OSWEGO, NY – Despite cold and windy conditions and a rain delay of nearly five hours, Mexico driver Michael Barnes, known as “The Hustler,” wheeled the Syrell Racing No. 68 Novelis Supermodified to his eighth career Oswego Supermodified main event win on Saturday, his first ever score on opening night.
With weather conditions forcing a late start to the evening, Supermodified time trials were scrapped in favor of a heat race draw and top twelve redraw for the feature. Based on the luck of the draw, Barnes drew the pole position for the 50-lap Novelis Supermodified Kick-Off, presented by Mitchell’s Speedway Press of Oswego, and never looked back leading all 50 circuits on his way to the win.
While a brand new independent front suspension Supermodified is being prepared for Barnes and the Syrell team, Barnes drove to Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane on Saturday driving the older straight axle racer to defeat seven-time Speedway champion Otto Sitterly in his updated IFS machine, Tim Devendorf, sophomore driver Aric Iosue, and Pat Lavery in the top five positions.
Recently engaged to be married just one week ago, Barnes was all smiles in Oswego victory lane following his hard charging feature win.
“The car was really good all night,” said Barnes, who now has three wins driving for car owners Gary and Eric Syrell. “We haven’t run early in the season in the past and work was trying to call me away again, but we want to run all the races this season. I’d say we’re off to a good start. Thanks to the Syrell team and all of our sponsors, this is a great way to start the season.”
Michael Muldoon, Jeff Abold, Dave Gruel, Jerry Curran, and Hal LaTulip crossed the Pole Position Raceway Finish Line in the front ten spots at the conclusion of the 50-lap opening night main.
A total of 18 Novelis Supermodifieds made the main event call Saturday night with Barnes and Iosue leading the field to the Cam’s Pizzeria green flag, followed by Sitterly, Devendorf, Dave Danzer, and Curran.
At the start it was no surprise to see Barnes surge to the lead in the No. 68, but it was a surprise to see Sitterly start slowly, allowing both Iosue and Devendorf to slide to the inside and ahead of the Sitterly No. 7 in the early going to snag the second and third positions, relegating Sitterly to fourth.
Over the first handful of laps Barnes found his pace, gaining a bit of an advantage over a bumper to bumper battle for second between Iosue, Devendorf, Sitterly, and Danzer.
With Barnes leading, Gruel began to position himself in the No. 50, darting to the inside of Curran in turn one on lap eight to snag sixth.
Just one lap later however the night’s first caution would wave as Phoenix, Ariz., shoe Joey Moriarty found the front stretch wall in the Total Seal No. 51 machine. Moriarty, who also ran into issues in his qualifying heat race, was attempting a low side move on Lou LeVea Jr., when the two cars touched sending the Moriarty ride head on into the main straight steel.
After spinning some two or three times down the front straight, Moriarty’s car finally came to rest past the start/finish line, with Moriarty climbing out of the ride uninjured.
Both LeVea and Moriarty would be done for the night, finishing 16th and 17th respectively.
The restart order would see Barnes leading Iosue, Devendorf, Sitterly, Danzer, Gruel, Abold, Curran, Lavery, and Joe Gosek.
The first restart of the night was a wild one with cars darting all over the racing surface looking for racing room.
Danzer would eventually try a move on Sitterly into the third turn, but just behind the Abold No. 05 suddenly appeared sideways and facing in the wrong direction with the field bearing down on him.
Several cars spun to avoid the machine including Curran, Gosek, Lavery, Brandon Bellinger, Dan Connors Jr., and Kody Graham.
All cars would resume except for the Graham No. 90, which found the outside foam. Graham’s incident was the conclusion of a rough night for the Liverpool shoe as his primary No. 21 ride lost an engine at the conclusion of his heat race after finishing second.
Father Ray Graham would then give up the seat of the No. 90 for Kody to take over in the feature. His night lasted only nine laps.
On the ensuing restart Iosue came to life in the No. 11, giving chase to the Barnes No. 68 as the two hooked up to begin to pull away from Devendorf, Sitterly, and Danzer.
