OSWEGO, NY – After winning the Budweiser International Classic at Oswego Speedway in 1997, open-wheel racing fans believed they witnessed the first of many victories at the ‘Steel Palace’ for Boise, Idaho, driver Davey Hamilton. Few would have speculated it would take another 16 years for the Indy Car Series veteran to score win number two.
With several close calls recently, including runner-up finishes in last season’s Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’ and Budweiser International Classic, Hamilton continued to knock on the door step of another Oswego win and Saturday night as a part of Mitchell’s Speedway Press/CJ Ferlito Aggregates night at the races Hamilton finally cashed in.
Starting fourth on the starting grid, Hamilton quickly darted to the runner-up position and would take the race lead from early pace setter Brandon Bellinger on lap 15. From there Hamilton settled into a groove out front over the final 60-laps, holding off late pressure from potential threats Michael Barnes and Dave Gruel, to claim the 52nd annual Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’.
“Man, I feel like a kid again,” said Hamilton in Oswego’s Turning Stone Resort Casino victory lane. “It was awesome, car was good tonight. Thanks to Johnny (Nictora) and Otto (Sitterly). Maybe we can come back and do this the same way for Classic? It has been a long time, since ’97, that I won that one. I don’t get to race here as much as I would like to, but it is great winning here at Oswego.”
Charging from 10th on the grid, Barnes would come home with a runner-up finish in the Strong Racing No. 99 ahead of Dave Danzer, Timmy Jedrzejek, Michael Muldoon, Shaun Gosselin, Joe Gosek, Tim Devendorf, Jeff Holbrook, and Gruel in the front ten positions.
Time trials would handicap the starting fields for Novelis Supermodified action on Saturday night, and for the first time championship points were awarded to the fastest eight drivers in the timed session.
For the fourth consecutive event, Oswego’s Pat Lavery would set the fast lap in time trials driving the Lighthouse Lanes No. 22. Lavery’s streak of quick time trials dates back to opening day of 2012 with two more in between during last season’s International Classic as well as September’s Fall Championship. Last year’s championship runner-up laid down a lap of 16.416 seconds, over two tenths of a second faster than second fastest qualifier Joe Gosek in the Pathfinder Bank No. 00.
Barnes, Otto Sitterly, Jeff Locke, Gruel, Jedrzejek, and Dan Connors Jr. would all collect qualifying points for their time trial efforts.
Despite having a total of 24 Novelis Supermodifieds in the pit area Saturday night, only 19 would take the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag from starter Donny Forbes.
Kody Graham, Lou LeVea Sr., Jeff Abold, Tony Steiner, and Tim Snyder would all run into issues before feature time and were not able to start the main event.
Brandon Bellinger and Gosselin would lead the 75-lap Novelis Supermodified feature field to the green flag on Saturday night with Bellinger emerging as the early leader behind the wheel of the Daratt Farms Racing No. 02 machine. In his first race driving the Xtreme chassis ride, formerly driven by Randy Ritskes, the Fulton driver gained confidence early leading a long pack of racers including Hamilton, Gosselin, Danzer, Connors, Gruel, Jerzejek, Barnes, and Locke.
As the field completed the sixth circuit, a vicious incident occurred on the Speedway’s front straight involving Jared Bellinger, the younger brother of race leader Brandon.
Driving the family owned No. 82, the chassis which Brandon drove for much of the 2011-2012 seasons, Bellinger’s car skidded out of control down the main straight away making heavy contact with the first turn foam.
Oswego Speedway’s safety crew, arguably the premier safety crew in all of short track racing, was quickly on the scene as the race was brought under red flag conditions. After a lengthy delay, Bellinger was removed from the now destroyed No. 82 awake and alert, and transported to Upstate Medical Center for further evaluation.
Making just his second Supermodified start at Oswego Speedway, Bellinger was later released.
Under the red flag Connors, Holbrook, and Brian Sweeney all went to the pit area with issues. Holbrook and Sweeney would return to the action, while Connors would call it a night with engine issues after running in fifth position early on.
On the races restart Bellinger and Hamilton would immediately check away from the field, while Gruel was beginning to position himself in the Lighthouse Lanes No. 50. With an inside move on Danzer, Gruel would now ride fourth in the line-up, setting his sights on third place running Gosselin in the No. 26.
As the field set into its paces, Hamilton began to reel in Bellinger at the point, and on lap 15 the Indianapolis 500 veteran slid to the inside of Bellinger into turn one to take the race lead.
At that point Bellinger began to fade in the No. 02 as Gruel and Gosselin would each drive passed on lap 18, pushing the third generation racer to fourth.
Only one lap later, Locke would break loose in No. 37 and spin down the main straight away putting the caution lights on. At the same time Bellinger and Danzer would touch in turn one, sending the No. 02 gently into the inside hubrail.
Both Locke and Bellinger would continue on, finishing 13th and 14th in the final order.
When the race went back to green Hamilton led Gruel, Gosselin, Danzer, Jedrzejek, Barnes, Sitterly, Lavery, Gosek, and Muldoon.
With Hamilton charging away into the lead, Barnes would find his groove in the No. 99, hustling passed Jedrzejek for fifth to the inside in turn one on lap 20, and he would not stop there.
