Countdown to Classic: 18… ‘One More in ‘94’ for Bellinger

OSWEGO, NY – As another day passes on the way to the 2012 Budweiser International Classic 200, today’s blast from the past takes us to 1994 and another big day for the Bellinger clan.

The 1994 regular season at Oswego Speedway saw the beginning of the dominant Didero/Matczak era at the ‘Steel Palace.’ Didero would earn his first career Speedway track championship in ‘94 driving the red No. 3 for Skip Matczak over Russ Wood and Eddie Bellinger with three main event wins.  Heading to the Classic, Didero had won the final two main events of the regular season, making him the odds on favorite.  However, ‘One More in ‘94’ had quite the ring to it for Bellinger, who had won two regular season events that season.

When it came time for Classic Weekend another driver looked to throw his hat into the ring for Classic glory.  Pat Abold had been close so many times in the Classic driving the No. 05, and he staked his claim early on in Friday night time trials.  Abold not only set quick time in the red No. 05, but also set a brand new track record with a lap of 16.931 seconds, the only lap under the 17-second bracket in qualifications.  Didero, the new Speedway champion, would sit on the outside of the front row come Sunday.

First time Classic qualifiers in the 1994 International included longtime winged Supermodified runner Dave Simard in the Tim Trefethan No. 77, Limited Supermodified graduate Russ Brown, and Rookie of the Race award winner Hal LaTulip in the No. 56.

Abold would lead the first circuit of the ’94 Classic before Danny Soule took the top spot in the No. 32.  It was the first time that Soule had ever led the International Classic and he would pace the field until defending champion Bellinger took the top spot on lap 17.

Bellinger would lead the field for several laps right past the halfway point in the Graves Chassis No. 02.  Trailing Bellinger for the majority of the first half of the race included Mike Muldoon, Soule, Didero, Steve Gioia Jr., and Abold.

At lap 105 the caution waved for Ohio driver Jim Shirey, opening the pit area for Muldoon and Didero to make their stops.  Muldoon would get in and out without losing a lap, but the same could not be said for champion Didero, who lost a lap in the process behind the wheel of the No. 3.

After the pit and win in 1993, to everyone’s surprise Bellinger stayed on the track to continue out front.  However, another caution at lap 116 for Jeff West, Davey Hamilton in Gioia’s back-up car, and Paul Richardson, allowed Bellinger another opportunity at pit lane which this time he took.

With Bellinger in and out without losing a lap, Soule would inherit the lead once again in the family owned No. 32.  Pole sitter Abold quickly drew in behind Soule and took the lead shortly thereafter making it clear he was not going to make a stop in the No. 05.  Abold would try and clear his way out front, gaining valuable track position on Bellinger.

Bellinger had quite the task ahead to try and gain back the track position he had lost, and he was up to the task.  By lap 140 Eddie B was back up to eleventh.  Just three laps later he drove by Joe Gosek for ninth and another lap later he went by both Gary Albritain and Dave Shullick Sr. to move to seventh.  ‘Mad Dog’ Mike Douglas would be the next to fall to Bellinger as the No. 02 was now one spot out of the Top 5 in sixth.

Just before lap 150 Bellinger caught a break when Russ Brown came to a stop in turn two, bunching the field up one more time.  The scoreboard at this juncture read Abold, Soule, Russ Wood, Gioia, Dave McKnight and Bellinger.  Just 10 laps after the restart Bellinger worked his way passed McKnight, Gioia, and Soule to now run third in the order.

Right at lap 160 Bellinger made his way passed Wood for second, and now the battle was on as Bellinger tried to reel in Abold for the top spot.

On lap 175 the leaders moved into traffic with Abold quickly approaching the Richardson No. 40.  Abold elected to go high to work Richardson, leaving the low lane open for Bellinger.  As Abold moved up the track, he slipped, allowing Bellinger to work underneath to take the point on lap 178.

As the laps wore on it looked as though Bellinger would comfortably move on to his fifth career International win, but the entire landscape of the race changed on lap 192.

Douglas, Shullick, LaTulip, Richardson, Todd Stowell, and West all came together in turn one on the 192nd circuit blocking the track and forcing a red flag.

After a half hour delay the race went back to green and Abold took another stab at Bellinger for the lead coming out of turn four.  The two would brush wheels with Abold moving out front down the main straightaway.  However, as the two cars reached turn one, Abold slipped high handing the lead right back over to Bellinger out of turn two.

Not long after Bellinger retook the lead another incident occurred, this time involving Joey Moriarty, Albritain, Muldoon, Wood, Hamilton, and Tim Snyder.  Another lengthy delay forced the race to go passed the 200-lap mark with a green-white-checkered finish to come.

On the restart Abold gave it one last valiant effort, pulling inside Bellinger out of turn four to the finish.  The two drivers would brush wheels yet again, with Bellinger this time staying in the lead to garner his second Classic win in a row and fifth overall in the No. 02.

Gioia held on to the third position ahead of Joe Gosek and Dave McKnight in the Top 5 order in 1994.

(Statistical references credited to 50 Years: Oswego Speedway International Classic; Caruso Jr. and Haynes)

Tickets are on sale now for Budweiser International Classic Weekend through the Oswego Speedway box office, located just outside of the main pit gate at the Speedway.

To order tickets over the phone be sure to call (315) 342-0646.  Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Three day adult general admission passes are $104, while reserved three day admissions are $115.  Three day kids’ admission, ages 6-16, is $35, while children ages 5 and under are FREE for the weekend.

Individual day general admission prices are as follows: Friday – $25, Saturday – $42, and Sunday – $52.

Oswego Speedway events run May through September on most Saturday nights, culminating with the Fall Championship 75 on September 15.

For more information on Oswego Speedway be sure to visit www.oswegospeedway.com.  You can also LIKE the (Official) Oswego Speedway page at facebook.com/OswegoSpeedway, or FOLLOW on Twitter @OswegoSpeedway.  To purchase tickets or order merchandise please call the Speedway box office at (315) 342-0646.

CLASSIC WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday, August 31 – Budweiser International Classic 200 Novelis Supermodified Top14 Time Trials; Bud Light Classic 60 Pathfinder Bank SBS Qualifying Heats; 602 Crate Dirt Sportsman Classic 30

Saturday, September 1 – ATQMRA TQ Midget 25; 21st Annual Bud Light Classic 60 for Pathfinder Bank SBS; ISMA Supermodified Supernationals 60

Sunday, September 2 – Budweiser International Classic 200 Novelis Supermodified 15-28 Time Trials; Novelis Supermodified Bud Light B-Main; 56th Annual Budweiser International Classic 200 for Novelis Supermodifieds