Countdown to Classic: 21… Gosek Charges to First International Classic Title in ’91, Second Oswego Native to Win

OSWEGO, NY – Joe Gosek, the 2011 Novelis Supermodified track champion at Oswego Speedway, first visited Budweiser International Classic victory lane back in 1991.  Today we look back on the ’91 International, the race that made Gosek just the second Oswego native to capture the prestigious 200 crown.

On the whole, the 1991 campaign was an up and down one for ‘Mighty Joe’.  After winning the opening night main event over Eddie Bellinger Jr.; Gosek went on to win three of the first six feature events in 1991.  However, just as Gosek looked to be in the driver’s seat for his first Oswego track championship everything flipped upside down, literally.

During qualifying for the June 29 Grand Prix 100, Gosek hit the outside wall coming out of turn two throwing the No. 00 on its lid for a dramatic slide down the back straight.  The accident forced Gosek out of the action, and out of the battle for the championship, although the No. 00 team would bounce back for a third place finish in the 1991 standings behind Bellinger and first time track champion, Mike Ordway.

Despite not winning another feature event in 1991, after the slide down the back straight, Gosek returned in top form and proved it during Friday night time trials for the International Classic 200.  Doug Didero, who spent the majority of the ’91 season in North Carolina, returned to drive the Rammage No. 73 in the Classic and promptly put the machine on the International pole position.  That was until Gosek hit the Speedway immediately after, and bumped Didero to the outside of the front row.

There was plenty of drama on the Sunday morning of Classic ’91, provided primarily by the always thrilling Bud Light B-Main.

Dale Sharkey would take a vicious hit into the third turn wall during the B-Main driving the No. 53.  Sharkey’s Supermodified broke in two upon impact, amazingly leaving the Oswego driver with only a broken foot.

“Wild” Willie Stutzman would go on to put on a show in the B-Main driving the No. 86.  The 60-year old driver from Indiana battled eventual B-Main winner Dave McKnight right down to the wire before a “wild” spin down the front straight knocked him out of the action.  Stutzman would earn the Area Auto Racing News Hard Luck Award in ’91, and became quite popular with the Oswego crowd after his efforts.

First time qualifiers for the International Classic in 1991 included young Todd Stowell and Kyle Adkins, who would go on to finish 11th and earn Rookie of the Race honors.

When the green flag waved on the ’91 International, Gosek allowed Didero to be the rabbit early on.  Typically it was Gosek doing the early leading, but on this day Didero would go on to lead the first 17 circuits before Randy Ritskes came on to take the top spot in the Matczak No. 3.

Young Ritskes charged hard early on with only Gary Morton in the No. 70 machine willing to give chase.  Gosek meanwhile had settled back just outside the Top 5, running with seasoned Classic veterans Bentley Warren and Dave Shullick Sr.

As the race progressed the event certainly seemed to play into the hands of Gosek, who for a change was having luck go his way in the 200.  Gosek would miss several spins and altercations in the first 90 laps of the race including a three car jingle including Steve Gioia Jr., Joe Hawksby Sr., and Russ Wood.

After the three car accident in turn one, Cliff Graves in No. 38 came on as the new hard charger.  Graves passed both Morton and Ritskes to take the race lead on lap 92, becoming the new 200 race rabbit.  With Graves leading out front Pat Abold and 1991 track champion Ordway joined Gosek, as they continued to hang around the 5th position in the rundown.

By lap 125 Graves led Morton, Ritskes, Gosek, Ordway, Abold, Warren, and Shullick.  However, in a matter of laps, fate would change for five of the eight drivers at the top of the order.

Morton was the first to go by the wayside on lap 130 as an auxiliary fuel tank went bad forcing the No. 70 to fall short on fuel.

Lap 148 would see Ritskes all but spin out on the back straight, forcing the No. 3 to lose the lead pack, dropping another Canadian out of contention.

Warren would head pit side for service in the No. 29 on lap 159 and lost a lap in the process.

Shullick’s No. 4 machine hit the outside turn one wall with tremendous force on lap 171 after a steering piece broke.

Finally, Ordway pitted for tires on lap 175 and he too would lose a lap in the pits, just like Warren.

By lap 180 there were now just three drivers left to battle for the top prize in the 200; Graves, Gosek, and Abold.

With other top contenders dropping out, Gosek became the odds on favorite to get by Graves and become a brand new Classic winner.  However, Abold had different ideas behind the wheel of the No. 05.

Abold managed to sneak past Gosek just past lap 180 and after several laps next worked on by Graves to take the point with just 10 circuits remaining.  With Abold appearing as though he could run away and hide in the No. 05, it became now or never for Gosek.

The No. 00 made a daring high side move on Graves to grab the runner-up position on lap 191 and with five laps to go Gosek pulled up to the back bumper of Abold looking all over the Speedway for racing room.

On lap 196 Gosek sized up Abold down the back shoot and darted to the inside of the Speedway into turn three, late and deep, where few dare to go.  Gosek pulled up alongside Abold in a drag race down the front straight, which the No. 00 would win, leading lap 197.

Gosek would go on to lead only three laps in the 1991 Classic, but they were the most important ones as the long-time Oswego driver joined Steve Gioia Jr. as only the second Oswego native to win the biggest race in the world of Supermodified racing.

A bittersweet day for Abold would see him hold onto second ahead of Graves, Didero, and Doug Saunier in the No. 22.  It was Saunier’s third Top 5 finish in the last seven years.

(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.