Tucked within the farmland of Northeast Indiana is Angola Motor Speedway. Its freshly manicured grass parking lot, beautiful grandstands and playground for the kids remind us that racing is as much about family as it is competition. Yet, as the sun set on the picturesque palace last Friday, the lines were drawn for war on the 3/8's of a mile battleground.
As in every clash, there are always the characters that portray the Davids and the Goliaths. On this night, most would point to the well-financed operations of crowd favorites Scott Hantz or Jack Landis. Stevie Needles' high-dollar parade marched into enemy territory hoping to steal the riches from the local boys. But as the checkered flag flew in the Stan Perry Memorial 110-lap event at Angola, it was a David, or in this case, a Phil, as in Phil Massuch who captured the $10,010 treasure.
Massuch needed to dig deep in this epic battle for the Outlaw-body Late Models. He would climb into the top-five early before a battle with Scott Hantz would land him off the racetrack on the backstretch and eventually into a spin cycle in turn three. Most wrote off the low-buck Massuch, but he steadily clawed his way back to the front and took the lead from Mike Kugler in the waning laps of the event for the stellar victory in front of a packed crowd of more than 2,000 people.
“It means a lot anytime I win a race,” explained Massuch of his biggest triumph in his career. “To me it represents the hard work that goes into these cars. It means a lot to the people that work on them and the people who have helped me get to where I am today. All the guys that have worked with us aren't all here today, but they still have pitched in to make this car fast. It's something that can show their work and I am always glad when I can do that.”
The smile on his face still glimmered through a dark pit area approximately an hour after the race was completed. But his face was anything but happy after that spin during his initial climb to the front of the field.
“Scott (Hantz) and I got together and I spun out and I had to go to the back. At that point, I wasn't thinking that we had a very good chance at all,” explained Massuch.
“We started coming back up through and I was letting the car roll through the turns. It gave us a chance to conserve the car a little bit. I didn't have to, because I was running with a slower group of cars and I didn't have to abuse it so much. The front group had to run all out if they were with fast cars to keep at pace. That may have actually helped us in the long run. It was great fun coming from the back.
“If there is anything that racer likes to do, it's put on a good show. If we can put on a good show every night, win or no win, that's really what we are here for. I hope the fans got their money's worth tonight.”
Speaking of money, it was a rich race for Massuch; however, the meaning behind the race may have been more important to the veteran racer.
“10 grand, that's the biggest payday for me ever. That always helps out the racing program, no doubt. It puts a feather in your cap a little bit. The main focus tonight should be Stan Perry (a former racer who died in the late '90's). I hope it stays that way; Stan was a great racer,” said Massuch with a tear in his eye. “He was a great gentleman. I knew Stan really well from racing. I didn't know him from his family life, but there is no doubt in my mind that he was quite a guy. I pitted next to him for a lot of years at Spartan. We both just did our thing. Everyone here misses him, and this race is definitely dedicated to Stan and his family.”
Perry's Son-In-Law, Landis, Falls Short of Victory
Massuch's victory was a hit in the pit area after the races, even for the guy who wanted to taste the win probably more than anyone. Jack Landis is Stan Perry's son-in-law, but on Friday night, Landis could only drive Perry's famous #10 up to fifth.
“We were making a joke; I didn't know if Hantz was worse than me or I was worse than him out there,” said Landis with a smile. “It was pretty crappy. A couple of laps after we took the green it snugged up on me and it got worse from there.”
But Landis knows this was more than a race, not only to him, but to many who graced Angola Motor Speedway that night.
“It means a lot to see all the fans. Everyone comes out for the big Stan Perry memorial race, and it's neat to see Phil win it. A lot of guys who don't normally come down here, come down and race with us for this. It sparks some interest from other people, and we really enjoy it.”
Shively Won a Battle, But Not the War
CRA Super Series regular Jason Shively brought his Outlaw car to Angola and nearly stole the show. He took the lead a quarter of the way through and dominated a good portion of the 110-lap race. But racing isn't for the faint of heart, and Shively drew a collective sigh of disappointment when he spun in turn four after losing the lead in three with just a couple of handful of laps to go. Shively wound up coming back to finish ninth.
