Photos – Jim Feeney
Pennellville’s Jeff Abold led only one lap Sunday afternoon in the 60th running of the International Classic 200 at the Oswego Speedway. However, it was the lap that counts the most. Trailing Ohio’s Dave Shullick, Jr. by nearly a half lap with just two to go, the 27-year old third generation driver would take full advantage of a fuel-starved race leader to seize the win.
Beyond his sight of vision as the white flag began to fly for Shullick’s sputtering No. 2, Abold would end up erasing the massive deficit, passing the race leader and holding off an inside bid by Oswego’s 2016 Track Champion, Michael Barnes.
The victory was only the second feature win of Abold’s supermodified career, the first of which came earlier this season. Having started ninth on the grid, Abold would linger just outside the top 10 for much of the race. It was his late-race climb up the leader board over the final 80 laps that put him in the position to earn the win.
Getting past David Gruel, Joe Gosek, Dave Danzer and Kody Graham, Abold would find himself running in fifth with 45 laps remaining. After conquering former race winners and current teammates, Davey Hamilton and Otto Sitterly, Abold was running in third with just 20 laps to go. Three rounds later, he would slip under Barnes for second place.
Facing a half-lap deficit with 17 trips left on the lap counter did not seem promising. However, Shullick’s No. 2 would begin to sputter in the final laps. Losing momentum, he appeared to have enough fuel to make it one last time around Oswego’s five-eighths mile, but Abold was racing at full speed and closing in.
After taking the white flag, Shullick would round turns one and two still atop the field. However, he would suddenly watch Abold and Barnes race by. Now racing for the win, Abold would need to navigate a lapped car entering the third turn.
First thinking low, the two nearly touched. He ended up taking the high route around the slower car which proved the right choice. Barnes would take a shot underneath Abold’s No. 05, but find the lapped car blocking his path. With Barnes now pinned, Abold would round the final two turns to take the checkered flag.
Listen to – Jeff Abold
A former multi-feature winner and Oswego track champ himself, Pat Abold was nothing less than ecstatic for his son capturing the one checkered flag that had eluded he and his family throughout their racing careers.
Listen to – Pat Abold
Clamoring for the early lead, front row starters, Michael Muldoon and Pat Lavery, would bang wheels in turn No. 1 on the opening lap, with Lavery taking the early lead. However, charging from his sixth starting spot, Keith Shampine made it known early that he had no intention of playing “follow the leader.”
Racing into third on lap No. 3, Shampine would move around Shullick on their 10th trip and chase down the race leader. Five laps later, Shampine put his No. 55 under Lavery’s No. 12 and took command.
Lavery would fall back into the clutches of the field, while Shampine continued to move forward. By the 20th lap, he held 15 lengths over his nearest chasers. Shampine would race his way into the tail-end of the field by the 29th lap, with a 25-car length advantage. With the leader now in heavy traffic by the 50th lap, Shullick, Sitterly, Muldoon and Hamilton filled out the top five. Gosek, Gruel, Kody Graham and Dave Danzer ran in positions six through 10.
The first caution flag of the race would fall on the 57th lap, for Aric Iosue’s spun No. 11. Only 20 cars remained on the lead lap as Shampine would lead the field back to racing.
Again, the No. 55 would begin to pull away. However, just as the race leader was reaching the tail of the field, Dan Connors, Jr. pounded the outside wall in turn No. 1. Connors was okay, but his No. 01 machine suffered heavy damage. The caution would be the first of a string of mishaps that would slow the pace of the race.
Hal LaTulip would find the third-turn wall on the 91st lap and Lou LeVea, Jr. would spin-out exiting turn No. 2 on the 102nd lap.
On the ensuing restart, Shullick would stay with Shampine’s No. 55. Taking a peek on the high side as they were given the green flag, he would have to file back in behind the race leader. Leaving Sitterly behind, Shullick would stay with Shampine as they ventured into traffic together, but would be unable to find a way around the No. 55.
Before traffic could bite either of the two front runners, a three-car tangle in turn No. 3, not too far ahead of them, brought out the caution flag.
On the 129th lap, Shampine would bring Shullick, Sitterly, Barnes and Hamilton back to racing. Muldoon, Graham, Danzer, Gosek and a ready-to-pounce Abold filled out the top 10.
Shullick would try a sling-shot move on Shampine, but to no avail. It would be Shullick’s most successful bid for the lead yet, but Shampine would end up holding strong.
Again, the duo would begin to inch away from Sitterly’s No. 7 and again, they would race to the tail-end of the field. Hitting lapped traffic on the 135th lap, Shampine would lead Shullick into thicker traffic as Sitterly began to close back in.
