OSWEGO, N.Y. – Story by RaceChaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker – Photo by Steven Ovens – Audio by Tom Baker and Steven Ovens
If you know anything about Oswego Speedway on Classic Weekend, it’s that the place morphs into something entirely different than it is on any other race night during the season.
The Classic is an “event”. It’s the richest one-day Supermodified race in the world, and it’s by far the most prized. This year’s Classic Day dawned wet as a cold front passed by and Lake Ontario fed it some moisture for awhile. After a couple of attempts to dry the track, the rain finally went away for good, and just after 2:3o the track finally went “hot” for practice.
After Jerry Curran won the 15-lap Bud light B main, which qualified the final six cars into this year’s Classic race, the 34 qualifiers were staged and the pre-race pageantry began shortly after 5pm.
This was the fastest International Classic field in history, and they had 320 combined classic starts between them. The drivers were buckled into their cars and the push trucks were given the command to “take them away”.
It was finally time to race.
Pacing the field was the restored “Radical Offset” 8ball built and driven by the late Jim Shampine to over 30 feature wins and the 1980 Classic victory, a race in which he led every one of the 200 laps. Originally built in 1976, this car revolutionized the Supermodified class and is still the blueprint for the Supermodifieds of today.
For long-time Supermodified followers, seeing that car on the track brought back many memories of “the old days”.
The “Jersey Jet” Joey Payne and Kody Graham, teammates with Graham Racing, brought the field down to the green flag from the front row. Payne jumped out to the early lead with Graham in second. It was obvious right from lap one that Joey was going to try to run away and hide. He had a full straightaway lead by lap 2!
The first yellow came on lap 5 when the No. 79 of Brian Sobus got into the inside hubrail in turn one, causing him to jump sideways. He made the save, but pulled it into the pits and out of the action. Stephen Gioia also had to go to the pits with front end damage. Howard Page and Dave Gruel pitted as well. All of these cars lost laps in the pits, as caution laps count in this race.
Payne’s 1/4 lap lead was now gone, as Kody Graham, Dave Danzer, Michael Barnes and Davey Hamilton followed him in the top five. Ray Graham, Randy Ritskes, Otto Sitterly, Bobby Bond and Pat Lavery rounded out the top ten.
Green flag racing returned on lap 11 and Payne pulled away quickly. Joe Gosek made a move underneath Bond in turn one and took over ninth, as Lavery went back to 11th.
The second yellow happened on lap 16 when Mike Barbera looped his No. 45 car in turn two. Barbera, who has only been racing Supers for a few weeks, made a valiant effort to get into the classic but his day ended in the pits. Stephen Gioia exited the race at this time. Keith Shampine was brought into the pits to check a reported fuel leak off the right rear and he also was done for the day.
We were just 20 laps in and the attrition was already high.
Green lights came back on with 21 laps on the board, and Payne went back to going very fast on the point. Graham, Danzer, Barnes and Hamilton seemed content to let some laps in the long race tick off and save their cars for a late-race run.
Mike Lichty was up to 12th and battling with the No. 22 of Pat Lavery for 11th. The No. 84 went by on lap 27 and took over the spot as the No. 51 of Michael Muldoon was also on the move, running 18th at lap 28.
Within 30 laps, Payne was lapping cars. Danzer decided to pick up the pace, and took second from Kody Graham on lap 34 with an outside move in turn four. Michael Barnes must have thought that a good idea, because he did the same thing on the next lap.
Graham continued to fall backwards, as Hamilton, Ritskes and Sitterly all slid by, shuffling him back to 7th.
In traffic now, Danzer, Barnes and Hamilton began to race each other. Hamilton took third on lap 42 with an inside move in turn one using a lapped car as a pick.
As the race closed in on lap 50, Payne seemed to ease his pace just a bit, and his third teammate, Bobby Santos actually re-passed him to get his lap back. Danzer, Hamilton, Barnes and Ritskes still completed the top five at this time.
Otto Sitterly became more aggressive around lap 55 as he passed both Barnes and Ritskes to take over fourth.
Payne went back by Santos on lap 57 and continued his frenetic pace. Hamilton and Sitterly both cleared Danzer as they took over second and third.
