OSWEGO, NY (July 7, 2013) – One week after seemingly nothing could go right at Oswego Speedway, nearly everything did, with the running of Toys for Tots ‘Christmas in July’ presented by Days Inn/Knights Inn of Oswego on Saturday night.
Starting from the sixth position, Fulton, NY driver Dave Gruel sped through the field to take the lead from Jerry Curran through lapped traffic on the 18th of 75 circuits claiming his third career Novelis Supermodified victory at the ‘Steel Palace’ in a Grand Prix main event which saw just one caution, with 70 consecutive green flag laps, taking the checkered in only 35 minutes.
At one point Gruel would build a dominating half-track lead in the Lighthouse Lanes No. 50 before lapped traffic allowed runner-up, and championship point leader, Joe Gosek to slightly close the victory margin. In the races final laps Gosek appeared to be the fastest car on the Speedway, needing a caution to close further ground on Gruel.
Championship contenders Otto Sitterly and Shaun Gosselin would trail both Gruel and Gosek to the line with Curran completing the top five in the No. 24.
With the victory, coming just one week before he looks to defend his ISMA Supermodified King of Wings title behind the wheel of the Steve Miller Sweet 16, Gruel has visited Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane in each of his first four seasons behind the wheel of a Supermodified dating back to 2010.
“I think the car was taking me for a ride,” said Gruel in Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane. “The car was set-up awesome; I was just trying to do everything I could once I knew I was out there in the lead. Bill Samuels gave me an awesome car, he is the set-up guy. I have to thank Bob Hoefer, Bill and Linda Samuels, this is just awesome for both sides of this team. I was starting to conserve a little bit later, but I am really glad there were no cautions, because I did not have much left the last couple laps.”
Lapped traffic played a key role in the event, helping Gruel to snag the race lead, and later on caused some tense moments in the closing laps. Just one week ago, Gruel spun in the 50-lap Supermodified feature attempting to lap a slower car.
“I usually like to use that (lapped traffic) as an opportunity to try and get ahead of the guy I am racing with,” said Gruel. “Luckily it paid off this week, last week it didn’t work out too well.”
Pat Lavery, Dan Connors Jr., Brandon Bellinger, Kody Graham, and Tim Snyder completed the top ten order in the Novelis Supermodified Grand Prix 75 presented by Days Inn/Knights Inn of Oswego.
Toys for Tots ‘Christmas in July’ at Oswego Speedway kicked off with a visit from Santa Claus to the ‘Steel Palace’ along with a very successful toy drive in both the grandstand and pit areas. A total of 12 Toys for Tots toy boxes were filled for donation to Toys for Tots of Oswego County.
The ‘Steel Palace’ took on a winter’s touch throughout the evening with a plethora of Christmas decorations and activities for the young ones, headed up by Christmas in July coordinator Lisa Sova and her helpful volunteers.
A total of 22 Novelis Supermodifieds entered the pit area on Saturday night without any issues during warm-ups or preliminary events, as all 22 would take the green flag including Michael Muldoon, Brian Sweeney, Curran, and Michael Barnes who all returned from bad accidents one week ago.
Barnes returned behind the wheel of the Strong Racing No. 99, riding third in the point standings, but would drive the racecar with the power plant from the back-up No. 98 machine after discovering several bent valves in the primary engine during the week.
Unfortunately for Barnes and team, the back-up engine would then find trouble in the 75-lap main event, forcing Barnes to the pit area after just 14 laps.
Curran and Bellinger would lead the Novelis Supermodified Grand Prix field to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag on Saturday night with Curran charging into the early lead.
Curran, who once again returned to the Speedway just one week after a hard accident, unloaded the No. 24 minus several body panels but had the machine running great as he looked to simply finish his first feature event of the season.
Early on it looked as though Curran would do more than just finish as he quickly built a good distance between himself and runner-up Bellinger in the Daratt Farms No. 02.
Gruel, who started on the outside of the third row, wasted little time in positioning himself at the front of the field. By the second lap Gruel was underneath Connors into turn one to take the third position, setting his sights on Bellinger and Curran at the front of the field.
By lap 5 Curran was safely at the head of the field with a two by two pack of cars behind him with Bellinger and Gruel in line followed by Connors and Lavery ahead of a four car battle including Sitterly, Tim Devendorf, Snyder, and Gosek.
As the lap counter officially ticked to five the race’s only caution would wave as the Lou LeVea Sr. No. 66 would come to a stop on the back stretch, just after throwing debris to the top of the track in the second turn.
When the lights turned green again they would stay green as Curran led Bellinger, Gruel, Connors, Lavery, Sitterly, Devendorf, Snyder, Gosek, and Gosselin to the stripe.
As they seemed to have done quite a few times this year, Gosek and Gosselin would team up on the restart to advance through the field.
Gosek first drove under Snyder into turn three to move to eighth and would make the exact same move just one lap later leaving Devendorf behind to climb to seventh.
