Bellinger Earns Historic Oswego Win; Last Lap Heroics Lift Cliff

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

59 years after his grandfather, Eddie Bellinger, Sr. and 41 years after his father, Eddie Bellinger, Jr., cracked victory lane for the very first time at the Oswego Speedway, Fulton’s Brandon Bellinger became the third member of his family to bring home the checkered flag on Saturday night at the famed lakeside oval. It’d been 17 years since a Bellinger last celebrated a feature win at Oswego.

Piloting the Daratt Farms No. 02 from the front row, Bellinger would race ahead of Port City native, Joe Gosek, unchallenged for much of the race. However, he would find himself fending off bids from seven-time track champ, Otto Sitterly, at race‘s end. The third generation Oswego pilot would end up holding his own on late-race restarts, keeping Sitterly at bay throughout the final third of the race.

After a frustrating start to the season, Bellinger says his team finally has things rolling in the right direction. They’ve been consistently fast the last few weeks and their win on Saturday night only validates the No. 02’s progress and potency. In 1974, his father backed up win No. 1 win with another the following week. Brandon will tackle that challenge next Saturday night from a starting position likely no better than 12th.

Listen to – Brandon Bellinger

Bellinger would seize the lead at the drop of the green from the winner of Saturday night’s small block super feature, Dave Cliff. Not fairing as well in this one, Cliff would find himself bounced out of the top five by the fourth lap. By the 10th lap, Bellinger had built himself a 10-car length advantage over Gosek and Kody Graham. Jeff Abold raced fourth, 15 lengths off the lead, with Shaun Gosselin rounding out the top five.

While Sitterly wrestled fifth place away from Gosselin on lap No. 15, Bellinger would begin closing in on lapped traffic. His lead would dwindle as he carefully navigated the tail-end of the field. However, the caution flag would reset the stage after Tim Devendorf clocked the third-turn wall. Devendorf would be okay, but his beautiful No. 5 racer would suffer extensive front-end damage.

With 15 rounds in the books, Bellinger led Gosek, Graham, Abold and Sitterly. Gosselin, Dave Gruel, Michael Barnes, Pat Lavery and Tim Snyder rounded out the top 10.

The ensuing restart saw Sitterly sailing high around the outside of Abold’s No. 05 for fourth place. As Bellinger began to inch away, Graham began pressing Gosek’s No. 00 for the runner-up spot.

12 laps into the run, Bellinger would again find himself closing in on lapped traffic. He would dive in with a 10-car advantage. Behind him, Graham would use a lapped car to swipe second away from Gosek.

Graham would begin hacking away at Bellinger’s advantage as the No. 02 approached a thicker pack of soon-to-be lapped competitors. Just as the leader was clearing the group, Graham would end up being the one bit by the pack as he and Lou LeVea, Sr. tangled entering turn No. 1. The red flag would fly as the contact sent the field scattering. Bond, Gosek, Gosselin, Gruel, Abold and Brian Sobus were all involved. Sitterly would make contact, but roll through the scene.

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Track officials would rule that Graham would be the only car penalized in the melee, putting Gosek and Abold back into the top five. The new top five would end up being Bellinger, Gosek, Sitterly, Abold and Barnes.

The restart would find Sitterly advancing again, taking second away from Gosek. One lap later, Bond would get turned around in turn No. 1. Sitterly wouldn’t be able to pick off Bellinger on the next restart, settling in close behind. With 15 to go, the lead duo would dance away from the rest of the field.

Sitterly would look both high and low around race leader, but would not be able to mount a serious challenge. With 10 to go, a dozen lengths sat between Gosek and the race leaders. Lapped traffic would come into view for the race leader, but before it would need to be dealt with, Gosselin’s No. 26 would bring out the caution flag after stalling on the backstretch.

Sitterly would have one last go with his restart magic, but Bellinger would hold his own. He would build himself a two-car length advantage before Sitterly would give it one last shot on the final lap. He would close up tight on the No. 02 and swing his No. 7 low off of the fourth turn, but fall short to the Bellinger machine. The checkered flag would fall on a first-time winner at Oswego for the second time in 2016.

Sitterly would bounce back from last week’s accident to land the John Nicotra-owned No. 7 in second.

Listen to – Otto Sitterly

In the Pathfinder Bank small block supermodified division, Cliff would earn his second feature win of the 2015 season in dramatic fashion. He would hound Ephratah, N.Y.’s Kreig Heroth in the closing rounds of the 30-lap main, passing him for the win on their final lap.

Having pulled away from the rest of the field the duo would run nose to tail until Cliff found daylight under Heroth’s No. 04 on the final lap. Pulling alongside, they would race two-abreast down the backstretch with Cliff gaining the upper hand as they danced through the third and fourth turns. The pilot of the Tim Barbeau-owned No. 50 would cruise the final stretch to seal the victory.

