Countdown to Classic: 25… Coniam Collects Second International Crown in ‘87, Retires

OSWEGO, NY – With C’s Beverage-Days Inn/Travelodge Night at Oswego Speedway just two days away, the countdown to the Budweiser International Classic is down to 25.  Today, we look back at the second International Classic win for Canadian champion Warren Coniam in 1987.

Six weeks prior to the International Classic 200, Coniam did not even have a ride at Oswego Speedway, as he and former car owner Clyde Booth parted ways.  As it turned out, just as Coniam was looking for a ride, Joe Magari was in need of a driver.  So late in the season Coniam and Magari put a deal together to finish the 1987 campaign together in the No. 10 machine, including the International Classic.

Warren Coniam celebrates his second International Classic 200 win at Oswego Speedway with wife Linda. (Speedway Press/Eagle Photo)
Warren Coniam celebrates his second International Classic 200 win at Oswego Speedway with wife, Linda. (Speedway Press/Eagle Photo)

Doug Heveron, driving the Mazur No. 61jr would time trial on the pole position in 1987 alongside former teammate Bentley Warren in the Bowley Flyin’ 5.  Warren, who had won the International Classic for Bowley in 1984 and 1986, was not piloting the same car in ’87 as he had won the Classic in the year before.

Earlier in the ’87 season, Warren and Heveron came together running for the win in the inaugural Mr. Supermodified event which left the championship Flyin’ 5 with irreparable damage.  Warren would compete in the 1987 200 in the original back-up Heveron Supermodified from 1983.

The Bowley team determined early on that Warren would not be able to go the complete distance with the older car without making a pit stop.  As a result, Warren would attempt to open a sizeable lead in the early going of the Classic, giving himself room to spare in making a stop.  Heveron though would not let Warren get too far out front, but unfortunately for Heveron his day would end early after making contact with the lap car of Bill Sharkey on just the 22nd lap of the event.

With Heveron out of the action Warren continued out in front until lap 74 when the caution flew for Terry Johnson.  At this point Warren came in for his stop, handing the lead over to Mr. Supermodified Gene Lee Gibson.

By lap 127 Warren had rallied back through the field and now found himself on the back bumper of Gibson for the top spot.  For the next 50 laps Warren and Gibson would battle for the race lead, pushing the pace harder and harder each lap.  After several laps of intense dicing back and forth, Warren was finally able to pin Gibson behind a lap car to take the lead back.

As the race ticked past lap 175 it became clear that both Warren and Gibson had likely abused their tires battling for the lead, as the ‘Snake’ Warren Coniam began to slither his way up to the race leaders riding in the third spot.

As Warren attempted to put a lap on Mike Muldoon, that left the door open for Gibson to blast back into the point driving the No. 0.  Coniam sat behind the two leaders watching things shake out, and plotting a plan to use the good tires remaining on the No. 10.

Coniam was able to use the top side of the Speedway, being that he had not abused the tires on the Magari machine, to work past Warren for second.  In doing so, Coniam stayed on the high side next pinning Gibson behind Muldoon to take the lead on lap 182.  After clearing the lapped machine of Muldoon, Coniam now had a clear track in front of him to try and run away with the win.

However, with just two laps to go Gibson lost a left rear tire and hit the outside wall in turn one.  In previous years this would have resulted in a caution flag finish, as had happened in both ’85 and ’86.  But in 1987 it was determined that the race had to end under green flag conditions, meaning Coniam would have to hold off one last charge from Warren and the Flyin’  5.

As the field came back to green Warren gave one last effort at Coniam but in doing so caught a wheel from the lapped car of Russ Wood, severely damaging the front suspension of the No. 5.  Warren would manage to finish the event with his front wheels pointing in different directions, allowing Coniam to breeze across the line for his second International Classic win and first since 1977.

In a dramatic finish, Doug Didero would spin across the line in the Matzcak No. 3 for second ahead of Joe Gosek.  Warren would hold into fourth with the injured No. 5 ahead of Steve Gioia Jr. completing the Top 5.

In an incredible day at Oswego Speedway Warren Coniam had handed the Magari family the biggest win of their careers, in what would turn out to be Coniam’s final win.  Shortly after the 1987 International Classic 200, the ‘Snake’ would retire as Classic Champion.

(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.