Lavery and Graham Split Twin 50-Lap Supermodified Features at Oswego

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

Heading into this weekend’s racing action at the Oswego Speedway, Oswego’s Pat Lavery had amassed 36 career top-five supermodified feature finishes. The former International Classic pole starter, two-time season points championship runner-up and winner of countless numbers of qualifying heat races, had posed for podium feature finishes many times, but always flanking the race winner.

However, on Saturday night, it wasn’t just another top-five feature finish for Lavery. Bringing that total to 37 was lost in a new category being added – feature wins. Lavery racked up feature win No. 1 and finally stood front and center, atop the podium.

It was a popular win for the pilot of the Double-Deuce Racing blue and white No. 22. The road to victory No. 1 had seen him finish runner-up numerous times in feature racing action in the past. Consistent finishes near, but not at the top in 2012 landed him just five points shy of Otto Sitterly for Oswego’s track championship. In fact, it was Sitterly who was first to chase Lavery across the line on Saturday night, finishing second.

Like most drivers who are fortunate enough to find victory lane at the fast-paced 5/8-mile lakeside oval, winning took time and patience. Too much of each, if you ask the average fan or fellow competitor of Lavery. However, as sweet as the first taste of victory should be, its flavor couldn’t be savored for more than a few hours. In the second of two, 50-lap features, Lavery would be thrown back to the realities of the highs and lows of racing.

Listen to – Pat Lavery

Prior to having his lead taken away by Lavery in the first 50-lapper, Kody Graham had been seeking his second-career feature win. After leading the first 29 laps, Graham fell victim to a combination of lapped traffic and a sudden ill-handling machine. He would drop out 12 laps shy of the finish.

Having been fighting an array of mechanical gremlins and bizarre misfortunes through the early stages of the season, the potent No. 21 car and crew had looked to have had those things finally put behind them. Falling out in the first 50-lapper was anything but therapeutic. What was, would be their nightcap run.

Graham and crew would bounce back with a win in their qualifying heat. Starting on the front row for the second time on Saturday, Graham was again, quick to pounce at the lead. This time, lapped traffic would only delay the inevitable and the team’s preparation would not falter. Graham would dominate much of the race, leading all 50 laps en route to the second feature win of his young career.

Listen to – Kody Graham

Lavery Earns First Win

Starting aside Graham in feature No. 1, Lavery would settle in behind the No. 21 at the drop of the green flag. Shaun Gosselin, Keith Shampine and David Gruel filled out the top five early on. Lavery tested Graham early, with many outside looks heading into turn No. 3. However, Graham was fast coming off of the fourth turn, and refused to give way to the No. 22.

Each time Lavery ventured to the outside of Graham’s No. 21, Gosselin would take a look underneath the challenger. The top five would run solid as sixth place-running Sittery began to close in on the leaders at the lap No. 10 mark.

Sitterly would pass Gruel on the outside on the 13th lap, before maneuvering his way around Shampine for fourth. Up front, Lavery had decided to take a look on the left side of Graham, but the caution would fly on the 15th lap after Dan Connors, Jr., Dave Danzer and Hal LaTulip tangled on the backstretch. All three exited via the hook, but LaTulip’s No, 56 would end up suffering the most damage of the three by far.

With 14 trips in the books, Graham led Lavery, Gosselin, Sitterly and Shampine. Gruel, Michael Barnes, Michael Muldoon, Jeff Holbrook and Joe Gosek completed the top 10.

Graham would hold on the restart. Shampine would drop out with overheating issues 10 laps into the run. The top four would remain tight as they began to approach lapped traffic just past the halfway mark.

While taking a look on the outside of Lavery on the 28th lap, Gosselin suddenly saw Sitterly slip underneath him and move into third place. Gruel followed Sitterly’s path, bouncing the No. 26 back to 5th.

Having already tried to pin the race leader behind lapped traffic earlier, Lavery saw an opportunity approaching. Using his advantage of getting into turns faster than Graham, he was able to get an outside run on him on the 30th lap. Pulling alongside the No. 21 between turns three and four, Lavery stayed course and wouldn’t allow Graham to lap Tony Steiner’s No. 07 on the outside. With nowhere to go, Graham could only watch Lavery skip past him on the right, taking his lead away.