A dozen circuits later, Barnes would next reel in Danzer in the No. 52, this time driving to the outside in turn four to claim fourth on lap 32. In just another lap, Barnes next made quick work of Gosselin, and just like that ‘The Hustler’ would move to the third position by the race’s halfway point.
As the cross flags went into the air, Hamilton and Gruel managed to pull a lead of over a full straight away on pursuers Barnes and Danzer. Fifth place running Gosselin, the Speedway’s most improved driver in 2012, was holding on tightly as well over Jedrzejek, Sitterly, Lavery, Gosek, and Muldoon.
Quiet for much of the evening, Sitterly took the No. 7 to another level passed the halfway mark, breezing passed both Jedrzejek and Gosselin in consecutive laps to run 5th by lap 42.
At that point the top five runners had built a wide cushion between each other, until the race’s next caution waved on lap 44.
Hamilton, who was well out front of Gruel in the battle for the lead, made slight contact with the lapped car of Locke going into turn one. Locke would spin high into the first turn, avoiding the outside wall, with Hamilton continuing on.
Under caution, both Lavery and Gosek would head pit side for adjustments running eighth and ninth in the order.
The new top ten for the restart would show Hamilton holding the edge over Gruel, Barnes, Danzer, Sitterly, Jedrzejek, Gosselin, Muldoon, Devendorf, and Holbrook.
As the green lights came back on Hamilton, Gruel, and Barnes steamed away with Sitterly going back to work in the No. 7.
The defending Speedway champion, from Canajoharie, NY, worked to the inside of Danzer in turn one on lap 53 to take fourth and rapidly began to close on the front three over the next several laps.
Early on Hamilton was able to build a large lead over the field, but with only 15-laps remaining, the front four was now in a tight line, each with victory in mind.
As the lap counter ticked to 63, Sitterly was able to leap another notch higher, charging under Barnes with his patented low side move into turn one to take third.
Now, just like in 2012, Hamilton and Sitterly were on either end of the Gruel No. 50 in the closing laps of the Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’, with Gruel looking like a true threat for the race lead running in the runner-up position.
After passing both Danzer and Barnes low into turn one, Sitterly began to set-up Gruel for the same move heading into lap 67, but unfortunately for both drivers this attempt would not stick.
Racing hard for the same piece of real estate, Gruel and Sitterly would touch, sending Gruel around while Sitterly continued on. Despite not coming to a stop, the call was made to send both Gruel and Sitterly to the tail of the field for the incident.
Visibly unhappy with Sitterly’s low side attempt, Gruel would charge around the Speedway to show his displeasure with the five-time Speedway champion. After jockeying around each other for two turns under caution, Gruel would turn right and make contact with the left front wheel of the Sitterly No. 7.
“I didn’t see anything until we made contact,” said Gruel after the event. “It was that bonzai deal into turn one. He’s (Sitterly) done it a couple times to me and wrecked me a couple times doing it. I’ve given him all the chances in the world, and I just want him to race me clean.”
One lap later, with the yellow lights still on, Sitterly stopped on the Speedway’s start finish line and exited his car to examine his front wheels. After taking a couple looks at the racecar, Sitterly walked to the pit area leaving the car on the main straight away. Track officials removed the racecar from the front stretch, ending Sitterly’s day, crediting the defending Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’ winner with a 12th place finish.
Sitterly was unavailable for comment at the conclusion of the racing action.
After an eventful few moments under caution, the race would return to green at lap 68 with Barnes now pulling into the runner-up spot ahead of Danzer, Jedrzejek, and Muldoon.
From there, Hamilton would pull away untouched over the final seven circuits to earn his second career Oswego Speedway win.
Barnes, who has run well at Oswego in 75-lap events recently, was more than pleased with a runner-up tally after a long night of racing.
“These 75-lappers always seem to suit our car pretty good,” said Barnes. “We were just really loose at the end, I think everybody was. I’m just so happy for these guys, to finish opening day was a goal I had all winter, I didn’t care where it was.”
Driving the No. 52, Danzer came home third despite minor front end issues on his machine.
“I don’t know what happened there early on, but the caution came out and Brandon (Bellinger) drove into our left front tire,” said Danzer. “That knocked the toe all out and we pretty much had to ride it out from there. At the end there we just tried to ride it out as much as possible, it was just really loose.”
Jedrzejek, driving the Mike Murphy No. 60, had a fine run to come home with a fourth place finish. A many time winged-Supermodified winner at Oswego, Jedrzejek has never won a non-wing event at the ‘Steel Palace’, which made him the Lighthouse Lanes ‘Up & Comer’ award winner on Saturday night.
After starting 16th on the grid, Muldoon paced his way through the field for a top five run in the No. 51, earning the Lighthouse Lanes ‘Hard Charger’ award.
Shell Shock Custom Paints heat races were won by Hamilton, Connors, and Jedrzejek.
Five Novelis Supermodifieds were unable to take the green flag in the main event on Saturday night.
