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Abold dominates 54th Star Classic for first career ISMA win

Abold Laps Battle Star Classic 2019
Jeff Abold (05) laps Jeffrey Battle en route to his win in the Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125, part of the 54th Annual Star Classic. The Supermodified spectacular is the signature event of the New Hampshire oval's schedule. (Jeff Brown photo)

Jeff Abold only runs one or two Supermodified races a year under the sanctioning of the International SuperModified Association. On Saturday night, the Oswego Speedway ace made his annual visit to Epping, N.H. well worth it.

Jeff Abold, Star Classic Winner 2019Abold put on a clinic in Saturday night’s Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125, leaving the field in the dust to win the crown jewel of Star Speedway’s 54th Annual Star Classic. The victory, Abold’s first in ISMA competition, capped off a streak of top five finishes in the Star Classic that dates back to 2012.

“This is a race that we had circled on the calendar all year long, since last year,” Abold said in victory lane. “We worked hard to get back to this point.”

Abold served notice in qualifying, the only driver to crack the 11-second barrier in time trials. Following the post-qualifying redraw, though, the third-generation driver from Baldwinsville, N.Y. was relegated to a tenth-place starting position. “[We] pulled a pill at the back,” Abold said, explaining his pre-race predicament. “You’ve got such fast guys at the front, guys that have won this race so many times. I had to go and make up spots early.”

While Mike Ordway, Jr. led the opening sprint, Abold indeed made up spots early, climbing to fourth when the race’s first caution flag flew on lap 36.

Polesitter Russ Wood spun into the infield on the restart, but gathered it back up without drawing a caution, allowing Abold to slide into third while Ordway held off a charge from Christopher Perley. Once the leaders fell into line, Abold completed his attack, first dispatching Perley, then passing Ordway on the outside for the race lead.

One more caution on lap 66 drew the field back to Abold, but Abold would not relinquish the top spot, instead building his advantage to nearly half a lap over Perley at the drop of the checkers.

“We’ve been fast all the times we’ve come here, just come up short,” Abold said of his now eight-year streak. Abold finished third in last year’s Star Classic.

“We’ve had so many times we’ve come here…and I love racing at this track.”

Christopher Perley finished second, but may have been fortunate to finish at all. “It didn’t come out all at once, but my rear end’s actually broken,” Perley said. “It…soaked my tires down and made it a mess.” The “Rowley Rocket” from Massachusetts paid tribute to journalist and racing promoter Russ Conway, who passed away earlier this summer. Conway was an instrumental figure not only in sanctioning Supermodified racing in New England, but in the development of Star Speedway, Hudson Speedway and Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire.

Defending Star Classic winner Jon McKennedy, a Star Speedway veteran and a threat in any division at the track, started seventh and never challenged for the lead. McKennedy slipped into third before the checkered flag fell. “[Abold] was hooked up,” McKennedy conceded. “He went by me and I knew we were racing for second.”

Defending ISMA champion Kyle Edwards took fourth place, with early leader Mike Ordway, Jr. falling to fifth at the finish, the final car on the lead lap. ISMA championship leader Mike Lichty finished seventh, one lap behind the leaders.

Star Speedway’s own 350 Supermodifieds set the stage for the ISMA feature with their own main event, the Randy Witkum Memorial 60. Witkum lost his life in a Supermodified qualifying heat in 1999.

In the race named for his late brother, Eddie Witkum, Jr. was untouchable, leading all sixty laps to cast off the year’s struggles and score an emotional win. Defending race winner Jeffrey Battle, Eddie Witkum’s grandson, finished second before climbing into a big-block car for the Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125. Star Speedway regular Mike Keddy rounded out the podium after spending most of the season on the sidelines.

The small-block Supermodifieds, a mainstay of Star’s weekly racing program, turned out in force for the big event, with 29 cars in the pits and 22 taking the green flag for the feature. Not all the teams were part of Star’s weekly class, with cars traveling from as far as central New York.

The winged warriors capped an evening of open-wheel action on the historic quarter-mile oval. The Northeastern Midget Association rolled out twin features, with Randy Cabral winning the 50-lap Jim O’Brien Memorial Race for the NEMA Lites. Cabral dashed from the frontstretch to the pits to take the wheel of his NEMA Midget, finishing third to John Zych in the 25-lap contest. Joey Deguio of Kingston, N.H. scored a win in the North East Classic Lites feature to kick off the evening.

Previously a one-day feature program, the Star Classic moved to a two-day event this year, with the Granite State Pro Stock Series anchoring “Fender Friday” for the track’s NASCAR-sanctioned weekly classes. Connecticut’s Ray Christian III won Friday’s Vynorius Piledriving 100 to kick off the quarter-mile oval’s signature race weekend.

In his victory celebration, Abold credited Star owner and promoter Bobby Webber, Jr. for his hard work in keeping the Star Classic alive. “The Webber family, whenever we show up, [are] just second to none with how they treat us,” he said. “I want to thank them for putting on this race and giving us the opportunity to be here.”

The ISMA Supermodifieds will wrap up their season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut, as part of the track’s year-ending World Series spectacular. Star Speedway’s weekly season concludes next weekend with double-points features for all divisions, but the track will also host the North East Nationals for Street Stocks and the North East Mini Stock Tour on September 28. Star’s year concludes in late October with the annual Halloween Howler enduro.

Official Results, 54th Annual Star Classic / Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125:
1. (05) Jeff Abold
2. (11) Christopher Perley
3. (21) Jon McKennedy
4. (1E) Kyle Edwards
5. (61) Mike Ordway, Jr.
6. (78) Mark Sammut
7. (84) Mike Lichty
8. (00) Joe Gosek
9. (6) Otto Sitterly
10. (97) Russ Wood
11. (37) Ryan Locke
12. (9) Jeffrey Battle
13. (27) Jamie Timmons
14. (25) Dan Bowes
15. (15) Mike Muldoon
16. (29) Bobby Chartier
17. (28) Eric Lewis
18. (32) Ben Seitz
19. (98) Tyler Thompson

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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