Listen to – David Cliff

Mexico’s JJ Andrews would lead the way early, leading Josh Kerr, Heroth, Jason Simmons and Mike Bruce. The first caution of the race would fly for points leader, Dalton Doyle after his No. 01 made contact with another car between turns one and two, flattening his left-front tire. Doyle would limp into the pits and return, but his continued bad luck would end up leading to a four-car virtual tie in the championship points chase.

Listen to – Dalton Doyle

Andrews was solid on the restart. However, Kerr would soon fall victim to Heroth’s No. 04. Heroth was quick to begin an assault on Andrews for the race lead. Bruce would soon move into third and join the front duo. Kerr would find himself heading in the wrong direction. Anthony Losurdo, Cliff, Simmons and Mike Bond would clear Kerr and join the leaders, creating a seven-car train atop the field.

Trying to take advantage of Heroth’s high and low peeks around Andrews, Bruce would challenge the runner-up for second up top, but find Losurdo and Cliff slipping underneath him. With the pressure mounting from behind, Heroth would power his way under Andrews on the 19th lap as the pack raced into the first turn.

One lap later, Cliff would make the same move on Losurdo. However, just as he began to clear Losurdo’s No. 1, Losurdo would find himself sideways in turn No. 2. Contact between him and Bruce put each, including Cameron Proud out of action.

Thanking FFB chassis guru, Dan Dennie, car owner, Denise Merrill, family and crew, Losurdo vowed to return next week to finish what he’d started.

“Cliff passed me without a bump or nudge, perfectly clean” Losurdo said. “I don’t believe Mike intentionally wrecked me, but I do think he was driving me harder than he should’ve because he thought I’d hit him earlier in the race. We will be back next week, better than ever.”

Bruce admits making contact, but insisted that it was a simple racing deal.

Listen to – Mike Bruce

With 19 in the books, Heroth led Andrews, Cliff, Simmons and Bond. Andrew Schartner, Matt Magner, Barry Kingsley, Jack Patrick and Kerr rounded out the top 10.

Andrews was unable to challenge Heroth on the restart, but found himself challenged on the inside by Cliff. The challenge became a pass and Cliff was off an running after the race leader. Cliff was quick to strike, taking an inside look on Heroth on the 22nd lap, but the race leader held on.

Cliff was glued to rear bumper of Heroth’s No. 04. Pulling away from Andrews and his chasers, it would become a two-man race to the checkers. By the 25th lap, they held a full straightaway advantage.

Battling for third, Simmons took to the outside of his teammate, Andrews, but soon found Bond taking away his inside lane. Running out of room up top, he would lose the position to Bond’s No. 47. Running on his teammate’s heels, Magner would follow Bond into fifth.

Right to the final lap, Cliff would continue to search for a way around the No. 04. He would finally find enough room on the low side racing out of turn No. 2. Behind them, Bond would end up taking away third from Andrews in the 11th hour, as well.

Disappointed that he couldn’t bring home the win, but happy that he could still bring home a solid run for his team, Heroth landed his No. 04 in second.

Listen to – Kreig Heroth

Having come from deep in the pack, Bond made his way through the thick of the field to put the Four Sevens Motorsports No. 74 in third.

Listen to – Mike Bond

Representing Team Tapout, Andrews would lead some laps before settling in for a fourth-place finish.

Listen to – JJ Andrews

Earning his third, top-five finish of the year, Magner landed his No. 87 in fifth.

Listen to – Matt Magner

Novelis Supermodified 50: 1. Brandon Bellinger (02), 2. Otto Sitterly (7), 3. Joe Gosek (00), 4. Jeff Abold (05), 5. Michael Barnes (68), 6. Dave Danzer (52), 7. Dave Gruel (50), 8. Bob Bond (47), 9. Tim Snyder (0), 10. Pat Lavery (22), 11. Brian Sobus (79), 12. Lou LeVea, Sr. (96), 13. Hal LaTulip (56), 14. Shaun Gosselin (26), 15. Aric Iosue (11), 16. Kody Graham (21), 17. Dave Cliff (06), 18. Joey Payne (99), 19. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 20. Tim Devendorf (5), 21. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 22. Mike Barbera (45), 23. Michael Muldoon (20). DNS – Logan Reyvals (94) & Keith Shampine (55)

Pathfinder Bank SBS 30: 1. Dave Cliff (50), 2. Kreig Heroth (04), 3. Mike Bond (74), 4. JJ Andrews (93), 5. Matt Magner (87), 6. Andrew Schartner (18), 7. Jason Simmons (98), 8 Barry Kingsley (91), 9. Jack Patrick (9), 10 Josh Kerr (8), 11. Dalton Doyle (01), 12. Chris Proud (3), 13. Dennsi Rupert (99), 14. Scott Shafer (76), 15. Dennis Richmond (24), 16. Camden Proud (54), 17. Anthony Losurdo (1), 18. Mike Bruce (22), 19. Mark Castiglia (69), 20. Alex McRae (14), 21. James Babcock (15), 22. Ron Pratt (88)