Fulton native-turned Iowa resident, Ray Graham, Jr., earned the title of â€œMr. Supermodifiedâ€ Sunday afternoon at the Oswego Speedway after winning the 24th annual Novelis 50-lap $10,000 to-win race. Graham joined former competitor Tim Gareau in becoming one of only two drivers in history to have won both the â€œMr. Small Block Supermodifiedâ€ and â€œMr. Supermodifiedâ€ titles.
Starting from the outside of row No. 1, Graham led all 50 trips around the lakeside ovalâ€™s fast five-eighths mile en route to the taking home the biggest winnerâ€™s check ofÂ the regular season. It was Grahamâ€™s second feature win of the year, the fourth of his career.
Never seriously challenged, Graham took the checkered flag at the end of a 30-lap green flag run that had his nearest chaser – division points leader, Otto Sitterly – trailing him by over a full straightaway.
Listen to – Ray Graham, Jr.
Before Sunday afternoon, Graham had never even finished in the top five of this event. The race was held Sunday afternoon due to a generator problem the night before that led to multiple track lighting malfunctions prior to and then during the supermodified feature.
Speedway officials deemed it too risky to continue wrestling with the electrical issue because of its unreliability and obvious potential for serious safety concerns. So, with seven laps already in the books, the race was put on hold until noon the next day.
The race began Saturday night, with Tim Snyder and Graham sitting atop the 23-car field. Graham nabbed the early lead, leaving Snyder, Joe Gosek, Jeff Holbrook and Bob Magner to fill out the top five behind him.
Gosek sailed his No. 00 around Snyder on the second lap, catching up to Graham one lap later. The two began to ease away from the field as Holbrook bumped Snyder back one more spot on lap No. 5, taking third.
The first caution came on the eighth lap when Lou LeVea and Bob Bogwicz brought out the yellow with separate issues in turn No. 2.
With seven laps complete, Graham led Gosek, Holbrook, Snyder and Pat Lavery. Magner, Sitterly, Joey Payne, Dave McKnight and Greg Furlong filled out the top 10. Davey Hamilton, Bentley Warren, Keith Shampine, Jerry Curran and Dave Gruel rounded out positions 11 through 15.
As the field went back to racing the trackâ€™s lights dimmed a few times before a large portion of them finally went dark. The field was quickly red-flagged. Everyone was able to come to a complete stop with out incident, minus Larry Muroskiâ€™s No. 38 and Shaun Gosselinâ€™s No. 26. Each of them spun between turns three and four.
With the evening having already reached the 11th hour and with no guarantee of a quick fix to the matter, the race was postponed to Sunday.
Minus three competitors, the field returned at noon on Sunday to run the final 43 laps. Gosselin and Michael Barnes (both multiple laps down) and Bogwicz were the three absent drivers from Part 2 ofÂ the â€œMr. Supermodifiedâ€ event.
As the green dropped, Snyder was quick to reclaim third place from Holbrook. However, just three laps later Snyder lost the handle on his No. 0 machine, spinning it into the foam. The New Hampshire driver would later return, but was essentially eliminated from contention.
Graham and Oswego native Gosek eased away on the ensuing restart. Holbrook, Lavery and Sitterly raced alone behind the leaders, while Magner fought valiantly to hold off Payne and Furlong for sixth.
After a short battle, Furlong conquered “The Jersey Jet” Payne for seventh. As Furlong then powered past two-time defending race winner Magner for sixth, the defending champ raised his hand, slowed and pitted with what was later reported to be an extremely loose No. 41 machine.
Soon after, Lou LeVeaâ€™s No. 61 suddenly slowed and the Dan Connors Jr. No. 01 came to a stop behind him. The caution closed the field back up. 13 laps in, Graham led Gosek, Holbrook, Lavery and Sitterly. Furlong, Payne, McKnight, Hamilton, Warren and Curran completed the top 10.