Three laps later, a trio of mid-pack supers came together in turn No. 1, bringing out the caution. With 18 laps remaining, Lavery would lead Graham, Sitterly, Gruel and Gosselin.

Lavery would pull away on the ensuing restart. Two laps later, Sitterly bested Graham low for second in turn No. 3. Facing nearly a full straightaway deficit, the defending track champ still had time to catch the race leader.

While being worked over by Gruel and Barnes, Graham would drop low and pull pit-side on the 38th lap. Barnes would be promoted to third, Gruel to fourth. Lavery was maintaining his advantage, but lapped traffic was approaching.

Sitterly quickly closed the gap as Lavery prepped to dive into the tail end of the field. However, a near spin by Steiner’s No. 07 caused a precautionary yellow to fly. With nine laps to go, the lapped traffic was no longer an issue, but now have Sitterly would be restarting on the No. 22’s tail.

However, Sitterly would not be able to mount a challenge. Lavery jumped to a solid five-car advantage as the field took the green flag for its final run. The advantage would hold, but a small pack of lapped traffic would need to be navigated on the final lap. They dropped low and held their lines, paving the way for Lavery’s first career win.

Nearly equally elated for Lavery’s win, co-car owner, Bob Hoefer, expressed his admiration for his winning driver.

Listen to – Bob Hoefer

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Graham Bounces Back to Claim Victory in Second 50-Lapper

Starting aside Tim Snyder, Graham grabbed the lead at the start of the second 50-lap main event. Snyder, Connors, Tim Devendorf and Jerry Curran chased the race leader across the line to complete their maiden lap.

On lap No. 2, Shampine’s No. 55 came around on its own off of the fourth turn to bring out the first caution flag. Graham would have no challengers on the ensuing restart.

Having started seventh on the grid, Lavery began to press Curren for fifth on lap No. 6. As the duo raced off of the fourth turn, Lavery dropped low and pulled alongside the No. 24 as they headed into the first turn. However, as if no one was on his left side, Curran rounded the turn tightly, pinning Lavery hard against the inside hub rail. Having lost its steering, the No. 22 then careened across the track and walloped the outside wall.

Just hours after celebrating his first career win, Lavery was walking back to his pit while his badly damaged supermodified was being towed from the racing surface.

Sitterly’s No. 7 was collected as well, though, he re-entered the race after making a quick pit stop. Miraculously, Curran would escape being sent to the rear and would retain his fifth-place running spot.

Again, Graham would ease away from his chasers on the ensuing restart. Ahead of the pack appeared to be the safest place as four laps later, Holbrook’s No. 35 and Gruel’s No. 50 would come together at nearly the same place Curran and Lavery had touched a few laps earlier. Lavery’s teammate, Gruel, saw his night come to an end as well and the second half of Double Deuce Racing watched its car exit the race via the tow as well. Like Curran, Holbrook was not penalized for contact made either.

On the restart, Curran shot past Devendorf to take away fourth. One lap later, Gosselin mirrored the move to taking over fifth. With out wasting any time, Gosselin snuck under Curran’s No. 24 to take over fourth. Four trips later, Curran would fall pit side with mechanical woes.

Graham encountered his first lapped car on the 16th lap. Not far behind him, Gosselin continued his charge, moving around Connors for third. A quick caution would slow the field on the 22nd lap.

Graham would have no issues on the restart, sprinting away from Snyder and Gosselin. Gosselin would make his way around Snyder for second and slowly begin to close the gap on Graham. However, Graham would plot his way through traffic and keep the feisty Gosselin at bay.

Lap No. 37 saw Dave Danzer drift high between turns three and four, catching the “marbles” along the fence and slapping the outside retaining wall. Danzer’s No. 52 would suffer significant right-side damage.

With 13 rounds remaining, Graham led Gosselin, Gosek, Barnes and Snyder. Connors, Devendorf, Sitterly, Holbrook and Randy Ritskes completed the top 10.

