OSWEGO, N.Y. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Audio by Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Bill Taylor photo —
The Budweiser International Classic 200 is the world’s largest supermodified race, with over $15,000 on the line to win along with a wreath and a special diamond Classic ring.
Oswego Speedway is the “Indy of the East,” having catapulted numerous drivers on the path to the Indianapolis 500 over the years, and the fast five-eighths mile has played host to numerous duels over the course of nearly six decades.
And on Sunday afternoon, at the conclusion of one of those storied duels off the shore of Lake Ontario, Bobby Bond etched his name on the list of Classic winners for the third time, after he stormed past polesitter Michael Barnes on the first lap of a green-white-checkered finish and took the checkered flag in the historic race’s 59th running.
Bond led only two laps all day in the race that was extended to 210 laps due to the overtime finish, but they were the ones that paid all the money for the driver from Mexico, N.Y.
“I knew it was a 50-50 shot [that we were going to be able to get around him],” Bond said of battling Barnes for the win on the final restart. “Both our tires were worn and I just decided I was going to go for it and see what happened. It’s the Classic, it’s all out at the end.”
“You always have to save your tires for the end in these extra-distance races. We just went as easy as we could at the beginning, but the further we got I thought for a while that maybe I had waited too long,” Bond admitted. “It was really tough to pass out there, but it ultimately worked out in our favor.”
36 cars were in the pits on Sunday, including four third-generation racers (Mike Muldoon, Brandon Bellinger, Kody Graham and Stephen Gioia III), five former winners (Joe Gosek, Bobby Bond, Tim Snyder, Otto Sitterly and IndyCar racer-turned-team owner Davey Hamilton) and three rookies (Aric Iosue, Kreig Heroth and Logan Rayvals).
Two cars who tried to qualify on Friday night, Keith Shampine (motor) and Mike McVetta (crash in Saturday’s ISMA Super show) were not able to return. Small Block Supermodified racer Jack Patrick hopped aboard the Buske Racing 66 attempting to qualify it, but was unsuccessful.
Eleven different states (Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, New York, Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Massachusetts) and Canada were represented for the Classic event as the race continued to draw participants from across the U.S. and Canada — just like it has for over a half-century.
Young local hotshoes Mike Barnes and Dave Danzer would start from the front row, each doing so for the first time ever. On the initial green flag, ‘The Hustler’ powered to the point ahead of Danzer and in just five laps opened up a half-straightaway advantage over his closest pursuers.
As Barnes pulled away and began lapping cars at lap 15, Danzer, four-time Classic winner Otto Sitterly and Indy car veteran Davey Hamilton put on an early scrap for positions two, three and four. A scary moment in traffic on lap 21 saw Joey Moriarty give up several spots inside the top 10, but hang onto his car and continue onwards.
The first caution of the afternoon flew at lap 33 when Shawn Muldoon looped his car around in turn one, slowing the pace and erasing a near four-second lead for Barnes aboard the high-flying No. 68. Once the green flag returned on lap 39, however, Barnes quickly ran away from the field again and re-established a three car length advantage over Danzer.
At quarter-distance, Sitterly began to flex his muscle and passed Danzer for second on the outside of turn four, but just two laps later, trouble for Jeff Abold — in the form of a flat right rear tire in turn two — would draw the second caution of the afternoon and shape up a clash of the titans; the young rising superstar vs. one of Oswego Speedway’s all-time greats.
The battle would not immediately materialize on the restart at lap 58, but slowly and methodically, Sitterly began to reel in Barnes’ leading machine. After the lapped car of Hal LaTulip held up Barnes on the backstretch at lap 65, the seven-time track champion began knocking on the rear bumper of the Hustler for the top spot.
Just as it appeared Sitterly was going to make a move to take the lead away from Barnes, the race’s third caution came out at lap 72 when a mechanical failure slowed the No. 18 of Howard Page in turn four and spewed debris down the frontstretch. Under that caution flag, a long pit stop derailed the hopes of one of the pre-race favorites, after Canadian Mike Lichty had problems on the pit lane and lost a lap to the leaders.
