Marne, MI - Saturday was a perfect fall day for racing in Michigan, but Chris Perley's day started with a stomach virus. He spent most of the day trying to rest and recover in the confines of a busy pit, but despite the ailment he was able to muster up just enough energy to bring home his fourth straight Berlin Raceway win. Three-time Berlin winner Russ Wood was the man to beat for Perley on the track. Wood took over the lead on lap 8 and looked to be a sure winner, but even Wood knew Perley was out there somewhere. By lap 30, the 11 was right on the tail of the 29. In two laps, the lead switched and never switched back despite trepidations from both the winner and the pursuer.
"I thought for sure Russ would be back because we kept getting tighter and tighter," said Chris in victory lane. "I thought I was going to lose it at the end. I didn't know how close he was. I really laid low today. I tried to get a little bit of rest. I certainly don't feel good but these guys give me an awesome car so I can't give up on them at any time. I just gave it everything I had and we were lucky enough to come out on top tonight.
"Today it seemed like such a chore to just get in the car and get hooked up. After the heat I was worn out. I didn't know how I was going to make 50 laps. I guess I had enough adrenaline to get me going and keep me going. The car was tight most of the time, which made it easier for me to drive. I didn't think I would have enough for Woody. When I got by him I expected him to come back by me. I thought we had slowed up, but we held on.
"Thanks to all the fans who came out to watch. I hope it was a decent race to watch. I love coming to Berlin. It's been a great track for me. It's a blast running here. I wish we'd had a little more competition and that Johnny (Benson) had made it with his new car. But, I'll take what I got and again thanks to everybody for coming out."
Second place finisher Wood, who continues to be Perley's keenest competition, knew that nothing would keep Perley from being his challenger once in the lead.
"We had a really good car again tonight. The guys did a really good job. I was watching the scoreboard. I knew he was coming. When you see the camera flashes, you know he's there. I was getting loose, trying to hang in there. I knew Chris was going to get me. I'm happy to finish second. I'd like to thank all the fans for coming out tonight and Randy Sweet of Sweet Manufacturing for helping us out all the time and to Doc Hathaway who does a really good job on the car. We're happy with tonight's results."
Bob Bond took over the third spot late in the going from Jeff Holbrook for his best ISMA finish to date.
"It was a good run. We just took our time. The car was good getting in and we were loose getting off. It was a little tight coming off four probably like everybody was. Jeff was kind of running a tough groove. I was faster getting in and I finally squeezed underneath him there going into three. I think everybody was getting a littler slower as I got faster. I was just getting the hang of the track. This is a great crowd here tonight. I'm glad to see them all. I hope they enjoyed the show and hope they come back next year."
Early attrition shortened an already shorter than normal field, when Johnny Benson Jr. and Dave Shullick Jr. both had engine problems in their cars. But when the green flag dropped, the remaining cars showed they had come to race. Brandon Bellinger put the 02 out front at the start but things slowed on lap 3 when Doug Didero's 3 slid off the backstretch. A rash of pit stops followed while Didero was brought back onto the track.
Rob Summers took over the lead from Bellinger on lap 4 and pulled away, but moving up quickly was Russ Wood to take over on lap 8.
As Wood began to pull away from Summers, and the racing began to sort out, Mike Ordway Jr. called it a day after something caused the 41 car to handle so badly that he pulled pit side.
Yellow fell again on lap 17 when the 84 of Mike Lichty stopped out front with steam pouring from his car. An errant radiator hose was the cause and Lichty was able to make a quick repair and return. Unfortunately during the same yellow Summers pitted and repitted for good.
Out front Perley used the restart to grab off second from Jeff Holbrook as Danny Lane and Mark Sammut waited in the wings right behind.
The Wood-Perley duel was heated as the race approached and passed the halfway mark. Holbrook, Lane, Bob Bond, Larry Lehnert, Doug Didero and Mike Lichty were the next in line.
On lap 32, after many attempts at an outside pass, Perley was able to complete the maneuver, taking the lead from Wood off turn four. Behind, Bond just getting used to the new venue for him, was on the move getting by Lane after a spirited battle for the fourth place spot. Mark Sammut was also moving up the scoreboard when Doug Didero brought out his second yellow. This time Didero did not return as the field bunched for the final 9 laps.
On lap 43, Bond finally made good on his try for third putting Holbrook back a notch and one lap later Sammut took away fourth from the 35. Jeff said later, "I did not need that last caution. I was solidly in third and when that caution came out I was loose and I knew somebody would be coming. But, we had a pretty good weekend. I was hoping Russell would win. But Chris Perley is Chris Perley so I'm happy. We did good."
Perley was a lap car out front of Wood at the checkered as Bond, Sammut and Holbrook held their ground in the top five.
Sammut said of his top five, "Our car was off all day. We were so loose right from the time we got here. We kept tightening it but we still didn't get it tight enough for the feature. But there it was the best it had been all day. I just ran around and drove my own car. I didn't have anything for the 11 or 29. But I think we were pretty much as good as everybody else. Maybe in another few laps we might have gotten the 25 but maybe not. It's one thing to catch them and another thing to go by. Considering how bad the day started out and how it ended, I'm more than happy to finish fourth."
Larry Lehnert, Danny Lane, Dave Trytek, Brandon Bellinger and Doug Didero rounded out the top ten.
Summary Berlin Raceway - ISMA 50 - Sept. 27, 2008
Heat 1: Dave Trytek, Danny Lane, Mike Lichty, Dave McKnight, Chris Perley, Jeff Holbrook, Bobby Bond, Larry Lehnert
Heat 2: Rob Summers, Mike Ordway Jr., Russ Wood, Mark Sammut, Brandon Bellinger, Doug Didero, Mike Ordway Sr.
DNS: Johnny Benson Jr. (21), Dave Shullick Jr. (61)
ISMA 50: 1. Chris Perley (11), 2. Russ Wood (29), 3. Bobby Bond (25), 4. Mark Sammut (78), 5. Jeff Holrbook (35), 6. Larry Lehnert (92), 7. Danny Lane (5), 8. Dave Trytek (70), 9. Brandon Bellinger (02), 10. Doug Didero (3), 11. Mike Lichty (84), 12. Dave McKnight (94), 13. Mike Ordway Sr. (74), 14. Rob Summers (97), 15. Mike Ordway Jr. (41).