Otto Sitterly Caps Off Third Track Championship With First Classic Win

By – Chris Porter
Photos – Jim Feeney

In his 10 seasons of supermodified competition, Canajoharie, New York’s Otto Sitterly had racked up three track titles and a dozen feature triumphs. The one supermodified jewel missing from the 2000 Oswego Speedway Rookie of the Year’s crown was an International Classic win. Sunday afternoon at the lakeside oval, Sitterly capped off his most recent track championship with his first Classic victory.

Hounding 2008 defending race winner Doug Didero for three quarters of the way, Sitterly’s confidence grew lap by lap. Knowing he’d yet to show the race leader his full hand, Sitterly was dealt an opening on the 160th lap. He played that card to perfection, diving under Didero’s No. 3 and taking the lead down the front stretch.

Once in front, Sitterly proudly revealed his Aces, pulling away from all chasers and laying down the fastest laps of the race. A few late-race restarts failed to reveal any vulnerability to Sitterly’s No. 7. Flawlessly navigating lapped traffic, he cruised the final laps into the history books.

Listen toOtto Sitterly on his Classic win

Didero and Sitterly led the 34-car field to the green to start what would end up being a 207-lap main event. Didero nabbed the early lead, as Sitterly, Dave McKnight, Jr., Davey Hamilton and Pat Lavery chased him across the line to complete lap No. 1.

The leaders began moving in on lapped traffic as they completed their 10th trip around the fast 5/8 mile. The front five remained unchanged, while Tim Jedrzejek, Bob Magner, Ray Graham, Jr., Joey Payne and Tim Snyder filled out the top 10.

One lap later, the race’s first and most serious caution flag flew after Stephen Gioia’s No. 9 was tagged on its side by Jeff Abold’s No. 05 after it spun in turn No. 1. The race was red flagged for roughly 45 minutes as safety crews tended to the Oswego native. Outside paramedics were called in as the pilot of the No. 9 was extracted from his supermodified. When taken from the speedway, Gioia was announced to be awake and alert.

Unchallenged on the restart, Didero led the way back to racing. However, the action was slowed once again on the 23rd lap for a precautionary yellow flag thrown for the smoking Bobby Haynes No. 07.

Eight more laps made their way into the books before Bentley Warren, Tim Gareau and Gene Lee Gibson gathered in the first turn on lap No. 36. All three exited the racing surface via the hook.

Like much of the race, the top five remained unchanged. Didero continued to lead Sitterly, McKnight, Hamilton and Lavery. Jedrzejek, Magner, Graham, Payne and Joe Gosek commanded positions six through 10. Bobby Santos, Lou LeVea, Greg Furlong, Trent Stephens and Snyder filled out the top 15.

A few laps into the restart, Hamilton slipped underneath McKnight for third. Up front, Didero was lapping  his first car – Bobby Dawson, on the 52nd lap.

A four-car breakaway turned three-car as McKnight started to fade back as the race headed towards the 60-lap mark. The 64th lap saw Furlong and LeVea tangle in turn No. 1, ending Furlong’s day and knocking LeVea off of the lead lap. Furlong’s record-holding streak of continuous laps raced in Classic competition ended.

After a quick spin on the restart by Jack Smith, the ensuing drop of the green saw Sitterly get his first real look under Didero’s No. 3.

Another precautionary yellow was thrown on the 84th lap for Payne’s No. 99. Payne’s racer had suffered a mechanical failure on its right-front. However, he was able to limp his supermodified pit side.

Didero led the field back to the green and carried it to the half-way mark. Just as the field had completed it’s 100th lap, Dawson and Dave Sanborn tangled in turn No. 3.

The 113th lap saw the first of numerous spins by Magner’s No. 22. The ill-handling car would eventually retire to the pits, credited with 13th place.

As the leaders remained set in their positions, the next caution reared its ugly head on the 136th lap. Having been running in 11th, Dan Connor’s,  Jr. saw his first Classic come to and end in turn No. 2. Having had trouble with a lapped competitor, Connors spun between turns one and two. With nowhere to go, Spaulding’s No. 23 skidded into him.

With 143 laps in the books, Didero led Sitterly, Hamilton, McKnight and Lavery. Graham, Jedrzejek, Santos, Gosek, Keith Shampine, Jerry Curran and Randy Burch filled out positions six through 12 – the only cars remaining on the lead lap.

On the next stretch of green, Sitterly began getting better looks under Didero’s No. 3. The tires on the defending Classic champ were wearing away and Sitterly’s stay in the runner-up position was starting to feel old.

Finally, as the two raced into the fourth turn on the 160th lap, Didero slid a little high. It was just enough room to allow the No. 7 car to pull aside as they both shot down the front stretch. By the time the duo reached the first turn, the lead and race belonged to Sitterly.

