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

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

The 61st running of the Budweiser International Classic at Oswego Speedway is set for Sunday, Sept. 3. (Bill Taylor photo)

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Sitting at the Oswego Speedway on “Fast Friday” of Budweiser Classic Weekend, I think about the column I wrote yesterday¬†about just how special Classic Weekend is here, and continue to reflect on the “family” aspect of the racing here at the “Steel Palace”.

My brother Kevin and I experienced the “family” aspect of Budwesier Classic Weekend at Oswego Speedway in a couple of ways.

For several years in the early 90s, Kevin was a stout photographer who shot many a photo that accompanied articles I wrote for the Oswego Palladium Times and Trackside Magazine.

Then, 10 years ago or so, we both competed in the Kartway Classic on the dirt oval track behind the backstretch one time together. That race is always run on Thursday night and is very well-attended and well run.

I had a blast that year in more ways than one. Kevin and I both qualified pretty well. He was running fourth and I was in sixth, with supermodified winner Tim Gareau between us for the first 25 laps of the race … at least, until my motor blew up.

I wasn’t going to win the race, and probably wouldn’t have even beaten Kevin, but I am really happy to have had that memory with him with my mother and other family in attendance watching. It was exciting to be a part of the weekend in that way as a driver.

The Supermodifieds and go-karts aren’t the only divisions running on Classic Weekend. It’s a stacked weekend schedule every year.

Oswego does not run the top wings on the Supermodifieds on a weekly basis. The ISMA Supermodified Tour does run them, however, and they’ve been a part of Classic Weekend for many years, now sharing Saturday night billing with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Long-time Oswego regular Gary Allbritain got his final Oswego victory in the ISMA race, becoming the first driver to win both the ISMA race and the Classic, though not in the same season.

Chris Perley, Timmy Jedrzejek and Dave Shullick Jr. are others who have topped the winged portion of Classic weekend, though none of those three have ever been victorious in the 200 on Sunday.

Modifieds have always been a recurring division at Oswego. Beginning in the early 70s, the Modified 200 was the Saturday night main event of the weekend, with at times 80-plus cars gathering from up and down the Eastern Seaboard to compete in a race that was the stuff of legends.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans won the race in 1977, with drivers like Maynard Troyer, fellow Hall of Famer and long-time rival Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine, Ron Bouchard, and even supermodified racers Jimmy Shampine, Ron Wallace, Bentley Warren, Nolan Swift and others all making their mark.

Gary Reichert was perhaps the most unique story in Modified 200 history, as in the early 70s, he and his Turner Brothers Racing team had a Modified that they would also compete with in the Supermodified division by taking the body off!

Reichert won the Modified 200 in 1973. Shampine won it in 1974, and stands to this day as the only driver to win both a Modified 200 and the Supermodified International Classic.

Now it’s the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour that invades the Port City and puts on a show for the fans on Saturday night.

Yes, racing is indeed a family sport, and once the methanol is in your blood, I will be the first to say nothing else in racing can ever quite compare.

Continued on the next page…

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