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Mike Lichty sums up his 2017 racing season so far with one word.
“Terrible,” said the driver of the Reed’s Salvage No. 84 International Supermodified Association (ISMA) entry, whose tour makes its annual stop for the Harvey Lennox Series at Delaware Speedway Saturday night.
He’s still fourth in series points, and everything’s still rather tight near the top. That’s on the heels of finishing second overall last year after a memorable season-long tug-of-war with eventual champ Dave Shullick, Jr.
Shullick, Jr., incidentally, is way back in 11th spot these days.
So how bad can this be for Lichty?
“It’s just been one of those years where we can’t get anything going,” the 30-year-old from Innerkip said this week. “ISMA changed the tires on us this year, and we’ve been struggling. Our hopes were high and we had hoped by now, three-quarters of the way into the season, we would’ve won some races by now.
“But clearly, that’s not the case.”
He started out well enough with a second-place finish at Oswego, N.Y., in May. But he suffered a parts failure and ended up crashing the following event at Lancaster Speedway.
When you don’t complete every lap at an event, that stings in the title chase.
“It’s been our only DNF (did not finish),” Lichty said. “We just finished eighth at Lee (USA Speedway in New Hampshire) on Friday and I’m not even concerned about the championship at this point. I just want to go back to the racetrack and be in contention to win every weekend.
“That’s where we were for the last couple of years, prior to this one.”
He’s hoping the trip to the Delaware oval — the only Canadian stop and by far the closest one to home on the circuit — triggers a turnaround.
A year ago, he won the second of two 75-lap events held there, his third and final checkered flag of the campaign. He went through some frustration there, too, breaking in the spring race — one of his few clunkers in a standout season.
“It’s always cool to be able to go there and nice to be close to home,” he said. “I live an hour east of Delaware and the turnout’s always been great for us there. When you have 5,000 people in the stands, you want to put on a good show.”
Lichty’s team is, like most racing programs, a family affair — but with a twist.
Craig Reed, the car owner from Ohio, used to run supers against the youngster for years. Along the way, the speedy kid from Canada started dating — and eventually married — Reed’s daughter Raven.
“So he’s my father-in-law, and other than 300-odd miles between us, it’s still basically one big team,” Lichty said. “His side hauls the one car to some tracks, and we do the same to other ones. We house his cars, too, and he helps out as much as possible.
“That’s the way it’s been the last five years.”
Lichty’s dad Brad also remains in the game. In fact, the president of Ayr-based Patco Transportation’s hired gun for the No. 74 car is Moe Lilje, who drove for Reed as a Mike Lichty teammate when the team had more than one car.
“When we went down to one car and focused on that, Moe ran part-time here and there,” Mike said, “and then this year, he’s running full-time for Dad. Funny how things go in a big circle (on and off the track).”
Lilje won the ISMA race for Brad three weeks ago at Sandusky Speedway.
The Delaware race represents the biggest purse– $10,000 to the winner — on tour, thanks to Patco, Corr/Pak Merchandising, Murray’s Transmission in London and local Arctic Manufacturing.
“It’s our highest-paying wing show,” Mike Lichty said. “It all boils down to help from our sponsors. You look at the cars we run, it’s $100,000 once you’re on the track. Our car count has done very well, but last week, five or six cars had some really big incidents, and you may not see them at Delaware.
“It’s not like a late model, where you can open up a catalogue and order replacement parts.”
Car maintenance is a full-time gig after finishing your full-time job each day. Lichty is also the proprietor of Raeco Metals.
“You look at last weekend’s schedule, 12-13 hour drive to New Hampshire,” he said. “Everyone who helps is a volunteer. We ask ourselves sometimes why we do this, but I will as long as I’m having fun.
“When the fun stops, I may look into something else.”
It hasn’t been a chuckle every minute the past few months.
But on race — maybe this next one — can turn terrible into something closer to terrific in a real hurry.
AT THE TRACK
(Delaware Speedway this weekend)
Friday: Weekly racing series (Super Stocks, Trucks, Bone Stocks). Green flag at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Special card (ISMA Supermodifieds, Vintage modifieds, Open Wheel modifieds). Green flag at 6 p.m.
More info: www.delawarespeedway.com
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