Sitterly went after Barnes immediately on the green at lap 80, but to no avail as Barnes continued to hold the top lane of the race track and slowly lengthen his lead. The stint just prior to the halfway point saw Lichty officially retire and Michael Muldoon also fall by the wayside, attrition beginning to take its toll on the Classic field before a stopped Bobby Santos slowed the pace for the fourth time at lap 93.
No more had the field gone back to green on lap 99 than an immediate spin by Ryan Litt brought the yellow back out and meant that Barnes would claim the Ensinger Performance Halfway Bonus by leading lap 100, picking up $1,500 in bonus money for his efforts through the event’s first half.
The second hundred, however, meant game on. Back to green, Danzer blasted to the inside to retake second from Sitterly before setting his sights on Barnes for the lead. Danzer set the race’s fastest lap on the 107th trip around the five-eighths mile oval, at a 17.409, before hounding Barnes from laps 110 through 115 as the leaders worked through several lapped cars that nearly cost Barnes the top spot.
A huge look to the outside on lap 117 nearly handed Danzer the top spot, as the lead duo ran side by side down the backstretch, but for each look Danzer had Barnes had an answer until lap 123 — when Barnes ran wide in turns three and four, giving the lead to the No. 52 for the first time all afternoon.
Tire wear would begin to set in with 70 laps to go, as Sitterly powered past Barnes to move into second, but that move would end up being the move for the lead after Danzer spun in turn one to bring out the sixth yellow flag of the race with just 66 laps remaining — handing the point to the Nicotra Racing ‘Lucky 7’ and sending a wave of dread through his closest challengers.
That feeling was with good reason, because once Sitterly took the lead, it appeared to be lights out. The longtime supermodified veteran held as much as a seven second advantage despite cautions at lap 141 and lap 159, but when the rear end snapped around from underneath him with eight laps to go, Sitterly spun in turn two and saw his hopes for a fifth Classic victory go up in smoke as Barnes drove back around to take the lead again.
A crash involving Sitterly and Pat Lavary just before the white flag came out officially ended the four-time winner’s race and set up the race-defining green-white-checkered finish.
Barnes led 139 laps on the day, more than any other driver, but said he did not have the car — or the tires — to hold Bond back in the final laps.
“We were fading pretty hard there at the end,” Barnes said dejectedly. “When I saw Otto spin I was like, ‘Oh man, we’re leading the International Classic and I have got absolutely no car to hold these guys off.'”
“I just drove it for all it was worth; that last restart I did everything from brake-checking him to about driving it sideways down the straightaways but I knew there was no way I could realistically keep [Bond] back there. Losing the International Classic on the last [two laps] is the biggest heartbreak of my life, I’ll say that much.”
The ‘Jersey Jet,’ Joey Payne, charged from 24th to round out the podium — finishing third in what he declared prior to the race was his final International Classic start at Oswego.
“I tell you what, I’m pretty emotional right now,” Payne said, fighting back tears. “I can’t think of any better way to end my career here [at Oswego] than going across the finish line fighting for second with Michael Barnes. It’s just so many mixed emotions.”
“Strong Racing worked their [tails] off getting this car competitive, and for a low-budget team to do what they did today, it’s awesome. This is an unreal feeling right now.”
Davey Hamilton and Dave Shullick Jr. rounded out the top five, with Tim Devendorf finishing sixth as the final car on the lead lap in a race that saw just 12 of the original 34 starters survive to take the checkered flag.
Danzer rallied from his second-half spin to come home seventh, one lap down, but lamented losing a shot to challenge for his first Classic victory after leading 11 laps on a day when everything appeared to be falling his way.
“It’s just tough to swallow,” Danzer admitted. “The car never wiggled all day long, so I don’t know if Howie Page dropped ome fluid or what happened, but it was just like we hit ice and it went around. I hate it, but we were able to come back forward and my goal towards the end was just to not screw anyone else’s race up.”
“This car had so much more in it, but we’ll just have to come back next year and try it again.”
Sitterly was credited with 15th in the final rundown on a day when it looked like his fifth career Classic victory was a foregone conclusion during the race’s closing third.
