Bond Bags Third SBS Classic

By – Chris Porter

Mexico’s Mike Bond earned his third Small Block Supermodified Classic Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway. The 2003 and 2004 event winner passed race leader Brian Sobus on the 86th lap and sped away the final 14 circuits to secure the win. Bond seemed to only be getting faster as the event progressed, posting his quickest lap time on his 92nd trip around Oswego’s fast 5/8 mile, 19.458 seconds.

Unavailable for comment after the race due to his father-in-law falling ill, car owner Terry Solazzo expressed his appreciation for all of the work that went into putting his No. 26 car into victory lane.

“Everybody is really happy with the win,” Solazzo said. “These guys all worked their hearts out today, Mike DeCare, Larry VonHoltz, Jr., Larry Sr., his brother Bobby. We went through everything on this racecar trying to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Mike DeCare did an excellent job with the tires. We’ve got the best driver at the track. I think we proved that tonight, the best driver won. He just sat back, bided his time and did what Mike does. I mean, he’s just a great racecar driver.”

Listen toTerry Solazzo

Bond took the lead away from Sobus, who had inherited the top spot after Russ Brown fell victim to poor judgment by lapped traffic. After dominating the first half of the event, contact with the lapped Ken Pierce No. 67 sent both cars spinning in the fourth turn. Brown would remain on the lead lap and make his way back up into the sixth position before a similar incident with another lapped competitor would cut his night short.

Sobus and Brown led the 25-car field to the green to start the 100-lap season-ending event. With Bond and newly crowned 2009 SBS Track Champion Dave Gruel starting behind them, the front two rows raced side-by-side for nearly two laps before Brown nosed out in front. Sobus, Gruel, Bond and Stan Gates filled out the top five behind the race leader.

Having started sixth, two-time defending SBS Classic champ David Cliff faded quickly, eventually pulling in pit-side on the ninth lap – there would be no three-peat for the No. 06 team.

By the 10th lap, Brown had the field covered by a dozen lengths. Sobus, Gruel, Bond, Gates and Rob Pullen had broken away from the main pack. Having just moved to the front of that second group, JJ Andrews set out to run down the leaders.

With a 25-car length advantaged, Brown entered lapped traffic on the 17th lap. Lap No. 22 saw Sobus and Gruel go high-low around Mark Castiglia’s lapped No. 90 car. Sobus was able to hold on to second, but knew Gruel wasn’t willing to settle for third.

At the lap No. 25 mark, Brown was venturing into very heavy lapped traffic. Sobus, Gruel and Bond began to eat away at Brown’s lead as the race leader weaved his way through the tail-end of the field.

Suddenly, Gruel raised his hand to signal that he was slowing. Half of a lap later, his No. 50 retired into the pits with mechanical woes.

The long green flag run had greatly spread the field. With 35 laps in the books, Brown led Sobus, Bond, Gates and Pullen. Andrews Tim Barbeau, Kevin Knopp, Andrew Schartner and Shawn Walker completed the top 10.

Brown’s lead quickly evaporated once he came upon Steve Abt’s No. 85. Lap after lap, Brown would try the outside, only to run out of room and need to back out. Sobus managed to put a wheel under Brown’s No. 60 on the 43rd lap, but Brown fought back around the outside.

Coming off of the fourth turn, the No. 85 slide sideways, allowing the lead trio to race by. Just as they were about to start lapping the top 10, the lapped Pierce machine made contact with the leader. The two slid high, nearly taking Sobus and Bond with them.

The incredible stretch of green came to an end on the 47th lap. After 6 laps run under caution, the field faced another 47 laps to reach the checkered flag. Sobus now commanded the field. Bond, Gates, Andrews, Pullen, Barbeau, Schartner, Knopp, Walker and Mark Regan filled out the top 10. Running 11th, Brown rounded out those remaining on the lead lap.

On the restart, Bond was all over the back end of the No. 79. The top two began to pull away when the caution lights began to flash for an accident between turns one and two. A mid-pack game of bumper tag left Jack Patrick and Pullen sitting backwards.

The field went back to green with 32 laps remaining. However, Regan’s No. 4 was forced to pull into the pits after breaking the front-left.

Again, the top two pulled away only to have another caution put the field on their heels, once again. Pullen and Guard Nearbin had tangled in turn No. 1. Having just passed Barbeau and Schartner, Brown found himself up to the sixth position.

As the lead duo danced away on the restart, Brown put his No. 60 around Knopp’s No. 04. Knopp fought back on the inside and once again, Brown found himself behind Abt’s No. 85. Again, Brown went to the outside of the lapped driver and once again, was forced into the wall. There was no caution flown as Brown was able to limp his No. 60 into the pits.

Up front, Bond’s time for running second was running short. With 14 trips to go, he dove underneath the Sobus No. 79 in turn No. 1. Taking the lead away, the laps couldn’t tick away fast enough for the pilot of the No. 26.

With five to go, he’d built a 20-car advantage on the No. 79. Bond took the checkered flag with a three and a half second cushion.