On the restart, Gosekâ€™s 24th attempt at winning the Mr. Supermodified event came to an end as his No. 00 went up in a puff of smoke. As the field slowed Muroskiâ€™s No. 38 suddenly slammed the outside retaining wall on the front stretch. Considerable damage was done to the front and right-side of the Coon/France-owned machine.
Gosekâ€™s race was essentially over as well. A broken locater on the rear-end of the No. 00 machine was deemed the culprit.
A quick spin by McKnight delayed the ensuing restart, but as Graham took the green a few laps later, the field went back to racing.
Up front, Graham began to sail away. On a bid for third place on the 19th lap, an anxious Sitterly dove under Laveryâ€™s No. 22 in the third turn. However, the No. 7 went in too hot, skating up the track and allowing Lavery to reclaim the position seconds later. On Laveryâ€™s heels, Furlong was able to scoot into fourth, bumping Sitterly out of the top five.
That loss of track position may have been too much for the Nicotra Racing No. 7, as the time to catch and duel with the race leader was beginning to run short.
Warren looped his No. 15 around on the 21st lap, bringing out the final caution of the race. Prior to the yellow flag, Graham had built up a 15-car length lead over Holbrook.
Holbrook tried to stay with Graham on the restart, but to no avail. Behind them, Lavery had Furlong and Sitterly dicing off his rear bumper.
With time running thin, Sitterly bested Furlong down low for fifth on the 27th lap. Two rounds later, He took third away from Lavery.
Sitterly chased down Holbrook on the 31st lap, while up front, Graham had nearly built a full straightaway advantage.
On lap No. 35, Sitterly dove under Holbrook in turn No.1. However, similar to the first pass attempt on Lavery, Sitterlyâ€™s machine skated up the banking, allowing Holbrook to move back underneath him to reclaim the runner-up position.
A few laps later, Sitterly was finally able to power under Holbrook as the two raced out of the fourth turn. With 13 laps to go, Graham was practically out of Sitterlyâ€™s sight range. The No. 7 needed a caution flag, but none could be found.
With five laps remaining, Grahamâ€™s full-stretch lead remained in tact. He cruised the final few circuits, putting his name in the record books and claiming the $10,000 dollar prize.
Sitterly settled for second.
Listen to – Otto Sitterly
Holbrook was lighting quick in his heat race, but a tick off in the main. He claimed third.
Listen to – Jeff Holbrook
In his second week out, Furlong was able to run to a fourth-place finish.
Listen to – Greg Furlong
Payne hung on to earn the Strong Racing No. 99 a fifth-place finish.
Listen to – Joey Payne
Having been involved in a heat race accident the evening before, the usually winged No. 25 of Bob Bond finished in seventh.
Listen to – Bob Bond
Mr. Supermodified 50:
1. Ray Graham, Jr. (90), 2. Otto Sitterly (7), 3. Jeff Holbrook (35), 4. Greg Furlong (72), 5. Joey Payne (99), 6. Davey Hamilton (6), 7. Bob Bond (25), 8. Pat Lavery (22), 9. Dave Gruel (50), 10. Bentley Warren (15), 11. Dave McKnight (08), 12. Jerry Curran (24), 13. Lou LeVea (61), 14. Cody Graham (21), 15. Keith Shampine (88), 16. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 17. Larry Muroski (38), 18. Joe Gosek (00), 19. Bob Magner (41), 20. Tim Snyder (0), 21. Bob Bogwicz (09), 22. Michael Barnes (66), 23. Shaun Gosselin (26)
DNS – Joe Chillemi (14) – mechanical,Â David Cliff (98) – damage from heat race accident
1. R. Graham, 2. Snyder, 3. Lavery, 4. Payne, 5. Warren, 6. Curran, 7. Bogwicz, 8. LeVea
1. Holbrook, 2. Hamilton, 3. Shampine, 4. McKnight, 5. C. Graham, 6. Connors, 7. Bond, 8. Gosselin
1. Gosek, 2. Sitterly, 3. Furlong, 4. Magner, 5. Gruel, 6. Muroski, 7. Cliff, 8. Barnes