‘Classic Moments’ Countdown: #19 Coniam Wins as Dates Runs out of Fuel – 1977 International Classic

Kempton Dates hits pit lane after running out of fuel while leading Oswego Speedway's 1977 International Classic.

Kempton Dates hits pit lane after running out of fuel while leading Oswego Speedway's 1977 International Classic.

OSWEGO, NY – As the countdown officially begins toward the 58th annual Budweiser International Classic 200 for Novelis Supermodifieds at Oswego Speedway on Sunday, August 31, we look back at the Top30 moments in International Classic history, with the assistance of George Caruso’s ’50 Most Memorable Moments of the International Classic.’

Kempton Dates hits pit lane after running out of fuel while leading Oswego Speedway's 1977 International Classic.
Kempton Dates hits pit lane after running out of fuel while leading Oswego Speedway’s 1977 International Classic.

With 19 days remaining until the International Classic, the countdown continues with No. 19, looking back on Warren Coniam’s first International Classic win after Kempton Dates ran out of fuel.

By 1977 Dates had matured into one of Oswego’s top pilots, having won the ’77 track championship, and appearing to be well on his way to an International Classic win in the late stages of the ’77 200.

However, with only four laps remaining the fuel tank on the Dates No. 28 went dry as the ‘Red Creek Rocket’ coasted to a stop in turn two.

Ironically a Kempton Dates built chassis, driven by Canadian veteran Warren Coniam and owned by Dave McKnight Sr., would inherit the lead and hold on for the final three laps to take victory.

For Coniam the win was sweet redemption, after having tried to win the Classic for nearly a decade. For McKnight the Classic win was a dose of beginner’s luck, winning the race in his first try as a Supermodified car owner.

The very next year, McKnight and Coniam would win the 1978 Oswego Speedway track championship, and after doing so McKnight sold all of his equipment and called it a career as an owner.

Steve Gioia Jr. followed Coniam across the line for second position in the ’77 Classic followed by Jim Winks, Jim Shampine, and Denny Wheeler in the top five.

Shampine would actually finish the 200 in his back-up No. 88 Supermodified, which started the race with Maynard Troyer at the wheel.

Shampine dropped out very early on in his 18” radical offset Supermodified due to a broken fuel pump, and would go on to relief drive for Troyer to bring home a top five in his trusty old 8-Ball.

Mark Letcher, Nolan Swift, Ollie Silva, Ed Bellinger Jr., and Dates would finish the top ten.

The 1977 International Classic would be the final Classic for 6-time champion Swift in the 10pins, who competed in 21 consecutive Classic events since its inception in 1957.

To purchase tickets for Budweiser International Classic Weekend and the 58th annual Budweiser International Classic 200, call the Speedway’s box office today at (315) 342-0646.

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