“That was pretty disappointing. I was counting the laps down; I thought it was going to be our big win,” said Shively, who was driving a brand new Port City Race Car. “I haven't won in four years. We have been knocking on the door a lot. Tonight was another one, and we were 10 laps short.
“We have had a disappointing year so far, and we have already spent that win money so that would have been a good one to have. We normally run CRA Super Series, and we only bring this up to Angola to race on our off weekends.”
Stevie Needles is “The Show”
The record books will display the fact that Phil Massuch won the race. He put a nice demonstration of fine driving by coming from the back after an early race spin. But, it was Stevie Needles who put on a show that the fans won't soon forget.
Needles faded early and wrestled his green-and-while number-14 car to the front. Then his right-front tire began to fade. His car became wicked tight and he was forced to pit to change a flat right-front tire with just 40 laps to go.
To everyone's surprise, and to the delight of the fans, Needles drove from the rear of the pack (16 cars finished the race) to take the lead on what was considered by officials to be a bonsai move past a fading Jason Shively.
“It's unfortunate what happened down there in turn four; I don't think I ever touched the 99,” said Needles. “That's racing, you know. That's the call they made, and we have to deal with it.”
Needles did more than deal with it. For the third time he drove through the field and into second place on the last lap. He couldn't hold it down coming off of turn four and had to settle for third in a valiant effort.
“I kept asking the guys if the right-front was going down,” Needles told us. “It was so dark; they couldn't see anything. I made the call (to pit). So we pulled in, and that was the right call.
“We made a heck of an effort to get back to the front. If we can't win, we might as well put on a show. I am glad they (the fans) all enjoyed it. It was a good time.”
Nice Guy Kugler Finishes Second
They say “Nice Guys Always Finish Second.” Well, this is an accurate statement in the Stan Perry Memorial. Mike Kugler drove his way to second, but the low-buck racer couldn't muster up enough steam or keep his glowing brake rotors cool enough to bring home the checkers.
“We are from a pretty small city and to run with these guys and come home second, that's a real achievement,” said Kugler. “That was everything I had, and that was everything the car had. We're just glad it's in one piece. I'll settle for second I guess.
“The 01 just kind of left us at the end there. He had a good car, and he represents Michigan very well. He doesn't run down here a whole lot, but he had his game together. We did the best we could.”
Hantz Holds On for Fourth
Scott Hantz has won numerous races at Angola Motor Speedway. Throughout the race, everyone expected his white and orange number-72 to come alive and Hantz would pounce on the rest of the field. That would never happen on this night.
“I held on. I ran good there with Phil early. We kind of bumped, and he spun out, and he went to the tail. I kind of thought, 'Well, I won't have to worry about him for the rest of the night,' but little did I know because here he came at the end. The car just didn't roll in the center very good. At the end, I kind of burned my stuff up. We couldn't get off the corner, and we ended up fourth.”
Yet Hantz was still in a good mood after the race, mainly because of one reason.
“That was good for Phil; he's kind of a low-budget guy, and he brings an open trailer. The tracks he races have gone downhill lately. We haven't raced together for a while, but he had his stuff together tonight and he ran good, and I am happy for him.”
- Phil Massuch donated $2,500 from his winnings to the Stan Perry Scholarship.
- John Dalarye led the initial laps of the race until his car mysteriously came to a stop during a caution. After some time in the pits, Dalarye returned to the track and finished 15th.
- Glen Luckett of the CRA Super Series was the race director for the Stan Perry Memorial.
- CRA Super Series regular Aaron Pierce was up front early until he lost grip on his tires. He finished 17th.
- Tony Dager won the 50-lap Modified event over Stan Perry's son, Bud.
- Travis Eddy, son of 7-time ASA National Tour champion Mike Eddy, set fast time in the Modified division. After the invert of 10-cars, Eddy finished fifth.
- The next event at Angola Motor Speedway is on Saturday, June 20th when the Howe Racing Enterprises CRA Late Model Sportsman Series comes rolling into town.