BAKER: It’s Classic Time At The Steel Palace, Part I

Tom Baker Asphalt Modifieds, ISMA, Northeast, Oswego, Staff Columns, Tom Baker Blog 0 Comments

The Budweiser International Classic is the crown jewel of supermodified racing, held each year at Oswego Speedway in New York. (Bill Taylor photo)

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Classic: that’s all you have to say to anyone who has been a part of the Oswego Speedway or Supermodified division for any amount of time.

The Budweiser International Classic is the world’s richest Supermodified race, and it’s an addiction for those who have ever been a part of it. It’s the short-track Indy, the open-wheel Daytona and the one race that anyone in the methanol monster division dreams of winning.

Legends of the open-wheel side of the sport — including Bentley Warren, Johnny Benson Sr., Nolan Johncock (cousin of former Supermodified racer and Indy 500 winner Gordy) and Davey Hamilton — have all worn the wreath.

Local heroes such as Nolan Swift, Jim Shampine, Doug Heveron, Eddie Bellinger, Greg Furlong, Bob Bond and Otto Sitterly have all been repeat winners in the 60-year history of the race, with two racers from inside the Oswego city limits gracing victory lane (Steve Gioia Jr. and Tim Snyder).

With the track being positioned right along Lake Ontario, another part of its’ fabric and lore has always been the Canadian fans and racers who’ve dipped south of the border to help build the history of the Steel Palace.

Warren Coniam brought two trophies back to Canada and Kenny Andrews got the win in 1973.  Canadian Dave McKnight Jr.’s family won a Classic with Coniam behind the wheel, and Dave looks to win one of his own this season, driving once again for former driver-turned-car owner Gary Morton.

Oswego and supermodified racing are a “classic” example of racing being a ‘family” sport.

Jim Muldoon competed in numerous classics in the 60s, 70s and 80s. His son Mike won in the 90s as a driver, while Davey Hamilton and Joe Gosek got it done for him as an owner. Now his son Michael seeks to become the first third-generation Oswego racer to win a Classic.

Ed Bellinger Sr. was one of the fan favorites in the 60s before son Eddie Jr. started racing in the early 70s. Junior won his first of five classics in 1983, in a last lap thriller that stands among the most exciting of all the Classic finishes to this day. Now Eddie’s son Brandon handles the driving chores for the family team and will be contending for his first ever classic win.

Ohioan Dave “The Shoe” Shullick had several runner-up finishes in the Classic but was never able to hoist the trophy.  Now his son D.J. (“Shoe 2”) has just won this year’s track championship and came within one lap of winning the Classic last year before running out of fuel. He’s determined to rectify that situation this year.

Pat Abold was one of the top drivers of the 90s who won about everything but the Classic. His son Jeff took care of that last year when he crossed the line first after Shullick’s fuel misfortune. Jeff is in the field again this year looking to defend.

Continued on the next page…

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