July 2, 2016
By Tim Bertrand, photos by Tiffany Payne
Ryan Locke captures Historic First NEMA Win at Waterford Speedbowl
A storybook ending was the scene for thirteen year old Ryan Locke, as he captured his first ever NEMA Lite win, becoming the youngest driver to ever win in NEMA’s sixty three year history. Locke bested a strong field of twenty two competitors, ranging from Indiana to North Carolina, to Pennsylvania at New England’s premier 3/8 mile oval, the New London Waterford Speedbowl.
Although Locke may be unfamiliar with victory lane as a driver, the thirteen year old’s family is not. His father, Jeff, operator at Locke Crane Services, a fierce ISMA Super Modified competitor, and grandfather, Ken, a long time, winning Oswego Super Modified car owner, are no strangers to the podium.
The evening started strong for the young Locke as he jumped out into the lead from the front of the pack. The win would not come easy, however, as the likes of 2015 Lites Champion, Anthony Payne, and up & comer Meg Cugini were running some lightening fast times as they worked their way through the pack. Further behind them, multi feature winner, Danny Cugini was also working his way to the front as was Modified standout, Joey Cipriano, who started in eighteenth position.
As the laps wound down, the Locke, Payne, and Meg Cugini trio staged an epic battle, with the three exchanging the lead four times in the last three laps of the event. Locke would cement his spot in victory lane with a pass for the lead, and he went on to take down and exciting victory by a narrow margin. Payne and Cugini would follow him, followed by Danny Cugini, Joey Cipriano, Ben Mikitarian, PJ Stergios, Paul Scally, Randy Cabral and Nikki Carroll.
“I started racing in the tiger sprint go carts 3 just years ago. I raced tiger sprints for 2 years before getting the NEMA lite last year. I practiced at Star last year because I was too young to race, but all the practice paid off,” said the young Locke. I think the key to winning the race was having a good race car and starting with good track position.
I never could have imagined winning this early. I still can’t believe it. The first thing I said when I saw my dad in victory lane was, “did that just happen?”,said an elated Locke.
NEMA and the NEMA Lites pick back up their schedule at Star Speedway this coming weekend.
June 13, 2015 – Oswego, NY
By Carol D Haynes, ISMA PR; photos by Jim Feeney
Last Thursday, Timmy Jedrzejek and his family were enjoying a vacation in North Carolina. A phone call from Howie Lane, sent them packing up and heading, not to their Ohio home, but to Oswego Speedway to drive the Lane 97 at the Saturday ISMA show. Timmy J jumped behind the wheel of the car for the first time in practice, felt comfortable and later that night led all 50 of the feature laps to his his career-fifth at Oswego Speedway and his seventh overall in ISMA. The $6000 win came with his fourth car owner, having previously won driving for Dave May, Craig Reed, Danny Soule and now Lane. The win was not a cake walk by any means for Jedrzejek as he was pressured by Mike Lichty for almost the entire distance.
Timmy replayed his whirlwind couple of days. “It’s been quite the special week. I was on vacation and Howie called. We cut our vacation and came to Oswego and that’s not a bad deal. My wife and kids were just as excited to be here as they were on vacation. But I can’t be grateful enough for Howie and the team. The package they gave me today was just amazing. We had a little bit of a fuel problem earlier and to get the car to fire. That was our only hiccup all day long. We made some adjustments just before the feature. Howie, Rich, and myself put our heads together and we felt we had a pretty good car. The car was comfortable to drive. Definitely the starting position helped. I was able to get the lead off four at the start. And I was able to set sail and get into the rhythm and then the traffic came.”
Lady luck smiled on Jedrzejek and frowned a little on Mike Lichty just prior to the midway mark. Lichty was able to take away the lead in traffic but a yellow flag negated the pass.
“This car was not real comfortable in lap traffic. It showed. Mikey got by me. I thought all right let’s just stay with him and then caution came out. I said oh, thank you. I pulled up next to Mikey and put my hands up and said sorry buddy and I took the spot back.