Nearing the 75-lap mark, “Team Nicotra” with Hamilton and Sitterly began to chase down leader Payne, who was mired in traffic. A full straightaway back in fourth was Danzer, followed by Barnes, Ritskes, Kody Graham, Gosek, Lichty and Lavery in the top 10.
Ray Graham pulled in the pits and dropped out of the race on lap 74 as well. Sitterly took second on lap 75 in traffic from Hamilton.
The yellow lights were on again on lap 79 when the No. 44 of Bobby Haynes, Jr. and the No. 3 of Brian Sweeney touched in turn one and Sweeney bounced off the inside hubrail. Sweeney went to the pits and out of the action, a disappointing ending to a day he was confident in.
Leader Payne pitted under the yellow for adjustments. He did not change a tire and returned without losing a lap, restarting at the tail of the field.
His teammate Kody Graham also pitted and went in nose first. He and his father, Ray, both dropped out within the last 10 laps.
Sitterly now led the field with teammate Hamilton in second followed by Barnes, Danzer and Ritskes. Gosek, Lichty, Lavery, Bond and DJ Shullick rounded out the top 10.
The race went back green on lap 86 as Payne began a charge from the tail of the field. Shullick snuck under Bond to take over ninth on lap 89 and closed right in on eighth place Lavery.
On lap 96, the next yellow flag was for the No. 60 of Tim Jedjrezek as he spun in turn three. His crew crowded around the left front of the car when he came to the pits. Payne pitted again for a right rear tire and this time he lost a lap, as did Dave Gruel. Jeff Abold also pitted his car for a new right rear tire under the yellow and lost a lap in the process.
Sitterly, Hamilton, Barnes, Danzer and Ritskes were the top five cars, followed by Gosek, Lichty, Lavery, Shullick and Bond.
Racing resumed on lap 102 and Sitterly took off out front. He opened a half-straightaway margin over Hamilton with clear track ahead and one lapped car between them. It appeared the rest of the field was willing to be patient and not try to hard to chase the “rabbit”, letting Sitterly run.
Payne’s sudden bout with bad luck got even worse on lap 111 as he slowed to avoid a lapped car and got plowed in the back end by his teammate Santos, who had nowhere to go. Yellow lights were on again, and Payne’s No. 99 went off on the hook, meaning three of the four “Team Extreme” Graham/Strong cars were now out of the race. Santos, the fourth teammate, was able to continue.
Sitterly still had the lapped car of Danny Connors between he and second place Hamilton. Barnes had re-taken third from Danzer while Ritskes was hanging tough in fifth place. Gosek, Lichty, Lavery, Bond and Shullick (also a teammate of Sitterly and Hamilton out of the Nicotra racing stable) rounded out the top ten.
Sitterly mashed the throttle again on lap 117 when the green flag waved. Again, it seemed that Hamilton was content not to chase him, but instead to watch from second place. You had to wonder at this time how long the second through fifth place cars were going to wait before they took their race pace up a notch.
Hamilton cleared the lapped car of Connors on lap 123, the first of the “second group” to turn up the wick and go after Sitterly, who now had a sraighaway lead. There hadn’t really been a race for the lead yet in this Classic, but you had the feeling that it was coming!
Ritskes got by Danzer for fourth place in turn three on lap 130 with an inside move when Danzer bobbled. Meanwhile, Barnes was setting a quick pace as he began to reel in second place Hamilton. Sitterly was running just 18 second laps out front, but he had a substantial enough lead that nobody was able to race with him for position.
Mechanical problems sent the No. 47 of defending Classic winner Bobby Bond to the pits on lap 142, moving Michael Muldoon to ninth place and DJ Shullick to tenth.
Danzer got by Ritskes on lap 144 to re-take fourth. Three laps later, Tim Devendorf stuffed the front end of his No. 5 into the third turn outside foam, bringing out another yellow. DJ Shullick got caught up in the incident as well and both cars had to be towed.
Lap 149 saw both Pat Lavery and Michael Muldoon head for the pits. Muldoon wanted a new right rear under the yellow, and Lavery’s crew made an adjustment as well.
