Timmy J takes MSA season opener at Lorain County

Layla's Keeper
04-25-2004, 04:07 PM
It was cold and blustery last night at the Lorain County 3/8th's mile oval and that meant two things: lack of grip for those massive Hoosier slicks and high hot chocolate intake for the crowd. Every car on the track was hunting for traction and it made for some interesting oversteer situations.

Top qualifier was Denny Fisher in the Jaycox Racing #81 with a lap time of 12.553seconds. Not bad, but a few tenths shy of the Lorain track record held by now retired Dave "The Shoe" Shullick Sr. Shaking out the winter funk was his new Jaycox teammate, Ohio supermod legend Doug Saunier who took over the #91 car ride from departed driver Lee Boss. Lee has moved onto USAC sprints and the whole of MSA wishes him luck in moving into the national spotlight. Saunier's car died on its first flying lap with magneto troubles, went back in the pits to retune, then came back out for his second lap to set 4th fastest time. Not bad for having been out of racing for a year.

The first heat went to Saunier with a commanding drive over the V2 of Eric Shirey. The remaining spots were taken by (in order) Jack Smith in the #09, Jon Henes in the #36, Charlie Schultz in the George Shullick owned #61 (this car has been around forever and has been driven by tons of different drivers. It's a 1981 Shocar chassis, of which there are only four in existence), Canadian Mark Sammut in the #78, and Sean Sauer in the #2. Sammut had been lined up for a solid 3rd place finish, but surprise ignition troubles slowed him suddenly in front of Henes and Smith. Henes climbed on the brakes hard to slip around the suddenly slowing Sammut to the inside, while Smith pulled a real heads-up move and darted outside Sammut to steal third.

As the track had been dirtied up out of turn four by oil dry that had to be put down to deal with water an E-mod had kicked up from the infield, it was a common sight to see the supers completely crossed up coming out of four. Luckily, all the dust and dirt was blown out of the groove in time for the second heat.

Surprise winner in the second heat was the #79 of Moe Lilje. Moe, only 19years old (lucky sonuvabitch if you ask me), is one of the rising stars of supermodified racing and one of the few who hasn't needed to climb into a proven team and car to net results. His car is a brand new 2003 Target chassis, which appears to be little more than a refinement of the bog-standard 1987-1990 Graves chassis. But that's not a bad thing, since the previous heat had been won by a 1990 Graves chassis. Moe took the lead from the pole and ran with it, keeping the #52 of Randy Burch and the #7 of defending champion Tim Jedrzejek behind him. Rounding out the field was TQ Denny Fisher in the #81, Stout Racing teammates A.J. Davis (#19) and Dave "Shoe2" Shullick Jr. (#49), the #28 of Bob Dawson and the #24 of Don Johnson.

For the feature, a fitting tribute was paid to two recent passings in the supermodified world. The pole position on the parade lap was left empty in the formation in rememberance of Eric Shirey's grandfather and ISMA car owner and Board of Directors member Paul Dunigan, both of whom had passed on during the week. Mr. Shirey had been part of the Shirey crew since Eric's father Jim started racing in the 80's and was a fixture on the Ohio scene. Mr. Dunigan had fielded some of the most dominant cars in supermodified racing for some of ISMA's finest drivers, taking drivers like Russ Wood, Bentley Warren, and Joe Gosek to series championships. Both are sorely missed members of the supermod family.

A ten car inversion in the feature field put Eric Shirey and Moe Lilje on the front row, with the second row made up of Jon Henes and Doug Saunier. It didn't take long, though, for cold tires and hot aggression to take its toll. A.J Davis tried a banzai move going into three on then 4th place Moe Lilje. Davis went up and over Lilje's left rear and sent both cars into a spin. Shullick Jr., Randy Burch, Jack Smith, and Denny Fisher all spun to avoid. Of all the cars involved, only Lilje was unable to continue.

It may be of note at this point that the #14 of Dave Mumaw and the #2 of Sean Sauer had pulled off with mechanical troubles prior to this incident.

After everyone was straightened out, the green flag flew and racing resumed with Shirey leading Henes, Burch, and Jedrzejek. Shirey's #V2 was running fast while Jedrzejek's #7 hunted fiercely for a path around the slower Burch and Henes. It was only lap three, and already three cars were done for the night. Well, coming, out of four Randy Burch's #52 had a minor hiccup; a hiccup of the sort that spews all the oil in the sump on the track and ignites a giant fireball alongside of the cockpit. Needless to say, Burch's night was done and Jedrzejek had his way around him.

It took quite a while to clean up the Burch mess, but once it was cleaned up the restart proved Jedrzejek's chance to get around Henes. Timmy J, as he's so often called to avoid mispronouncing his last name, slipped to the outside of Henes, stood on the throttle, and set sail after Shirey. What ensued was two more laps of Jedrzejek pushing Shirey for all Shirey was worth, with Shirey hugging the bottom groove and flat-footing the corners, really turning in an impressive drive until he overcooked turn 1 and stomped on the brakes hard enough to spin the car into the infield where he broke a tie-rod end, ending his night.

After that, it was all Timmy J as he led unchallenged from lap 6 on. It was a commanding and impressive performance, with Jon Henes taking a well deserved 2nd after fending off a hard charging Doug Saunier, who'd eventually finish 3rd. Charlie Schultz in the #61 would drive to a solid fourth, and Saunier's teammate Denny Fisher would round out the top five.

All in all, it was a solid, but light night for the MSA Supermodifieds. Only 16 cars showed up, with several series stalwarts like Rich Reed, Larry Lehnert, Tom Gonczi, and Buzz Kormos not appearing, many sending their regards with the common statement "Still getting the car together." With the second race of the season at the series' home track, the half-mile paper clip of Sandusky Speedway, in two weeks (May 8th), things are looking good for the MSA. Hopefully the night air won't be so chilly. See you there and remember; Keep it shiny side up!

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