Sobus crossed the line in second place, while Gates earned himself a podium finish, landing his No. 28 in third.

“We started towards the front, which always helps,” Gates said. “We started on the inside. I had a good car. It was pretty fast. We weren’t going to touch Brown and we probably weren’t going to touch Sobus and all of them. The car was consistent. It’s fun to drive now. It’s not the fastest car, but it’s not the slowest either. We’re really good at time-trialing. I’ve driven a lot of dirt cars, so I know how to use the brake and the gas at the same time. My car pushed really bad in time-trials, but I learned how to use the brake to go fast sometimes.”

Listen toStan Gates

Making his annual Labor Day Weekend appearance, Andrews drove a spirited race, earning himself and his No. 93 small block super a fourth-place finish.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Andrews said. “I have know idea how all of that just happened. But, we’re very excited about it. It was good. That car, right from the start, right from the green, it was right on the money. It never pushed, it was never loose. It was perfect all night. I don’t know how that happened. We were looking at the times and we were third fastest of anybody today, which I’ve never been able to say. From the time we brought it here, we never made a turn on wedge until Cory put two turns … well, I’m not going to say where. I don’t want to give away our secrets. But, we made a little move before the feature, guessing what the track would do and it was perfect. The car was great.”

Listen toJJ Andrews

After announcing his retirement come Classic Weekend 2009, Kevin Knopp was able to add another top-five finish to his decorated resume.

“The car was good,” Knopp said. “We were good in warm-ups yesterday. We were fifth quickest. I’m disappointed with the qualifying effort, but that was me. I’m terrible at time-trials. The car was good. The brakes were a little glowy, a little sticky. I had some brake issues. All in all, I can’t complain. Apparently, I finished fourth. I thought I’d finished fifth. We’ll take it for our last race and close out a good career.”

Listen toKevin Knopp

Having made leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season, Schartner added a fine Classic run to his SBS Rookie of the Year title.

“I was happy,” Schartner said. “Obviously, I’d like to improve. But, finishing sixth when I crossed the line, whatever happened in tech, happened in tech. But, we had a good run. We qualified bad for my standards. I definitely think we should’ve been a top-five qualifier. It was my fault. I made a bad call. I was trying to get the car good for two laps and it was just way too loose. We were alright though.”

“We battled our way up and tried to be patient, as much as I could. Then, I realized I had to go. I picked off a couple of cars. I don’t know what they were doing. I think it was a horrible call leaving all of the lapped cars in front of us. Everyone else says it too. I just don’t understand why they left them there. It just cost a few spots. They all started sliding going into turn one. Knopp got back under us, and Barbeau. I guess I’ll be Russ Brown and say it is what it is. I’m happy with where we ended up. I’m very pleased.”

Listen toAndrew Schartner

Having banged the front of his No. 68 up in practice, Walker was able to bounce back and drive his damaged car to a solid top-10 finish.

“I feel like Popeye, because my forearms are pretty big,” Walker said. “I was pushing like a dump truck. In the warm-ups, I had a little jingle with the 10 car … he spun out, I t-boned him. I bent the frame. I kind of cob-jobbed it back together and we made it home in eighth on the lead lap. I was going to do the Race of Champions if the car was there, but it’s not there now. So, we’re done.”

Listen toShawn Walker

After the race, Brown congratulated Bond on his win, but talked more about his difficulties with the lapped traffic, two cars in particular.

Listen toRuss Brown

Pierce declined comment, but Abt denied any intent.

Listen toSteve Abt

2009 SBS Classic 100:
1. Mike Bond (26), 2. Brian Sobus (79), 3.Stan Gates (28), 4. JJ Andrews (93), 5. Kevin Knopp (04), 6. Andrew Schartner (18), 7. Tim Barbeau (58), 8. Shawn Walker (68), 9. Dave Danzer (52), 10. Danny Kapuscinski (36), 11. Kreig Heroth (44), 12. Steve Abt (85), 13. Bill Moore (20), 14. Guard Nearbin (78), 15. Jack Patrick (9), 16. Russ Brown (60), 17. Rob Pullen (25), 18. Mark Regan (4), 19. Barry Kingsley (23), 20. Ken Pierce (67), 21. Dave Gruel (50), 22. Mark Castiglia (90), 23. Jason Simmons (91), 24. Chip Wood (2), 25. David Cliff (06).

Taking the lead at the drop of the green, 2008 SBS Rookie of the Year Kreig Heroth easily won the 12-lap SBS B-Main event. Heroth, Regan and Kapuscinski pulled away from the field, leaving their chasers to fight for the three remaining qualifying positions. Chris Natoli, Bryan Haynes, Brian Osetek and Mike Mullin would end up coming up short.

SBS B-Main 12:
1. Kreig Heroth (44), 2. Mark Regan (4), 3. Danny Kapuscinski (36), 4. Mark Castiglia (90), 5. Bill Moore (20), 6. Guard Nearbin (78), 7. Chris Natoli (33), 8. Bryan Haynes (86), 9. Brian Osetek (95), 10. Mike Mullin (32), 11. Chip Wood (2)