Barnes and Sitterly were the movers on the restart. Barnes worked his way under Gosek’s No. 00 while Sitterly busted into the top five.

Up front, Graham would encounter no problems. The top five would pull away and spread apart in the closing laps. Graham cruised on to his second career win.

Gosselin’s second-place finish was his second top five on the night.

Listen to – Shaun Gosselin

Bringing home a pair of strong, third-place runs, Barnes maintained his hold on the title chase.

Listen toMichael Barnes

Finishing behind Gosek, Sitterly fought back through the pack to earn his second top-five finish on the night in the John Nicotra-owned No. 7.

Listen to – Otto Sitterly

Supermodified Feature #1: 1. Pat Lavery (22), 2. Otto Sitterly (7). 3. Michael Barnes (99), 4. Dave Gruel (50), 5. Shaun Gosselin (26), 6. Joe Gosek (00). 7.  Michael Muldoon (51), 8. Jeff Holbrook (35), 9. Brandon Bellinger (02), 10. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 11. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 12. Clayton Brewer, III (23), 13. Tony Steiner (07), 14. Lou LeVea, Sr. (66), 15. Kody Graham (21), 16. Brian Sweeney (3), 17. Randy Ritskes (37), 18. Jerry Curran (24), 19. Tim Snyder (0) 20. Keith Shampine (55), 21. Dave Danzer (52), 22. Hal LaTulip (56), 23. Tim Devendorf (5), DNS: 24. Bill Sharkey (71)

Supermodified Feature #2: 1. Kody Graham (21), 2. Shaun Gosselin (26), 3. Michael Barnes (99), 4. Joe Gosek (00), 5. Otto Sitterly (7), 6. Tim Snyder (0), 7. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 8. Randy Ritskes (37), 9. Jeff Holbrook (35), 10. Michael Muldoon (51), 11. Tim Jedrzejek (60), 12. Tim Devendorf (5), 13. Tony Steiner (07), 14. Brandon Bellinger (02), 15. Clayton Brewer, III (23), 16. Lou LeVea, Sr. (66), 17. Dave Danzer (52), 18. Dave Cliff (06). 19. Jerry Curran (24), 20. Keith Shampine (55), 21. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 22. Dave Gruel (50), 23. Pat Lavery (22), 24. Brian Sweeney (3)

Supermodified heat race wins were pocketed by Connors, Graham and Curran.

Small Block Supermodified Feature #1: 1. Dalton Doyle (01), 2. Mike Bruce (22), 3. JJ Andrews (93), 4. Mike Bond (74), 5. Jeremy Pitcher (14), 6. Kreig Heroth (04), 7. Jon Tesoriero (47), 8. Jason Simmons (98), 9. AJ Bernys (24), 10. Russ Brown (13), 11. Rob Pullen (2), 12. Brian Sobus (6), 13. Jack Patrick (9), 14. Dan Abt (57), 15. Andrew Schartner (18), 16. Josh Kerr (8), 17. Anthony Losurdo (1), 18. Dennis Rupert (99), 19. Greg O’Connor (90), 20. Nate Noto (19), 21. Scott Shafer (76), 22. Tim Gareau (17), 23. Cameron Rowe (77), 24. Rob Humphreys (07)

Small Block Supermodified Feature #2: 1. Mark Castiglia (67), 2. Andrew Schartner (18), 3. Jack Patrick (9), 4. Kreig Heroth (04), 5. Rob Pullen (2), 6. Tim Gareau (17), 7. Brian Sobus (6), 8. Jason Simmons (98), 9. Dave LaTulip (27), 10. Cameron Rowe (77), 11. Russ Brown (13), 12. Mike Bruce (22), 13. Dalton Doyle (01), 14. Greg O’Connor (90), 15. Anthony Losurdo (1), 16. Chris Proud (3), 17. Dan Abt (57), 18. Jeremy Pitcher (14), 19. Zach Amo (44), 20. Jon Tesoriero (99), 21. Justin Connell (07), 22. AJ Bernys (24), 23. JJ Andrews (93), 24. Mike Bond (74), 25. Nate Noto (19)

Small block qualifying heat wins were awarded to Castiglia, Gareau and Rowe.