."
In those waning laps, Bentley Warren, much to the crowd's delight, got by Abold's 05 for a podium finish.
Said the young Baldwinsville, NY driver Abold, who had also run the midget event earlier, "It was an awesome run for me It was cool racing with Russ Wood and Chris Perley ahead of you and knowing Bentley Warren was right on your tail. I was running out of fuel at the end and Bentley got by me. I think I might have had something for the top two but that's all she wrote. First I'd like to thank everyone from Quantum for coming out and everybody from Seymour Enterprises for helping out with the midget. I'm psyched. Hopefully we can build off of this. We'll be at the Sandusky Nationals and maybe we can get another good run."
Jeff Holbrook, who had three cars in the top seven as a car owner, said, "Survival of the fittest tonight. The heat was hard on equipment. Everyone was overheating. My car was up to 260 under the red that time. It was tight the whole race and with the heat it just wasn't a fun night to run. But, we know Russell is going to have a good car. He got a second and I got a fifth. We'll take that. I was lucky. My car had loaded up on a restart and Joey (Payne) got by me just as the Miller car blew up and he got into it. That would have been me. That corner was just covered with fluid. Joey still got a seventh out of it."
Robbie Summers, Joey Payne, Dave McKnight, Mike Ordway Jr., Bob Bond and Bobby Haynes Jr. were the last remaining cars on the track with Haynes and Bond down a lap.
SUMMARY - Stafford Carquest Xtreme Tuesday
Heat 1: Justin Belfiore, Vern Romanoski, Kelly Miller, Mark Sammut, Bentley Warren, Mike Ordway Jr., Ray Graham Jr., Jon McKennedy, Joey Payne
Heat 2: Jeffrey Abold, Chris Perley, Jeff Holbrook, Mike Lichty, Bobby Haynes Jr., Jamie Timmons, Robbie Summers, Mike Keeler, Bob Bond
Heat 3: Russ Wood, Johnny Benson Jr., Dave McKnight, Dave Trytek, Scott Martel, Frank Polimeda, Artiie Rousseau, John Torrese
Dave Shullick Jr. (61) and Eric Emhoff (2), ofn after practice.
Feature (50): 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Russ Wood (29), 3. Bentley Warren (71), 4. Jeffrey Abold (05), 5. Jeff Holbrook (35), 6. Robbie Summers (97), 7. Joey Payne (41), 8. Dave McKnight (94), 9. Mike Ordway Jr. (88), 10. Bob Bond (25), 11. Bobby Haynes Jr. (44), 12. Kelly Miller (16), 13. Scott Martel (14), 14. Jamie Timmons (27), 15. Mike Keeler (56), 16. Dave Trytek (70), 17. Frank Polimeda (76), 18. Mike Lichty (84), 19. Vern Romanoski (5), 20. Artie Rousseau (616), 21. Johnny Benson Jr. (616), 22. Justin Belfiore (92), 23. John Torrese (91), 24. Mark Sammut (78), 25. Ray Graham Jr. (99), 26. Jon McKenndy (79)