OSWEGO, NY – For the fifth time in his illustrious career, Otto Sitterly claimed top honors on Oswego Speedway’s opening night, dominating a full field of Novelis Supermodifieds on Saturday, presented by Mitchell’s Speedway Press and Planet Fitness.
Starting from the eighth position, Sitterly snared the lead from his teammate for the night, Joe Gosek, on a lap 28 restart and never looked back on route to his 31st overall victory at the ‘Steel Palace’, breaking a tie with Mike Ordway to stand alone in ninth on the Speedway’s all-time win list.
Sitterly is now just two victories behind Canadian legend Doug Didero and Doug Heveron lifetime, with 33 victories a piece.
The opening night win for Sitterly, his first since 2012, ranks him second all-time in a tie with Bentley Warren. Only Jim Shampine has more opening night wins, with seven overall.
Trailing Sitterly by more than five seconds at race’s end to fill the podium was two-time Budweiser International Classic 200 champion Bob Bond and three-time Classic titlist Gosek. A total of nine Classic victories stood on the podium at the conclusion of 50-laps.
“Usually the track is really good on opening night, it’s not too slippery,” said Sitterly in Turning Stone Resort Casino Victory Lane. “We’ve got good racecars. On the restart there I sort of anticipated it; I had the engine revved up on the brakes, and as soon they said go I saw Joe (Gosek) slid the nose there pretty good, so I just rolled around him.”
Sitterly went on to talk about the impressive run by his teammate, Gosek.
“Joe had a great run in third, you know that car keeps getting older and I keep putting that car down but when you put a really good driver in it, it’s still pretty good,” smiled Sitterly.
Open-wheel ace Bobby Santos took fourth on Saturday driving the Graham Racing No. 91 Supermodified with last year’s championship runner-up Dave Gruel finishing the top five.
Jeff Abold had a strong run in sixth with Keith Shampine, Shaun Gosselin, Dave Danzer, and Pat Lavery completing the top ten.
A total of 23 Novelis Supermodifieds drove underneath the Cam’s NY Pizzeria green flag on Saturday night with Dan Connors Jr. and Gosek leading the field from the front row.
For the first time in his 30 plus year career at the Speedway, Gosek would pilot a blue No. 00, driving as a teammate for the night to Sitterly in a John Nicotra ride. Gosek has been awaiting completion of his own racecar from last season, and found himself behind the wheel of the racer that Dave Shullick Jr. piloted last season as No. 2.
Connors would jump to the early lead in the No. 01 ahead of Gosek, Gruel and Abold early on, but trouble would strike on lap four as Stephen Gioia III and Dave Cliff tangled on the front stretch, ending in turn one.
Each car would suffer front end damage and be done for the night.
Sitterly, who had started eighth on the grid, had already worked to the top five prior to the caution and would restart behind Connors, Gosek, Gruel, and Abold at the green.
Restarts were key all night long and both Abold and Sitterly took advantage on lap five.
The Abold No. 05 slipped under Gruel for third at the green with Sitterly and Bond each following through in fourth and fifth.
With Gosek dogging Connors out front, Sitterly and Bond continued their march through the pack, eventually working by Abold in consecutive laps to tuck in behind Connors and Gosek.
Trying to hang on in front, Connors finally gave way on lap 11 to Gosek, who made a diving low side move into turn one to take the lead with Sitterly following suit.
Now it was two of the three Nicotra Racing machines in action, leading the pack.
Just three laps later the action heated up again as both Bond and Santos could see that Gosek and Sitterly were beginning to check away from the field. They each drove under Connors in consecutive corners to move to fourth and fifth on lap 14, trying to give chase to front runners Gosek and Sitterly.
Sitterly waited patiently behind Gosek for over ten laps, finally making a move at lap 27 to grab the point, only to see the yellow lights come on for a spinning Michael Muldoon in turn four. As a result of the caution Gosek would take back the lead ahead of Sitterly, Bond, Santos, Abold, Gruel, Connors, and Shampine for the restart.
However, Sitterly would again shine on another restart, wasting little time in driving around Gosek at the green going into turn one to lead lap 28. Just another lap later, Bond would find room underneath Gosek on the front stretch, moving to the runner-up spot in the No. 47.
A familiar sight in the last few years would see Sitterly and Bond leading the charge, leaving the remainder of the field in their wake.
One more caution at lap 37 for a spinning Tim Snyder would bunch the field one more time with Sitterly showing the way in front of Bond, Gosek, Santos, Gruel, Abold, Shampine, Gosselin, Kody Graham, and Lavery on the restart.
Over the final 13-laps the front runners would stay the same, but further back Danzer made a great charge in the No. 52 to climb his way to ninth in the waning laps moving around Lavery and Graham.
After setting fast time in opening night time trials, Danzer struggled through most of the feature after starting 12th, but made the most of it at race’s end with a top ten run.
Sitterly’s winning margin would be 5.179 seconds at the stripe with a total of 13 cars finishing on the lead lap.
One of those cars was rookie Aric Iosue, who ran every lap of his first career Supermodified feature, finishing in 13th. Iosue would actually turn the third fastest lap of the Supermodified feature with a time of 17.190 seconds, behind only Sitterly and Gosek.
Standing from the podium at race’s end, Bond chatted with infield announcer Keith Zehr.
“I would have liked to have been a bit closer to him (Sitterly),” said Bond on the Budweiser Interview Podium. “He just had us covered tonight. We will be here for the first few races this season and see how everything goes as far as the rest of the year.”
Gosek was all smiles after a great third place run in the Nicotra No. 00.
“That is a pretty good car,” said Gosek. “Otto has refined that car for years. It is an older car, but it is a real good racecar. I want to thank Otto and his whole crew and everyone who let me drive the car tonight, it was a privilege to drive for a top team like that.”
Gosek went on to comment on Sitterly’s pass for the lead.
“Well, they made me look pretty bad on that one restart,” said Gosek. “I was playing with the brakes and I just wasn’t up to snuff on that one restart. They (Sitterly, Bond) both snookered me there. Otto was definitely faster, maybe I could have held off Bobby.”
Time trials started the evening to set the invert for the night’s three heat races.
Danzer set fast time with a lap of 16.367 seconds ahead of Kody Graham, Santos, Lavery, Sitterly, Davey Hamilton, Bond, Brian Sobus, Abold, and Tim Devendorf.
Devendorf impressed on Saturday night in his new No. 5 ride and was cruising to his heat race victory until his engine expired on the race’s final lap.
Shell Shock Custom Helmet Paint heat race wins went to Abold, Gruel, and Bond.
The Lighthouse Lanes Hard Charger on the night was the No. 51 of Michael Muldoon with the Up and Comer Award going to Santos.
Sitterly was the Radical Racegear Lap Leader, topping the field for a total of 22 circuits.
Racing at Oswego Speedway continues on May 23 with the highly anticipated Port City 160 ‘Super Spectacle’, featuring the ISMA Supermodified Jack Murphy Memorial 50, the Novelis Supermodified Jim Shampine Memorial 75, and the Pathfinder Bank SBS Tony White Memorial 35.
Pit gates will open at 11:30 a.m. with practice getting under way at 1:30 p.m. Time trials for ISMA Supermodifieds will be held at 4 p.m., with the first heat race scheduled for 5 p.m.
Kids 16 and under with paid adult and active military with ID are free.
For more information on Oswego Speedway visit online at www.oswegospeedway.com or call (315) 342-0646. Visit the Speedway on social media @OswegoSpeedway or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OswegoSpeedway.