Gosselin would then find room under Snyder heading into turn one on lap 7 to move to ninth in the order as he looked to not only keep pace with Sitterly and Gosek in the main event, but also in the championship hunt.
By lap 13 Curran had mounted a half straight lead on the remainder of the field as Gruel worked hard on Bellinger for the runner-up spot. Looking high and low on the race track, Gruel finally found the lane he needed at lap sixteen diving under Bellinger in the first turn to take the second position leaving Bellinger in the clutches of Connors, Lavery, Sitterly, Gosek, and Devendorf behind.
With Gruel now second on the race track nearly a half straight behind, Curran found the lapped cars of Joe Chillemi and Hal LaTulip, and in the blink of an eye Gruel was now on the back bumper of Curran looking for the race lead.
Just one lap later Curran left the lane open exiting turn two as he tried to make his way through traffic allowing Gruel to shoot to the point down the back straight, walking out to a healthy lead.
In only three trips around the fast 5/8 mile it was now Gruel with a full straight lead on Curran and Bellinger by lap 21 with the tight pack of Connors, Lavery, Sitterly, and Gosek closing ground on the No. 02.
Now a third of the way through the event, Gosselin began to mount a charge in the No. 26 moving around Devendorf exiting turn four to drive to eighth on the Speedway.
Not much later both Sitterly and Gosek would find room under Connors out of turn two to move to fifth and sixth as Lavery continued to work Bellinger hard for a podium position.
As the cross flags hit the air indicating halfway Gruel was in another zip code, with over a full straight lead on Curran who himself had built a half straight margin on Bellinger in third ahead of Lavery, Sitterly, Gosek, Gosselin, Connors, Devendorf, and Graham.
Gosek and Gosselin would continue to be the show further back as they swapped the sixth position a pair of times just beyond the lap 40 mark, which apparently enticed Gosek to get up and go in the No. 00.
On lap 49, with Gosselin on his heels, Gosek charged to the top side of the Speedway driving around Sitterly to move into the top five.
Only two laps later, Lavery finally found room underneath Bellinger to move to third as Gosek took advantage one lap later riding into fourth with Bellinger beginning to slide back through the field. In a matter of just a few laps, Bellinger would slide back to seventh on the track after running third for the majority of the event.
With Gruel on a race of his own in the lead, all eyes shifted back to Gosek, who was making a late charge through the pack now working Lavery for third.
With time winding down, Gosek looked low on Lavery into turn one on lap 57 to snag the spot and before long drew in Curran who had nearly a half straight advantage on the No. 00.
After riding in nearly the same order past the halfway point, things really began to shake up past lap 60 as cars began to fade away.
Gosek would shoot underneath Curran in the third turn to take second on lap 62 with Sitterly and Gosselin driving by Lavery on lap 63 to move to fourth and fifth.
Only four circuits later Sitterly found a podium position behind Gosek as he shot under Curran to third in turn one with Gosselin making the same move in turn three on lap 71 taking fourth.
At race’s end Gosek was coming on strong, but without a caution on the Speedway, Gruel went uncontested to the win over Gosek, Sitterly, Gosselin, and Curran.
With another consistent finish in the No. 00, Gosek will head to Race of Champions Weekend at the Speedway in two weeks still on top of the Novelis Supermodified standings.
“I think a lot of guys slowed down a bit, but our car was pretty consistent throughout,” said Gosek. “We gained big from warm-ups, to the heat, to the feature and that is a plus.”
With a long green flag stretch run, Gosek said his philosophy is rather simple in those situations.
“Basically you just keep picking them off and go as fast as you can”, said Gosek. “I couldn’t see the leader but I figured it was the 50, he was the only one I didn’t pass. I didn’t really look at the board, I saw I was second, but didn’t look at the lead. I just want to thank all my sponsors and the great people behind me and the crew; I get a little testy at times. Thanks to Pat Morrison, he did a heck of a job with the motor; we finally have a good solid power plant in it. Looking forward to next race, we’re second and we only have one more to go, so we’ll keep it up.”
Sitterly wrestled the No. 7 home with a third place finish.
“The track changed a lot and the car has been really tight,” said Sitterly. “I talked with a lot of guys; Pat Lavery, Joe Gosek and everyone has been really tight the last few weeks. I imagine it has something to do with the heat, track change, or what? Joe was going awful good tonight, and Pat was good early, but we just sort of stayed mediocre the whole race but we’ll take it.”
A fourth place finish for Shaun Gosselin continues his banner season as well as keeping him in the championship battle with Gosek and Sitterly. Gosselin would end the night as both the Lightouse Lanes Hard Charger and Up & Comer.
Shell Shock Custom Helmet Paint heat race challenge victories would go to Devendorf, Connors, and Bellinger.
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To purchase tickets for the 2013 racing season call the Speedway box office at (315) 342-0646.