A few laps later, Sitterly danced into lapped traffic with a 10-car length advantage. All was well for the race leader until Gosek suddenly spun off of turn No. 4 on the 172nd lap. Santos and Magner both spun along with the supermodified veteran.

With just 22 trips to go, only eight cars remained on the lead lap. Sitterly flew away as Didero and Hamilton began tussling for second place. The tussle turned to contact on the 185th lap, but both seasoned vets continued on. Behind them, Graham and McKnight were running a distant fourth and fifth.

With just a heat race worth of laps to go, Sitterly ventured into heavy lapped traffic on the 188th lap. With just seven left for the No. 7, Sitterly held a half-lap advantage on the second and third place cars.

Just after Didero and Hamilton raced high and low around Burch’s No. 52, the caution flew for another spin by Magner’s No. 22. He was sent to the pits for the remaining laps of the race.

Sitterly took the green with just three to go. Again, he sprinted away unchallenged. He took the white flag with a 20-car length advantage, but before he could take the checkered, the battle for second finally overheated.

After taking the white flag, Hamilton attempted a low move on Didero where space was minimal at best. The two touched and Hamilton ended up getting the short end of the stick. Smith’s No. 09 and Shampine’s No. 88 were involved as well, but like Didero, Shampine was able to keep going. Smith’s race was over.

The caution laps took the race beyond the 200-lap mark, but fuel would not play a factor for the John Nicotra-owned No. 7.

With only 10 cars remaining on the track, Sitterly took the green for the final time. He galloped his way to the checkered flag, earning the 2009 International Classic ring.

Reclaiming the track record with a blistering time of 16.212 seconds during Friday night’s time-trialing, North Carolina’s Didero finished runner-up for the fourth time in his Classic career.

Listen toDoug Didero

Scoring his career-best Classic finish, Graham drove his No. 90 home to a third-place run.

Listen toRay Graham, Jr.

Landing his first top-10 Classic finish since 2005, McKnight drove the Gary Syrell-owned No.08 to a fine fourth-place finish.

Listen toDave McKnight, Jr.

Finishing fifth, Lavery earned himself and Double-Deuce Racing career-best Classic finishes.

Listen toPat Lavery

Subbing for Todd Stowell, Jedrzejek drove the No. 89 to a sixth-place run.

Listen toTim Jedrzejek

Driving the Randy Doratt-owned No. 88 to a solid seventh-place finish, Shampine was able to advance 14 positions from his spot on the starting grid.

Listen toKeith Shampine

Battling an ill-handling car much of the day, Snyder survived much of the carnage to earn himself a ninth-place finish. It was his sixth, top-10 Classic finish.

Listen toTim Snyder

Running in the top five for 199 laps, Boise, Idaho’s Hamilton earned the Nicotra-owned No. 79 a 10th-place finish.

Listen toDavey Hamilton

The third Midwestern Supermodified Association driver finishing in the first dozen, Sandusky, Ohio’s Smith finished 11th.

Listen toJack Smith

Landing a ride for Nicotra just days before the International Classic, Santos ran top-10 most of the race until a tangle with Gosek and Magner ended his adventure.

Listen toBobby Santos

Making his Classic Weekend debut, 16-year old Connors was running a strong 11th place when things went amiss on lap No. 136.

Listen toDan Connors, Jr.

Accomplishing a goal they set for themselves early in the year, Chris Osetek and Steve Buske were able to put their No. 66 supermodified creation in the Classic field.

Listen toChris Osetek & Steve Buske

Budweiser International Classic 200:
1. Otto Sitterly (7), 2. Doug Didero (3), 3. Ray Graham, Jr. (90), 4. Dave McKnight, Jr. (08), 5. Pat Lavery (2), 6. Tim Jedrzejek (89), 7. Keith Shampine (88), 8. Randy Burch (52), 9. Tim Snyder (0), 10. Davey Hamilton (79), 11. Jack Smith (09), 12. Jason Spaulding (23), 13. Bob Magner (22), 14. Bobby Santos (14), 15. Gary Morton (70), 16. Mike Lichty (16), 17. Joe Gosek (00), 18. Jerry Curran (98), 19. Lou LeVea, Jr. (04), 20. Dan Connors, Jr. (01), 21. Dave Sanborn (12), 22. Lou LeVea (61), 23. Bobby Dawson (28), 24. Joey Payne (99), 25. Trent Stephens (19), 26. Greg Furlong (72), 27. Bobby Haynes (07), 28. Hal LaTulip (56), 29. Bentley Warren (15), 30. Tim Gareau (5), 31. Gene Lee Gibson (06), 32. Michael Barnes (66), 33. Stephen Gioia, III (9), 34. Jeff Abold (05).