Just one week after suffering a horrendous crash on the final lap of a side-by-side battle for the $10,000 dollar to-win Mr. Supermodified crown, Otto Sitterly rebounded with a convincing feature win at the Oswego Speedway on Saturday night.
Despite last week’s outcome, Saturday night’s victory appeared to be more of a re-establishment of the team’s capabilities rather than be something therapeutic or act as a consolation prize for the veteran driver. Confidence that the equipment couldn’t put him into victory lane was never in doubt. The car he drove to the checkered flag is virtually identical to the one he lost the previous week out. It’s the baggage of one week ago that still hangs with the Canajoharie, N.Y. resident.
Nicotra Racing celebrates a week-long triumph in victory lane
“It was a tough week,” Sitterly said. “It was just a long week. You go over things. I think I’m a pretty good, honest, clean racer. I race hard. I just went over things and of course, you tend to question yourself. I just looked at the situation and I don’t believe I would change what I did last week. If it happened again next week, I would probably do the same thing. It is what it is, though. Obviously we’ve moved on and we’re here this week. Everybody here that works hard and that supports me, they’re all happy and stuff. I tend to hold onto things. Even though we’re moving on, we’re looking forward from here, there’s still a lot of disappointment.”
The thought process throughout the week had Sitterly seriously considering not returning to race this past weekend. He says it was his car owner’s persistence and his wife’s encouragement that led him back to the lakeside oval.
“It was definitely a question,” he said of his return. “I probably was not coming back with out my wife and this guy (John Nicotra) here. He’s relentless. He gave up calling me and called my wife. My wife is a special individual, for sure. I’m not just saying that because I know her, but she really is a sweetheart. When she’s behind you, she’ll make you believe that you can do anything.”
Listen to more from – Otto Sitterly & John Nicotra
With the car he’d racked up double-digit wins with en route to three consecutive track championships laying in pieces inside chassis builder Joe Hawksby, Jr.’s garage, Sitterly piloted one of the two remaining Nicotra-owned supermodifieds into victory lane.
Both driver and car owner insist that there’s no such thing as a “back-up” ride in Nicotra Racing’s stable.
“There are no backup cars, they’re all primary cars,” Nicotra said. “Every one of them is top-notch equipment. There’s no back-up anything. It’s all first class, from front to back and top to bottom. All three cars are the same.”
Having started in row No. 4, alongside the same car he’d tangled with one week earlier, Sitterly chased Ray Graham, Jr.’s No. 90 for four laps before putting his No. 7 around the No. 90 off of the fourth turn on lap No. 5. The two would soon continue last week’s side-by-side action once catching Stephen Gioia’s No. 9.
Sitterly was finally able to get under Gioia’s machine to take over second place on the 10th lap. Graham was quick to follow. The two would not be as quick to catch and pass early race leader, Dave Danzer. The rookie driver had been whirling his No. 52 around Oswego’s fast five-eighths atop the field with consistent laps hovering around 17 seconds flat.
As the race progressed, the trio would pull away from the field, leading fourth-place running Gioia by half a circuit as they approached the tail-end of the field on the 30th lap. Danzer would soon add his name to the list of drivers who’ve fallen victim to uncooperative lapped traffic this season.
Danzer went to the outside to lap the middle-groove running Jerry Curran No. 24 in turn No. 3. With room below the No. 24 to spare, Sitterly took to Curran’s low side. Curran drifted up and Danzer was left for the marbles. The No. 52 spun and Sitterly took over the top spot.
With 30 laps in the books, Sitterly led Graham, Gioia, Joey Payne and Pat Lavery. Randy Ritskes, Joe Gosek, Michael Barnes, Jeff Holbrook, Bob Bond, Brian Sobus and Michael Muldoon rounded out the first dozen.
When racing resumed, Sitterly and Graham fled the field. Payne would work his way around Gioia, but would not be able to reel in the lead duo. By the 35th lap, Sitterly had built an eight-car length lead over Graham.
Ritskes dove underneath Gioia in turn No. 1 for fourth on the 37th lap and one lap later, Barnes would pass the No. 9 on the outside to take over fifth.
Sitterly caught the tail-end of the field on his 44th trip around, but a caution for Danzer and Kody Graham would save the race leader from having to enter it. While under caution, the Barnes No. 98 saw a top-five run turn sour after fuel pick-up issues sent him to the pits.
With just eight trips remaining, Sitterly led Graham, Payne, Ritskes and Lavery. Gosek, Bond, Holbrook, Sobus and Gioia rounded out the top 10.
Otto emerges from his No. 7 after winning at Oswego
With lightning flashing in the distance, Bond popped the backstretch wall on the restart. Sitterly picked up where he’d left off on the ensuing green, as the top four would spread apart in the closing laps.
Sitterly would earn the win – his third of the season – with Graham finishing second. Payne, Ritskes and Lavery would round out the top five. With both Graham and Ritskes finishing ahead of Gosek in their respective heats and in the feature, the title chase tightened up all the more.
With Payne racing back home to New Jersey, car owner Pat Strong commented on his No. 99 and on the run Barnes had going in the No. 98.
Listen to – Pat Strong
Earlier in the evening, Oswego Speedway and the Central New York Chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation came together to grant the wish of 14-year old Joshua Yorgey of Cicero, N.Y. a ride in the two-seat supermodified.
Feature 50-laps: 1. Otto Sitterly (7), 2. Ray Graham, Jr. (90), 3. Joey Payne (99), 4. Randy Ritskes (88), 5. Pat Lavery (22), 6. Joe Gosek (00), 7. Jeff Holbrook (35), 8. Brian Sobus (79), 9. Michael Muldoon (20), 10. Jason Spaulding (23), 11. Tim Snyder (0), 12. Dave Danzer (52), 13. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 14. Michael Barnes (98), 15. Bobby Bond (25), 16. Kody Graham (21), 17. Bobby Haynes, Jr. (44), 18. Jerry Curran (24), 19. Dave Gruel (50), 20. Lou LeVea (66), 21. Joe Chillemi (14), 22. Guard Nearbin (78), 23. Bill Moore (85), 24. Dave McKnight, Jr. (08)
Heat #1: 1. Graham, 2. McKnight, 3. Gioia, 4. Curran, 5. Muldoon, 6. Bond, 7. LeVea, 8. Chillemi
Heat #2: 1. Payne, 2. Haynes, 3. Danzer, 4. Gosek, 5. Holbrook, 6. K. Graham, 7. Moore, 8. Gruel
Heat #3: 1. Lavery, 2. Snyder, 3. Ritskes, 4. Sitterly, 5. Barnes, 6. Sobus, 7. Spaulding, 8. Nearbin