Sitterly would take a look around Shullick and in response, Shullick would take a peek around Shampine. The trio would dance through traffic until Shampine’s hand would suddenly rise above his roll cage on the 145th lap. He would slow and pull pit-side, with fuel pick-up problems, handing the lead over to Shullick and ending his bid for the win.
Listen to – Keith Shampine
Atop the field for the first time, Shullick began to leave Sitterly behind and grow his lead. He would hold a 20-car advantage over the No. 7 with 44 laps to go. Back in the pack, Abold’s charge was in full stride. He was now running in fourth and taking aim on Barnes.
Action was slowed on the 169th lap, after seventh-placing running Graham spun exiting turn No. 4. With the winding down, Shullick would lead Sitterly, Barnes, Abold and Hamilton back to racing. Shullick would take full advantage of the clear track ahead, coupled with multiple lapped cars sitting between himself and Sitterly to build a huge advantage.
Sitterly would find the gap between himself and the race leader the least of his worries. On the 180th lap, both, Barnes and Abold shot past him on the back straightaway. Shullick had checked out, but Abold continued to press forward.
Three laps after moving into third, Abold would race under Barnes for second place. He faced a half-lap deficit, but refused to settle in and distanced himself from Barnes and Sitterly. Up front, Shullick continued his lapping march through the top 10 putting Danzer and Gruel down a lap with only a handful of rounds remaining.
However, at the end of the 197th lap, Shullick was noticeably slowing down. The fuel tank on his No. 2 was running dry. As Abold and Barnes continued to press forward, Shullick was backing up. Once out of range, his challengers would suddenly spot his blue No. 2 sputtering on the inside lane at a snails pace with just three quarters of a lap remaining.
Once overtaking the No. 2, the rejuvenated lead duo would commence their battle the final half lap, with Abold staking claim to win his first International Classic.
Abold thanked those who put him in victory lane
Listen to more from Jeff Abold
Hanging out around the top five all afternoon, but not quite able to run with the early leaders, Barnes was pleased with his runner-up Classic finish coupled with his season championship.
Listen to – Michael Barnes
Kept out of victory lane all season, yet remaining a threat to win on any night, Sitterly led the Nicotra-owned trio of entrants, with a third-place finish.
Listen to – Otto Sitterly
Finishing behind the limping Shullick No. 2 machine, Hamilton landed his No. 6 in fifth.
Listen to – Davey Hamilton
Just two weeks after finishing second in a tight track title battle, seventh-place finishing Gruel says he was pleased with how his No. 50 conquered all 200 laps.
Listen to – David Gruel
Locked in a battle with Graham for much of the race, Danzer landed the family-owned No. 52 in eighth.
Listen to – Dave Danzer
Making a record-setting 37th International Classic start, Gosek wrestled a loose No. 00 all race, but managed a ninth-place finish.
Listen to – Joe Gosek
Matching his finish in last year’s 200-lapper, Brandon Bellinger landed the Daratt Farms No. 02 in 10th.
Listen to – Brandon Bellinger
Officially scored 11th, Snyder started 25th, stayed out of trouble and pocketed the “Hard Charger” award for advancing the most positions in the race.
Listen to – Tim Snyder
Ending his day in the pits after a hard charge from 19th on the grid, Graham finished 19th.
Listen to – Kody Graham
60th Annual International Classic 200: 1. Jeff Abold (05), 2. Michael Barnes (68), 3. Otto Sitterly (7), 4. Dave Shullick, Jr. (2), 5. Davey Hamilton (6), 6. Michael Muldoon (15), 7. David Gruel (50), 8. Dave Danzer (52), 9. Joe Gosek (00), 10. Brandon Bellinger (02), 11. Tim Snyder (0), 12. Joey Moriarity (51), 13. Tim Devendorf (5), 14. Pat Lavery (12), 15. Bob Bond (47), 16. Bobby Magner (35), 17. Keith Shampine (55), 18. Davey Hamilton, Jr. (14), 19. Kody Graham (91), 20. Bobby Santos (21), 21. Shawn Muldoon (1), 22. Aric Iosue (11), 23. Brian Sobus (79), 24. Jerry Curran (24), 25. Lou LeVea, Jr. (83), 26. Tim Jedrzejek (72), 27. Joey Payne (99), 28. Chris Perley (44), 29. Ron Silk (92), 30. Hal LaTulip (56), 31. Dan Connors (01), 32. Ryan Litt (88), 33. Todd Stowell (89), 34. Dave McKnight (70)
Chris Perley and Dave McKnight each picked up wins in the two 15-lap “Super Semis.”