OSWEGO, NY — official release — Bill Taylor Photo — In just his third start behind the wheel of the brand new Syrell Racing No. 68 Hawk Jr. chassis Novelis Supermodified, ‘The Hustler’ Michael Barnes showed why his talents are some of the most sought after in all of the Oswego Speedway pit area.
Barnes started 9th on the grid Saturday night and charged through the field in dominating fashion to take the lead from Brandon Bellinger on lap 9 of the 50-lap main. Even more impressive was his ability to drive away from current championship point leader Otto Sitterly in the late going to go on and claim his sixth career Novelis Supermodified triumph at the Speedway presented by Century 21 Galloway Realty and www.OswegoCountyToday.com.
With the victory, Barnes has now pulled into the Speedway’s Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane for three different Supermodified team owners: Bob Hoefer and Bill Samuel’s Double Deuce Racing, Pat and Terry Strong’s Strong Racing, and now Gary and Eric Syrell’s Syrell Racing team.
Sitterly would finish some three seconds behind Barnes at the end of 50-laps with Dave Gruel, Pat Lavery, and Joey Payne finishing the top five positions.
Joining Barnes and the Syrell Racing team in victory lane was Hawk Jr. Performance and Design founder Joe Hawksby Jr., who has established himself as the crew chief on the No. 68 Supermodified for the 2014 season.
Barnes says the team’s combination will only get better.
“Had to start way back there and got kind of lucky on the start,” said Barnes. “I was able to get some space in there from Otto (Sitterly) and David (Danzer), which is key because all of these guys are fast. I just have to thank all these guys; Syrell’s for having me, Joey Hawksby for putting together a great racecar. We took a bit of a gamble on the set-up for the feature, and I think it was the way to go, this thing was just phenomenal over 50-laps. I have been getting more comfortable in the car and we keep making changes and improving. I think we can improve more and hopefully we’ll be even better.”
With Sitterly creeping up on the scoring pylon through the event, Barnes said you have to take note, and Saturday’s result was just what the team came to the track to accomplish.
“You know when I saw him (Sitterly) get to second I was just kind of cruising,” said Barnes. “Once I got to traffic I kind of turned it up a bit. I figured if I could get through the traffic quickly, he may struggle some. I don’t know where he was at the end, but I know I couldn’t hear him. He is the big reason I wanted to do this this year, I wanted to beat him. He’s been the bar and still is the bar and hopefully now we can be competitive with him for the rest of the year.”
Kody Graham, David Danzer, Shaun Gosselin, Brandon Bellinger, and Dan Connors finished the top ten positions in Saturday night’s 50-lap Novelis Supermodified main event.
A total of 25 Supermodifieds were scheduled to take the green on Saturday, but during the feature warm-up laps Stephen Gioia’s No. 9 machine would run into rear end issues, forcing the Syracuse Otrhopedic Specialists racer to the pit lane before the green flag.
With Gioia in the pit area and done for the evening, it would be Bellinger and Brian Sweeney leading the field to the Cam’s Pizzeria green flag with Bellinger shooting to the point in the No. 02.
Barnes, who started ninth on the grid, wasted little time putting himself in position at the front of the field driving by Danzer in turn two on lap 2 to take over the fourth position in the No. 68.
With Barnes starting to charge, a back sliding Sweeney would wind up in contact with Spring Champion Randy Ritskes in the No. 37 one lap later in the third corner, creating a blocked race track collecting several cars.
Joe Gosek, Dan Connors Jr., Michael Muldoon, Tim Devendorf, Dave Gruel, and Hal LaTulip would join both Sweeney and Ritskes in the third corner pileup with only Connors, Muldoon, Gruel and LaTulip able to rejoin the fray.
The races restart would see Bellinger in front leading Shaun Gosselin, Keith Shampine, Barnes, Danzer, Sitterly, Tim Snyder, Dave Gruel, Pat Lavery, and Jerry Curran.
With green lights back on, Barnes continued his impressive drive first sliding around Shampine for third in turn four before diving under Gosselin for second on the front straight 3-laps later.
A few cars back, Sitterly could no doubt see Barnes making all the right moves early, and he too would try to do the same. Six-time made his way to fifth on lap 6, after starting 11th on the grid, making his way by Danzer and would gain another spot one lap later as fourth running Shampine spun in the second corner with the No. 55 to bring the yellow lights on one more time.
In the process of the spin, Shampine would lose the front wing on the Osetek Racing Technologies machine. The Concord, NC driver would head to pit lane for repairs, rejoining the field for another five circuits before settling for an 18th place finish.
On the restart Barnes sat second with Sitterly now riding fourth, and at the drop of the green Barnes wasted little time pouncing on the Bellinger No. 02 to take the lead and begin to pull away.
In just five laps Sitterly was able to dispose of both Gosselin and Bellinger to settle into second by the 15th circuit, and the race was now on out front between Barnes and Sitterly at the point over the remainder of the 50-lap main.
