By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney
Of the three different drivers leading the field over the final 20 laps of Sunday’s 59th annual International Classic 200 at the Oswego Speedway, Bob Bond would be the one earning the checkered flag come race’s end. Taking the lead away from fellow Mexico native, Michael Barnes, with a lap and a half to go, Bond would earn his third Classic win.
Barnes had led the first half of the race before Oswego’s Dave Danzer took command. Danzer would end up spinning-out, handing the lead over to defending race winner, Sitterly. The four-time Classic champ had appeared to be on his way to his fifth when he too, spun-out with just eight laps remaining. This handed the lead back over to Barnes who eventually gave way to Bond with just under a mile to go.
The win was the second for No. 47 car owner, Denise Merrill. It also continued a seven-year stretch of Bond and Sitterly’s ownership of victory lane on Classic Weekend. Having started ninth on the grid, It was the second time a driver has won from the ninth starting spot. Though, it’s been Bond both times. His first, coming in 2010.
Listen to – Bob Bond
At the drop of the green, Barnes would jump out to an early lead over Danzer, Sitterly, Davey Hamilton and Tim Devendorf. Just three laps into the event, Barnes commanded a 15-car length lead. By the 10th lap, he’d increased it to a quarter of a lap. Barnes would hit the tail-end of the field on his 15th time around Oswego‘s fast five-eighth‘s mile.
With a lonely spin in turn No. 1, Shawn Muldoon would bring out the first caution flag of the race on the 33rd lap. Heading back to green flag racing, Barnes would lead Danzer, Sitterly Hamilton and Devendorf. Dave Shullick, Jr., Michael Muldoon, Kody Graham, Joey Moriarity and Joe Gosek rounded out the top 10. Bobby Santos, Bond, Dave Gruel, Jeff Abold and Brandon Bellinger filled out the first 15.
After Shullick bested Devendorf for fifth place, all three blue John Nicotra-owned cars ran in file, third through fifth. That wouldn’t last long as Sitterly would soon swipe second away from Danzer near the quarter mark of the race.
A precautionary flag would slow the action temporarily, but shortly after going back to green flag racing, Howard Page’s No. 18 would stall at the end of the front straightaway on the 72nd lap. During the caution, Mike Lichty and Dan Connors, Jr. would both lose a lap during pit-stops, but eventually pull in nose-first shortly after the green dropped again.
A few laps later, two-time feature winner, Muldoon would slow and retire to the pits on the 85th lap. Six laps later, Santos would coast his No. 91 to a stop. Engine woes would end his day, as well. An incredibly fast pit stop by Bellinger saw him receive a right-rear tire in must a matter of seconds.
The ensuing restart saw Barnes receive his first challenge of the day. An outside bid by Sitterly would fall short as Danzer would challenge the No. 7 down low. This green flag stretch was short-lived, as well. Ryan Litt’s No. 88 had spun on the frontstretch.
Danzer would retake the runner-up spot on the lap No. 103 restart, zipping under Sitterly. Looking as if the halfway mark was the No. 52’s “Go” button, Danzer then quickly began to press Barnes for the race lead.
Seeming content to let the two leaders duel, Sitterly and Hamilton did not give chase. The front of the pack would soon dive into lapped traffic. Danzer continued looking high and low for a pathway around Barnes’ No. 68. Dicing their way through traffic, Sitterly and Hamilton began to creep back into play.
Barnes would break loose between turns three and four, but hold the race lead. Danzer would try and pin him behind traffic, but Barnes would hold strong. However, Danzer would finally shoot underneath the No. 68 in turn No. 3, taking the lead away on the 123rd lap. With every circuit passing, Danzer’s lead would grow. Two laps after taking control, he held five lengths on Barnes. By the 130th lap, Danzer’s lead was 20 lengths.
Barnes soon fell into the clutches of Sitterly’s No. 7. He would see the defending race champ fly past his lower side on the 131st lap. Just as Sitterly was setting up to try and chase down Danzer, the caution flag flew – for Danzer’s No. 52.
Prepping for more lapped traffic, Danzer had spun in turn No. 2. This would hand the race lead over to Sitterly with 60 laps to go. While under caution, Brian Sobus and Pat Lavery would pit for new rubber. While Lavery would escape in time, Sobus would end up losing a lap. Sitterly would lead Barnes, Hamilton, Shullick and Devendorf. Graham, Gosek, Bond, Gruel and Tim Snyder filled out the top 10.
Once back to racing, Sitterly, as expected would take flight at the drop of the green. A few laps into the run, Graham’s sixth-place running No. 21 would slow and exit with motor woes. Sitterly would dive into lapped traffic with a 10-car length advantage over Barnes. Heavier traffic was just ahead, but the yellow lights would fly again for Snyder’s stalled No. 0.
