By Carol D Haynes, ISMA PR
Last season, Innerkip, Ontario’s Mike Lichty appeared to be rising to the top of his supermodified career. At only 23 and in his 7th season in 2010, Lichty showed every evidence of putting it all together racing in the International Supermodified Association’s very competitive organization. He won that elusive career-first feature in only the second outing of the season at Waterford Speedbowl. Things went along very well until Lee USA’s August event until his year took a downturn. He eventually lost the ISMA point title at the season’s finale by a mere 17 points to veteran Russ Wood, who was Lichty’s main challenger.
Last weekend Mike was asked if he still relives the events leading to his loss of the championship, and he said half-joking, half-not, “I’m sick to my stomach still.”
Did he have high expectations that he could have taken that ISMA title back to Canada last year?
“Absolutely. Last year the season went extremely well. Saying that now I have to admit that, one, Chris (Perley) didn’t run all the races. So you know that played into a part of it. At the same token we ran against him at probably five or six different places and I want to say a couple times we beat him. So if Chris had run a full schedule last year, we possibly could have had something for him. It’s hard to say.”
A quick recap of 2010 found Lichty taking over the lead after that May Waterford show to begin a string of top five finishes that lasted until Lee USA in August where he came home ninth. The next day at Waterford, he and Lou Cicconi, crashed while battling for the lead. Russ Wood next picked up a win at Airborne and took over the lead by a handful of points. At Oswego’s Super Nationals, Lichty regained the lead with a second place while Wood still kept up the pace with a fifth. Lichty’s sour streak came back to haunt at the Lee USA Classic on Sept. 11 with two features to be run with separate full points for each. Wood finished second and third at that double-header while Lichty had a tenth and seventh.
It was out to Berlin. Michigan for a 50-lapper and Lichty topped Wood there with a second place behind Ted Christopher while Wood settled into a fourth. Seekonk’s Racing Against Cancer 100 on Oct. 2 saw both drivers hit a bit of a downward spiral. Lichty ended up seventh while Wood’s mount suffered motor problems giving him a 19th spot in the finish.
The ISMA title would once again be determined at Thompson.
Mike continued, “It boiled down to Thompson but if you back it up a bit, there was Waterford in August (the day after Lee) when Louie and I got into it there. A little give and take there probably on my end and a little on Louie’s could have made a difference. We would have been a top three car without a doubt. That would have helped me at the end of the year even with our troubles at Thompson. One thing I was always told by my dad (Brad) and Dave (McKnight) was to win a championship you have to finish every lap. That was the one thing we didn’t do. That is a true statement.”
Ironically, Mike had a foreboding feeling heading to that last race. “When we were going into Thompson, I said to Dad and the guys, I didn’t have a good feeling about it for some reason. I told them I felt like we were going to hurt a motor or something this weekend. They said ‘ah, nothing’s going to happen,’ but it happened. It was a strange thing. I had never been really nervous about racing in a number of years. But at Thompson before that feature, I was actually nervous. I had never really felt that before. The championship was ours to lose and I knew that. It sucks. Championships are hard to come by.”
Russ Wood said after that Thompson event and his win of a seventh overall ISMA championship, “This title was wasn’t totally expected. We hadn’t even led the points until late in the season. It really became stressful. I started thinking about winning heats and getting points when we realized we had a mathematical chance. Then came Seekonk and we broke the motor. We figured we were done then. But, then Mike had his misfortunes and the tide turned at Thompson on Sunday. It was really nerve-wracking.”
But, that was then and this is now and the ISMA opener is approaching. Mike Lichty is anticipating a good year.
“I think this year we’re going to be fine. We haven’t really done anything on the car other than go over it and refreshed the motors. I think we should come out as strong as we left off last year. I’m really looking forward to this year. To be honest with you I’m looking forward to full fields. I’d really like to see a decent amount of cars at each track 24-26 and I’d like to see Chris back in the number 11 because I think we can run with him this year. We’ve changed some things on the car but not much. We were close enough last year where we did have one win and probably should have had a couple more. Whether it was tire wear or we just got loose or the driving on my end of it, we finished up second. So, we addressed the problems we did have and I’m looking forward to starting again.
“I can’t wait to get into it. I’m actually going to Sandusky next weekend to run Doug Saunier’s old car. The one that Dave Lesiecki bought – the Hyder Hawk. Doug’s been over there helping them with that and I’m going down in the middle of the week and help get it sorted out. We lent them a motor and we’re kind of helping them out. They’re friends we have known a long time. That will be my first race, then it’s on to Waterford the next weekend.”
Will Mike be dividing his time with any other racing divisions in 2011?
“Our plans this year are just for ISMA. We probably won’t even run the Silver Crown car. We’re looking to sell that. To be competitive in Silver Crown you have to test, test, test and at the tracks you are going to run at. It’s just not feasible with the work and everything that is going on now. I don’t have the time to do that. So we’ll just focus on the ISMA deal. Johnny (Benson Jr.) is planning on running the full ISMA circuit too, missing maybe one race when he has another commitment. He’ll be driving the 74 he ran last year and I’ll be in the same 84. Our plans were to build a new car this year, but we just lacked the time and people so we’re going to hold that off until next year and maybe build two.”
Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut on May 28th will be the site of the first ISMA competition for the Lichty-Benson team and the entire organization as well. If last year’s performance is at all indicative of how this year will be – hold onto your hats fans the excitement is about to begin!