OSWEGO, NY – Since 1987 Oswego Speedway has held the annual Mr. Novelis Supermodified event at the fast 5/8 mile ‘Steel Palace’ oval, daring drivers to lay it all on the line for $10,000. In that time Gene Lee Gibson, Mike Muldoon, and Tim Gareau would all earn their first career Supermodified wins at Oswego in the prestigious event.
Fifteen years after Gareau, another driver would add his name to the illustrious list.
Kody Graham, son of 2-time Mr. Novelis Supermodified Ray Graham, held off the hard charging advances of Joe Gosek and Michael Barnes in a three-way grudge match to cruise on to the memorable victory this past August.
Graham, Barnes, and Gosek waged an epic battle over the final 25 laps of the race with Barnes in the Strong Racing No. 99 appearing to be the fastest car on the Speedway. Several times he made attempts on the Graham No. 21 but just couldn’t quite make the move stick.
“I was sideways,” said Graham. “I bumped into Mike on accident, and with all those lap cars I thought he’d get me then if he could, but he didn’t.”
Barnes dogged Graham for several laps and at lap 60 made his first charge at the point. Trying high and low, in traffic and out, and on lap 67 nearly lost the handle in the 4th turn giving Gosek the runner-up spot. Just one lap later, Barnes would pull pit side with overheating issues in the No. 99.
“Kody and I were racing really hard there,” said Barnes after the event. “We actually weren’t really all that good, the car was really loose. I got up alongside Kody there and he took me up high, which he has to do there, and I got all crossed up and Gosek got by me. The motor had been running hot the whole race to that point and I was trying my best to keep it cool, but right when Joe got by it was pegged at 240 so at that point we didn’t have a shot at $10,000 to fix it if I blew it up, so I just pulled it in.”
Gosek, who had finished second in the Mr. Novelis Supermodified five previous times (’88, ’89, ’91, ’06, ’11), would try his hand at Graham in the closing stages but was also unable to up-end the No. 21 on his way to victory.
Michael Muldoon and Bobby Haynes Jr. would bring the Novelis Supermodified field down to the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag for the $10,000 to win Mr. Novelis Supermodified main event, with Muldoon edging out in front behind the wheel of the No. 50m.
Muldoon, as he has done a few different times in 2012, would immediately blast out to a sizeable lead in the early stages leaving Haynes, Jerry Curran, Kody Graham, and Gruel in his tire tracks.
By lap 10, drivers running 2nd through 10th were in a tight freight train, and by lap 13 Muldoon jumped out to a half straightaway lead on the remainder of the field.
Graham would use a restart at lap 15 to begin his run at the lead, as he pulled to the low side of Haynes to take the runner-up spot coming to green. The No. 21 would quickly pull up to the back bumper of Muldoon and just two laps later again pulled low to take the top spot on the 17th circuit.
From there, Graham jumped out to a healthy lead over Muldoon, Haynes, Gruel, and Gioia.
From laps 20-25 Barnes and Gosek began to position themselves within the Top 5.
In consecutive laps Barnes worked underneath both Gioia and Gruel to move into 4th, with Gosek following suit into the Top 5 positions. Each then began to work the Haynes No. 44, but another caution at lap 26 would impede their progress.
As the green flag waved yet again, Barnes and Gosek continued their pursuit.
Barnes worked low on Haynes into turn three on the restart to 3rd with Gosek making his way under Haynes in turn one on lap 30. From there, Barnes bested Muldoon to the low side in turn three on lap 31 showing the way for Gosek to make the move the following lap into turn three.
At the halfway point of the event the scoreboard now showed Graham, Barnes, and Gosek with a substantial lead over Muldoon, Haynes, Gruel, Gioia, Payne, and Sitterly.
As the Top 3 runner’s lead continued to grow over the rest of the field, the race’s final caution waved on lap 42.
With 33 laps remaining at the restart, a true battle was shaping up for the top spot between Graham, Barnes, and Gosek. By lap 50 the Top 3 runners had built over a full straightaway lead on fourth running Muldoon, making it clear it would be a three horse race to the finish.
If that wasn’t enough, that full straight lead built to over a half a track by lap 60, with Graham clearly slowing slightly and Barnes beginning his charge.
Both Graham and Barnes were visibly loose, leaving Gosek to sit in the wake looking for an opening.
Starting on lap 63 Barnes tried the high side on Graham in consecutive laps in turn three, trying to use the heavily building lapped machines as picks. But Graham used every inch of the track forcing Barnes out of the groove and too high, leaving the No. 99 unable to take the lead. On several occasions, Barnes was so high that Gosek gained looks to the low side, but he too was unable to make any headway.
Finally, on lap 67 Barnes appeared to have the pass made until he and Graham touched wheels out of turn four in traffic forcing Barnes to have to gather up his machine with a great save. That save however allowed Gosek to slip by for second, and just one lap later Barnes pulled pit side ending his night.
With five laps remaining Gosek now began to give the Graham No. 21 fits in lapped traffic, as each were in search of their first Mr. Novelis Supermodified crown. But as the laps ticked away it became evident that Gosek did not have enough to work to the high side of Graham was Barnes did, and it was clear that Graham was not going to leave the bottom side of the Speedway.
With that said, Graham would speed on to his first career Oswego Supermodified win worth a whopping $10,000 as he became the 14th different winner of the event in its 26 year history.
Gosek would be left to his 9th career Mr. Novelis Supermodified Top 5 finish, tying him with Greg Furlong all-time.
“We’ve got a good piece here, we were just off a little bit tonight,” said Gosek in post-race. “Congratulations to Kody, he ran where he needed to and he didn’t slip up when I got to him. I couldn’t get up to the outside; it was too slick out there, so I really couldn’t give him a run unless he slipped on the bottom.”
While Gosek was happy with another podium finish after destroying his No. 00 back in June, he was clearly dejected with his 6th career runner-up finish in the $10,000 event, which he has yet to win.
“We’re happy with 2nd but not tonight, we’ve done that too many times in this stupid race,” said Gosek. “Bridesmaid is no good tonight, but we’ve got a good car, and that is something to build on. We’ve got a great gang and a great team, I just wish we could have got it done tonight, it would have been a nice celebration after coming back.”
After leading the early portion of the event, Muldoon was happy to end another night on the podium in the No. 50m.
“The car went the complete opposite on us in the feature,” Muldoon said. “We thought it would be tight and instead it got really loose after about 15 laps, and it was pretty impossible to drive by the end of the race. I couldn’t compete with these two (Graham and Gosek), I had no chance, but I’m pretty happy. I really wanted to win, but we’ll take third, because with the car we had tonight I would not have expected a third anyways.”
The ‘Best of 2012’ will continue each week leading up to opening day at the Speedway on May 4 with the first round of the ‘Steel Palace’ ISMA SuperSeries.
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