With just 37 trips to go and Sitterly looking mighty fine up front, Gosek would snag fifth away from Devendorf. Soon after, Bond would begin his jaunt to the front, besting Devendorf as well.
With 25 to go, Sitterly commanded a 25-car length lead. Barnes, Hamilton and Shullick raced closely for second, with Gosek and Bond closing in.
After catching Shullick, Gosek and Bond would begin dueling with the fourth-place runner, but Gosek’s No. 00 would end up washing high between turns one and two. Shortly after, Gosek would find himself slipping backwards and would eventually retire for the day. Bond would not falter, advancing on Gosek before besting Shullick with an inside move for fourth.
With just 15 rounds to go, Sitterly looked to be well on his way to earning his fifth Classic ring, commanding a half-lap lead over Barnes and Hamilton. Bond was further behind but closing in on the two nearest chasers. Joey Payne’s No. 99 was rolling as well, catching and now challenging Devendorf and Shullick for fifth and sixth.
Suddenly, with just eight laps to go, the caution flag was flying for the race leader. Sitterly had spun in the same corner Danzer had nearly 60 laps earlier. Due to his lead being so big, he was able to avoid losing a lap. Though, he now sat at the back of the field with only six laps remaining.
Now back in the lead, Barnes led a three-car breakaway at the drop of the green. Two laps into racing, Bond would muscle his way under Hamilton for second place. The win was in reach and he was moving forward with only a few trips to go. Behind him, Payne’s late-race surge continued, besting Shullick for fourth.
Just one lap later, Bond pounced on Barnes’ ailing No. 68. Just as he was passing him on the front straightaway the caution flag would fly for a trio of contenders stuffed in the third-turn wall. Shaun Gosselin, Lavery and Sitterly all exited via the hook. The time-consuming cleanup pushed the lapboard over the 200 mark. Immediately, empty fuel cells would become a concern as the checkered flag would not end up falling until the 210th lap.
Saved by the caution flag, Barnes knew what he was up against. Only a green-white-checkered finish sat between him and his first Classic win, but those two laps might as well been an eternity. Barnes would take the green, but before he could reach the white flag, Bond had him beat off of the second turn. Slipping underneath the No. 68, Bond raced into the lead. Pulling away on the final lap, he would seize his third checkered flag in the International Classic.
Earning his best Classic finish, Barnes was still obviously disappointed with second place.
Listen to – Michael Barnes
Nearly nipping Barnes at the line for second, Payne crossed the checkered stripe in third.
Listen to – Joey Payne
Running in the top five all afternoon, Hamilton landed the Nicotra Racing No. 6 in fourth place.
Listen to – Davey Hamilton
Also running near the front all day, Shullick put a second Nicotra-owned super in the top five, finishing in fifth.
Listen to – Dave Shullick, Jr.
Racing his new No. 5 to a sixth-place finish, Devendorf earned him self a career-best Classic run.
Listen to – Tim Devendorf
Bouncing back from his spin, Danzer raced his No. 52 to a seventh-place finish
Listen to – Dave Danzer
Losing a lap during a pit-stop, but still landing himself a top-10 finish, Sobus earned himself an eighth-place run.
Listen to – Brian Sobus
Happy with finishing, but not where he finished, Gruel was still pleased he could role in on the trailer in one piece.
Listen to – Dave Gruel
With a lightning-quick tire change highlighting his day, Bellinger drove his No. 02 to a 10th-place finish.
Listen to – Brandon Bellinger
Not only was Kreig Heroth driving a supermodified for the first time, but his first race was the International Classic. Finishing the race made for a trio of things for Heroth to happy about. He would finish in 16th.
Listen to – Kreig Heroth
Coming up short on a fifth win, Sitterly would end up finishing in 15th place.
Listen to – Otto Sitterly
59th Budweiser International Classic 200: 1. Bob Bond (47), 2. Michael Barnes (68), 3. Joey Payne (99), 4. Dave Hamilton (6), 5. Dave Shullick, Jr. (2), 6. Tim Devendorf (5), 7. Dave Danzer (52), 8. Brian Sobus (79), 9. Dave Gruel (50), 10. Brandon Bellinger (02), 11. Jerry Curran (24), 12. Aric Iosue (11), 13. Pat Lavery (22), 14. Shaun Gosselin (26), 15. Otto Sitterly (7), 16. Kreig Heroth (45), 17. Joe Gosek (00), 18. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 19. Dave Cliff (72), 20. Tim Snyder (0), 21. Kody Graham (21), 22. Shawn Muldoon (1), 23. Joey Moriarity (51), 24. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 25. Ryan Litt (88), 26. Bobby Santos (91), 27. Michael Muldoon (15), 28. Mike Lichty (84), 29. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 30. Howard Page (18), 31. Jeff Abold (05), 32. Hal LaTulip (56), 33. Bobby Magner (35), 34. Lou LeVea, Sr. (96)