As Barnes and Sitterly settled into a rhythm, Gruel began to march in the No. 50 from 8th on the starting grid.
As the race approached halfway Gruel was able to drive around both Gosselin and Bellinger to land in the third spot, trying to search for the two leaders who had checked out well in front of the field.
Over halfway through the event Barnes, Sitterly, and Gruel had checked away from the field, running in their own zip code leaving a healthy battle for fourth between Bellinger, Gosselin, Lavery, Danzer, Payne, and Kody Graham.
In a two wide battle that took over ten laps to settle, Lavery was finally able to prevail in the No. 22, working by Gosselin for fourth on lap 33 with Payne following suit in the No. 99.
Two laps later the Graham No. 21 did the same, rising from 20th in the starting lineup to sixth as Gosselin slid to seventh.
When the lap counter ticked to 35, all eyes went back to the point as both Barnes and Sitterly began to enter lapped traffic.
Historically, lapped traffic is where Sitterly has made his name, waiting in the wings before leaping around opponents in slower traffic.
However, Saturday night Sitterly was no match for Barnes, as the No. 68 sliced through traffic with precision. In fact, Barnes would extend his lead and in a half dozen laps pulled to nearly three full seconds over the Nicotra Racing No. 7, a lead that Sitterly was unable to erase.
At race’s end, Sitterly commented on another podium finish after starting deep in the field.
“There are so many competitive and equal cars here and with consistent finishes you have to start back there,” said Sitterly. “You just have to sort of take it and Barnesy was really good tonight. He (Barnes) was better in traffic and we just couldn’t really maneuver like we would like to. In open track I could see that I could hang with him, but in traffic his car is a lot more maneuverable. I just hoped that I could pounce on him in traffic if he made a mistake, but he didn’t, he drove a great race.”
The Gruel No. 50 once again showed wear and tear and the end of the evening, but again Gruel stood on the podium.
“Talk about the nose, look at the tail wing,” Gruel laughed on the front straight. “The car wasn’t bad even with the damage, we could have definitely improved if we had a straight front wing and a better tail, and it seems like every week we’re in something. But, we come out of it and the team really comes together and here we are.”
Of the 25 Novelis Supermodifieds in the pit area Saturday night the only new car to the lineup was the Nuclear Banana No. 24 of Jerry Curran. Curran made his first laps of the season Saturday night, completing 23 circuits and ending with a 16th place finish.
Joe Gosek arrived to the Speedway late with the No. 00 and did not get any hot laps. After qualifying fourth in his heat race, Gosek was involved in the lap 2 tangle, damaging the left front corner of his machine ending his short evening.
A top five finish for Joey Payne was no doubt what the doctor ordered after the New Jersey driver missed the Spring Championship due to a non-racing related knee injury. Plans are still in place for Payne to eventually pilot a brand new Xtreme chassis for Graham/Strong Racing, but Saturday night Payne was again in the Strong Racing No. 99 and running strong.
Dan Connors Jr. had his best finish of the season in his brand new Supermodified built by John Colloca with a tenth place finish in the main event driving the No. 01.
Gruel, Gosselin, and Tim Snyder claimed Shell Shock Custom Helmet Paint Heat Race Challenge victories Saturday night.
The Lighthouse Lanes Up & Comer with a ninth place finish was Brandon Bellinger, while the Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger Award went to Kody Graham after advancing 14-spots from 20th to sixth.
The Radical Racegear Lap Leader was Barnes, leading a total of 41 laps.
Oswego Speedway returns to action on Saturday night with the Burke’s Do-It-Best Home Centers/Helena Chemical Company Novelis Supermodified Twin 35’s along with a 30-lap Pathfinder Bank Small Block Super main. Supermodified heat races will start the night of racing at 6:30pm.
Novelis Supermodified Main (50-laps): 1. 68 – MICHAEL BARNES, 2. 7 – Otto Sitterly, 3. 50 – Dave Gruel, 4. 22 – Pat Lavery, 5. 99 – Joey Payne, 6. 21 – Kody Graham, 7. 52 – David Danzer, 8. 26 – Shaun Gosselin, 9. 02 – Brandon Bellinger, 10. 01 – Dan Connors, 11. 66 – Lou LeVea Sr, 12. 83 – Lou LeVea Jr, 13. 90 – Ray Graham, 14. 0 – Tim Snyder, 15. 11 – Jessica Zemken, 16. 24 – Jerry Curran, 17. 51 – Michael Muldoon, 18. 55 – Keith Shampine, 19. 3 – Brian Sweeney, 20. 37 – Randy Ritskes, 21. 00 – Joe Gosek, 22. 5 – Tim Devendorf, 23. 56 – Hal LaTulip, 24. 05 – Jeff Abold
Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger: #21 Kody Graham
Lighthouse Lanes Up & Comer: #02 Brandon Bellinger
Radical Racegear Lap Leader: #68 Michael Barnes