“It was my own doing,” Sitterly admitted. “We put a short wing on the front of the car today and gave up some downforce because of it. I went to the outside of a lapped car and the nose just took off bad. Maybe I needed a little more racing room or a little more patience, but I’d rather lose it that way than have those guys catch me and get beat because I wasn’t good enough to win.”
In preliminary action, the second round of time trials locked in starting positions 15-28, with five spots available for transfers out of the Bud Light B-Main. Howie Page took the win in the last chance event, with Kreig Heroth, Shawn Muldoon, Hal LaTulip and Lou Lavea, Sr. also moving onto the main event. Lou Lavea, Jr. received the provisional for the highest finishing weekly Oswego competitor registered as part of the track’s commitment program.
Keith Shampine (motor issues), Mike McVetta (crash in Saturday’s ISMA SuperNationals), Logan Rayvals and Jack Patrick (B-Main non-transfers) were the drivers who failed to make the 34-car field for the 200-lap main event.
With another Classic win under his belt, Bond will now look ahead to the season-ending Fall Championship, coming in two weeks’ time as he looks to best Sitterly in the race for the Oswego Speedway track title.
“It’s not going to be any easier,” Bond said of trying to claim his first crown in the Novelis Supermodified division. “I’ll just do whatever I can do to beat Otto, run as hard as I can and we’ll see what happens.”
Audio with race winner Bobby Bond:
Audio with runner-up Michael Barnes:
Audio with third-place Joey Payne:
Audio with seventh-place Dave Danzer:
Audio with Otto Sitterly after his lap 191 crash:
Audio with Mike Lichty after his retirement prior to halfway:
RESULTS: Budweiser International Classic 200; Oswego Speedway; September 6, 2015
Novelis Supermodifieds Second-Round Qualifying (two laps): 1. #05 – Jeff Abold, 16.559; 2. #11 – Aric Iosue, 16.568; 3. #22 – Pat Lavery, 16.720; 4. #35 – Bob Magner, 16.800; 5. #26 – Shaun Gosselin, 16.810; 6. #79 – Brian Sobus, 16.817; 7. #01 – Daniel Connors, 16.842; 8. #72 – Dave Cliff, 16.897; 9. #0 – Tim Snyder, 16.952; 10. #99 – Joey Payne, 16.978; 11. #84 – Mike Lichty, 17.087; 12. #88 – Ryan Litt, 17.109; 13. #9 – Steve Gioia III, 17.189; 14. #24 – Jerry Curran, 17.196; 15. #18 – Howard Page, 17.234; 16. #1 – Shawn Muldoon, 17.382; 17. #45 – Kreig Heroth, 17.419; 18. #96 – Lou LeVea, Sr., 17.531; 19. #56 – Hal LaTulip, 17.581; 20. #94 – Logan Rayvals, 17.624; 21. #83 – Lou LeVea, Jr., 17.942; 22. #66 – Jack Patrick, 19.257.
Bud Light B-Main (12 laps; five transfer): 1. Howie Page, 2. Kreig Heroth, 3. Shawn Muldoon, 4. Hal LaTulip, 5. Lou LeVea, Sr., 6. Logan Rayvals, 7. Lou LeVea Jr., 8. Jack Patrick.
Budweiser International Classic (200 laps): 1. Bobby Bond; 2. Michael Barnes; 3. Joey Payne; 4. Davey Hamilton; 5. Dave Shullick Jr.; 6. Tim Devendorf; 7. Dave Danzer; 8. Brian Sobus; 9. Dave Gruel; 10. Brandon Bellinger; 11. Jerry Curran; 12. Aric Iosue; 13. Pat Lavery; 14. Shawn Gosselin; 15. Otto Sitterly; 16. Kreig Heroth; 17. Joe Gosek; 18. Stephen Gioia III; 19. Dave Cliff; 20. Tim Snyder; 21. Kody Graham; 22. Shawn Muldoon; 23. Joey Moriarty; 24. Lou LeVea Jr.; 25. Ryan Litt; 26. Bobby Santos III; 27. Michael Muldoon; 28. Mike Lichty; 29. Dan Connors; 30. Howard Page; 31. Jeff Abold; 32. Hal LaTulip; 33. Bobby Magner; 34. Lou LeVea Sr.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]