Further back in the field the all black No. 00 of Gosek was making his presence known.
Driving a revamped machine with IFS and new sheet metal, Gosek did not turn any hot laps and only three circuits in his heat race due to a fuel pick-up issue. But, after starting 15th in the feature, Gosek darted low under Lavery into turn three on lap ten to take over the sixth position and immediately began to give chase to the top five runners.
Unfortunately for Gosek his woes continued as on lap 16 the No. 00 pulled low down the back stretch and into the pits, out for the night.
Meanwhile out front Iosue, who had never driven a racecar prior to hopping in the No. 11 Supermodified in 2015, was on occasion turning faster laps than leader Barnes. But, as the field approached halfway the entire top five began to tighten up including Devendorf, Sitterly, and Danzer on lapped traffic.
The first four front runners managed to work their way through, but Danzer was not so fortunate.
As Danzer rolled to the outside of LaTulip into the third turn the rear end of the No. 52 stepped out, sending the Danzer machine backwards into the third turn foam. The damage to Danzer’s rear tail wing was too much to overcome, putting Danzer out for the evening on lap 24 in 12th position.
At halfway the field surged down the front stretch with Barnes leading Iosue, Devendorf, Sitterly, Lavery, Muldoon, Gruel, Connors, Abold, and Curran.
It was at this point that Sitterly turned up the wick in the Royal Purple/Nicotra Racing No. 7.
Once the lap counter hit 33 it took Sitterly only two laps to blast to the runner-up spot, first driving under Devendorf in turn one before sliding under Iosue for second in turn four.
Now the race was on for the point, but did Sitterly have enough time?
In chase mode, Sitterly turned the fastest lap of the main event on lap 40 with a time of 16.749 seconds as he tried to reel in the race leader. However, Barnes ripped off a 16.906 second circuit on the same exact lap as Sitterly, keeping himself at just enough of an advantage to beat Sitterly by just under one second at the finish for his eighth career Supermodified win.
With the victory Barnes joins Norm Mackereth, Dave Paul, Bob Smith, Ray Graham, and Chris Perley in a tie for 27th on the Speedway’s all-time Supermodified win list.
Sitterly, who stands at 37 career Super wins, said the handling was a bit off on his IFS racer this day.
“We had some new car blues tonight,” said Sitterly. “The car would not turn. It was a strange race for me, as everything is new to me in this car, so we’re still getting used to it. I think in the long-run this design will be the way to go, but tonight I think the right car was sitting in the pits.”
Devendorf made a charge at race end to slip past Iosue for third to take a podium position.
“We had a good car but not good enough for those guys (Barnes, Sitterly) tonight,” said Devendorf. “We were just a bit too tight. We struggled all day but we finally got it going by the end of the night.”
Overall there were a total of 20 Novelis Supermodifieds in the pit area including the back-up Nicotra Racing No. 7 and the Graham Racing No. 21 which did not take the main event green flag.
The back-up Mike Muldoon Racing Supermodified did take the green on Saturday with 2012 Pathfinder Bank SBS Series champion Kreig Heroth at the controls of the No. 14.
Shell Shock Custom Helmet Paint heat race victories went to Danzer, Connors, and Gruel.
The Radical Race Gear Lap Leader Award went to Barnes with Devendorf scoring the Lighthouse Lanes Up and Comer and LaTulip earning the Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger.
Gruel would also score an extra $50 cash from the Xtreme Short Track Sim Racing Series for being the last car on the lead lap.
Racing at Oswego Speedway continues on May 21 with a fan appreciation night special featuring just $10 admission.
The Novelis Supermodifieds and Pathfinder Bank SBS will be on the card with racing to get under way at 6:30 p.m.
Kids 16 and under with paid adult and active military with ID are free.
For more information on Oswego Speedway visit online at www.oswegospeedway.com or call (315) 342-0646. Visit the Speedway on social media @OswegoSpeedway or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OswegoSpeedway.