Nick "Nokie" Fornoro Gets 100th Win

OSWEGO, N.Y., Sept. 4 - Trying his best to impress car owners and sponsors of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League (IRL) series and achieve his dream of running in the Indy 500, Nick "Nokie" Fornoro of Reeders, Pa., recorded his 100th career...

OSWEGO, N.Y., Sept. 4 - Trying his best to impress car owners and sponsors of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League (IRL) series and achieve his dream of running in the Indy 500, Nick "Nokie" Fornoro of Reeders, Pa., recorded his 100th career midget feature victory in Saturday night's National Parts Peddler program at Oswego Speedway. His 100th midget feature checkered was memorable for more than statistics, as he got it by defeating Phil DiMario by about 9 inches at the line. Part of the 43rd annual Budweiser International Classic 200 weekend, the 25-lap feature was organized by Oswego Speedway but paid points in both the ARDC CARQUEST Midget Series and NEMA. That attracted 38 of the best midget teams in the Northeast, and with the IRL's Davey Hamilton and Joe Gosek on hand as well as Indy 500 veteran Bentley Warren, Fornoro was committed to putting his best foot not only forward but also down hard on the accelerator. With six ARDC championships, Fornoro is the most successful living driver with that organization, which is in the middle of its 60th anniversary celebration. He is also a former NEMA champion, as well as a titlist of several other organizations. His father, Nick Fornoro Sr., was the 1950 ARDC driving champion and the first NASCAR midget champion (1953) when that organization sanctioned midget events. His brother, Drew, is a multi-time NEMA champ. When counting all the different kinds of race cars Nick Fornoro Jr. has driven, from ARS (now Indy Lights) cars to USAC Silver Bullet cars, NASCAR modifieds, ARCA stock cars, sprint cars and ATQMRA three-quarter midgets, he now has 177 feature triumphs. He has raced on 115 different speedways (113 in 23 different states and two in Canada) ranging from 2.5-mile superspeedways to floors of indoor coliseums, and he's won on 56 of those 115 tracks. He is a two-time winner of the prestigious "Night Before the 500" USAC midget race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and he also won the indoor midget race at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The fact that the night ended in a career highlight with his 100th career midget feature victory was surprising since his car owners, Gary and Becky Mullins, didn't decide to make the trek to Oswego from their home in Lambertsville, Mich., until late Thursday night, and Fornoro got the "go-ahead" Friday around noon. After making arrangements to tow out with Dave Baumgartner, the Mullins and Fornoro borrowed a rear antiroll bar and a wing from Bobby and Mike Seymour of Seymour Enterprises and a right front wheel from Mark Buonomo. There was also a quick trip to Gosek's shop to weld up some brackets for the wing on Saturday morning and they were all set - except they knew that not everything was right with the Autocraft-tweaked Gaerte powerplant nestled in their silver Boston Hawk. After finishing second to his brother Drew in the third heat, Fornoro started 16th in the 29-car field for the 25-lap feature on Oswego's five-eighths-mile paved oval. There was one complete restart for a crash between turns three and four involving the defending race winner, Russ Stoehr; Barry Cannon and Rudy Boetticher, and then Fornoro began his charge in earnest. He was eighth by lap two, fifth by lap three and he passed Fred Schell for fourth on lap four before another yellow came out. This one was for A.J. Ernesto, who stopped on the backstretch. The ensuing restart was the chance Fornoro needed. Using both the high and low approaches, he passed Ed Stimely Jr., Kevin Bastian and the initial leader, Monnie Wonder III, to take command, getting by Wonder with a move to the inside between turns three and four. DiMario, who started right in front of Fornoro in Ray McCabe's Stealth Gaerte, moved into second on lap six and challenged furiously for the rest of the race. He had a golden opportunity on lap 12 when another yellow came out for Bobby Seymour, who rolled to a stop in turn four with engine trouble. DiMario drew even to Fornoro on the restart and they ran side-by-side for an entire lap before Fornoro fought off DiMario at the line by simply showing more verve. As thrilling as that was, it ended up being the second-most exciting lap of the race. After drawing close again numerous times due to lapped traffic, DiMario mounted another charge coming down for the checkered. The finish was so close that a photo was needed to confirm that Fornoro's 100th midget feature victory was indeed in the books. The only miscue Fornoro made all night was that he and DiMario, who are very close friends, bumped together after the checkered while they were trying to give each other "high fives" for their performances. Bastian ended up third and Baumgartner was fourth. Buonomo rounded out the top five. Drew Fornoro, driving Howard Bumpus's midget after his own car and teammate Gosek's both had mechanical problems, was sixth. Bryan Kobylarz, Paul Lawless, Randy Cabral and Jim Miller rounded out the top 10. "We shouldn't have won this one," a jubilant Fornoro said after the victory lane celebration in which he thanked sponsors HMT Fabrication, Seymour Enterprises, Hoosier Tires, Skip Hultgren, Pete's Auto Parts, the Mullins, his PR rep, the promoters and all the fans who turned out to watch the show. "The motor was shot; it was vibrating so bad that holding the steering wheel was like dribbling a basketball. Gary [Mullins] said to just run it until it blew and try not to get hurt when it goes. How are you supposed to do that? I ran it as hard as I could, but I don't know if it'll even turn over now that the race is over. "This car is about 75 pounds heavier than some of the other cars here tonight," Fornoro added. "It's been hard to get that 100th win without a regular ride, so this feels really great!" (This was only Fornoro's third race this year.) Besides being thrilled that the motor held up, Fornoro was also tickled with the performance of his Hoosier tires. "The mold line that runs down the middle of the tire is still showing on the left rear; we were really set up," he noted. Although it was Fornoro's 100th career midget feature victory, it was only the fourth for his car owners since they bought their first midget in 1991. Gary Mullins makes his living as a custodian at GM PowerTrain in Toledo, Ohio. He and his wife Becky, who works on the race car right alongside her husband, put all their discretionary money into their racing program. This weekend was the first time the couple had ever worked on a car with a wing. In addition to Drew Fornoro, Bobby Seymour and DiMario won the eight-lap heats. Miller won the eight-lap consy. Matt O'Brien was admitted to a nearby hospital after a crash in his heat, according to a NEMA official. She said he was knocked unconscious for a few minutes and suffered a broken wrist.

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Series Midget
Drivers Bentley Warren , Drew Fornoro , Bryan Kobylarz , Dave Baumgartner