For the restart, Sitterly led Hamilton, Barnes, Danzer and Ritskes with Gosek, Lichty, Santos, Snyder and Gosselin now rounding out the top ten as the field went back green on lap 154.
Danzer really stepped it up after the restart and grabbed third place right away. It was time for the field to show their cards, and the No. 52 of Danzer was “all in”. Lichty lost two spots when he had to check up hard in turn one and both Gosek and Santos went by.
Ritskes powered by Barnes and set sail after the top three cars. With less than half the field still left on the track, the race was quickly becoming a sprint to the finish with 35 laps to go. Sitterly was still firmly in control but Danzer was charging hard after second place Hamilton.
Lichty pitted the No. 84 on lap 167, pulling in “nose first” signifying he was out for the balance of the event. He was running in eighth position when he exited.
Santos was on the charge, passing Ritskes for fourth on lap 169. Barnes was going the other way, falling back to eighth position as the lap counter showed “174”.
Danzer, running third, brushed wheels with Shaun Gosselin on lap 175 but both cars kept going. The incident slowed Danzer down, however, and he fell off the pace just a bit for a few laps before he gathered it back up and set sail after Hamilton.
While all of this was taking place, Sitterly was just driving away. He now had over a straightaway lead with just 19 laps left. Nobody was going to catch him without a yellow flag.
That yellow flag happened on lap 186, as third place Danzer came to a stop in turn four, a tough break for the youngster, who’d driven a fantastic race to that point. He restarted at the tail of the field, but any chance at victory was gone as he lost at least one lap to the leaders while they got him pushed off.
Six cars were left on the lead lap for the restart. Sitterly had several lapped cars between himself and second place Hamilton. Lavery, Santos, Muldoon and Ritskes were the only ones with a shot at winning at this point.
Sitterly simply drove away after the restart. Lavery blew by the slowing Hamilton on lap 194 with an inside move in turn three.
Santos passed Hamilton for third two laps later as Hamilton fell to fourth. That was short-lived, however, as Santos began running out of fuel and Hamilton.
Suddenly, Ritskes and Muldoon came together with one lap to go and both went to the pits as the YELLOW flag came out!
Santos pitted for fuel and came back out as the “one to go sign” was given with 203 laps left for a green-white-checkered finish!
Sitterly took off and Lavery had no chance, having to deal with two lapped cars. Just when you thought it was over, Santos and Muldoon got together on the back straightaway and the yellow came out again even as both cars kept going!
A SECOND green-white-checkered went into effect on lap 207 as Sitterly tried to put this race away.
The winner of the 58th International Classic, the fourth time he’s won the biggest race in his class, was Otto Sitterly! He has won all four of his Classics in the last six years, and has six track championships to go with it!
Lavery finished second (his best finish ever in a Classic), Hamilton was third, Santos fourth and Gosek finished fifth. Barnes, Bellinger, Danzer, Snyder and Muldoon rounded out the top ten.
Here’s Otto’s “winnerview” audio – just click to listen and enjoy!
Interview with winning car owner John Nicotra
2nd Place finishing Pat Lavery
3rd Place finishing Davey Hamilton
BUDWEISER INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC 200 FINISH
7 – Otto Sitterly
22 – Pat Lavery
6 – Davey Hamilton
11- Bobby Santos
00 – Joe Gosek
68 – Michael Barnes
02 – Brandon Bellinger
52 – Dave Danzer
0 – Tim Snyder
51 – Michael Muldoon
05 – Jeff Abold
24 – Jerry Curran
37 – Randy Ritskes
01 – Danny Connors Jr.
26 – Shaun Gosselin
50 – Dave Gruel
84 – Mike Lichty
2 – DJ Shullick
5 – Tim Devendorf
47 – Bobby Bond
99 – Joey Payne
60 – Tim Jedrjezek
90 – Kody Graham
3 – Brian Sweeney
44 – Bobby Haynes Jr.
21 – Ray Graham
83 – Lou Lavea, Jr.
88 – Ryan Litt
96 – Lou Lavea, Sr.
55 – Keith Shampine
45 – Mike Barbera
18 – Howie Page
79 – Brian Sobus
9 – Stephen Gioia III