“Then obviously I knew he was there and I knew he was strong, so that gave me the desire and will I guess to drive even harder. I made some adjustments to the car under that caution which helped when I got in traffic again. It wasn’t still great but it helped me enough to stay ahead of Mikey. Those last six laps when the caution came out I just said okay it’s going to be a dog fight for six laps. There is no lap traffic in the way. I gotta just drive. And, he was there, he was there. And he was there. I was just giving it everything I had. When you can come here, especially recently and run well enough to keep ahead of Mikey and DJ, you know you’ve accomplished something. I’m extremely proud of this 97 team. To be honest I just felt comfortable for the first time ever in the car. I said after the second practice, hey I can drive this car. It was a perfect day. The starting spot helped out a bunch but we still had a great car for the feature. We put it up front and kept it there. That’s more than I can ask for?
For Lichty it was the second straight ISMA event where he could have easily been the winner. He tried everything he could and just came up one spot short.
“I drove my balls off. I’m definitely disappointed that we didn’t win but I’m not disappointed in the way we ran. It wouldn’t matter if we finished first or third. The battle with Timmy was fun… as a racer it was fun. I just have to thank Reed’s Salvage, Craig, Carol, and Deanna for sponsoring this deal, Eddie Shea, Oswego Speedway and ISMA. I have a lot of respect for Timmy. I always have. It showed tonight the way we can run one another and how hard of a driver he really is. I’m just happy to race him. It was nice to put a good race on like that for the fans. It was fun.”
While the show once more was concentrated on the front two spots much of the time, tenth place starter Dave Shullick Jr. once again finished on the podium, moving up more spots than the lead duo to get to his third place.
“It’s a lot of work starting from tenth and coming up to third. It was a good race and a good finish. We are in one piece. Now we got the points lead so it’s good. I just wish we would have started a little further forward. We’d have been right there with those guys. But by the time I got there we were all used up. I had no right rear. It was still a good run. I’m happy for Timmy. To put that deal together at the last minute and to come here, start up front and run good is something. In past years I would have been upset that those guys started up front and we had to start in the back and work to get up there. The big picture is the points now. And, that’s what we’re going for. These podium finishes are what’s going to get it done. If we can keep this up we’ll be fine.”
A strong field of 29 winged supers was shortened by one before qualifying began when Alison Cumens had something break in the rear of her 39, sending her hard into the foam. She was done for the night.
A similar scenario occurred in the third heat when Mike McVetta’s 22 broke and his night ended in the foam in turn three. The strangest incident came at the end of the first heat when Otto Sitterly’s wing on the Nicotra 7 tagged the back cable of a tow truck as Otto came into victory lane after his win. The car was deemed unfixable and he would not run in the feature.
With the field pared down by three, twenty-six cars were led to the feature green by Rob Summers and Timmy Jedrzejek with Jedrzejek getting a good run off four to take the lead. And, he immediately took off leaving Summers to hold off Lichty and the pack behind. The 97 was tracked down slowly by Lichty as Ryan Coniam, Jeff Locke, Summers, Jon McKennedy and Chris Perley were grouped behind.
Lap traffic loomed ahead of Jedrzejek by the lap 10 mark and Lichty used it to close up the gap.
The first yellow came on lap 14 when the 70 of Dave McKnight slowed and stopped in turn one. He would be pushed into the pits, not to return.
Lichty made an outside attempt at the Jedrzejek mount on the restart but Timmy was able to hold onto the lead but he was never able to shake off the 84 who just kept coming from all sides. The lead pair pulled away from third place runner Coniam with Locke, Shullick, Summers, Perley, McKennedy, Mark Sammut and Ben Seitz dicing for position behind.
Lap 23 found the 97 and 84 encountering some slower cars and this time Lichty was able to make one of his persistent pass attempts stick and he took the lead, but only momentarily. The yellow flag fell to make the pass for naught.
The restart saw Timmy J holding on to his lead for dear life as Lichty was pounding on the door behind. Coniam remained in third with Locke, Shullick, Perley, Summers, McKennedy, Sammut, Seitz, Dave Danzer, Trent Stevens and more not giving up on attempts to move forward. There were still a good number of strong cars in contention.
The crossed flags at the 25 -lap mark intensified as the 97-84 war up front as green took command. The pair came up on one after another of slower cars and there was no giving up by either of the frontrunners as the race continued at a rapid pace.
