By Bob Gangwer, Robert Gill photo
South Bend, IN…Lou Cicconi, Jr of Aston, PA dug deep into his midget racing roots and used his bullring racing talent to take the win in the 40 lap Midwest Supermodified Association presented by Town Money Saver feature on June 11 at South Bend Motor Speedway.
It had been 25 years since the supermodifieds had turned any competitive laps at the historic high banked quarter mile that was originally built for midget auto racing, but Cicconi, who is a three-time ARDC Midget Champion made the return of the methanol breathing monsters a memorable one. He set a new all time supermodified track record of 10.086, won his heat in commanding fashion and then beat his teammate Trent Stephens and third place finisher Charlie Schultz to the finish line by over half of a straightaway to take the feature before an estimated crowd of 1,100.
“Bobby who?” asked Cicconi jokingly as he removed his helmet in victory lane which was in reference to Bobby Dawson who is the only other driver to win in MSA competition this year and who was looking for his third MSA win in a row.
As easy as he made it look by marching to the front from eighth starting position, Cicconi claimed that it was not an easy task, “It was a fast race, at least those first 25 laps or so. This place is challenging, really, to me, it’s similar to Kil-Kare, just with less turns.” “What I mean is it was challenging and I think my experience racing indoors helped out a lot here because you have to know when to finesse it and when you have to be more aggressive because it’s really hard to pass here and I really didn’t think we had anything here at first then all of the sudden the car just came in and it was time to go,” he explained.
“I want to thank South Bend Motor Speedway for having us and all of these fans who came out here tonight after having to wait so long to see supermodifieds,” concluded the driver known as “Liquid” Lou.
The field of 15 was paced to the drop of flagman Bobby Hayduk’s green by Rich Reid of New London, OH and rookie Talon Stephens of Ravenna, OH. Reid got the jump and immediately started to stretch his lead while a torrid battle erupted amongst the field behind him.
Reid would enjoy the front position with his purple #55 until lap 12. He would fall victim to Cicconi’s daring bravado the very next lap when the eventual winner peaked outside in turn one then just as suddenly darted to the inside as the duo exited turn two. They shot down the short backstretch side by side but by turn three Cicconi had put the Reid and the field behind him to take the lead for good.
As Cicconi stretched his lead to 10 car lengths, Reid started to feel the pressure of Brandon Fisher who was tailed closely by Trent Stephens. Fisher worked high and low to get by Reid but couldn’t make the pass stick. Stephens took advantage of Fisher’s troubles and blasted into third then went flying by Reid as well to take over second just past the half way point.
It was then Charlie Schultz’s turn to go to work on Reid and Fisher but before he could do that his teammate Tim Ice brought the crowd to their feet on lap 23 with an amazing slide through turn one towards the wall after contact with Chris deRitis of Philadelphia, PA.
Ice dirt tracked high then slid low into the turn two dirt. With a rooster tail of South Bend sand flying high into the air behind his bright red May Motorsports entry, Ice somehow kept his roadster running and executed a perfect 360 then came back onto the track. Amazingly the leaders were able to snake their way through as the rest of the pack scattered to miss the thrill show going on directly in front of them. With great skill and no short order of luck, the pack bumped and rubbed but not one car was damaged. Just as Ice and the field continued on, so did the race.
Schultz, not to be outdone made a daring one-two pass to dispose of Fisher and Reid by lap 25 and it was just in time as the only caution of the race came out on lap 26 for a fire that erupted on the car of Jim Paller after he had pulled it to the infield.
With Paller’s flames extinguished, and the field bunched up, the field took the green for the final time of the night. While the top three would not change for the last 14 circuits, the action was far from over from fifth on back as pockets of cars were in constant battle all around the track.
Cicconi, Stephens, and Schultz did a masterful job of weaving through the battles and crossed the stripe 1, 2, 3 to the roar of the crowd.
In victory lane, Trent Stephens, who has finished in the top three every race this season and maintained his point lead said, “My car was real fast, especially once we finally got around everyone but it was just too late because Louie had run away.” Stephens thanked the series sponsors Town Money Saver and Adkins Glass then added, “I just want to say thank you to all these great fans, you guys are why we do this and I want to say thanks to South Bend Motor Speedway for having us, I hope we put on a good show for everyone.”
For defending MSA Champion Charlie Schultz, his third place finish was like a win the way his season has been going. “It feels good to finally get a podium. We’ve struggled a lot so far this season, we even struggled in our heat race and it was a real challenge for having to come from that far back so I’m pretty happy with a third” said Schultz who started in 10th position. Schultz, who also has a good deal of indoor racing experience added, “I just put my head down and worked through the field. Hopefully we can come back here next year for all the fans that came out tonight.”
Track owner Steve Brown seemed pleased with the show and said, “I’ll tell ya what I was just as excited as everyone else, that was an incredible drive by Lou and just a wonderful race by the MSA, we were just so happy to have these guys here. They run a professional show and MAN was that exciting!”
The next Midwest Supermodified Association presented by Town Money Saver race is Toledo Speedway’s “Fastest Short Track Show in World” this Friday June 18 where the MSA will be joined by the Auto Value Super Sprints for a race that no open wheel fan should miss.
For more information, schedules and photos concerning the Midwest Supermodified Association presented by Town Money Saver please visit MidwestSupers.com.
Official Finish Midwest Supermodified Association presented by Town Money Saver 40 at South Bend Motor Speedway 6.11.11
1. #49 Lou Cicconi; Aston, PA-Stout Racing
2. #19 Trent Stephens; Ravenna, OH-Stout Racing
3. #7 Charlie Schultz; Lorain, OH-May Motorsports
4. #12 Brandon Fisher; Amherst, OH-Denny Fisher
5. #8 Dave Shullick, Jr.; North Ridgeville, OH-Reed Salvage
6. #9 Talon Stephens; Ravenna, OH-Stout Racing
7. #28 Bobby Dawson; Amherst, OH-Reed Salvage
8. #66 Chris deRitis; Philadelphia, PA-deRitis Racing
9. #55 Rich Reid; New London, OH-Rich Reid
10. #36 Jon Henes; Lagrange, OH-Ron Henes
11. #77 Tim Ice; Seville, OH-May Motorsports
12. #21 Matt Palmer; North Olmstead, OH-Wayne Palmer
13. #14 A.J. Lesiecki; Lagrange, OH-Jonathan Lesiecki
14. #09 Jack Smith;Sandusky, OH-Jack Smith
15. #64 Jim Paller; South Amherst, OH-Wayne Paller