Niagara Indoor Midget series first race report

ISMA star Greg Furlong from Hannibal, New York, continued his winning ways by taking the first race in the Niagara Indoor Midget Series on Saturday night, December 1st, at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center. The twenty-nine year old ...

ISMA star Greg Furlong from Hannibal, New York, continued his winning ways by taking the first race in the Niagara Indoor Midget Series on Saturday night, December 1st, at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center. The twenty-nine year old Furlong, a former two time Oswego super modified track champion (2000 and 2001) and two time winner of the prestigious 200 lap Budweiser International Classic (1999 and 2000), used the outside lane on the two grooved racing surface to power into the lead past Dave McIntosh from Bradford, Ontario, on lap thirty-four and then survived a near catastrophe late in the race to record the win in the 50 lap A Main. It was the first victory in his three year tenure in the series, which has not proven kind to him until now. Earlier he gave notice that he would be a factor this night when he set fast time.

Wade Litt from Lyons, Ontario, took the early lead from the pole and led the first fifteen laps while the field jockeyed for position behind him. McIntosh took the lead on lap sixteen following a restart, passing Litt on the inside in turn two. Shortly thereafter the caution flew again as former indoor champ Mike Tidaback from Little Falls, New Jersey, spun his Richard Petty look alike No. 43 in turn three, also collecting the No. 25 of Warren Mahoney. Tidaback was through for the night, but Mahoney was able to continue.

When the race resumed on lap eighteen, McIntosh led Mark Sammut from London, Ontario in the No. 6, who had gotten by Litt, with Furlong up to fourth after starting sixth. Furlong wasted no time getting his Pat Pontello owned No. 72 into contention, charging into second on lap twenty-one with strong outside moves to pass Litt and Sammut, and then going after McIntosh in the No. 90. He caught up with him a few laps later and the two commenced a torrid battle for the lead, with Furlong all over the back of the McIntosh machine.

McIntosh held the lead through two caution periods, one on lap 27 for a spin by Vinnie Christiano Jr., and the other for a spin by Bobby Watkins on lap 32. On the ensuing restart, Furlong put his car on the outside of McIntosh and held it there for two laps before edging into the lead coming out of turn two. Two laps later he had to weather a caution himself as heat winner Glen "Scooter" Halbing from Union, New Jersey, newly elected president of the ATQMRA, spun in turn three.

Furlong held the lead on the restart and began pulling away, but the drama was not over yet, as on lap 47, the lapped car of veteran Mel Raab of Eggertsville hit the implement tire guarding turn three while being passed by the leader. There was contact, but Furlong was able to keep his car straight and hold the lead as the yellow flew for the final time. Furlong held the lead comfortably over McIntosh for the final three circuits, while Dan May from Caledonia, Ontario, made a blistering charge through the field to finish a fine third in the No. 7 after starting seventeenth. Sammut and Litt rounded out the top five.

Furlong, who has had bad luck here since finishing second in points in his rookie year, said the race took a lot out of him. "My arms are tired. Running the outside, there is so much grip and my car steers pretty hard. I'm physically exhausted. I don't think I could have gone sixty laps. I had to give it everything I had just to get the lead. Once I got the lead I moved down and it's a little easier on the bottom groove, but when we got the last caution with two laps to go I wanted to be fast and the outside was fast. The track was exceptionally good tonight. There have been nights when the outside groove goes away and the inside groove. Other nights the bottom goes away and the top is still there. That's what happened tonight." Of the near disaster late in the race he explained, "I was right side by side with him halfway down the straightaway and then he bumped me and then he stayed right into me. Then we both kind of turned down and the last minute I just pulled off. He hit the tire and I went around him."

McIntosh , who runs the series on and off, matched his previous high by finishing second. He was happy with the result, considering his team had to overcome adversity just to race. He had to use a borrowed motor after his own blew up just before qualifying. His crew was able to change engines before the deadline. "They let us go last in qualifying, and we just made it out in time," he explained. He felt he got the most out of the car as he could because his it wouldn't run outside.

May never expected to even be in the feature, much less finish third. "We got in a bit of an accident in the heat and bent the axle. I put a new axle in that I didn't think was quite as good. Went out in the B (Main) and intended to run a few laps and pull off, but the car worked so good I ran the whole B. Finished second in the B. In the feature I was just going to ride around and then I got the right front wheel knocked off it. We changed the tire and just started working from the back. As long as I could steer it on the outside my car was great. I physically got tired there for awhile. I used her up pretty good, but just kept plugging away and got up to third."

There was other action on the card as well, with plenty of frenzied kart action, highlighted by a sweep by Brett Stratford from Mt Hope, Ontario, who won all three stock features (light, medium, and heavy). Bob Baker from Holland, New York, captured the Spec Mod class, while young Erik Rudolph from Ransomville, New York, continued his mastery of the Junior Sportsman division. There were 60 karts in the pits for the event.

Notes: Three former winners didn't fare too well. Stewart Friesen from Niagara-on the- Lake, Ontario, who won a feature last season, never even got to run as the motor in his car suffered terminal problems in practice. Former series' champ Mike Tidaback was running a strong fourth when he spun on lap eighteen and the car was through for the night. Last year's champion, Mike Stahl from Niagara Falls, NY, had problems in his heat, blistered the competition in the B Main, and then charged forward in the A Main, only to lose his brakes and spin out late in the race while battling for fourth. Fortunately, the high attrition rate (only ten cars were running at the end out of twenty starters) saw him finish seventh in spite of the mishap, and he is still very much in contention for the overall title..... Rookie Bill Mislin made an auspicious debut as he won his heat and the DASH on his first foray indoors.... Three flips marred the evening's activities, the most spectacular being James Michael Friesen, from St. Catharines, Ontario, after contact with recently elected Sprint car Hall of Famer Jack Hewitt from Troy, Ohio, in the third heat race....Sometimes it's what you don't do that pays off. Furlong admitted that he overslept after taking a nap following qualifying and he missed the last practice. Consequently they did nothing on the car before the feature. Judging from the result, it was a very fortuitous sleep. Fortunately, he awoke in time to race.....There were twenty-eight cars in the pits, with several notables missing due to late season mechanical woes outdoors. Those included Lou Cicconi, Joey Paine, Andy Macereth, and Keith Dempster. It was still a highly competitive field and the race had plenty of passing.

Midget Feature Finish: (50 laps) Greg Furlong, Dave McIntosh, Dan May, Mark Sammut, Wade Litt, Jared Turnbull, Mike Stahl, Colin Turnbull, Glen Halbing, Mel Raab, Warren Mahoney, Dan Lawrence, Dave Wollaber, Bob Watkins, Vinnie Christiano Jr., Bernie Kotarski, Mike Tidaback, Bill Mislin, Jack Hewitt, and James Michael Friesen. Heat winners were Halbing, Mislin, and Wollaber. DNQ: Bob Reis, Wayne Turnbull, Scott Nash, Justin Mapes, Link Smith, Stewart Friesen, Ryan Baye.

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Series Midget
Drivers Bob Baker , Richard Petty , Jack Hewitt , Dan Lawrence