With fifteen to go it was Jedrzejek, Lichty, Coniam, Shullick, Locke, Perley, Sammut and Summers with McKennedy and Seitz still in the mix with a good amount of cars still on the track.
Lichty was trying every which way to take the lead and with less than ten to go, he had a couple more chances with those lap cars playing a prominent role.
And, then came the last yellow on lap 44 when the 21 of Eddie Witkum Jr. brought out the flag and went into the pits to end his night. During the ensuing cleanup, Rob Summers pulled the 74 out of tenth and came into the pits steaming. He too was done.
The aforementioned dog fight to the end began when the race resumed. No lap cars were in the way for the leaders when the green dropped. It was just Lichty trying every trick in the book to get by the 97… first on the outside, then on the inside off every turn that remained with the crowd screaming at every move.
As the checkered dropped on lap 50, Timmy J had made it through, leading all but that one lap that didn’t count. Dave Shullick had taken over from Coniam in those last ten laps to finish third with Coniam and Locke rounding out the top five. The 97 crew was definitely elated with their first-time driver who made it three different winners in the the three ISMA shows to date.
For Coniam it was his best finish in a while after suffering a rash of dnfs. He was satisfied with fourth. “We were decent and it was nice to finish for the first time in however long it’s been. The car was crazy, crazy loose but out on our own we could run the top three. Then we got into lap traffic and we just so one dimensional that we slid back and the 95 got us. But I think we a third or fourth place race car and that’s where we finished. It’s nice to be in one piece and we’ll be ready for the next race.”
Locke, celebrating his birthday, was content with fifth. “Another fifth place. We’re working on it We tried a different set up here. These guys are working really hard and I hate to not get up there, but the competition with these supermodifieds and the wings, you have some of the best race car drivers out here. Really I should be happy with a fifth but I know we can do better. I know we need to get better. And, we will. I have to thank everybody for coming out here to help me. My dad gives us everything we need to run well. Brian Allegresso, Doc Hathaway and Jerry Martel work their butts off and I can’t thank them enough.”
AUGUST 18, 2013 – SUNSET (JEFF LOCKE)
Innisfil, Ont. (Aug. 1, 20138) – On August 7, 2009, ISMA rookie Jeff Locke pulled off a surprise career first win in his initial visit to Delaware Speedway in Canada. Four years later, Jeff picked up his second career ISMA win in the inaugural race at Sunset Speedway near Barrie, Ontario. This time he was no rookie and it showed as he took the lead on the first lap of the 75-lapper and stayed out front for the entire distance. One thing that disappointed Jeff about this achievement was the one person absent from his career first, his dad Ken, was also absent from his career second. Jeff commented on this in the post-race interview before the huge crowd, which had, came for the race.
“This kills me. My dad isn’t here. This is my second win and the second time my father hasn’t been here. It’s killing me. Brian Allegresso, Doc Hathaway, Jerry Martel, made this long trip out here for me and to work on this racecar. I am proud and privileged to drive this car. My father, Ken, gives us everything we need. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be here but I know he’s excited back home. Track position was key and we kept it up there. We kept the wheels underneath it and the tires on it and here we are. I burned it off a little too early though and that last caution with eight to go really helped me. It cooled down the tires quite a bit. And then the last eight laps with the tires cooled down, we were able to stay ahead of Alison, and by the way, congratulations to her. That’s awesome. I was proud of that team and for Ryan Coniam. That’s great for him too.
“This is a great organization and this is a great race track, I really appreciate them for letting us come here and race and the people who came to watch. I also would like to thank the sponsors, Glenn Shanks Oil, Shawmut Equipment, Locke Crane Service and NEMRS (New England Motor Racing Supply).”
Locke’s main competitor throughout the event was rookie Alison Cumens who scored her second podium finish in this her first full year of ISMA competition. When asked if she thought she had a chance to get a win when the yellow fell late in the event, she said, “Our car was super tight right in the center of the corner and loose coming off. Maybe I could have caught Jeff on that last restart, but it’s a big maybe. If anything I would have really had to drive it in hard and get underneath him and kind of shoo him out of the way. I didn’t really get that chance. Maybe next time. Thanks to the people who got me here – Mom, Dad, Lou, Janet, a bunch of random strangers who helped us throughout the weekend, and everyone at home. ”