Driving the Buske Racing No. 66, Lou LeVea Sr. took a hard shot to the third turn wall during warm-ups, knocking him out of the night’s action. LeVea was transported to Oswego Hospital for further evaluation after the hard lick, but would soon be released, and returned to the Speedway.
Jeff Abold was on track temporarily in the brand new Abold Racing No. 05 Supermodified. After cutting a couple laps on the track, Abold headed pit side with the new creation, saying that something simply did not feel right in the racecar.
“We’ve been working tirelessly on this new car and just need some more time to get it right,” said Abold. “It was my call to shut it down for the night. I promise, nobody will work harder over the next two weeks to get this car going right.”
Kody Graham had engines issues all night long with the Graham Racing No. 21, never turning a competitive lap in the machine.
Rookie Tony Steiner continued to make head way in the No. 07 until tagging the third turn steel in his qualifying heat race. The right side damage to the Steiner mount was too much to repair for feature time.
Former International Classic champion Tim Snyder found himself in the outside wall with the No. 0 during heat racing. Snyder’s damage was also too significant to make repairs for the 75-lap main.
Oswego Speedway returns to racing on Saturday, May 25 with the Helena Chemical Company Memorial Weekend “Triple-Header” featuring the Jim Shampine Memorial 75 for Supermodifieds, the Richie Evans Memorial 75 for the RoC Modifieds, and the Tony White Memorial Pathfinder Bank SBS 35.
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Saturday, May 11th, 2013
Mitchell’s Speedway Press/CJ Ferlito Aggregates Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off!’
Saturday, May 25th – Helena Chemical Company Memorial Weekend “Triple-Header”
Jim Shampine Memorial Novelis Supermodified 75 – Richie Evans Memorial RoC Modified 75 – Tony White Memorial Pathfinder Bank SBS 35
1. 22 – Pat Lavery: 16.416, 2. 00 – Joe Gosek: 16.631, 3. 99 – Michael Barnes: 16.689, 4. 7 – Otto Sitterly: 16.782, 5. 37 – Jeff Locke: 16.875, 6. 50 – Dave Gruel: 16.903, 7. 60 – Tim Jedrzejek: 16.964, 8. 01 – Dan Connors Jr.: 16.987, 9. 6 – Davey Hamilton: 17.022, 10. 52 – Dave Danzer: 17.082, 11. 3 – Brian Sweeney: 17.184, 12. 26 – Shaun Gosselin: 17.203, 13. 35 – Jeff Holbrook: 17.243, 14. 02 – Brandon Bellinger: 17.274, 15. 06 – Dave Cliff: 17.432, 16. 51 – Michael Muldoon: 17.450, 17. 0 – Tim Snyder: 17.540, 18. 5 – Tim Devendorf: 17.751, 19. 07 – Tony Steiner: 17.949, 20. 21 – Kody Graham: NT, 21. 83 – Lou LeVea Jr.: NT, 22. 66 – Lou LeVea Sr.: NT, 23. 05 – Jeff Abold: NT, 24. 82 – Jared Bellinger: NT
Feature (75-laps): 1. 6-Davey Hamilton, 2. 99-Michael Barnes, 3. 52-Dave Danzer, 4. 60-Timmy Jedrzejek, 5. 51-Michael Muldoon, 6. 26-Shaun Gosselin, 7. 00-Joe Gosek, 8. 5-Tim Devendorf, 9. 35-Jeff Holbrook, 10. 50-Dave Gruel, 11. 22-Pat Lavery, 12. 7-Otto Sitterly, 13. 37-Jeff Locke, 14. 02-Brandon Bellinger, 15. 06-Dave Cliff, 16. 3-Brian Sweeney, 17. 01 Dan Connors Jr., 18. 82-Jared Bellinger, 19. 83-Lou LeVea Jr.
Lap Leaders: B. Bellinger 1-15, Hamilton 16-75
Lighthouse Lanes “Up & Comer” – Tim Jedrzejek
Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger: – Michael Muldoon
1st Heat (12-laps/All Qualify): 1. 6 – Davey Hamilton, 2. 26 – Shaun Gosselin, 3. 50 – Dave Gruel, 4. 99 – Michael Barnes, 5. 35 – Jeff Holbrook, 6. 51 – Michael Muldoon, 7. 07 – Tony Steiner, 8. 82 – Jared Bellinger
2nd Heat (12-laps/All Qualify): 1. 01 – Dan Connors Jr., 2. 00 – Joe Gosek, 3. 37 – Jeff Locke, 4. 02 – Brandon Bellinger, 5. 3 – Brian Sweeney, 6. 0 – Tim Snyder, 7. 66 – Lou LeVea Sr. DNS, 8. 05 – Jeff Abold DNS
3rd Heat (12-laps/All Qualify): 1. 60 – Tim Jedrzejek, 2. 52 – Dave Danzer, 3. 22 – Pat Lavery, 4. 7 – Otto Sitterly, 5. 06 – Dave Cliff, 6. 5 – Tim Devendorf, 7. 83 – Lou LeVea Jr., 8. 21 – Kody Graham DNS
Shell Shock Custom Paints Heat Race Challenge:
Davey Hamilton – 1
Dan Connors Jr. – 1
Tim Jedrzejek – 1