OSWEGO, NY – As the countdown continues toward the 59th running of the Budweiser International Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway on September 6, we look back at the next historic Classic driver on our list, Ohio Classic champion – Gary Allbritain.
From the first time Allbritain appeared at Oswego, it was clear to the veterans at the Speedway that the young ace, “had it,” despite running his first three Classics from 1972-1974 with little fanfare and a best finish of 13th in ‘73.
In 1975 however, Allbritain returned to Oswego in the Todd Gibson built Routh Packing Co. No. 75, and timed on the outside of row three for the 200.
The story of the 1975 Classic was Fred Graves in the Bill Hite built four-wheel drive No. 39. The faithful on hand wondered if Graves could say out of trouble, and if the machine that was so much faster than the rest of the competition, could go the distance?
As it turned out the Graves No. 39 was the first car out of the race on lap 14 handing the lead to Jim shampine who was chased by Kempton Dates and Allbritain.
Just prior to the lap 100 mark, Allbritain would steal the lead away from Shampine and before the Green Machine could try and snap back, caution lights would come on for ’76 track champion Ron Wallace.
When the race restarted, Shampine then ran into trouble with a broken fuel pump pulley, leaving Allbritain alone out front.
As the race wore on Allbritain had to contend with both Johnny Logan and Steve Gioia Jr., but the young Midwestern racer held on to collect his only Classic win, and later turned it into a chance at the Indianapolis 500.
Just one year later Allbritain returned to the Classic, this time driving for Doug Duncan in the familiar No. 07, after a stint in the USAC ranks.
Looking to be on his way to a second consecutive Classic title in 1976, Gioia – who finished second to Allbritain in ’75 – roared by Allbritain with less than ten laps to go on the outside of the front stretch to take the lead and the win.
Allbritain would have to settle for a runner-up drive.
In 1979 Allbritain took on the Classic driving for Ed Bowley in the Flying 5. Allbritain timed in fifth quick with the machine and would go on to a seventh place finish as Chuck Ciprich rode to his second consecutive Classic triumph.
Allbritain’s next top ten run in the Classic would not come until 1985, this time wheeling the Tobin owned No. 21. Time trialing fifth fastest in the field, Allbritain finished tenth in the order.
Still with Tobin, Allbritain returned to the Classic podium two years in a row in 1988 and 1989.
A third place finish in ’88 behind Eddie Bellinger and AJ Michaels propelled Allbritain to another runner-up finish in ‘89 as Bentley Warren charged to the win in the Mazur No. 61.
Allbritain’s stretch of good luck continued in 1990, now driving for Skip Matczak in the No. 3, with an outside second row starting spot and a sixth place finish.
Perhaps one of Allbritain’s most remembered Classic drives came in 1992, driving the Bobby Witkum owned No. 35 machine. Renumbered from its usual No. 85, Allbritain started 16th on this day but would wind up challenging Joe Gosek for the lead with 40 laps to go.
Unfortunately for Allbritain the engine seized on the Witkum machine at lap 174.
Another year later Allbritain returned yet again with another new car owner, this time Jim and Danny Soule.
Once again starting from the 8th row in the lineup, Allbritain worked his way through the field to again finish the 200-lap grind in sixth position.
To add to his already expansive cast of car owners, Allbritain came to the 1995 Classic driving the Ed Shea No. 27. Allbritain would just miss a podium finish, driving for Shea, with a fourth place run behind Mike Muldoon, Mike Ordway, and Doug Didero.
That ’95 Classic run would be Allbritain’s final top five effort, in a run which began all the way back in 1976.
Allbritain scored a total of five top five finishes in the International Classic driving for four different car owners, quite the feat.
For more information on Oswego Speedway and Budweiser International Classic Weekend visit online at www.oswegospeedway.com or call (315) 342-0646.