Gruel Wins Super Thriller at Oswego

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

David Gruel took advantage of Michael Muldoon’s late race misfortune to cash in on his fifth career Novelis supermodified feature win on Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway. Seeking his first career win, Muldoon had seemed poised to capture the checkered flag until his No. 51 began gasping for fuel in the final moments of the 50-lap feature event. The Baldwinsville native could only watch and limp his car to the finish line as Gruel darted by to take win.

For Gruel, it was his first victory as a driver/owner, peddling his own supermodified to its first triumph. The Fulton resident had caught Muldoon in lapped traffic earlier in the race, putting on a dandy of a show, as the duo diced their way through the tail-end of the field side-by-side. However, Gruel hadn’t been able to wrestle the lead away from the maiden victory-seeking pilot of the No. 51.

Listen to – Dave Gruel

As for Muldoon, his sputtering super would finish the race, but not before being overtaken by 6 more cars. He finished the race in eighth. It was a tough loss for the young driver, but it certainly added to the level of appreciation he’ll have when victory lane finally comes calling.

Listen to – Michael Muldoon

Muldoon and Ray Graham, Jr. paced the field to the green to begin the night’s main event. Muldoon would gain the early edge as Graham, Dan Connors, Jr. Stephen Gioia, III and Tim Devendorf filled out the top five behind him to complete lap No. 1.

Pat Lavery would bust into the top five on the third lap, with an outside move on Devendorf. Gruel would initially follow Lavery’s No. 22 before bettering himself two more spots after moving around both, Lavery and Gioia to take over fourth place. Gruel would stalk Connors for three rounds before conquering him on the ninth lap.

By the 10th circuit, Muldoon’s No. 51 was running about five lengths ahead of Graham’s No. 91. After having had just cleared Connors, Gruel raced some 20 lengths behind Graham. Lavery had followed Gruel around Connors to move into fourth.

The caution flag would fly on the 12th lap, after Tim Snyder’s No. 0 spun on the early part of the backstretch. Reacting, Keith Shampine’s No. 55 clocked the backstretch wall, just off of turn No. 2. Jeff Abold would spin his No. 05 as well, but both he and Snyder would only need to be pushed off. Shampine’s Chris Osetek-built machine suffered considerable front-end damage.

Shampine said that it was the hardest hit he’s taken at the lakeside oval.

Listen to – Keith Shampine

Muldoon would hold his own on the restart, but the green flag racing was short-lived. Aric Iosue’s No. 11 would break loose on the front straightaway and pop the inside barrier. As the yellow flag was flying, Bob Bond and Michael Barnes would come together and spin on the backstretch. Sliding to a stop, Lou LeVea, Sr. would make contact with both of them. LeVea finished the night in the pits, while Barnes and Bond were able to make repairs and return.

With 12 trips in the books, Muldoon led Ray Graham, Gruel, Lavery and Connors. Devendorf, Gioia, Dave Danzer, Otto Sitterly and Shaun Gosselin rounded out the top 10.

Again, Muldoon was solid on the restart, but again, the racing was short-lived. And again, Barnes and Bond would make contact and bring out the yellow. This time, Barnes’ night was over. It was the first appearance for the Mexico native, who’s anticipating being able to make most of the remaining races on the schedule, piloting the Syrell Racing No. 68.

Listen to – Michael Barnes

Muldoon had a good restart, while Graham, Gruel and Lavery raced in file a few lengths behind. Having started 16th, Sitterly continued his weekly march through the field. His No. 7 would move around Danzer on the 19th lap and Devendorf on the 21st.

The caution lights would rear their ugly flashing heads again on the 23rd lap, after Gioia and Brian Sobus made contact between turns three and four. Both would return.

The ensuing race restart saw Sitterly sail around Connors to break into the top five. At the halfway mark, Muldoon and Graham led Gruel, Lavery and Sitterly by 10 lengths.

The lead duo began closing in on light lapped traffic on their 30th trip around Oswego’s fast five-eighth’s mile. Muldoon would hold his ground. Behind them, Sitterly bested Lavery for fourth.

Muldoon would find heavier traffic ahead of him on the 33rd lap, as Gruel, Sitterly and Lavery were closing in fast. In the midst of traffic, Gruel would catch and challenge Graham on the high side on the 37th lap. He would stay up top and move alongside Muldoon for the race lead.

The new lead duo would race side-by-side. First, splitting Gioia’s No. 9 before mirroring the same high/low maneuver around Snyder’s No. 0. Neither driver would give, but Muldoon would maintain a slight enough advantage that when Lavery put an end to the excitement with a lonely spin, Muldoon would hold onto the lead.

With just the length of a heat race to go, Muldoon would lead Gruel, Ray Graham, Sitterly and Connors. Danzer, Gosselin, Abold, Kody Graham and Sobus rounded out the top 10.

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Looking at a clean track ahead, Muldoon raced challenge-free ahead of Gruel. However, the tail-end of the field would soon come into view. If things stayed green, Muldoon would surely need to venture into lapped traffic before race’s end and Gruel would be ready to pounce.

However, the race would not go green the rest of the way. Lavery would loop his No. 22 again, this time in turn No. 1. Unless Gruel could muster something extra on the restart, things were looking good for Muldoon to capture his first checkered flag.

With just a trio of trips to go, Muldoon took the green for the final restart. While inching out to a two-car length lead over Gruel, Sitterly would mount multiple outside challenges on Graham for third.

With the white flag ready to be taken, Muldoon’s No. 51 appeared to have bobbled coming out of turn No. 2. However, it wasn’t a bobble, he was running out of fuel. He quickly lost his advantage over Gruel and the No. 50 moved to his outside to take advantage. Sitterly used the initial chaos up front to dart by Graham for third place

Gruel would take the white flag as the new race leader as Muldoon struggled to complete the final lap. Gruel would take the checkered flag for his first win of the 2015 season.

Having not seized that flag for the first time this year, Sitterly would race the John Nicotra-owned No. 7 to a second-place finish.

Listen to – Otto Sitterly

Finishing his first feature of the season, Graham would hold onto the final podium spot.

Listen to – Ray Graham, Jr.

Danzer would race his No. 52 to a fine fourth-place run – his first top-five finish this season.

Listen to – Dave Danzer

Nabbing his first top-five finish in 2015, as well, Gosselin earned his No 26 supermodified a fifth-place finish.

Listen to – Shaun Gosselin

Racing in the thick of the pack for most of the night, Kody Graham landed his No. 21 in sixth.

Listen to – Kody Graham

Sobus, Muldoon, Abold and Brandon Bellinger completed the top 10. 21 Galloway Reality 50: 1. Dave Gruel (50), 2. Otto Sitterly (7), 3. Ray Graham, Jr. (91), 4. Dave Danzer (52), 5. Shaun Gosselin (26), 6. Kody Graham (21), 7. Brian Sobus (79), 8. Michael Muldoon (51), 9. Jeff Abold (05), 10. Brandon Bellinger (02), 11. Bob Bond (47), 12. Tim Snyder (0), 13. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 14. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 15. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 16. Pat Lavery (22), 17. Hal LaTulip (56), 18. Tim Devendorf (5), 19. Michael Barnes (68), 20. Dave Cliff (06), 21. Lou LeVea, Sr. (66), 22. Keith Shampine (55). 23. Aric Iosue (11) 12. Joe Gosek (00).

Qualifying heat races went to Muldoon, Ray Graham and Snyder.