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Tom Herzig's Trackside: Retiring for good can prove tricky

RETIRING from racing can be tricky business. Witness the pairing of two stalwarts of Northeast open-wheel racing — ISMA’s Howie Lane and driver Russ Wood — for Saturday’s Supermodified Classic at Star Speedway in Epping.

Wood is the proprietor of Woody’s Auto in Pelham lest you have forgotten or never knew, and more to the point, he is a seven-time winner of the Classic (’97,’99,’02,’03,’04,’11,’12). He hasn’t raced since winning the 2012 Classic — he, you know, “retired”.

Lane is a long-time president of the International Supermodified Association and a car owner when he’s not busy running his Essex Seafood Restaurant in Essex, Mass. or pulling crash victims out of their burning jeeps on I-95.

When nephew Danny Lane’s throttle stuck and Uncle Howie’s winged supermodified got demolished at Lee a few weeks back, Howie was about to close the book and “retire.” “Thankfully, Danny didn’t get a scratch, he was digging clams the next day,” he said.

With the Classic approaching however, came the itch. Lane bought the car Wood drove to victory in 2012 from owner and supermodified racer Jeff Holbrook. Originally built by Brian Allegresso, it had been parked at Wood’s shop. “Blame it on Allegresso,” says Lane.

“The motor’s only run two races,” Wood said. “Eddie Witkum Jr. ran it once at Lee and then at Thompson, where they had tire trouble. My goal is to win Saturday and then re-retire as they’re handing me the trophy. First, I have to find my helmet and wash my fire suit. Maybe the other guys will have some sympathy for me since it’s been so long since I’ve been in a race.”

The thinking here is that 2013 Star Classic winner Jon McKennedy, Chris Perley, Jeff Locke, Ben Seitz et al won’t buy into Woody’s plan.

In Bud Light ISMA Super Nationals action Saturday at Oswego Speedway, Dave Shullick (1st) and Canadian Mike Lichty (2nd) were lightning quick — record-breaking quick in fact. Shullick set a new track record in time trials of 14.93, which at Oswego translates roughly into an average speed of over 153 mph. Rob Summers, Chris Perley and Otto Sitterly of Canojaharie, N.Y., finished 3-4-5. Sitterly went on to win the wingless Budweiser International Classic for the fourth time the next day for a payoff in excess of $18,000. Pat Lavary, Sitterly’s teammate Dave McKnight and Bobby Santos were 2-3-4.

As a part of the Star Classic card, the Granite State Pro Stock Series will make its third appearance of the season. Last time out Wayne Helliwell Jr. prevailed over Larry Gelinas in a hard-fought race. In June, Jeremy Davis fought off Dylan Moltz to pick up the victory. Matt Frahm of Hampstead is the Series’ point leader — 12 points better than Gelinas.

Tomorrow night is championship night at Lee USA. Northfield’s Leslie Keyser wired the field last week in the Supermodified main with Kyle Sawyer second and Sparky MacIver third, but Jake Stergois still holds a slim advantage over Tommy Tombarello. Frankie Eldridge of Stratham was a first-time winner in the first of two Late Model Sportsman 25’s. Niko Maniatis of Hooksett was the runner-up and then went out and won the second one with Geoff Rollins second. David Dumas of Nashua drove to his fifth Hobby Stock win.

Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon, Pa., takes a seven point lead over Justin Bonsignore of West Islip, N.Y., into Saturday’s Valenti Modified Series 100 at Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Airborne has four divisional championships to be decided after a pair of rainouts — post time is 4 p.m.

Tommy Barrett used a three-wide move to overtake Bonsignore and Keith Rocco and gain his second Valenti Series’ win of the year last Friday at Stafford.

D.J. Robinson of Canaan won his first Bond Auto Parts DIRTcar Sportsman Modified feature by holding off point leader Chris Donnelly. Kevin Chaffee of Fairlee, Vt., won for the first time in 2014 in the Sprint Cars of New England main event. Dan Douville was a close second.

Derrick O’Donnell of North Haverhill finished second to Nick Sweet, his closest competitor for the Thunder Road Late Model track championship, in Sunday’s Labor Day Classic 200 to successfully defend the 2013 title he won as a rookie. O’Donnell had a win and eight top-5’s in 15 starts. Sweet’s win was his third of the year and his third Labor Day Classic win, but he came up 11 points short.

O’Donnell is the latest on a list of accomplished racers from the Haverhill area, including Stub Fadden, Travis Fadden, Mike Olsen and Frankie Stoddard and — from back in the days of the coupes — the Ingerson brothers, Russ and Doug.

White Mountain has a Dwarf Car special event slated for Saturday. Riverside is running its Jake McDowell Memorial for 4-cylinder Street Stocks the same night.

Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at

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